What do I remember of Preston? That it was a moderately sunny day and there were quite a few people there although it wasn’t a massive show. That it was a Heineken sponsored event with a few bands on the bill. One was an African band of sorts and then there was Tom Robinson who had been a great favourite of mine when I’d started in bands back in 1970’s Geelong. I can recall him playing all the hits from the Power in the Darkness record that had so influenced me all those years before. Our diaries say it was 1994 and it was the last show the Weddings played in England. Apparently the Spice Girls made their first ever public appearance that day if I am to believe everything I’m told. I reckon I would have remembered if I had seen them so I must have been somewhere else at the time.
I also remember I was in the bad books with Peter Hayes the manager of the Weddings as we had played the Fleadh Festival the day before and I had unwisely chosen to stay out the previous night near the sight with Rory McLeod and meet the band at the festival. It was bad because while I maintained that I was all right to play nobody else was to know that – as far as they were concerned I had gone missing. And it was pretty much the big show the tour had been built around. The other thing was I had entered the festival site with Rory before the band had arrived using one of the band’s guest passes which were a rare commodity and this had made their getting in quite difficult. Basically I had put everyone on edge. All in all it was a stupid irresponsible thing to do. Being in trouble wasn’t a feeling I was totally accustomed to although nothing much was said on the day at Preston. It was the men’s toilets in the airport at Singapore a few days later where I would receive my official dressing down. But back in Preston, that day in ’94 the sun shone and we played our show, chatted with the locals and then drove back to London. The realisation you should never assume you are going to be returning to a place was not to hit me until we decided to disband some four years later. As far as we all were concerned that day in Preston, in 1994, we were coming back, it was simply a matter of when.
Myself and Wally have just spent the weekend up in the north west of England. We played a show at the Labour Club in Lowton and then stayed on to watch Chelsea take on Wigan in the first day of the British Premier League football on the Sunday. It rained a light gloomy northern English drizzle both days but nobody seemed too worried walking to the ground on Sunday afternoon. We met some friends in a pub called The Orwell and had our photo taken out on what is pretty much Wigan Pier. (As much as Wigan Pier actually exists – apparently it is more of an ironic title in reference to the fact it is the antithesis of the British seaside holiday piers of Brighton and Blackpool).
The show itself was really really good. It was a strange L shaped room but the crowd was at pretty much capacity and for the people running the affair it basically is the house concert that grew and grew and all power to them for running something so decent.
The funny thing was there were people there who had come on the strength of the show in Preston eighteen years previous and this, coupled with a few very old friends turning up made it a poignant experience for us. We had a similar experience playing in Canada last year where we found ourselves signing quite a bit of vinyl. (Not re-issues with download codes attached – actual dog- eared much played records from the back of someone’s collection). And Lowton was no exception with a number of the records released on Billy Bragg’s Utility label in 1997 making an appearance. So we played and played and were finally coerced into finishing with Scorn of the Women which is something we haven’t tackled for a while. Like I said, it was a good show.
As we left the football on Sunday and headed down the A49 with Brinsley Schwarz hammering away in the car Wally remarked that due to the restrictions they place upon keeping supporters segregated in England we basically hadn’t spoken to anyone from Wigan all day which seemed a shame. Even in the pub before it has been our Chelsea mates we’d been with and so in this famous place it was a chance missed. At least at the show we had managed to feel like we had gotten to know some people in some small way. But Wigan will forever be a quick meal in an odd pub, a pretty waitress (it has to be said), a photo by a disused canal, a walk though the rain and a football match that started well and ended with a yawn.
As we continued on down the nondescript northern highway in the rain talk turned to the great lost poet and songster from Yorkshire Jake Thackray. It turns out that he didn’t die until 2002 meaning that he was performing up until well after the period we had begun visiting England regularly – and here we are just rediscovering him after all these years. When I had been singing songs he’d written for so long without knowing where they’d come from. When we’d been coming up to Preston to play with the Spice Girls and Tom Robinson and we could have been going to a show and lending our support. When it’s too late damn it all.
And so I guess that’s the difference between Lowton and the show in Preston all those years ago. These days we don’t have any illusion or presumption we will necessarily be back however much we’d like to and that’s got to make you play a whole better. And so if there’s a Jake Thackray down the road then I’m keen. And if there’a show to play and some locals to meet then I’m keen for that as well.