Skip to main content

Happy Mondays

Still Game

It may be 15 years since the last album by Happy Mondays, but as Neil Cooper finds out, Shaun Ryder refuses to act middle-aged

‘Hola!’ Shaun Ryder is just back from Spain, and has clearly been learning the language. In between shows leading up to next week’s T on the Fringe gig, though, the surprisingly sharp and decidedly affable Happy Mondays frontman is at home, ‘catching up on me telly. I’m really liking Heroes just now.’

Such an image of domesticity is a far cry from Happy Mondays’ Madchester heyday, when, by melding indie guitars to dancefloor shuffle, they more or less invented Baggy, democratising the dancefloor as they went. The Mondays’ shambolic gang mentality was a long way from the too-cool-for-school attitude that then prevailed in a music scene geared towards posh-boy students. Ryder and co proved anyone could do it. As original Mondays Ryder, Bez and Gaz Whelan return with Uncle Dysfunktional, the band’s first album of new material in 15 years, just how mellow are Happy Mondays now?

‘I’m not some fuckin’ gym freak or owt like that,’ a cleaned-up Ryder insists. ‘It’s just about getting middle-aged and becoming a boring old fart. The young lads in the band, though, they’re all in their 20s, and they’re like we were, only not as fucked up.’

The crash and burn tale of Happy Mondays’ first incarnation is a drug-fuelled legend featuring stolen mastertapes, guns and Ryder’s spiralling crack addiction. It finally all fell apart in 1992 during extended recording sessions for the band’s Yes Please! album, and Factory Records, the maverick Manchester label who were mad enough to give the Mondays a budget, went with it.

We’re talking a couple of weeks before former Factory Records boss Tony Wilson’s death following complications caused by cancer of the kidney. Wilson, of course, saw Ryder as a poet, and compared him to WB Yeats. Ryder snickers wickedly when reminded of this.

‘I love Tony,’ he says. ‘He’s great. He’s really, really funny. But some of the stuff he comes out with . . .’

It was former Mondays manager Nathan McGough (now looking after Towers of London) and current manager Elliot Rashman (formerly doing the same for Simply Red) who raised funds to provide Wilson with Sutent, the £3500-a-month life-saving drug Wilson was refused access to on the NHS.

Wilson would have been proud of Uncle Dysfunktional, a decidedly un-middle-aged wig-out featuring Ryder’s trademark pop culture inspired none-sequiters. It’s here Ryder’s absorption of Heroes and other TV shows makes sense.

‘All the songs I write are like these black cartoons,’ says Ryder. ‘They’re wacky, and not meant to be taken too seriously. Saying anti-war on the dancefloor is about as political as I get.’

Happy Mondays first reformed in 1999 for what Ryder describes as ‘the Showaddywaddy years. It was cabaret.’ These greatest hits shows for ageing ravers were, by the band’s own admission, to pay a tax bill ‘the size of Canada’.

The band’s current incarnation is a far more serious affair. Whether it compares to the Mondays of old remains to be seen. Ryder for one, though, has no regrets.

‘I loved all of it,’ he says. ‘Even the fuck-ups are all just a big learning experience. We was in the music business, and that was fuckin’ outrageous to us, and it still is. I never really liked being on TV or in magazines, all that bullshit of people thinking you’re great cos you’re in a band. There’s so many pricks in the music business, and we was pretty thick. We just did our own thing and got away with it.’

T on the Fringe, Corn Exchange, 0870 169 0100, 24 Aug, 7pm, £25.

The List issue 584, August 23 2007

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …