Leave The Capital Review in Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal

A review of Paul Hanley’s Leave The Capital in Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal by Robert Iannapollo.

Worth the reader’s time and effort is a slim volume entitled Leave the Capital by Paul Hanley. Hanley was the drummer for The Fall, one of the finest bands to emerge from the post-punk scene, and which performed for 40 years under the stewardship of their volatile leader Mark E. Smith. The personnel was rarely stable for more than a few years and Hanley was there during one of the peak periods (1980–1985).

Hanley’s book, subtitled A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings, is an informed perspective written with intelligence and wit. Hanley frames his story around the creation of recording studios based in Manchester. Any band not based in London during this period would have to make the journey south to record in an ‘acceptable’ studio. Even the Beatles had to record in London (not Liverpool) throughout their career. Not until 1968–69 was a decent recording facility established in the third largest city in Britain. But Hanley starts his story further back than that.

The story starts with two British Invasion bands that would seem like small potatoes in the history of rock: Herman’s Hermits and Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. The latter band was primarily known in the US for two hits (‘The Game of Love’ and the Wayne Fontana-less ‘Groovy Kind of Love’) but had a somewhat higher profile in the UK. In that group was a member critical to the story of Manchester-based music: rhythm guitarist and composer Eric Stewart. As the Mindbenders’ career wound down, Stewart was approached with some seed money to start a studio in Manchester, which was something he has always wanted to do. He, in turn, approached songwriter Graham Gouldman, who had written hits for some of Manchester’s finest – Hollies, Mindbenders, Hermits – and even for London-based bands such as the Yardbirds. Gouldman had been approached by US bubblegum producers Kasenetz and Katz to write some songs for their US label (Buddah). Stewart added Kevin Godley and Lol Crème to help round out the instrumentation and compositional chores. This turned into a production deal when they realized that the Manchester duo produced demos that were better than their US counterparts and soon these demos were being released under the monikers of the Ohio Express and other teeny-bop sensations.

All was going well with profits plowed back into the studio when an ‘accident’ happened. In the process of producing a recording where they were testing a new Ampex 4-track they had acquired, they kept experimenting, trying to acquire a certain percussive blend. Stewart happened to play it for a friend who was an A&R man at Phillips, to show him what they were doing in the studio and the A&R man said it could be released as it was and be a hit. They released a track titled ‘Neanderthal Man’ by a fictitious group called ‘Hotlegs’ and it proceeded to reach number two in the UK and the top 20 in the US, and to sell over two million copies worldwide. This posed a dilemma because the four had a number of recordings they’d been wanting to release, but surely not as Hotlegs. And so it was that the band 10cc was born, a group that was phenomenaly successful in Britain between 1972 and 1978 and had a few big hits in the US as well.

At the same time, their Manchester-based studio, now christened Strawberry Studios (after Stewart’s favorite Beatles song), began to take off and the band had a dual career as both a highly successful rock band and studio producers/engineers. The studio was highly regarded for the productions that emerged. Among the first of their successes was the re-igniting of Neil Sedaka’s career in 1972 with two very popular albums. To really hear what this studio was capable of, one need only listen to 10cc’s biggest hit, ‘I’m Not in Love’. Its fulsome sound, massed choir of voices, and otherworldly ambience shows just what could be done there. Subsequently, many other bands began recording there, including Joy Division, The Smiths, Paul McCartney, the Buzzcocks, New Order, Happy Mondays, and many others.

Going back to the Hermits, although Peter Noone (aka Herman) is perhaps the only one remembered today, two members had a more substantial impact on the development of Manchester’s music: rhythm guitarist Keith Hopwood and lead guitarist Derek Leckenby. Concurrent to Stewart’s early acquisition of the building to house Strawberry Studio, Hopwood was interested in starting his own studio and Stewart agreed that he could start a second studio in the same building on the second floor. Hopwood and Leckenby named it Pluto Studios. Leckenby eventually bailed when the Hermits reformed. Hopwood remained, but he built Pluto into the second viable option for recording in Manchester. The studio plodded along and succeeded in luring groups who preferred not to venture south to London to record. Pluto had its first number-one in 1977 with a song called ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’ by Brian & Michael. It was a distinctly English and distinctly Mancunian piece of work but was enormously popular and is still lauded today. The importance of both of these studios in developing quality recording facilities set the stage for the Manchester that produced such subsequent English stalwarts as the Smiths, the Stone Roses, and many others.

Hanley tells his story entertainingly and does it in a thorough, readable, unpretentious manner. Hanley’s witty prose is to be found even in the book’s copious footnotes. Well researched, Hanley provides some good, unique information about the British music scene that most probably do not know. At a little over 200 pages, it could have been a little bit longer, but even in its brevity, it is one of the best books I have read on a rock topic in years.

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Paul Hanley at Louder Than Words Festival

Paul Hanley in conversation with John Robb at Louder Than Words Festival, Manchester, talking about his book Leave The Capital: A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings.

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Leave The Capital Trailer

Video trailer for Paul Hanley’s Leave The Capital: A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings

Leave The Capital tells the story of Manchester music through the prism of the two studios’ key recordings. Of course that story inevitably takes in The Smiths, Joy Division, The Fall and The Stone Roses. But it’s equally the story of ‘Bus Stop’ and ‘East West’ and ‘I’m Not in Love’. It’s the story of the Manchester attitude of L.S. Lowry, by way of Brian and Michael, and how that attitude rubbed off on The Clash and Neil Sedaka. Above all, it’s the story of music that couldn’t have been made anywhere else but Manchester.

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Click here to visit the Leave The Capital website

A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings

Paul Hanley’s book Leave The Capital refashions the history of Manchester music. He tells his story by plotting through 13 key recordings that helped shape the city and its music. These are the recordings. Click above to listen on Spotify or YouTube. Click here for more details on the book.

Leave the Capital: A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings.

‘Look Through Any Window’
The Hollies

‘Bus Stop’
The Hollies

‘No Milk Today’
Herman’s Hermits

‘East West’
Herman’s Hermits

‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’
The Mindbenders

‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’
Brian and Michael

‘I’m Not In Love’
10cc

‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’
Buzzcocks

Unknown Pleasures
Joy Division

‘Bankrobber’
The Clash

Perverted By Language
The Fall

The Smiths
The Smiths

‘So Young’
The Stone Roses

Published in November 2017.

Click here to order an author signed copy.

Leave The Capital website

Paul Hanley blog

Bad Language

British Story British Tour at Bad Language, The Castle, Manchester. January 2015. Listed at No.3 in the undeniably cool things to do in Manchester that week.

Michael Nath reads a passage on the two plagues of King Lludd, as told by Arthur Mountain. ‘It’s a legend, Sire. You may shake your head.’

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Brix and The Extricated

Erstwhile members of The Fall reunite after reading Steve Hanley’s memoir

The publication of bassist Steve Hanley’s book – The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall – has been the unexpected catalyst to bring former band mates back to play together again. Tracing his time in seminal British band The Fall, Hanley’s book, praised for its novel-like narrative that puts readers in touching distance of the action, has vividly brought the band back to life for fans and former members alike, including Brix Smith-Start, the iconic Fall guitarist throughout the 1980s.

‘A lot of ex-band mates came to the book launch, some I hadn’t seen for over 20 years’ says Steve Hanley, ‘and there was talk afterwards of maybe doing something together again.’

A few meetings later and soon they were rehearsing old songs and new. Demand for a Christmas gig to celebrate the success of The Big Midweek provided the perfect opportunity to play live.

‘When we read Steve’s book, it reminded us how well it could work and how great those songs were,’ says Brix, these days famous for her role as a television fashion expert. ‘It feels so good to be playing again. I love playing with these guys and I’ve missed it. It’s exciting to see where we will go with this.’

The Fall has a reputation as a band with hundreds of ex-members, due to a revolving-door recruitment policy and cantankerous front man Mark E Smith hiring and firing on a whim. This is a stigma Hanley refutes. ‘If you count only the people who made a proper commitment to the band, rather than just playing the odd gig, there was less than a dozen significant members in my time.’

Hanley’s driving bass is synonymous with the band’s unique sound, Mark E Smith describing it as ‘the sound of The Fall’. He is the longest serving member of The Fall apart from Mark E Smith himself. Recruited at the age of 19, he was nearly 40 by the time he left in 1998 following an on-stage fight at a concert in New York. Many fans believe that the spirit of The Fall was lost that night.

‘Many of the ex-band members left The Fall in acrimonious circumstances, and that negative experience has tended to cloud their memories in a negative way,’ says Olivia Piekarski, co-author of the book. ‘This was certainly the case with Steve, but the more we dug away at the past, the more the good times started to resurface and he began to realise he’d had a much better time of it than he thought. The other band members report a similar feeling when they read the book. It shows how powerful the written word can be.’

‘I was twenty years in The Fall but it took writing a book to get interviewed for Bass Guitar Magazine, proof the pen is mightier than the string,’ says Hanley, reflecting on reaction to The Big Midweek. ‘The book is a gift that just keeps on giving, it’s like the Coronation Street version of Searching For Sugar Man.’

The Fall – still going with the only constant Mark E Smith at the helm – is notorious for seldom playing songs from their back catalogue, meaning some classic songs will get their first airing for over 20 years when Brix and The Extricated make their debut at The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, on 13 December. With Brix Smith-Start on guitar and vocals, Steve Hanley on bass and brother Paul Hanley on drums (‘The greatest rhythm section in rock n roll’ – Luke Haines), Steve Trafford on guitar and vocals and Jason Brown on guitar, this is a dream line up for lovers of The Fall sound. The set celebrates music from The Big Midweek, including Fall classics, plus new material.

Gig Reviews:
>>Louder Than War
>>Silent Radio

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setlist-bateruby-lounge

Set list: Brix and The Extricated, The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 13 December 2014