Fans of Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman Shaun Ryder are being invited to turn back the clock to contribute their concert memories to a new book about his life.
The Salford-born music legend now combines his pop career with appearances on a number of television shows, including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and Celebrity Gogglebox, the latter with his Mondays’ bandmate Bez.
But it’s his music which he’s most famous for, with hits such as Step On and Kinky Afro with the Happy Mondays and a number one album with It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah! with Black Grape.
The book is being compiled by Manchester-based author Richard Houghton, who explained the thinking behind it.
Richard says: “Shaun has been in the public eye for a number of years but we wanted to tell his story in a different way. Shaun makes no secret of the fact that he has done a lot of drugs over the years, which means that his recall of certain events is foggy to say the least.
“We thought it would be fun to hear fans’ memories of some of those shows, going back to the very early days of the Mondays.”
One of the first ever performances by the Happy Mondays was at Blackpool’s GPO Club in 1984, the gig perhaps coming about as a result of Shaun working as a postman in Salford, a short-lived career which came to an end after Shaun bit a dog that attacked him while he was on his round.
Shaun’s own memory of what is thought to be only the Mondays’ second ever show is that, “we did one gig at Blackpool Postmen’s Club and came last”.
Richard says: “Although we’ve collected memories from more than 200 shows throughout Shaun’s career, that is one that we don’t have any accounts of. It would be fantastic to hear from anyone who saw the Mondays play in Blackpool so early in their career.”
The Mondays also played Sugarhouse in Lancaster in November 1989 on their Rave On tour and then the Guild Hall in Preston in 1992 before the original line up of the band split.
Their last album was entitled Yes Please! but found little favour with fans or critics, with music magazine Melody Maker managing a two word review – “no thanks”.
Roy Clarkson was at the Guild Hall concert and remembers: “I was at university there and our kid got the train over to the gig as well. The Stereo MCs were supporting and they were mega. We were right at the front and it wasn’t that packed. Shaun Ryder strolled by and asked for a light and we just spent the next 20 minutes with him talking about general stuff. What a top bloke.
“It was his gig and there he was, normal as anything, and just enjoying the MCs like the rest of us, no ego just a bloke.”
Shaun went on to form Black Grape with the rapper Kermit, from the Ruthless Rap Assassins. Their first album topped the UK charts and they were to perform in Blackpool in March 1996.
Paul Brady went to the March 1996 Blackpool show and recalls: “We said we’d go to the Empress Ballroom. It was a couple of days before my birthday. Me, my mate Robert Kelly and another kid got the tickets from the Manchester Piccadilly box office. We managed to book a hotel called the Waverley which was a pub near Blackpool North station.
“I had a Stone Roses T-shirt on. We got in this hotel, dropped our gear off, went out drinking and then made our way to Empress Ballroom. And it was one of the best gigs we’d ever been to. We were quite young. We didn’t know It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah.
“We saw them on stage and Kermit and Psycho bouncing about, and bouncing off each other with Shaun, and it was like – wow! I’d been left school maybe two years and it was like ‘this is unbelievable.’
“Seeing them on stage with Psycho and Kermit seemed to ramp it up a bit. They were bouncing around the stage and getting everybody up. It was really good, and one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. I just wish I could remember a bit more about it!”
Danny Spencer was also at the Winter Gardens and says: “I remember a big fight kicking off right in front of the stage at Blackpool Empress Ballroom! One minute we were all crammed in like bouncing sardines and the next minute was like the parting of the Red Sea.
“Everyone formed a big circle to watch this fight like we were all back at school! It didn’t interrupt the gig though, and I remember some kid on crutches waving them about at people!”
The Happy Mondays reformed briefly in 1999 and again in 2004 before coming together again in 2012, since when they have continued to tour, visiting Lancashire periodically. Black Grape have also reunited since breaking up in 1998 and, like the Mondays, continue to tour.
Richard is interested in hearing memories of any of Shaun’s visits to Lancashire, including his most recent visit with the Mondays in 2017.
Richard says, “Shaun is still very active musically, with plans to tour with both Happy Mondays and Black Grape in the next year or so as well as various musical projects that are coming out in the next few months. This book will bring fans right up to date.”
Richard Houghton is the author of a number of fan-based music books, having written about Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, all of which acts have appeared in Lancashire in years gone by.
Richard can be contacted with your Shaun Ryder memories at [email protected]