BLACK GRAPE could only have been made in Manchester. The swagger, fun and cryptic humour seem hewn from a city historian AJP Taylor once described as offering an archetypally different way of English urban life to London.
Both Shaun Ryder and Paul Leveridge, known as Kermit, came from edgy-but-cool parts of the city. In Shaun’s case Salford, (though we know better than to designate that side of the Irwell as Manchester in certain company), with Kermit originating in Moss Side. For those unfamiliar, ‘the Moss’ lay in the shadow of Manchester City’s old stadium at Maine Road, and was one of the first multi-ethnic areas in Manchester.
So we have two restlessly creative men, both from the wrong side of the tracks, neither inclined to go to art school or enrol on an MFA programme, yet loaded with street smarts and musical talent, and wanting the world.
Good old punk had told every scally they could have it, and a generation of us went for it in our own ways, with varying degrees of success. Shaun’s astonishing rise and fall with the Happy Mondays is the stuff of legend.
Drugs, and smack in particular, are almost custom-designed to ambush such personalities on route, to provide that distracting maze so many of us struggle to navigate our way out of at certain times in our lives. But drugs also brought Shaun and Kermit together. As the friendship developed, so too did a stunning collaboration – It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah, the ironically entitled album, which gave a nod to their hook up as drugs buddies around the grizzled fag end of Happy Mondays and Kermit’s band The Ruthless Rap Assassins. It was a storming phoenix rising from the ashes of the other projects that seemed to have run their course.
The world is in a bit of a state right now, and bullshit reigns more than ever, and perversely disguised as candour. We need Manc street sass, intelligence and wit more than ever right now. Their latest album has that in spades. Check them out at Warehouse23 in Wakefield on November 2nd.