And on the third day of In The City, Manchester’s legendary music industry jolly, I travelled due North-west to take part in a panel about … well, it was never really made totally explicit what it was about, either in the publicity or by fragmented punk-rock moderator John Robb, but it was something to do with writing books and rock music. This explained why I found myself squashed into a leather sofa alongside John Niven, A&R-turned-gamekeeper and author of scurrilous biz novel Kill Your Friends, Mark Hodkinson, genial boss of indie publisher Pomona and author of affectionate post-punk novel The Last Mad Surge Of Youth, Pete Frame, all-round beardy legend and architect of the mighty Rock’s Family Trees, and Peter Hook, musician, bon viveur and now author of just-published hardback memoir How Not To Run A Club. (John Robb is no literary slouch either, having collected his fragmented thoughts in many a bound volume, most recently Death To Trad Rock.) The suite at the Midland Hotel where the panel took place was well attended by biz types, and at least one spunky young band called My Name Is Animal – I think – and if anything there were too many good talkers onstage for the allotted hour. (I could have listened to Pete Frame for an hour – that man has lived a life.) But it was a lively one, and although we started by talking about whether the myth of rock music can be conveyed on the printed page, we soon got off the subject of books and onto the subject of the reduced influence and literary content of the music press in a digitally fragmented world. (John claimed, at 48, to be well up for this fragmented world, as it was the democracy that he sought during punk, but most of us disagreed, most eloquently Mark, who worried that a world where everybody is chattering about music on a democratically equal plane is too diffuse to nurture movements, such as those we have experienced in the past – I hope I haven’t paraphrased too much.)
Anyway, even though I was in Manchester for just four hours, I enjoyed returning to the scene of so many past music biz crimes. I attended In The City on an annual basis during my years in magazine publishing, and did as the Mancunians do whilst in Manchester. (It was, I always thought, healthy that the London-based media had to spend so much time in another city around the turn of the decade when Madchester was the centre of the universe.) This time, I drank two cups of peppermint tea and one glass of carbonated water. I ate a healthy packed lunch on the train. But hey, just wandering into the lobby of the Midland, going downstairs to pick up my delegate pass and goody bag, and feeling the industry vibe took me right back to the 90s, to the deregulated days of pluggers and BBC press officers and Select and the Hit Parade and taxis and Mark Lamarr and Mark Goodier and Indian food and lager and Tiny Monroe and their manager. God bless Manchester for continuing to generate its own electricity and sense of occasion. The old place doesn’t seem to have changed that much, and just hearing Hooky sparring with John Robb reassured me that the years may pass, but the song remains the same. Top one, nice one, get sorted etc.
The lead photo above was taken by Hobbsy. These were posted on Flickr by Martin at VisitManchester.