16
Sep 10

THE CHRISTIANS, HOLLY JOHNSON, PAUL MCCARTNEY, GERRY MARSDEN, STOCK AITKEN AND WATERMAN – “Ferry Cross The Mersey”

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#628, 20th May 1989

I wrote before that The Crowd’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” became “a tiny part of a disaster’s wider story, and left no mark on pop’s”. The same holds for “Ferry Cross The Mersey”, but a thousand times more so. Most tragedies drop out of public memory even if the pain of those directly affected never quite scabs over. In this case the bereaved families have tirelessly and publically campaigned for further inquiries into the disaster, but even without that the story of Hillsborough has grown and spread, the tragedy and its aftermath changing other stories. Liverpool FC; recent British football history; The Sun newspaper; Scouse self-identity and the rest of Britain’s attitude to Merseyside – if you wanted to think about any of these you would end up having to think about Hillsborough. And not just as a distant event, bundled up safely inside a word: to tell those stories you’d need to dig into what happened and how it was reported.

But this lies well outside the stated scope of this blog, particularly as this record is so irrelevant to that wider story, a footnote to a footnote. When Anfield remembers Hillsborough each year the fans sing – of course – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The supporters’ sites chronicling the aftermath of the disaster don’t mention this single, and why should they? It’s an accidental and inevitable release: Hillsborough happened to happen at a time when a charity single was part of the reflex response to anything big and bad, so of course Gerry Marsden got out his rolodex again and put a group of Liverpool all-stars together in a hurry.

“Ferry Cross The Mersey” is one of his best songs – sentimental but heartfelt, and it captures the dreamy ache of homesickness very well. Lines like “hearts torn in every way”, built to carry more general loads, sound clumsy and inadequate in this specific context, but what wouldn’t? The song survives what the singers throw at it, and they throw a lot; the producers’ virtues run to speed not gravitas; but like most charity records the aesthetics aren’t the point and context is everything.

And in those terms “Ferry” has two positive points. The song was released a few weeks after Hillsborough, and after Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie had forced through his rancid “THE TRUTH” headline, printing unsubstantiated claims about Liverpool fans attacking policemen, robbing bodies, and so on. As is well known, the paper’s circulation on Merseyside collapsed overnight. So in this context the choice of song and singers seems appropriate: a record of local solidarity as well as sympathy. The Sun had taken a lead in allying itself with charity records (see especially Ferry Aid, where its logo was on the sleeve) – I would be interested to see how it reacted to this one’s success.

And “Ferry Cross The Mersey” avoids the fate of most charity hits – sounding (particularly with hindsight) like they’re closing the book on the incident and giving tragedy an uplifting ending. Admittedly it’s a close thing, but for me “life goes on day after day” bridges a gap between a platitude and something that moves closer to catching the remorselessness of grief and the will needed to live with it. Twenty years on, if you learned for the first time that there had been a number one in the wake of Hillsborough, you’d expect a different song and a weightier record. What you get is a flatpack charity production applied to probably the best old song a disaster single ever used.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 16 Sep 2010 #

    Cor, that’s an odd arrangement, isn’t it? Sort of muzak with deep house influences, and then an unfortunate guitar solo, and then Paul McCartney impersonates Bono! Its less meretricious and blundering than Ferry Aid, but its still something of an endurance test to listen to.

  2. 2
    Billy Smart on 16 Sep 2010 #

    Number 2 Watch: A week of Natalie Cole’s ‘Miss You Like Crazy’. Didn’t care for that one much, I’m afraid.

  3. 3
    Tom on 16 Sep 2010 #

    #1 yeah, I’ve realised that I am actually marking these one-off charity records up a bit (Comic Relief etc. have no excuses, they have a year or two to plan something good). But as with The Crowd, Ferry Aid, etc. the mark isn’t really the thing – imagine I gave it 1, or 2, or 10, or whatever you like really, I won’t argue.

  4. 4
    Erithian on 16 Sep 2010 #

    Here’s how close I came to being involved in the events commemorated by this record.

    I moved to Belvedere in summer 1988 and discovered that I had a non-league team if not quite on my doorstep, then close enough that when they had a floodlit game I didn’t need to switch on the bathroom light. I decided to do something I’d fancied doing for years – follow the FA Cup from preliminary round to Final, following a team until they were knocked out, then following the team that beat them, etc etc to Wembley. Erith & Belvedere would play the winners of Corinthian-Casuals v Hanwell Town. Thus was born “From Casuals to Cup Winners”, which began as a series of articles in the Crystal Palace fanzine edited by a good friend of mine, and ended up as a 52-page booklet that sold fairly well.

    Hanwell won the first tie, beat Erith then lost to Wembley FC. Wembley lost to Walton and Hersham, who then lost to Sutton United in a replay. Away wins at Dagenham and Aylesbury took Sutton to the third round and their famous victory over Coventry City. Sutton lost 8-0 to Norwich in the 4th round, and the Canaries beat Sheffield United and West Ham in a replay to get to the semi-final, where they played Everton.

    I got a semi-final ticket by the simple method of going along to the FA offices at Lancaster Gate and asking if they’d had any tickets returned. That’s how I ended up on the Holte End at Villa Park for the match on 15 April 1989, which Norwich lost 1-0. Pat Nevin’s winner has been almost forgotten, since news from the other semi was already filtering through to those of us with radios. I often think that if the Cup draws had gone slightly differently – and I’d had the same luck with the FA – I could have been in the Liverpool end at Hillsborough that afternoon. Through the FSA I counted Rogan Taylor as a friend, and as FSA Chair and a Liverpool supporter he bore the enormous strain of being a spokesman for supporters in the aftermath.

    In the final chapter of “Casuals to Cup-Winners” I talked about the unique atmosphere of the all-Merseyside Cup Final, the Spinners reviving the old tradition of community singing with a medley of “Liverpool Lou”, “The Leaving of Liverpool” and such like, and Merseyside station Radio City broadcasting outside the stadium, playing commentary of Liverpool and Everton goals to the crowd, and following up with the original Gerry and the Pacemakers version of “Ferry Cross The Mersey”, which I described as “always one of my favourite 60s songs, and now a sound to raise the hairs on the back of your neck”. Even as a Manc, you couldn’t be unmoved.

    The Christians had produced two fine albums to that point, Garry Christian’s soulful voice complementing Henry Priestman’s lyrics full of anger at the state of the nation and compassion towards those on the wrong end of it. You kind of wish their producer Laurie Latham had handled this one, as the unsubtle beat once again treads all over it. But as you say Tom, possibly Gerry Marsden’s best song – has anyone ever done a compare-and-contrast between this and the later “Waterloo Sunset”?

    Interesting fact – the film of the same name, G&tP’s answer to “A Hard Day’s Night”, was written by Tony Warren, the originator of “Coronation Street”.

  5. 5
    MikeMCSG on 16 Sep 2010 #

    While being very familiar with the song and of course the artists involved I have no actual recall of what the record sounded like which helps prove Tom’s point about it leaving no mark.

    #4 I was at a game at Radcliffe Borough that day and remember news of the death toll rising coming from the social club and the general discussion being “Can they let Liverpool stay in the League ?” I think there’s a silent majority among older fans of other clubs that find it difficult to accept the COMPLETE blamelessness of every Liverpool fan that day. Of course once the police started fibbing to cover themselves and McKenzie vented his Tory spleen the opposing narrative became set in stone.

    I don’t agree with you about Laurie Latham – I think he suffocated every artist he worked with particularly Paul Young on “No Parlez”.

    I like Henry Priestman though – I discovered The Yachts through youtube and keep hoping their catalogue gets re-released soon.

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 16 Sep 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch (a): Gerry Marsden (sans Pacemakers) has turned up on UK TV quite often (no copy of the DEE TIME survives);

    AFTER ALL THAT THIS: with Gerry Marsden, James Carol, Lee Brennan, Peter Poselthwaite, Billy Butler, George Roper (1981)

    DEE TIME: with Michael Bentine, Lulu, Gerry Marsden (1967)

    THE EAMONN ANDREWS SHOW: with Billie Whitelaw, Gerry Marsden, Harry H. Corbett, Jackie Trent, Peter Maloney, Sir John Barbirolli, Bob Sharples (1966)

    THIS IS YOUR LIFE: Gerry Marsden (1985)

    WOGAN: with Tom Jones, Gerry Marsden, Diana Ross, Pete Waterman (1989)

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 16 Sep 2010 #

    the main reason that The Sun were so quick to publish its vile lies about the Liverpool fans was that the city and its inhabitants were regarded as one of the last outposts of ‘militant’ Socialism in the face of the Thatcherite revolution (which was celebrating a decade of power in 1989).
    That doesn’t make this a better record – what strength it has is largely down to the original tune with some of the better performances adding a flash of interest. The arrangement is pretty dire though – the original is best

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 16 Sep 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch (b): People forget how big The Christians were in the late 1980s. British TV appearances include;

    FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE: with Ben Elton, The Pogues, Harry Enfield, The Christians, Moray Hunter & Jack Docherty, Jo Brand, Mark Thomas (1988)

    PARAMOUNT CITY: with Arthur Smith, Dennis Leary, Monica Paper, Angie Clark, Curtis & Ishmael, Jeremy Hardy, Helen Lederer, The Christians, The Notting Hillbillies (1990)

    THE ROXY: with Jermaine Stewart, 2 Men, A Drum Machine & A Trumpet, The Christians, Tiffany, Terence Trent D’Arby (1988)

    WOGAN: with The Christians, Brenda Giles, Mike Harding, Jonathan Porritt (1988)

    WOGAN: with The Christians, Don Hewitson, Derek Nimmo, Christopher Reeve (1989)

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 16 Sep 2010 #

    I witnessed the events unfold on TV alongside my Mum, Grandmother, and stepbrothers watching in shocked disbelief as traumatised fans used advertising hoardings as makeshift stretchers for unconscious, some dying or dead fans. I felt like we couldn’t take another football disaster and I distinctly remember saying to anyone who’d listen that this was the death of football. In a sense, it was. The game would never be the same after this.

    I have never knowingly heard the Hillsborough tribute/charity record. Coming at a time when my interest in the charts was at an all-time low, those pre-Bannister Radio 1 DJ’s had lost my ears for a long time by now. We had Sky at home and MTV vied with Sky News (Cops) for my attention. What I think of then, is Holly Johnson’s treatment of “Ferry…” from Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s album from around 5 years earlier. It’s a hit and miss affair, with Trevor Horn trying and failing to reign in Holly’s tendency to bellow out Gerry Marsden’s lyrics as if it were another New Pop manifesto. I note that Holly Johnson is only slightly less restrained here.

    I get the sense from both records and the Gerry And The Pacemakers original is that celtic longing that permeates all renditions, those celtic roots that represent a huge slice of the Scouse identity, they embrace loss and mourning more openly and readily (note this is not a flaw in the Scouse character, but an enviable asset) than anywhere else in England. And that’s the problem I have with this record. SAW fail to convey that sense of loss in the production. It feels trite. Little wonder YNWA is by far the more poignant reminder of the loss of 96 souls, than this.

  10. 10
    punctum on 17 Sep 2010 #

    The original Gerry and the Pacemakers recording of “Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey” drifted into the British charts like a ghost ship in that excitable winter of 1964. It was used as the theme to a film involving the group as well as Cilla Black and various other notable Liverpudlians of the period; the film is rarely, if ever, revived, and this may not be surprising since, watching it, Merseybeat seems as arcane and distant a cult as Chartism. But the song prospered; although the Mersey Sound had by the turn of ’64/5 begun to implode to the point where it really was the Beatles and everyone else, the clouded optimism of Gerry Marsden’s song and George Martin’s string and French horn arrangement in the manner of “Wonderful Land” still pointed to a time when Liverpool was a place of hope and riches, somewhere everyone wanted to be…Liverpool’s “moment.”

    That dissipated, as “moments” tend to do, and when Frankie Goes To Hollywood revived the song for inclusion on the B-side of the original 12-inch of “Relax” – thus providing a clear link between the first and second acts to top the British charts with their first three singles – they preceded it with a snatch of dole office dialogue from Boys From The Blackstuff; Liverpool in 1983 was on its knees, defeated by Thatcherism on one side and council leader Derek Hatton’s reckless careerism on the other. Against this backdrop Holly Johnson sings the song with a strong element of defiance and a new kind of hope; Horn’s cavalcade of arpeggios at the end suggest Liverpool not to be beaten, that the North would rise again despite everything.

    Then came Saturday 15 April 1989, the afternoon of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, to be played in the neutral grounds of the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Traffic delays on the motorway meant that many Liverpool fans did not arrive in time for the kick-off, and thousands crammed the stadium’s inadequate entrance turnstiles in an effort to get in. Concerned that some of these fans might be attempting entry to the game without tickets, the police and stewards were loath to let them in en masse, but eventually – and far too late – they opened another gate, with the inevitable inward stampede.

    In the wake of Heysel and other misdemeanours – not to mention an underlying contempt for the working classes who, in 1989, still constituted the majority of football crowds – Hillsborough, in line with other stadia, had introduced steel fencing at the front of their crowd stands in order to prevent hooligans from invading the pitch. In those days crowds were still obliged to stand for matches; there was no seating for fear that seats might similarly be ripped up and tossed into the pitch.

    But this policy proved disastrous. The sudden influx of spectators caused an immediate crush to those already in the stadium, at the front of the stands, and they were likewise crushed from the other side by the steel fencing. In desperation, some attempted to tear down the fencing and escape onto the pitch, but police, under the impression that they were en route to attacking Nottingham Forest fans at the opposite end, herded them back. The crushing continued; dead bodies began to emerge from the walls of desperate flesh. 96 people were killed, including a fourteen-year-old boy and a man who went into a coma before finally dying in 1993, and nearly 800 others sustained injuries.

    The disaster, much like Zeebrugge, was the inevitable consequence of a culture of wilful incompetence and mismanagement. But then the lies started to appear; in part generated by frightened police chiefs not wanting to sacrifice their careers two months before their pensions, in other part encouraged by certain Conservative MPs, under the headline “THE TRUTH” in The Sun – the same newspaper for which Pete Waterman had recorded the Ferry Aid fundraiser – there were stories of “drunken” Liverpool fans urinating on, or copulating with, the bodies of the dead, pickpocketing their wallets, picking fights with police. It was a PR disaster from which the newspaper has yet to recover on Merseyside – in particular because it, or the editor of the time responsible for it, has never issued an unconditional apology for running the piece, or the headline – to this day many newsagents there continue to blackball it from their shops, and its circulation figures there have remanied low.

    So the 1989 “Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey,” recorded by a quickly convened cross-section of Liverpool artists to raise funds for the families of the dead, has to be considered as a protest record; in many ways it is the angriest record SAW ever made – where “I’d Rather Jack” simply has a jibe at out-of-touch radio programmers, the dignified but barely suppressed fury of Waterman’s “Ferry” is a direct, controlled attack on the powers which would traduce Liverpool to a thug-crammed subhuman wilderness. Marsden and Johnson were both brought back to recreate their original performances, but there is a renewed intensity in their performances; Marsden in particular sounds at times on the verge of tears in his solo features, while Holly retains his original defiance but makes it somehow deeper – in the “People around every corner” middle eight he stares daggers at those who would doubt that Liverpudlians were happy to welcome and embrace anyone, and his furious focus on the line “Hearts torn in every way” needs no further underlining. Henry Priestman, lead singer of the Christians, provides the rich voice of moderation throughout.

    But getting Paul McCartney to participate was a genuine coup, and it is he who, at the end of the record, takes it to a further dimension and slowly unleashes the rage which has been simmering beneath the surface for the previous three minutes; as the harmonies modulate, and SAW introduce an adroitly-disguised slow motion/16 rpm House piano line, McCartney suddenly bursts loose: “This land’s the place we love!” he howls in terrible anger. “Ferry! Cross the Mersey!” he virtually sobs – the subtext being: don’t ever fucking try to do us down, our culture, our way of living, our beliefs.

    This “Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey” is therefore a profoundly anti-Thatcherite record – anyone lazily categorising Waterman as a nouveau riche Tory missed his fortnightly columns in the teenpop magazine No 1, in which he regularly railed against the poll tax and other manifestations of New Rightism, or his violent decrying of Thatcher and Ian MacGregor apropos the 1984 miners’ strike, which he has done on both radio and TV more than once over the years – and in an era when, as stated in the Times of 5 May 2007, the likes of Matthew Parris (with regard to that week’s local government and Scottish Parliament elections) can still smugly state that Liverpool “doesn’t matter,” it seems to me still the most propitious, and certainly one of the most telling, of all charity records, since its inherent current of political protest is as inescapable as the original Pacemakers record is from the speakers on any Mersey ferry on which you might happen to step.

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Thanks Erithian, that’s quite a story. I’d never have remembered the Sutton v Coventry game was the same season as Hillsborough, but then I suppose it’s one of the Cup’s greatest stories alongside the very worst and my brain has done me the favour of separating them.

    I was at Dorking that day to see them lift the Isthmian Division One trophy, gaining promotion to the highest level they’d ever played at in their hundred-plus year history. Andy Ansah was their star striker, soon to move on the then second tier Southend. No one in the crowd seemed aware of what was going on at Hillsborough. Me and my dad got in the car on a high, then turned the radio on.

    As for the film of Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey it starred Gerry Marsden and Julie Samuel. The latter’s acting career was interrupted shortly afterwards when she had a baby called Sarah Cracknell. It’s not a bad film- the title sequence plays G&TP’s zippier (also self-penned) It’s Gonna Be Alright rather than Ferry – and from memory has some good grainy b+w shots of Liverpool. Which is more than can be said for Herman’s Hermits’ cinematic calamity Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, set in a Manchester that includes Catford Stadium and pearly kings and queens!

    It’s a beautiful song, which is now unfortunately played constantly on the actual ferry – must be a bit like hearing Waterloo Sunset on repeat whenever you set foot on Waterloo bridge. Commuters from the Wirral probably got a little sick of it when the Mersey tunnel was closed for repairs in the nineties.

  12. 12
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2010 #

    #10 – Excellent on the music, politics and sociology as always, Marcello, but allow me to correct a couple of things about the football. Of course there were seats at football grounds, and the instances of them being torn up and used as weapons à la Millwall in 1985 were very rare. For supporters terracing was a cheaper alternative to seats, and one that many fans actively preferred, giving a heightened sense of belonging, the option to watch the match with whoever you chose and the chance to get away from anything untoward that did happen. As the Football Supporters Federation continues to argue to this day, terracing is not inherently unsafe as long as proper barriers are in place to prevent surges and crowding does not exceed a certain number per square metre.

    The fencing at the front of the Leppings Lane stand wasn’t the main problem either – the issue was the lateral fencing from the back to the front which divided the terrace into pens. Without those fences the crowding on the terrace would still have been mightily uncomfortable but the crowd could have, in the terminology of the time, “found its own level”. The Taylor Report is crystal-clear that the main cause of the disaster was that when fans walked briskly through the open gate (the video shows there was no “stampede” either) there were no police or stewards to tell them that the central pens were full and they should go to the side ones. The tunnel leading to the central pens was directly opposite the gate, so that’s where they headed. There’s a photo taken a few minutes before kick-off showing the central pens dangerously packed while people in the side pens by the corner flag had enough space to sit on the terrace and read the programme.

    Mike #5, re the blamelessness of every Liverpool fan – I dare say a few were drunk and/or stroppy, but again the Taylor report is clear that the fans’ behaviour on the day was not the main cause of what happened. But if you were ever a hooligan, and a Liverpool hooligan in particular, you share the blame for Hillsborough: because the fences were there in response to what had happened in previous years, and the police’s attitudes were an unfortunate by-product of years of dealing with that element of the football public with which they’d had to come into closest contact. When Trevor Hicks, seeing what’s developing on the terrace where his daughters are standing, tries to remonstrate with a policeman only to be told “Shut your fucking prattle!”, any hoolie who ever baited the police has to share the guilt with the policeman.

  13. 13
    MikeMCSG on 17 Sep 2010 #

    #10 Good piece MC but there are a few errors in there.

    Firstly the fences were not there in response to Heysel; they’d been up a lot longer than that as a result of football hooliganism in the 70s (during which time Liverpool supporters were noted as being relatively well-behaved).

    Secondly no one HAD to stand if they got their ticket early enough; if you look at footage from Hillsborough you’ll see fans being pulled from the melee by others in the seats above. Many chose (and would still do if permitted) to stand because it was easier to keep warm on cold days and encouraged male bonding. I suspect you were too busy devouring every word of every music magazine to actually go to football :-)

    It isn’t lazy to view Waterman as a Thatcherite; his cultural philistinism and support for Dr Beeching are well-attested but it’s good that you’ve provided another view for balance.

    I don’t think there’s any evidence that police pushed people back once the gate at the front was opened; that wouldn’t have been physically possible. I think what you’re referring to is police officers forming a cordon on the half way line to block access to the Forest end rather than going to help.

    Henry Priestman was the keyboard player and songwriter of The
    Christians, the top-rate singer was Gary Christian.

  14. 14
    Jimmy the Swede on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Some wonderfully poignant contributions here, not least from Erithian and Marcello, following on from Tom’s initial excellent write-up. It’s one of those days you will never forget. I was pottering around Cardiff on a daytrip from London with my partner Lizzie, then my girlfriend of barely seven months. On the way back to the car from visiting the castle, I turned on the radio to hear Kenny Dalglish rhubarbing away in that indecipherable brogue of his and my immediate reaction was that it was impossible to determine if Forest had beaten Liverpool because Kenny’s accent was incurably incapable of variation at any time. I remember losing patience and saying out loud something like: “Oh for Christ’s sake just tell us the result, you charmless nerk!” I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this flippant remark was very soon greatly regretted when it became apparent what had happened in Sheffield.

    “THE TRUTH” “editorial” in The Sun, of course, caused great harm, the fall-out from which has still not gone away, as has been mentioned. There was alas a feeling in some quarters of “Oh not the bloody Scousers again! ALWAYS the bloody Scousers!” as well as the current Mayor of London’s later comments, whilst editor of The Spectator following the vile beheading by terrorists of Liverpool resident Ken Bigley:

    “the editorial claimed the inhabitants of Liverpool were wallowing in a “vicarious victimhood”; that many Liverpudlians had a “deeply unattractive psyche”; and that they refused to accept responsibility for “drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground” during the Hillsborough disaster, a contention at odds with the findings of the Taylor Report.”

    I think Boris’ “lovable buffoon” mask slipped a bit that day.

  15. 15
    MikeMCSG on 17 Sep 2010 #

    # 12 I 100% agree with that point Ian. I don’t challenge the Taylor verdict at all, just sometimes you get the vibe from Liverpool supporters who weren’t directly affected that it absolves them from Heysel and everything that went before. I don’t think many Italians agree with that.

  16. 16
    punctum on 17 Sep 2010 #

    12/13: Thanks for clearing up the football facts (and yes, Gary Christian, or was it Garry with two Rs? Look it up DJP you lazy sod). To be fair my team at the time was Oxford United who had parted company with their manager Mark Lawrenson rather acrimoniously and performed with typical mediocrity that season to finish 17th in the old Second Division. Top of that league, and up for promotion, were Chelsea. Different times or what?

    Waterman loves Wagner and has been pals with Mark E Smith for decades; go figure (or better still, go seek out “Plug Myself In” by DOSE and MES, put out under the PWL aegis in the mid-nineties).

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 17 Sep 2010 #

    14. I suppose that, in fairness to Boris Johnson (not a phrase I often use), it should be said that the offending anonymous editorial was written by Simon Heffer, who Johnson then had to collectively defend as editor.

  18. 18
    Jimmy the Swede on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Thanks, Billy. I am grateful.

  19. 19
    pink champale on 17 Sep 2010 #

    great waterman facts, djp! He’s always seemed excessively open and passionate in his loves to me, certainly not a cowellian philistine.

    I think a lot of THE TRUTH business seems to have been not so much down to km’s attitude to Liverpool as a socialist strong-hold, but to his weird defensiveness in the face of any expressions of masculinity of the football bloke type. (this is all half remembered from ‘stick it up your punter’, a great book on the sun in the eighties…). beneath all the barrow boy everybloke nonsense, (he actually went to a fee paying school in dulwich) he always strikes me as oddly discomforted in most situations and to live his whole life trammelled by an irrational terror of teh gays on one side and proper working class blokes on the other (er, and women too!) and so he seems to have had this kamakazi need to believe and print all these outlandish fantasies that were being presented to him (and that he was making up himself) – they’ll do anything these animals! – even though he sort of knew it was bollocks.

  20. 20
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2010 #

    “… were being presented to him”. By anonymous South Yorkshire policemen apparently. Because yes, the fans were going through dead fans’ wallets – to find their ID, do you think? And yes they possibly were urinating on the bodies of the dead – because part of being crushed to death involves losing control of your bladder, why the hell else would they be doing it?

    Wichita #11 – I was in the Everton end at Villa Park, and I’ve no idea how many of those around me knew what was going on, but it can’t have been that many since at the final whistle I couldn’t hear anything on the radio for fans celebrating reaching the fourth Cup Final in six years. I’d heard that at least five people were dead, and as we left the stadium I turned up the radio to let those around me listen in to Sports Report as I’d done a hundred times before after a match – just as they announced that the latest death toll was 74. It was like a hammer blow.

  21. 21
    MikeMCSG on 17 Sep 2010 #

    # 16 I remember after Lawro’s departure, Maxwell Jnr wheeled out his replacement, serial fall-guy Brian Horton (who was installed at Manchester City in very similar circumstances in 1992) to the press then yanked him back indoors before he could say anything. Hilarious but a PR disaster for the hapless Horton.

    Congrats on getting back to League Two by the way. Shame we’re no longer there to welcome you !

  22. 22
    wichita lineman on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Marcello, is my memory playing tricks on me or did Oxford’s Manor Ground have fencing that ran from the ground right up to the roof? I went there to see them play Leeds in 1984, the year they went up to the First Division as champions, and feeling claustrophobic. It was still essentially a non-league ground only with these grisly ‘modern’ additions that made the terrace feel like a cage.

    It didn’t prevent the Leeds fans from ripping up seating and anything else they could trash in the away end. Erithian, I’d like to think these instances were rare but this mini riot didn’t merit a mention on the news. I’d guess Luton v Millwall got more attention because of the home side’s cuddly chairman David Evans and his desire to be in the papers as often as possible.

  23. 23
    Billy Smart on 17 Sep 2010 #

    IIRC that Luton-Millwall quarter final was a rare live match on BBC1! I recall many boys in my class planning to watch it on TV that evening, in the sure anticipation that some live disorder would occur.

  24. 24
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Wichita #22 – there was something like a three foot gap between the top of the fence and the low roof. Very claustrophobic and very poor views of the pitch, unsurprisingly. My girlfriend and I went there in 1987 and wrote this piece of doggerel afterwards, to the tune of “Mull of Kintyre”:
    “The ground at the Manor’s the worst in the land
    With ruddy great fences in front of the stand
    If you watch a match there then you cannot fail
    To get the impression that you’re stuck in jail…”

    It was reported before the 1989 Cup Final that Robert Maxwell had telephoned the FA to ask if he could present the cheque from the Mirror’s Hillsborough disaster appeal to Gerry Marsden on the Wembley pitch before kick-off. The response was apparently: “No, you’re not hijacking the Cup Final [sound of dialling tone].” Kudos.

  25. 25
    punctum on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Not only was that awful fence there but they also put in a moat (i.e. ripped out the front five rows of terracing) to stop fans invading the pitch. The fencing stayed there until well into the nineties – not so much out of bloody-mindedness but because the club couldn’t afford to redo the place. There were some nostalgic sighs when the move to the Kassam Stadium took place but mostly they were outweighed by sighs of relief.

  26. 26
    Mark G on 17 Sep 2010 #

    So, is this the longest “artist credit” to hit the top spot?

  27. 27
    Billy Smart on 17 Sep 2010 #

    24 (Shudders) I wouldn’t be confident that all of the monies raised by a Maxwell charity appeal would have found their way to the deserving…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUvROepsISU&feature=related

    (“Send ME a pound!”)

  28. 28
    LondonLee on 17 Sep 2010 #

    I was at a game up North that day too (a rare occurence for me in those days) watching a mate play for Dartford against Macclesfield in whatever the non-league version of the FA Cup is called (FA Trophy?). It had been a really enjoyable day — despite Dartford losing — being at that tiny ground with the home fans cheerily waving inflatable blue worms. A bloke near us had a transistor radio to follow the game at Hillsborough but all he said was the game had been delayed because of crowd trouble (“typical” we thought) and it wasn’t until we got back on our coach at the end that we found out what had happened.

    There’s more passion in this (or anger as Marcello said) than the wistful original and it’s pretty good as rushed charity records go but I’d be happy never to hear one of those tinny and fussy 80s backing tracks ever again.

  29. 29
    MichaelH on 17 Sep 2010 #

    Not directly relevant to the record, but there’s a comment upthread that in 1989 football still attracted an overwhelmingly working class crowd. It actually still does: it’s just that everyone has to pay an awful lot more, and the richer elements to the support are more evident because of executive boxes and so on. Minor point, but the “prawn sandwich brigade” has become a common and misconceived cliche.

    Hillsborough spawned one of the greatest and angriest WSC covers: “Hillsborough – Who’s to blame?” With pics of Graham Kelly, the South Yorks police chief constable and Thatcher, all with speech bubbles saying “Not me.” Then one of a packed terrace: “Must be us again then.”

    And on the most ridiculous and petty note, Hillsborough denied me my only moment of televised football fame. I was interning for Mo Mowlam in the Commons, and had been a last-minute draftee into the MPs’ team for the annual game against the press gallery, which they had lost for the past five years, which took place on the the Thurs before the Cup semis. Towards the end of the game, a crew for the BBC politics show On the Record turned up, getting some background film for an item about the football ID cards scheme that was to go out the next Sunday lunchtime. We were 1-0 down with a minute to go when I got the ball from Lord Craigavon, 35 yards out. Took it past two defenders, ignored George Galloway’s call for a pass and somehow found the top corner from 25 yards. The single best thing I ever did on a football pitch, by a mile. But, of course, the debate about football supporters had moved on by the Sunday lunchtime and the original OTR item was scrapped …

  30. 30

    “We were 1-0 down with a minute to go when I got the ball from Lord Craigavon” <-- new favourite sentence ever

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