Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Rovers Return

Hull KR are planning for life back in Super League. And thanks to my youngest, I’m not celebrating that fact alone…

As the dust settles on another domestic rugby league season (and yet another Leeds Grand Final win!) it does so with supporters of Hull Kingston Rovers knowing that dreams of one day seeing their own team in such a showpiece occasion have taken a (small) step closer, following promotion back to the game’s top-flight. And The Robins’ return to Super League has been accompanied by a new regular supporter, in the shape of Katie - the younger of my two Slushettes.
She has achieved this by seeing all-but-three home games this season, as well as clocking up her first “proper” away trips (we don’t include the away derby, of which she has experienced several). The only home games missed were Bradford (she’s still mad that I opted to go with my mate in the East Stand with my justification for leaving her at home being: “you won’t see anything from there…and it’s really cold”), Batley (she was at a party) and Halifax in the Middle 8’s (it was her dance troupe performance at the Withernsea Festival). In addition to actually watching a winning team, Katie has been a mascot (against Swinton) and has also managed to be pictured with a sizeable number of the first team squad (along with ex-Robin Kieran Dixon and local boxing celeb Tommy Coyle, the latter a guest for the promotion-clinching Widnes game). In short, she’s become hooked on her Hull KR matchday experience; just as I was, some thirty years or so ago... 
I never experienced the rite of passage that was being taken by my dad to my first match. Neither did I get to look forward to that regular trip with him to any sporting occasion. Dad didn’t do live football or rugby league. His only involvement with the round ball game was a weekly Littlewoods pools collection round, while his “egg chasing” experience amounted to taking my brother and me to the 1980 Challenge Cup Final (but that’s another story). No, Dad’s sporting love was cricket, in particular Yorkshire cricket. Hence my childhood dad-and-son(s) sporting trips were on an annual basis and involved The Tykes’ one Sunday League game per season at The Circle on Anlaby Road (site of the present KCom Stadium). 
Therefore, despite having two daughters, I was determined that from an early age I would open up both to the “pleasures” of watching their local teams, whatever the sport. Then, in the fullness of time, should they continue to want to watch Hull City, Hull Kingston Rovers and/or even the local ice hockey side, they could then look back on those early trips with pleasure and not have the regrets of having missed out. Well that’s how I thought things would pan out anyway.
Sadly, despite seeing City playing top-flight football for the first time and Rovers back among the country’s rugby league elite post-2006, it didn’t take long for Emma (my eldest) to decide that her free time was better spent anywhere else but inside a sports ground with her dad. And so, for the past few years the Younger Slushette has been my regular companion.  With my self-imposed exile from City home games now into a second full season, these trips have been almost exclusively restricted to the oval ball game. Thankfully, the signs are that she’s developing a real liking for them. She’s even improved her understanding of the game and – more importantly – why supporting the team on this side of the River Hull is the right thing to do regardless of peer pressure from supporters of a team slightly more accustomed to success of late! There was genuine delight from her as promotion was sealed against Widnes. Perhaps she was as relieved as me at not having to watch Championship rugby again next year.
While many Rovers fans have enjoyed the chance to revisit some of those traditional heartlands grounds that are never realistically likely to feature on the Super League fixture list, those restricted to home matches have had to suffer some fairly drab afternoons in the game’s second-tier. Many teams arrived at Craven Park with the simple aim of stifling, spoiling and generally doing whatever else necessary to prevent being rolled over. More often than not it proved fruitless – Rovers usually finding a twenty-minute spell somewhere in the game in which they could quite simply blow their opponents away. And so we usually saw a home win, with lots of tries. The Younger Slushette loved it. And so, by extension, did I.
Although I lived through a golden period for both Hull teams, I didn't share in their success. Indeed I was late to the sport's attractions (if you ignore that “last one out” Wembley trip). “Rrrragby leeeeague” remained a game I struggled to take to. For me – and I suspect many other non-believers - its main use was to fill the late afternoon slot on Grandstand just before the Final Score teleprinter clicked into action. Although I do admit to having been entertained by commentator Eddie Waring’s attempt to identify the players in some god-forsaken mud-bath over Salford way; a task made even harder for me watching in black & white!
Taking up regular attendance at Boothferry Park during the early 1980s, I lustily joined in with the choruses of "We all agree football is better than rugby" being belted out from the Kempton every Saturday afternoon. How we laughed when one of the two rugby teams lost unexpectedly and how we seethed when Boothferry Park filled up for a rugby league international or a Hull derby in some cup or other, in contrast to the three or four thousand on City match days. I’ll admit it; we were jealous.
Perhaps we had good reason to feel this way. At the same time as The Tigers were sliding into football’s basement and close to extinction, the city’s rugby clubs were collecting silverware in abundance. In addition to the Challenge Cup, Rovers were crowned champions in 1984 and 1985, the first of these being combined with the Premiership Trophy in a historic ‘double’. The Premiership had also been won in 1981, with other successes coming in the John Player Trophy, Yorkshire Cup and the BBC Floodlit Trophy. FC soon joined their east Hull counterparts in dominating the game. They had beaten Rovers in the last Floodlit Trophy final in 1980 before completing a double of the Challenge Cup (after a replay against Widnes at Elland Road) and the John Player Trophy in 1982. Three successive Yorkshire Cup wins, between 1983 and 1985, added to an impressive haul at the Boulevard.
But it wasn’t just the success of their oval-ball cousins that riled City fans; it was the arrogance of some the rugby clubs’ followers. Hull FC fans in particular (and indeed those inside the club itself) soon came to be regarded by many as having become “too big for their boots”. Gary Clark, author of a couple of books on City, is one who remembers the bitterness that existed at that time:
“I think it was before the 1980 RL Challenge Cup Final at Wembley when they (Hull FC) chose to humiliate us, in a game against Brentford. Hull were invited as part of a Wembley send-off. I was there and remember possibly a couple of hundred scruffs turning up in gang, all dressed in an assortment of hand knitted black and white garb. It was like the cast from The League of Gentlemen. They gathered together in the vast emptiness of the North Stand (still there in those days) and supported the other team. City won 2-1 and the crowd was a little over 3,000. Of course several bouts of fisticuffs broke out, mainly from the City fans who objected to this little troop of misfits chanting for a team that none of them probably knew anything about. It was an important match for City too because we were in danger of relegation; our eventual saviour being Keith Edwards who scored in this game and then the famous 1-0 win over Southend a week later on 3rd May 1980, the day that “all of Hull” - except the 3,700 who turned up at Boothferry Park - went ‘Down That London’. I think that one incident was the start of the animosity between supporters of the two clubs. Not helped a couple of years later when City were in real danger of folding and Hull FC somehow got hold of the Tigers’ sponsors list, contacted them all and offered them a better deal for ‘Hull's Premier Sporting Club’".
My antipathy to rugby league changed in 1988. It was then that I decided to add watching Rovers to my weekend sporting itinerary. Admittedly, the first time – another Hull derby fixture - was purely by chance. The main reason for attending the “One True Derby” in rugby league that Sunday at New Year was simply in order to reciprocate my mate Darren’s rare excursion to Boothferry to support City against Leeds earlier that same day. It was an agreement that had probably been hatched over a pint or two and was one that I was particularly looking forward to. The continued snipes from those of a black and white persuasion, coupled with my increased time spent in the company of Rovers fans had had the desired effect; as such I could genuinely celebrate Garry Clark’s match-winning try in the far corner from where we stood. Mike Fletcher converted and added another two goals, with Wayne Parker dropping a one-pointer. Gary Pearce’s penalty constituted Hull’s sole reply to leave the majority of the 8,186 crowd disappointed and the home side in the relegation zone. For those like us travelling back eastwards across the river, the 11-2 win and Rovers’ elevation to 7th capped an excellent day (City had earlier beaten Leeds 3-1). It marked the beginning, albeit tentatively, of another sporting love affair, although little did I realise that I’d already witnessed the high point of the next two years!

Over the next decade I followed Hull Kingston Rovers along the length and breadth of the M62 (and ‘down that London’). I visited some of the game's proper heartlands and historic grounds, along with some of those that would hardly provide a footnote in the game’s history (Altrincham FC, home to Trafford Borough anybody?). I tasted a few highs and a few more lows, as well as witnessing first-hand one of the most infamous implosions in the history of the game, courtesy of defeat by Oldham at the 1990 Second Division Premiership Final. I made plenty of new friends, including Sean and Darren from Rovers fanzine ‘Flag Edge Touch’ (at a time when both City and Rovers were facing the abyss), and others who shared their love of rugby league with a fondness for Saturday nights at Spiders. Weekends also became known for player spotting, with the Rovers lads a regular sight in Murphy’s (or Schnapps?) on Posterngate. Within no time, Sundays had become an integral part of my sporting weekend. The sport I’d once mocked had gripped me in the same way as watching City had. I could now suffer sporting woes all weekend!
Marriage and kids brought an end to my regular sporting attendance in the same way such domestic responsibilities often curtail many a social activity. My timing wasn’t bad though, given that the early Noughties saw The Robins’ fortunes at their lowest ebb. 2006 ended all that with promotion to Super League and the attempts to get one or both my daughters to share in my sporting passion(s) meant I had new reason to return. Both girls have witnessed the joy and despair of derby games at both Craven Park and The KCom, while thankfully both were spared the despondency of Wembley 2015 and the ‘Million Pound Game’ the following year.
Little did I know that Rovers’ relegation would actually strengthen my hand in trying to shape The Younger Slushette’s sporting allegiances. The fact that virtually every home game would be played on a Sunday afternoon helped. For Katie, Sunday now meant a whole host of delights: like sitting in the front seat of the car (a rare privilege for the youngest member of the family); getting her dad to sing along to some god-forsaken chart “choon” on Capital FM on the car stereo; enjoying the pre-match delight of a jumbo hot dog (or new favourite, the Chicken Balti pie); laughing at her dad being the only person to actually applaud the live acts on the Mercure Hull Talent Stage under the Colin Hutton Stand (they have all been very good by the way); watching the Rovers Dancers (who then doubled up as cheerleaders) strut their stuff in front of us; laughing as Rufus gets up to his usual tricks with players and supporters alike; and eventually taking the chance to get a snap with some of her new-found heroes. And with Radio Humberside no longer carrying in-depth post-match analysis, she's also had the bonus of a Capital sing-along again on the drive home.

My youngest daughter’s enjoyment of a season’s rugby league has made me a very happy man. I smile when remembering how she chuckled at the small band of Oldham fans doing their best to be heard over seven thousand locals in her first game this season. Or how she’d reprimanded me for my over-exuberant celebrations of the winning try against Featherstone (it was relief). And her face when Kellie, our visiting Australian “delegate” student from Aussie Rules country said how much she’d enjoyed her first ever rugby league match (against Rochdale) only for me to tell her it was perhaps the worst game I’d seen all season! Cruelly perhaps, her favourite moment of the season came when godfather Gary had got cramp during the tense closing stages of the memorable Middle 8’s win at Leigh.
That trip to Leigh was one of two away games Katie and I travelled to during the season, both with the aforementioned Gary and sons Mathew and William. The other was at the ground Oldham Roughyeds shared with non-league football side Stalybridge Celtic. Both that trip and the Leigh game were enjoyed by train, something we will hopefully repeat next year. Certainly, the events of the past year would suggest that Katie has bitten the bug in the same way I first did; and unlike me she at least knows that when she pesters me to go to a game the response is more likely than not going to be positive.
But of course promotion to Super League comes at a cost. Now back in the Sky Sports firing line, how many games will there be available to us on a Sunday afternoon in 2018? Could the Younger Slushette’s first full season of attendance prove her last? Thursday night games with school the next day? Or a Friday night clash with her much-loved Dance Class means the selfies may have to be put on a hold for a while? If so, hopefully it will prove a mere separation and not a divorce. I do hope so for when that final hooter sounded against Widnes, to have one of my daughters there to share the joy was something I’ll cherish forever. I’d even go so far as to say it was a moment to rival the final whistle at Wembley on ‘Dean Windass Day’...perhaps. 
NOTE: Parts of the above piece first appeared in my post 'It's rough, it's tough, it's Rugby League' on my now discontinued 'A Game In four Quarters' blog.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Man Of My Time

‘Sir’ Les Mutrie was a man who brought joy to City supporters when it was in very short supply…

When news broke earlier this week of the sad passing of Les Mutrie at the ridiculously young age of 66, it hit me a lot harder than I’d ever imagined. I’m one of these people who doesn’t tend to go overboard on “celebrity” mourning in the way that appears to have been a British trait since the death of Diana. But news of the loss of ‘Sir' Les was different.
What really brought it home was a picture that accompanied the Newcastle Chronicle’s tribute to this native of the north-east. It showed Les scoring – I believe – one of his four goals against Hartlepool in February 1982. It was the Tigers’ last game before they became the first club to call in the official receiver.
What struck me most about the picture – besides the aesthetic beauty of a City goal-scoring machine in full flow - was the backdrop showing a sparsely-populated Best Stand and Well at Boothferry Park. Although the attendance for that ‘Pools game has since been quoted as 3040, I remain convinced that there were at least forty-one fewer spectators in the ground that day. Certainly, in the unexpected “boom” weeks that followed the arrival of the Receivers, during which City’s attendances topped the six-thousand mark, many of us took perverse satisfaction in saying that we’d been there when there were less than half that number inside.
And that’s the reason why the news this week came as such a hammer blow. Les Mutrie was a man who put a smile on the faces of City fans when we had very little else to feel good about. There have been/will be better tributes posted about the man and indeed Hull City Southern Supporters Club, Amber Nectar and the HullDaily Mail have already produced some. For my part, I wanted to put ‘Sir’ Les into the context of what it was like to be a City fan at the time. His goal-scoring feats form a large part of my earliest memories of regularly watching City home and away. He was there at easily my lowest point during that time and was then instrumental in helping bring about one of my first real highs.
Here’s how I describe that particular period in my forthcoming (though don’t know when) er, book…

20 February 1982Hull City 5 Hartlepool United 2
Boothferry Park: East Stand terrace - no ticket; Programme 30p
While Simon Gray’s coaches ensured me and my mates were together door-to-door, the logistics operation for Saturday home games was slightly more fragmented but usually involved meeting up at Hull Station. Having alighted the Connor & Graham bus at Baker Street just before two o’clock, I’d meet Dave, Col and Doug off the No.76 EYMS from Withernsea. As their bus was in at ten past the hour, I’d stand near the old blue tuck-shop hut and watch the world go by (or, more precisely, check for any sign of trouble across at The Green Gingerman, the nearest hostelry for fans arriving by train). We’d then take the stroll through the Station and along Anlaby Road, during which we’d linger a few minutes at the top of the flyover and watch the rugby union action at The Circle (or even the cricket depending on the time of year). If Hull FC happened to be at home, we might be treated to the sight of those bedecked in black and white making their way to The Boulevard. In fact, the crowd could often be heard should the “egg-chasers” have kicked off earlier. Post-match we’d look to catch one of the numerous Station-bound double-deckers parked outside the ground. Otherwise we’d retrace our steps back along Anlaby Road, a walk that would leave me with just enough time to pick up the Green Mail from the dishevelled-looking vendor stood in Debenhams doorway before boarding my bus home. The interaction between him and his geriatric ‘runner’ Wally (whose speed in delivering the freshly-printed paper from the Hull Daily Mail offices hardly merited the term ‘hot off the press’) was often hugely entertaining if far from complimentary. It all added to what was an enjoyable matchday experience. Unfortunately, it was an experience that was about to come under serious threat.

The draw at Bramall Lane had extended City’s unbeaten run to six games but by the time Hartlepool arrived in Hull, things had taken a turn for the worse. First up was an ‘awful’[i] home defeat by Northampton in which the only light relief came via a letter in the day’s match programme. Its content was full of praise for one of the coach drivers to the Sheffield match and in particular his actions after a brick had been thrown through the back window. But it was the “P.S.” that caused much mirth among our little group when we spotted it:
“There was one other thing that spoilt a good game for me, that was the chanting some of ours did about Keith Edwards wife. I was never one of his ardent supporters but I felt a lot of the remarks were uncalled for.”In his reply, General Manager Gordon Dimbleby urged: “The sooner the laws of the land are amended to those of the 30’s the sooner the louts can be given the punishment they so richly deserve.” I’m fairly sure by this he was referring to those responsible for the brick-throwing and not those who sang about ‘Chalky’ and Mrs Edwards!
After defeat by The Cobblers, Mike Smith bemoaned missed opportunities and Billy Whitehurst’s sending off in the three-nil midweek reverse at Peterborough. He also rued City’s apparent inability to “cope with the physical challenges” of the Posh game and at Tranmere, where City drew two-all the following Saturday. Despite “having a hamstring strain”[ii], Les Mutrie scored both the goals at Prenton Park. He went two better as a Hartlepool team featuring future Tigers boss Phil Brown were thumped 5-2. It was City’s highest League score for nine years and would be labelled “Mutrie’s Massacre”. The goals took the Geordie’s tally to 18 for the season, enough to earn him an interview on Sunday’s ITV highlights show and setting him well on the way to creating a club record of scoring in nine successive League games. He was the club’s biggest good news story. Indeed he was the only good news story.
Unfortunately, Sir Les’s headline feat was soon eclipsed by a much bigger story enveloping the club. The Tigers were losing £9,000 a week. With one of the best City performances of the season having been reportedly watched by only 2,825 spectators, bringing in receipts of just £1,700 it was the final nail in the coffin. Five days later, on Thursday 25 February 1982, with Christopher Needler taking advice to withdraw his funding, Hull City became the first club in the country to call in the official receiver. The statement issued by the club read:“Mr Needler, who has supported the club over the past years to the extent of some £325,000 with further bank guarantees of £225,000, has been advised that he should not, in all the circumstances, continue funding the club.”
In other words Hull City had simply run out of cash.

The four goals against Hartlepool form one of my three magical memories of watching ‘Sir’ Les in black and amber. The other two come courtesy of superb individual goals, both scored in the month of October a year apart.
The first came in 1982 on a Friday night at The Old Showground in Scunthorpe, when Les’s late strike ended the home side’s best ever start to a season (nine matches unbeaten). Their manager John Duncan was a man who I and many City fans would come to love to hate, basically because it was hard to recall him ever having a good word to say about his team’s rivals from north of the Humber. There were over seven thousand in the ground that night and it was the large visiting contingent at the Donny Road End who were to leave the happier; Mutrie picking up a pass late in the game before skipping his way through the Scunts’ defence and slotting home at our end. The fact he scored this goal in that brilliant white away shirt capped things off perfectly.
The other standout goal for me came almost exactly a year later and formed part of a wonderful win over one of our nearest and dearest, Sheffield United. City won 4-1 and Mutrie’s effort topped things off, as described in fanzine ‘On Cloud Seven’:
“It was Mutrie who put the icing on an already very tasty cake, by waltzing (watch him go!) from near the corner flag at the now neglected South East corner into the middle of the penalty area before stroking the fourth goal past the bemused Keith Waugh.” 
Wonderful stuff.

Whilst compiling this piece, I’ve remembered another Mutrie moment that brings a smile to my face; it came via a night game at Rochdale in April 1982, a game settled by ‘Sir’ Les netting the only goal. He celebrated by swinging on the inside of the goal-net in front of the two-hundred or so of us who’d travelled across. It was one of those special moments of ultimate connection between player and supporters. Sir Les was responsible for plenty of those.
Over the past few days I’ve read and heard many a post from City supporters of that era, some humorous, some very touching and all displaying the complete affection we had for the man.
RIP Sir Les. 

Pictures courtesy of Hull Daily Mail, Newcastle Chronicle & Col U Day By Day 

[i] From Mike Smith’s programme notes (v Hartlepool, 20/02/1982)
[ii] Same as ‘x’

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Saturdays: Syd’s, City and Spiders (or Sil’)

Three pillars of past Saturdays have been brought back to life in #Hull2017

Hull's UK #CityOfCulture year keeps taking me back to my own #CityofSubCulture years – and that’s before I’ve even got to visit Les Motherby’s “Tiger Rags” exhibition of historical Hull City shirts at the Streetlife Museum. 
Various events have been organised over the past twelve months that have revived memories of the three great pillars that played such a big part in my Saturday routine “back in the day”. To be completely accurate it's atually four if you separate the two nightclubs that provided the climax to the day's activities. But as I'm barely touching on Hull City during this particular post, we'll keep it at three for now...

During my earliest times following The Tigers, the match itself would be the climax to a day that began much earlier and involved shopping for rockabilly singles in Sydney Scarborough, or Syd Scarbs as we referred to it back then. We’d then carefully store them in the lockers in Paragon Station, after lunch at The Gainsborough fish restaurant – we were so sophisticated back then (well, actually, it was the place my mate always arranged to meet his mum and see whether she needed hand with her shopping!). From there, we'd hop on the shuttle-train to Boothferry Park.

As time went on, the Syd’s trip became more of a logistical challenge, not least because my record-buying potential had increased due to the working wage that had replaced my weekly paper round income. Initially, it meant an early morning service bus from Easington, fifteen minutes spent in the company of Steve Rowe and his jump-suited beauties at Classic Salon (in order to get the flat-top trimmed) then a mad dash to Syd’s and back home by eleven. Records ditched it was then back on the bus for the game in the afternoon.

Getting my own wheels eventually made the logistics easier, as did getting a city centre-based job, which meant my visits to Syd’s were no longer restricted to the weekend. This took on greater significance when home games became as much about the pre-match in Trog Bar and Cheese as the actual football – carrying a Syd Scarbs carrier bag full of goodies with you was no longer practical.

I was reminded of these halcyon Saturday mornings last month when I got to visit the Sydney Scarborough exhibition in Princes Quay, organised by former member of staff Varenka Allam. It was a lovely tribute to the store that had been housed under the City Hall from the early 1900s until its closure almost a century later in 2001. Looking at the various displays took me back to my own in-store “education”. From about 1979 to the early 1990s, this took me from the “Rock ‘n’ Roll / Rockabilly” section just inside the door at ground floor level, to the “cool” dark basement, before returning whence I’d come, this time to explore my new-found love of Northern Soul and R‘n’B. I can’t imagine how much of my hard-earned dosh was spent over the various counters therein but the weight of those purchases has already forced the collapse of one cupboard in my house!

Of course it was downstairs where all the cool kids hung out and one’s real musical education could begin. It was here that I discovered the joys of new wave, indie and the 12” remix, as well as being introduced to the previously undiscovered Hull music scene, courtesy of the various posters and flyers adorning the walls. Names like Quel Dommage, The Luddites, International Rescue, Hoi Polloi and of course The Housemartins were first introduced to me that way. Fanzines like 'Kindred Spirit' also helped with my education. From 1989 onwards, Syd’s was also a major sales outlets for the various City fanzines I became involved with, also helping shift the first compilation cassette “There’s Something Stirring In King Billy’s Bogs”.
Not that Syd's was my only port of call music-wise. The likes of Shakespeare Records in Station (suppliers of records to HCAFC no less - cheers Melvyn Marriott!) was another, while Sheridans on Anlaby Road could often be the source of a second-hand gem or two in those early days. Andy's Records and HMV were other ports of call as well as the magnificent Offbeat Records down the old town. But Syd's was my mainstay, my go-to when it came to vinyl. Saturdays were simple: Syd’s, City and Spiders, with Syd's very much the aperitif for what was to follow. 

With City the meat in the Saturday sandwich, Spiders was the place to bring the curtain down back then (after a trawl of the pubs beforehand of course - a trawl I won't go into here due to (a) its evolution from city centre to old town and even marina, and (b) the fact that many of the pubs are no longer with us!). And I’m not going to go into detail about what Spiders means to me, partly because I’ve already contributed a piece for Andy Roe’s forthcoming book on the club; and partly because others have already done it much better than me (see Mike Robbo’s piece for the Freakscene blog).

The Spiders book has come about by means of Crowdfunding  and the idea was formed following rediscovery of a superb set of photographs that Andy took in the club “back in the day” (some of which I'm sure he won't mind me using here). Publication of these pics in the Hull Daily Mail and on social media led to an official 'Spiders Reunion', which was held last October and proved a brilliant night (as can be seen from the other pics on here - even the drinks are still (relatively) cheap!). It was quite surreal to be in the same place as many of those who could easily pass for your own sons or daughters but, as was always the case, nobody batted an eyelid at these strange "old fogeys" recapturing a part of their misspent youth. And when "Temptation" came on, well, you should have seen us move! There is talk of another reunion possibly being arranged to coincide with any publication date/book launch. A 2017 date, as part of #CityOfCulture would appear very apt and cap things off nicely.

For those who want the music of what we’d regard as Spiders’ halcyon era but without requiring the venue itself, former deejay Chris Von Trapp hosts a monthly event called “Cleveland Classics” at The Halfway House pub on Spring Bank West. I first attended back in March 2016, as part of a multi-pronged 50th birthday celebration, and visited the event again recently. It’s a brilliant night, one that will appeal to any sad old soaks like me who for just a few hours want to take a trip back to those wonderful, carefree days of yore.

Similarly, The Silhouette Club is another “lost” venue from the past that has come back into focus as part of #CityOfCulture year. Back in April I was one of the 250 lucky punters who managed to secure tickets to the official Reunion event at the club’s second home on Park Street. Event co-organiser Mike Robbo again does a better job of putting the padding on things in this piece he wrote for Freakscene. Suffice to say a wonderful night was had by all of us and again another one at some time in the future would be more than welcome.

Similar to Mike, I didn’t frequent the original Silhouette on Spring Bank. If I recall correctly (and here for once my fairly reliable diaries from the time let me down) I went there just the once. It was a Thursday night as I recall, possibly Easter time as I seem to think I had the Friday off, and it was following a gig at The Adelphi. I can still remember the “fear” (for want of a better word) as I first entered the club and the sheer unfamiliarity with the toilet etiquette required therein! My only other memory is of dancing to New Order’s “Love Vigilantes” down in the basement!  
I graduated to the “new” Sil from Spiders shortly after its opening in February 1990. For a time our usual Saturday gang combined the new club with Spiders, sometimes splitting the night in two. Eventually, though, Sil became the first choice; I suppose it was deemed that bit cooler and dare I say more contemporary in the way it embraced all things baggy. Some of the nights there during Italia 90 for example were particularly memorable. My diary would suggest my regular Sil-going ended sometime in 1993 – meaning April’s return was my first in almost a quarter of a century. But similar to the Spiders reunion, I only had to step through the door to have the memories come flooding back. And when The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”just about brought the curtain down, I suspect I wasn’t the only one struggling to pull myself back into the 21st century.

My Saturdays nowadays consist of dog walking, a “big shop”, a bit of local football, ‘Dads Army’, ‘Match of the Day’ and bed. If I really feel like pushing the boat out I’ll perhaps have more than just a drop of red with my pizza and bust a few moves to John Kane’s Northern Soul show on the wireless before settling down to some Scandi-Noir on BBC4. 
You can perhaps see why those Saturdays of yore have taken on such a magical feel...

Thanks to Andy Roe’s dedicated Facebook page, I’ve renewed contact with a few of the “old crowd” and enjoyed plenty of wonderful reminiscing over the past few weeks and months. One such conversation centred on our respective choice of favourite Spiders floorfiller of our time there (1985-89 in my case). I’ve never been very good at narrowing things down so I had to extend mine to a Top 40. Obviously some of the recordings pre-date these parameters but they were played there at least once as far as I can recall. So, here they are - I’d be interested in seeing yours...
(PS: And yes Jo, I did nick a couple of yours – thanks for the memory jog 😊)
40: Frank Sinatra: ‘New York New York’ (trad)
(The regular end of the night song. Always had me up…if I was still standing by then!)

39: Killing Joke: ‘Love Like Blood’ (1985)
(A great reminder of my first Spiders nights)

38: The Surfaris: ‘Wipeout’
(One of the few tracks you were allowed to “wreck” to in the early days)

37: The Mission: ‘Wasteland’ (1987)
(Always loved seeing the charge for the dancefloor when this came on)

36: New Order: ‘Love Vigilantes’
(Spoilt for choice with NO but bounced along to this at both Spiders and the old Sil’)

35: Grandmaster Melle Mel: ‘White Lines’ (1983)
(One of those tracks that shouldn’t have sat well at Spiders…but did!)

34: Jesus & Mary Chain: ‘Never Understand’
(Noise, wonderful noise!)

33: The Primitives: ‘Crash’
(Ah, Tracy Tracy and a “choon” to swoon to)

32: The Tams: ‘Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy’
(Always popular with the departing/returning students)

31: Ciccone Youth: ‘Into The Groove(y)’ (1986)
(The nearest you ever got to having Madonna played in Spiders in the summer of ’86!)

30: Joy Division: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
(Could have been ‘She’s Lost Control’ or ‘Transmission’ but played safe)

29: Sister Of Mercy: Temple Of Love
(Another of those early memory makers; Goth Heaven!)

28: Dinosaur Jnr: ‘Freak Scene’
(Just screams “S-p-i-d-e-r-s” at me despite being somewhat later than the others - 1988)

27: The Specials: ‘Too Much Too Young (live)’
(A pre-Spiders ‘old skool’ gem, regularly played for Jimmy Withers & his suedehead crew)

26: The Cure: ‘Boys Don’t Cry’
(One of those bands I’ve come to admire much more in later life; proper catchy “choon”!)

25: Jackie Wilson: ‘Reet Petite’
(Wouldn’t be my first choice of Jackie Wilson track – that would be ‘Because Of You’ – but it formed part of the “R’n’R Segment” afforded us by Chris back then)

24: The Cult: ‘She Sells Sanctuary’
(In all my years at Spiders I never saw this track fail to fill the floor)

23: The Meteors: ‘Graveyard Stomp’
(Banned from the playlist – I remember the night they finally brought it back: Carnage!)

22: The Redskins: ‘Keep On Keeping On’
(A proper stomper!)

21: The Housemartins: ‘Happy Hour’
(Who didn’t rush to the dancefloor to this in the mid-80s?)

20: Nitro Deluxe: ‘This Brutal House’
(My first taste of house music – a rarity in Spiders back then)

19: Spear Of Destiny: ‘Liberator’
(Our chief wrecking “choon” during The Meteors’ ban!)

18: Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five: ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’
(One for the flat-tops/grease-backs among us to strut our stuff to…and a long one!)

17: Dead Or Alive: ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’
(The second song I heard on my Spiders debut in Feb 1985. Loved it ever since)

16: The Pogues: ‘Sally MacLennane’
(Perfect for a drunken jig)

15: The Cramps: ‘Human Fly’
(Wonderful to “slither” to!)

14: Pink Noise: ‘Thin End Of The Wedge’
(From ‘ull, Adelphi regulars, a John Peel fave & should’ve been a hit)

13: Johnny Todd (aka Sammy Masters): ‘Pink Cadillac’
(Pure rockabilly – a staple track of the 10-minute slot afforded us Hepcats back then)

12: King: ‘Love And Pride’
(Ditto Dead Or Alive – this was the first song I heard that night. Loved it ever since)

11: The Jam: ‘A Town Called Malice’
(Still regularly aired. I’m like a geriatric Billy Elliott when this comes on)

10: The Wedding Present: ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’
(The Weddos could be in here many more times; opted for this due it representing the brilliant “George Best” LP & classic Gedge lyrics)

9: The Soup Dragons: ‘Hang-Ten’
(From their pre-Baggy days; proper power-pop guaranteed to make you sweat!)

8: New Order: ‘Perfect Kiss’
(Both 7” & 12” versions were my original NO floor-fillers. Superseded by…  see below)

7: The Wedding Present: ‘Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm’
(Safe choice perhaps but a guaranteed dancer. Again the lyrics are belting)

6: The Smiths: ‘This Charming Man’
(Another safe option and also probably the finest guitar intro in the history of pop music)

5: The Cure: ‘In-Between Days’
(Can you ever listen to this song without smiling…or dancing? I can’t)

4: New Order: ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’
(Another song whose intro immediately has me rushing for the dancefloor)

3: The Lotus Eaters: ‘The First Picture Of You’
(Confession time: I hardly ever heard this aired at Spiders but Chris recently ended a Cleveland Classics night with it and it filled the floor. Plus it’s my funeral song so it’s in!)

2: The Smiths: ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’
(A masterpiece. Perfect for dancing with tears in your eyes when you’re a sad old soak!)

1: New Order: ‘Temptation’
(This could really have been a Top 40 NO floor-fillers chart; As it is, this one gets the No.1 slot due to it being the first track to really switch me on. 35 years on it remains a timeless classic)

* Thanks to Andy Roe and Mike Robbo for use of some of the pics in this piece.