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the return of sheffield - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-08-08 00:00
Subject: the return of sheffield
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:calmcalm
Music:steeleye span
The year I left school, a friend of mine had a Saturday job collecting the football pools in the North of Sheffield, and one day he asked if I wanted to go with him and then drive out into the Peak District for a pint in some country pub he'd discovered. Apart from writing my first novel I wasn't doing very much, and even in those days I was easily distracted, so I said yes.
So on a very hot Saturday afternoon in the Summer of 1978 we're driving in a Citroen Diane up and down the hills of Walkley and we see five blokes walking along the pavement, and as we pull level with them I realise it's the Human League. This is the original, pre-Schism Human League, who had produced two albums of extraordinary electronica. Just walking along, not talking to each other.
This wasn't terribly unusual. You used to see the League around town quite a lot, although for some reason the one member I used to keep seeing was their sadly-unsung multimedia genius Adrian Wright, waiting at bus stops, shopping in WH Smith's. Sometimes I saw Phil Oakey in the clubs. But I only ever saw the five of them together once.
I don't think about Sheffield a lot these days, but this article reminded me of those heady days.
I suppose we may be fated to use our childhood heroes as mirrors to gauge the passing of the years. The Human League and ABC are more or less the same age (or younger) as me, so I was interested to see the photograph in this article. Glenn Gregory still looks pretty good, Martyn Ware has aged very well, as have the girls (oh, I could write a small novel about how I lost my heart to Joanne Catherall) Phil Oakey - once the possessor of the Best Haircut On Earth and a seriously big bloke - now looks like a better-preserved Fish, and Martin Fry, rather remarkably, appears not to have aged at all.
It's hard to convey just how proud we were of these people, back in the early 1980s. And, for myself, I'm still proud of them and the things they did and I still listen to the music they made. There was a sense, back then, that Sheffield could move mountains.
And I have to agree with the comment on the article that someone needs to mention Cabaret Voltaire.
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User: sarcobatus
Date: 2008-08-08 00:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Human League, I liked their music. The '80s . . . my god but I've gotten old! Cripes.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-08 22:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You and me both.
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mylefteye
User: mylefteye
Date: 2008-08-08 10:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, those were the days. I adored the Lexicon of Love album, but could never quite get into the Human League (or the Human Leauge as that headline goes). I was more into OMD, Gary Numan, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode. I listened to quite a lot of my old collection recently when I was transferring stuff to a new mp3 player, and Numan's stuff still sounds contemporary. Well, to my ears it does.

Something that occurred to me as I write this, I saw nearly all these bands at the local town hall. Even when they had number one singles and albums, a UK tour would take in just about every major town and city. Now a major artist will play London, then maybe Manchester or Birmingham before moving on to Glasgow. Call that a tour?!
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-08 23:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was never a big fan of OMD or Depeche Mode, although there's an Orchestral Manouvres song called `Stanlow' which I used to like very much indeed and I'd like to hear again, if I ever find the box it's in.
I too adored The Lexicon Of Love. `All Of My Heart' struck me as being very nearly a perfect pop song. And you're right about Gary Numan. I don't think people knew quite what to make of him. I remember when The Pleasure Principle came out he was lauded in the music press, but a couple of years later everyone was taking the piss out of him for the `Cars' tour. We never did quite get our act together about bands like Gary Numan and Ultravoxx, which I think is a shame because I like all that stuff.
Your point about touring is an interesting one. Like you, I remember a time when bands, no matter how great or low, would aspire to playing your local city hall. Now the plan seems to be to hit the SEC, the NEC, whatever it is in Manchester, the Sheffield Arena, and then the O2 or the London Arena or - and this seems to be a recent innovation - Twickenham. There's an air of corporateness about the music business these days which I don't like. Although there was an air of corporateness about the music business even then that I didn't like. I just didn't realise how bad it could become.
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mylefteye
User: mylefteye
Date: 2008-08-09 01:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, if you'd like Stanlow in mp3 format, you only have to ask...

Numan was a hero of mine until the unholy trio of 'Dance', 'Warriors' and 'I, Assassin' albums pushed me away. On those he toned down the synths and let Pino Palladino take over with his bloody fretless bass. Numan's still going, bless him, though his sound is more grungy/Goth/industrial or whatever you want to call it. I'm not what you'd call au fait with all these musical pigeonholes.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-13 22:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's awfully kind of you; many thanks. But I have Organisation on tape somewhere and once I find it I plan to digitise it.
I'm glad Numan's still going. What surprised me was how quickly he seemed to become a figure of fun after his early albums. The music press seemed to turn on him all of a sudden, for no reason I could discern.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2008-08-08 20:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was in Sheffield 2001 to end 2002. THey had some "Cultural Quarter" setup at that time. Was that some sort of bureacractic daydream about trying to industrialised the sort of thing that you saw/ experienced back in the good old days?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-08 23:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I left Sheffield in the Autumn of 1984, but I understand they tried to capitalise on the `Sheffield Music Scene,' with predictably poor results. Trying to formalise this kind of thing in a `cultural quarter' is a little like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. You see something that's been commercially successful and you try and formalise it, and it always squirms away from you because you can't formalise that kind of thing.

Edited at 2008-08-13 10:51 pm (UTC)
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