My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 41-year-old who says, "Fuck Pinterest, I still don’t know what Tumblr is."
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal."
MENK 41: YOU KNOW YOU MAKE ME WANT TO SCREAM
Things were tip top when I went to sleep in the house near Poet’s Park, Liverpool.
It had been a great wedding reception. I’ve been covering myself in glory recently as a DJ at such events, even though the job is like shooting fish in a barrel. Or like shooting Fish from Marillion in a barrel. “Stop your greeting, big man – y’should never have released 'Kayleigh’, radge cunt. You had the right idea with Script For a Jester’s Tear.” One huge bang and then his baldy prog head vapourised into pink mist and skull shrapnel. But as I pointed out in one of my early columns, no matter how easy it is, playing music that drunk happy people like dancing to, it still sometimes remains a mystery to me.
That stinging experience made me up my game, though. At a reception in Teddington in May, I passed muster despite getting the distinct impression the father of the bride wanted to punch me because I wouldn’t play his two favourite bhangra tunes, over and over again. Going into the home straight, I revitalised a flagging dancefloor with a peerless run that went "Regulate" – "One Thing" – "Red Dress" – "No Good Advice" – "Telephone" – "212" – "Union City Blue" – "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" – "Yes". When the happy couple started dancing to the McAlmont and Butler tune, people started grabbing handfuls of rose petals from the flower displays and throwing them up into the air like confetti. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. (Well, there were two actually. They belonged to a belligerent German who demanded that the house lights be dimmed and the decks be turned back on so he could hear his favourite record: “YOU MUST PLAY THE THEME MUSIC FROM THE FALL GUY! IT IS MY FAVOURITE SONG! WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DO NOT HAVE IT?”)
And last night in Liverpool, despite initially telling three of the guests to “fucking shut up and leave me alone”, things eventually panned out quite well. Afterwards the happy couple went to spend the first night of their nuptials in a hotel in town and they said I could use their house.
I had a fine view of the TV from a fold-out bed in the front room. I lay there watching Channel 4's House Party, laughing at Jessie Ware’s inability to lip synch and Annie Mac’s desperate attempts to make mixing big room house look difficult. Every time she touched the bass or the midrange her hand would fly off into the air like she’d just received an electric shock. But, you know, at least she was trying. I went to a pre-carnival Vagabondz party at Koko the other night to see a mind-blowing night of reggae, dancehall and dub including The Bug, Daddy Freddy, Flow Dan, Congo Natty, Tenor Fly and General Levy. It was one of the best gigs I’ve been to all year – literally the only bad thing about it was the fact that one of the support toasters, a young white kid swamped in outsized leisure wear, spent his entire slot on stage with one hand in his pocket.
What a fucking disgrace!
It’s like turning up for a funeral wearing sweaty jogging pants, Dunlop Green Flash, a foam jester’s hat and a barely concealed erection. This is why David Bowie is the master. Several years pre-fame training to be a mime artist have left him in full creative control of his hands. So all things said and done, good on Annie Mac for paying lip service to entertainment. And good on her for dropping "It's Time For The Percolator" as well. She should maybe start learning how to twirl four glass orbs in one hand by studying the film Labyrinth, though.
Erick Morillo was up next and at first he was dead entertaining, singing along with early Chicago house classics while waving his hands in the air like a man undergoing the rapture but when he failed to drop "I Like To Move It" by Reel To Real featuring Mad Stuntman I lost interest and went to sleep. Talk about a Maoist rewriting of history...
But the next morning, lying on the couch watching Dr Who, I was filled with a sense of dread. I was trying to enjoy the first opportunity for a chilled out morning I’d had in months but my nerves were jangling and I couldn’t put my finger on why. I hadn’t taken any drugs or begun drinking coffee yet, so why did I feel so tense? It took several minutes to realise that, under the sound of the telly and my tinnitus, I could hear someone screaming. Outside the window, across the street – but out of view – a man was howling, screeching, wailing and ululating in utter agony. There was a pause of a second or two and then it started again, each scream seemingly more agonised than the last. An ambulance pulled up across the street but the howls continued. I called a cab and headed for town.
My driver, a gregarious silver fox, enquired after my night out. I told him that the city had been surprisingly low key: “Bold Street was dead quiet. During the day there were some Scottish men wearing dresses in the gutter outside the Reflex 80s bar... absolutely clattered they were.”
The driver replied: “Everyone’s saving themselves for the Matthew Street festival because it’s a bank holiday.”
Liverpool was a breath of fresh air, if I’m honest. No one was talking about the Olympics. No one in Liverpool cares about anything that happens beyond its boundaries. Instead they had some sort of weird city-wide ping pong tournament going on. There were outdoor ping pong tables everywhere and all of them were busy. And apart from the impromptu congregation of drunk Scotsmen in Laura Ashley frocks, there was, as he said, the Matthew Street Festival that happens every August bank holiday weekend.
My driver described it as a “chance” for Scousers to get pissed and to celebrate The Beatles, like this is some kind of privilege that the powers that be conspire to deny them for the rest of the year. There is something to be learned from the insularity of Liverpudlians I reckon. Their city could break off, from the UK, float out into the Irish Sea, then disengage itself from the Eurasian Plate and then from gravity itself, before drifting off into the universe and people who lived there wouldn’t mind so much.
“Were them Scottish lads pissed, then?” enquired my driver chortling. “It’s amazing at the weekend, isn’t it? I come into town sometimes and it’s like driving into Vietnam. It’s like being a cab driver in a war zone. People are lying in the gutters. Their mates are too pissed to tend to them. Sometimes entire groups of lads are all in the same gutter rolling about, unintelligible and flopping about like beached whales. In another country the Red Cross would be stretchering them out of there to field ambulances.”
I nodded: “I love bringing people to town for a Saturday night out if they don’t know what to expect. If they come from London they’ll have never seen anything like it. Well, you know, maybe in Gladiator or Event Horizon. They’ll be pointing at George Henry Lee’s going, "Why is that man climbing up that 12-storey building?" And then you have to wait while he gets to the top and puts underpants on the statue. Every Saturday night is like the end of Fresher’s week in purgatory.”
“Is this good for you here son?” he asked as he pulled up.
Down Stanley Street I went for a fry up. Outside two girls walked past hand in hand strolling like catwalk models, all ice-cold West Derby deportment. One had an ivory bleached casual’s wedge, with a corner lip piercing and a claret coloured Adidas tracksuit on. The other had her ash blonde hair woven intricately round giant rollers that were so big you could see the sky through them. Her outfit was a fitted blouse and pyjama bottoms, while her trainers were burnished gold in colour. Their make up of sheer coral, matte peach and luminous alabaster, was identical and had clearly taken ages. They looked like scally goddesses stepped down from the silver screen. They were like agents from another planet heading to an interstellar branch of TK Maxx. People in Liverpool often look stunningly great, even when they’re just going down the shops. Well, the girls do at least.
I was arguing about the difference between Liverpool and Manchester with my friend, Gentleman of Punk Rock, John Robb recently. I claimed that to people in Merseyside, their city is more of an abstract notion; that Liverpool to them was really just the people who live there. Mancunians, I think, love the bricks and mortar of their city, the architecture, the industry, the culture and the geography, more. While immigrants from Ireland make up a large percentage of the working class of both cities, elements of the Celtic character have bled into the Scouse personality to a definable degree – Manchester remains relatively more protestant in its nature. You can see this in the music both cities produce. Liverpool is a crucible for tunes that are warm hearted, psychedelic and romantic, while Manchester is a factory for groups that are urgent, intellectual and revolutionary. I love both cities but I do admire Liverpool’s lack of interest in what London and the rest of the world thinks of it. It must be the only metropolis in the world where literally everyone "knows" The Beatles went off the boil when they decamped to London.
I’ve always been interested in what it is with Merseyside and LSD music. I missed out on the first couple of years of acid house because I lived in Merseyside, where the people were only interested in acid-fried rock. People would look at you like you were mad: Why would you listen to electronic dance music when you could spark up a bifter and get Space Ritual or Ummagumma on the stereo instead? In my experience you could talk to a house breaker in Huyton, a smack head in Speke or a garbage collector in Grassington, but if you didn’t know your Zappa, your Magma and your Amon Düül II, you’d be the one walking away looking like a meff.
You’ve heard the greatest song in the world, right? "The Four Horsemen" by Aphrodite’s Child, the Greek classic/prog rock group that featured Demis Roussos and Vangelis.
Well this song – one of my all-time favourites – is the uncontested highlight of 666, a double concept album about St John’s Gospel of revelation, ownership of which was a right of passage for many long hairs in the North West. It also features heavily in an urban myth that used to get repeated in both cities, exact in every respect, with the only difference being an unspoken one of interpretation.
A young lady comes in from a night out to find that her flat has been turned over. Everything has gone, the cupboards are bare, the furniture is missing, the fridge, the TV, the cooker and even the bed have been nicked. In fact the only solitary thing remaining in the entire flat is a copy of 666 by Aphrodite’s Child. The Mancunian laughs, Aphrodite’s Child… what a top diss! The Scouser laughs, you can rob a guy’s fridge but you can’t take his copy of 666, la!
Back in Euston that night I hail a black cab. The driver looks like a crab who has had his shell ripped off. His pink and puffy flesh looks in its entirety like soft, throbbing scar tissue. He leans out of his window and shouts at some people wearing football colours: “Who fackin’ won? EH? WHO FACKIN’ WAAN? OOOOO FAAAAAN WAAAAAAAN?"
He leans back in: “Do you like football?”
“No. Being a music fan is more than enough heartbreak for me. If I added football to that...”
“Did you watch Spurs?”
“No, because I’m not a...”
He leans out of his window again: “WHO FUCKING WON? WHOFUCKINGWON?”
He leans over his shoulder and speaks at interminable length about some fucking football match. Then he carries on: “Cunts. You get all kinds of cunts in here. Fucking full of it they are. ‘Wait till I get home, I’m going to knock her teeth out,' they say. Then they’re all, ‘Turn the radio down mate, she’s in bed asleep. I’ll be in trouble if I wake her up.’ I mean! Ha ha ha! Women are like... ‘I’m going to kick that useless cunt out when I get in.’ And then they’re on the phone, ‘Awright babes... yeah, just five minutes... get the kettle on love.’ Fucking cunts.”
He laughs with the emphysematous mucous rattle of a man who hasn’t experienced joy since the Thatcher administration. And then: “Are you going out drinking tonight?”
I’m not going out drinking tonight. I’m going home to see my beautiful girlfriend and son in Stamford Hill but for some reason we’re heading there via the Old Street Roundabout: “No, I’m teetotal...”
“Yeah, same here. I got fucking diabetes two years ago so that’s all done now. Goodbye! All fucking gone. I mean, I go out once a week and see my mates. An hour down the pub. That’s four fucking pints if I’m lucky. Five pints if I’m lucky. Don’t know why I fackin’ bother.”
He spits out of the window vehemently.
I put my headphones on but I can still hear his poison over the music. And by the time we hit Dalston, my blood is boiling... he’s the sort of twat who wouldn’t even leave you your copy of 666.
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