The just-released concept album by my electronic Ouija pop psychedelic group, the Eccentronic Research Council - titled Johnny Rocket, Narccissit & Music Machine... I'm Your Biggest Fan - Is about a woman's obsession with the lead singer of an up and coming band in a fictional, claustrophobic ex-mining village in South Yorkshire, called Valhalla Dale.
I wrote it for the music fan in us all. It covers obsessive behavior, stalking, mental illness, the narcissist musician, the abuse and use of social media and its part in the death of the enigma of the once unobtainable rock star. I wrote it from first hand experience and it's based on a band I used to be part of in Sheffield a few years back. Everything within the story happened to me and is based on incidents and countless emails I received from a woman who had been stalking me for a number of years...To be honest, I used a lot of content from the emails, I wanted to remove my own voice from the writing so it sounded authentic and not just a man trying to write or think like a woman. This is also why we got Lias & Saul from the Fat White Family in to bring another authentic layer to it & bring to life the fictional band at the heart of the story, The Moonlandingz.
This short documentary was also a key inspiration for the album.
I get fandom, I've been a fan of music and art and its creators for as long as I can remember and I also get why people get obsessed by people who create such music. As a youth, musicians and songs were my Gods and my best friends.
I was the atypical playground loner, I had nothing in common with people of my own age. I was flamboyant, gentle yet sharp witted, tall with a two foot blonde rockabilly quiff and all I cared about was music and teaching myself how to make such mystical witchcraft. There was certainly no place for me (I thought) within the realms of a brutal Victorian Catholic school, on a council estate in 1980s Salford: to be what I wanted to be, which was, to be nothing like anyone else...
However, as soon as I recognized my path for life (aged 14), I was immediately befriended by the school outcasts and would often find myself trailed around the playground by the 7ft Iranian boy in a day glo yellow 'Cag in a Bag’. Then there was the socially awkward ginger girl wearing braces and clutching a headless doll. The crippling shy Polish lad with a speech impediment whose voice resembled Lech Wałęsa talking through a tape echo machine, and the hyper epileptic kid that people were too scared to hang out with in case they had to stick a spoon in their mouth to hold down their tongue…
These type of people always seemed to gravitate towards me and it's still the same today, but now these people are 30 something kidults with tattoos, mortgages & beards, with jobs in psychiatric health and mortuaries and with a penchant for Aphrodite's Child and poetry reading clubs, whilst rocking personality disorders that verge on, 'unbearable nuisance’.
I do hope that one day they will find their own personal space, instead of mine.
In celebration of the release of this ambitious little record we have made, here's some women in the arts that I'm obsessed by, but would never follow down the street.
Poison Ivy from The Cramps.
For me, as a then-teen-dream human being, Ivy, was and still is, my favorite guitar player. When I got my first guitar aged 13 I learnt all her guitar lines from the Smell of Female album off by heart and I cursed the Lord & my genitals every day that he didn't make me a flamed haired uber cool woman in the best rock & roll band that's ever been.
Ronnie Spector from The Ronnettes.
This is one of my favorite live vocal performances by anyone, I imagine Ronnie's vocals alone selling a million singles after this TV appearance, She's a pocket rocket and every time I see it, I fall in deep.
Blanche (Maggie Jones) from Coronation Street.
Coming from Salford, I always say "Elvis had Gracelands but I had Granada land.” (The original home of Corrie.) Corrie's getting a bit silly of late, but Blanche was one of the last of the old school Corrie actors that totally understood what made Corrie great. She commanded the screen when ever she was on it, always had the best lines, the cattiest remarks and the wisest of wisdom; none more so than in this classic scene.
Shelagh Delaney, Writer and Playwright.
Being a Northern lyricist/eriter my ERC stories always get compared to writers like Alan Bennett, or David Pearce, but I've never read anything by either of them. I'm usually channeling my inner Shelagh.
She was born 5 minutes from where I was born, so we both have/ had the River Irwell in our veins. For many years during her national success for Taste of Honey, the love wasn't as strong for her in her home town...Salford & Manchester based journalists were very critical of her for portraying Salford as a place where teenage pregnancy, mixed race sex and homosexuality took place. it must of been really difficult for a teenage playwright to write & document her environment & yet get very little support from the people at home. Most women or men I like transcend gender, which makes them infinitely sexier than your mirror hogging Dave Peckhams or Pussycat Dulls. I love this Ken Russell short documentary on Shelagh's Salford.
Carol Morley, Film & Documentary Maker.
A courageous and always different artist is the flim maker, Carol Morley. I've been a fan of hers for years, I loved her documentary The Alcohol Years, where she interviewed & filmed the thoughts of everyone she was friends and lovers with during a particular bleak, boozy and promiscuous time in her teenage life.
There is also Dream Of A Life, about Joyce Vincent: a popular woman who was discovered in her flat, to years after she died. Even her most recent film, The Falling, about an outbreak of mass hysteria/ fainting in a girls school. Everything she makes hangs long in my thoughts and always throws up questions about my own past, my own mortality and much more. The film world needs Carol Morley.
Delia Derbyshire, BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Delia makes most electronic musicians look like complete frauds. All of her sounds were created from scratch and by using primitive oscillators & household appliances, recording them, then slowing them down or speeding them up to create an individual note. Once she had a note, she'd record varying pitches of said sound to an individual tape loop to create a melody or tune..something that would be relatively easy to do on modern recording equipment but in 1962 or in pre-sampler years this was a highly laborious and time consuming process. Her work takes my breath away and she is more than worthy of the title of true genius.
Brenda Ray, Naffi Sandwich.
I know very little about the artist/songwriter Brenda Ray, other than that she's from the North West of England. Her work isn't widely known to the masses, however she appears to have existed on the fringes for decades making beautiful D.I.Y, semi improvised lo-fi homemade dub music. Her gentle, unpretentious voice evokes such joy in me. I'd love to work with her. This track she recorded in Jamaica and its a wondrously hazy summer, slightly-delic, dub track.
Maxine Peake - Actress
I've been friends with Maxine for a good few years now. As an an actress I think she's one of the country's greats. Everything she does she makes look so believable. She’s not a showbiz actress doing trashy romcoms. She really does absorb and breathe her characters, which is why I believe Hollywood doesn't really deserve her. She's fearless in the work she takes on: who else would have the balls to play Myra Hindley or Hamlet? As a person she's so giving to her community.
She doesn't just talk about it, but really does get behind things she believes in and lends her support and voice to those who don't have a voice. She is humanity itself. As a friend she's loyal, reliable, generous, funny and daft as a brush. The very fact she’s been reading my lyrical spews for a while now is testimony of how giving she really is. I'd never of had the courage to put pen to paper, let alone let anyone hear my stories without Maxine encouraging me that I could and that I should do it. I owe her more than one.
Andrea Dunbar, writer/ Playwright.
For the same reasons I love Shelagh Delaney, I also love Andrea Dunbar. She writes about what she sees and her immediate environment in all its grubby & endearing ways. I like writers that don't alienate a whole class of people by being too clever, I like writing that is all inclusive, easily understandable, but with a big beating passionate black heart. Andrea's personal story is incredibly tragic and what her children had to go through was completely heartbreaking too. I raise a glass to her sad yet underrated, eagle eyed genius.
I've used the word courage a lot in this piece, but in reality (the real world), all the rest pale in significance in comparison to the incredible strength and integrity and courage my wife shows everyday. She's a highly qualified nurse for the NHS, she sees and tends to some horrible things on a daily basis, she sees life and death. She sees the wonders of medical science and when things sadly don't work out. She holds it together for the families of those who may have lost a loved one, possibly one of your family. She has guts of steel and a heart of gold. She's at the heart of the true sisterhood: the unselfish, ego-less, unappreciated, under payed, under staffed, over worked, angels of the sick. She's a true one off, highly intelligent, funny as hell, mad as a hatter and a total babe. She's also a highly talented Taxidermist. I am not worthy.
All words by Adrian Anthony Flanagan, of The Eccentronic Research Council
ERC's E.P is out now, and it's unlike anything else you'll hear this year. Get a copy in here