Do you have a story about how you ended up being where you are?
I don't mean a metaphorical state-of-your-psyche kind of where you are. I mean your actual physical location.
I have mentioned before
on this blog that I was born and brought up in rural Buckinghamshire, but have adopted Sheffield as my home town since coming here to university in 1982.
And that decision was at least in part informed by pop music. Yeah, I was (am?) that shallow...
Sheffield was home to some of my favourite bands in the early 1980s, the Human League, ABC and Heaven 17, and I am pretty sure that this gave the city extra cachet in my eyes. I was too intimidated to try for Oxford, too scared of the sheer size of London (and it was too close to home), so Sheffield, with its reasonable distance, its reassuring lack of pretension, its university offer that seemed within my under-confident grasp, its cheap bus fares, and its promise of Phil Oakey, Martin Fry and Glenn Gregory seemed perfect.
This city may have been built on the steel industry and all its offshoots rather than rock and roll, but Sheffield does have a strong musical heritage.
Legends in Fagans
, by Sheffield artist Pete McKee
Fagans is a traditional back street boozer which hosts a Sunday lunchtime folky musical play/singalong in its back room. At least it used to, I haven't been for years to know for sure if this still happens. These days, I am embroiled in a world of kids' swimming lessons and frantically chivvying them along to do their homework and cooking Sunday dinner, and therefore sadly no longer available for a pint or several of Guinness, listening to a boozy music session, and an afternoon sleep when I get home. Those were the days.
The legends of the picture are Alex Turner, Jarvis Cocker, Tony Christie, Phil Oakey and Richard Hawley.
If you want to see the Manchester legends version, it's here
Pete McKee is brilliant, have a look around his website
. I guarantee it will make you will smile. The images are stylish and stylised, yet all too human, real and recognisable.
All the illustrations in this post are his work.
(And rather neatly, he is also a musician, he plays ukelele in a Sheffield band called The Everly Pregnant Brothers.)
A rather different Pete, Peter Stringfellow
, must be credited with putting Sheffield on the musical map in the mid 1960s. His nightclubs, the Black Cat Club and the King Mojo, have legendary status here for the acts who played there. The Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Wilson Pickett, Stevie Wonder, Ike and Tina Turner, Geno Washington, and many more - the folk who got to see all these people play live in a tiny venue were fortunate indeed.
had a moment or two in the 1960s.
The 1970s Sheffield music scene covered all the bases; from Tony Christie
doing what he did for Maria, and Marti Caine
winning New Faces
in 1975 and becoming the darling of prime time Saturday night telly, to the Comsat Angels
doing their bit for post-punk, and Cabaret Voltaire
being Dada-ist and experimental.
I suspect these names mean little to most of you - sorry!
But my heart belongs to the 1980s, they were My Time in Sheffield.
Didn't every teenager have a copy of Dare
by the Human League
? I loved that album, still do.
League at the Limit
I like all the interconnectedness between Phil Oakey and Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, how they all started out in the band together, before falling out and going their separate ways, with the latter forming Heaven 17
. I love the story of Oakey chasing Ware down the street, throwing milk bottles from people's doorsteps at him after one of their many disagreements. Artistic differences and stolen milk, there's glamorous. And I liked the illusion of being cool I gained, or so I fondly imagined, for loving (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
, banned from Radio 1's playlist by Mike Read before he got all hot under the collar about Relax,
's Lexicon of Love
is incomparable. All of my heart
remains one of my favourite songs.
Martin Fry was actually from Manchester, but he came to Sheffield the same way I did, to study English Literature at university.
I can't talk 1980s Sheffield music without mentioning the mighty poodle-haired rockers who were Def Leppard
would never forgive me!
The 1990s were all about Britpop and the eventual stardom of Pulp
and the fabulous Jarvis Cocker
. I have always appreciated the man rather more than his music, which may be a heinous confession to many. Again - sorry.
Queue, the Leadmill
All Seeing I
(who were formed and based here for a while) and the Longpigs
, all had short moments in the sun, and the latter were the starting point for another of Sheffield's favourite sons, Richard Hawley
. And with more of that interconnectedness, Hawley played and toured with Pulp for a while.
When the Arctic Monkeys
won the Mercury Prize for their debut album in 2006, Alex Turner said "Someone call 999, Richard Hawley's been robbed."
Arctic Monkeys the towers
There are so many videos I could have added to this post.
I've gone with my first love.
It's 1981, I'm 17, I'm planning my escape from the country to the Big City, I see this on Top of the Pops, and I'm in love.
Thanks, Phil and co, you brought me to a good place.
What brought you to the place you live, and are there any musical heroes who hail from there?