Tuesday, 29 April 2008


I’ve always been excited by even the idea of New York, right from seeing Ghostbusters at aged eight, watching Cagney and Lacey with my Mum, and reading about Gotham City and Metropolis in my comics. My real obsession began at 16 and grew from a number of things that had either accumulated in my life to that point or that I was just discovering; Woody Allen, Warhol’s Factory, architecture, CBGBs, the Algonquin Round Table, Studio 54, Max’s Kansas City, hip hop, the Beat poets …

I still have the 1996 Time Out New York guide, bought and inscribed for me on my 18th birthday by my then best friend Claire, in which I read the listings cover to cover as though the whole thing was a novel. A café staffed entirely by identical twins! A Chinese restaurant housed in an old gay sauna where the waitresses were all Asian drag queens and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ whether it was your birthday or not! These places are no doubt long gone but the idea of them will always excite me beyond measure. I even had a clock in my room set to New York time. I meant it, man.

One of the endless summers I spent looking after my little brother and sister was in fact spent in my room reading my Time Out and wondering how to make it there. Because, in case you haven’t heard, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Of course I couldn’t make it there. Crippled with shyness and not a penny to my name, it was hard enough to make the leap from Blackpool, where I grew up, to Manchester, where I really grew up. Geographically small the leap may be, socially and culturally, to me, it was vast.

Fortunately my affair with Manchester was also long-running and passionate. I first came here aged 13, ostensibly to find John Squire, telling my Mum I was only going as far as Preston. Preston was home to the nearest independent record shop where I was forced to go at even that tender age when I couldn’t find the records I wanted in ordinary record shops. In love with The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Madchester, baggy, and above and beyond all, The Smiths and Morrissey, I was duty bound to love Manchester too, and I did.

The city to me consisted solely of Piccadilly, Oldham Street and the wonderful Corn Exchange, but that was more than enough when I could effortlessly make a tenner, ten Regal and the will to be here last all day. I recall a slight sinking feeling as the train arrived back home. I still get it now, mildly, but it’s tempered with the fact I’m excited to see my folks. These days when I leave Manchester, that’s when I’m leaving home behind. So, it became my surrogate New York, though in truth it’s not a surrogate for anything. I think Manchester holds its own as one of the great cities. I am still excited, sitting here, writing this, to be in the middle of it all. In my own teeny tiny way, I have made it here.

Note: I’ve been itching to hear Arcade Fire’s No Cars Go all day so I whacked it on youtube as soon as I got home. I never noticed before how much it sounds like Prefab Sprout. Oh my oh my.

Soundtrack: New Order ‘Everything’s Gone Green’, Arcade Fire, Prefab Sprout

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