David and I have been discussing compiling a rock’n'roll tour of Stockport for about a year and a half now, ever since Sara expressed a desire to make a pilgrimage to Strawberry Studios. Whilst Strawberry (where 10cc, the Smiths and Joy Division, amongst others, recorded) would be the obvious one, we thought, isn’t there more to our local musical heritage than this? We decided to find out…
So, after much emailing and internet research, not to mention pumping various colleagues, friends and relatives for info on rock’n'roll Stockport, and a frenetic few hours brainstorming in the Cornerhouse after work, on Sunday 20th March, we did it.
We focused largely on the Hillgate and Underbank areas of the town centre, then took a sojourn along the A6 to Heaviley. We didn’t include everything, for example we skipped Moolah Rouge, where David’s band used to practice, and where Badly Drawn Boy recorded ‘One Plus One Is One’, as we had a couple of other Badly Drawn Boy sites anyway, and we didn’t walk as far as Stockport Grammar, the extension to which now occupys the former site of the Davenport Theatre (gigs a plenty in the seventies and eighties, including Gene Pitney apparently) as it’s nearer Great Moor than Heaviley, and we didn’t feel like walking that far.
As was befitting the general ambience of the occasion, it was cold and rainy, but without the howling wind that accompanied us on the People Like Us LGBT tour last month.
Our first location was Debenhams on the corner of Prince’s Street and the A6, as this is where Cath Carroll and Liz Naylor originally arranged to meet up with each other when forming their punk band, Gay Animals.
We also pointed out the Plaza, where Ray Davies played a few years back.
We did, as promised, visit Strawberry Studios, which isn’t operating as a studio anymore, but which does have the blue plaque, and pointed out to Sara a number of teenage haunts and landmarks – where Cobwebs the alternative clothing shop used to be, the tattoo parlour, the sex shops, where the old pagan shops were/are… also The Stage Door where I used to buy ballet shoes and leotards aged 9-11, and later on (aged about 17 or 18) deeley boppers for going to gigs in. Double 4 is still on Hillgate of course, but it’s not what it was, and Richer Sounds is there still, and was a site of pilgrimage to Sara in her youth, thanks to their stash of cheap blank tapes. We were also assured that the drum shop on Underbank is owned by the drummer from The Verve. David pointed out to us scenes of his misspent youth as we skirted Offerton on our way towards the A6 and Heaviley.
On the A6 we passed Stockport College, which has links to Badly Drawn Boy and Andy Votel, passed the notorious accident blackspot where Sir Ranulph Fiennes had a messy accident a few years back, and passed the section of the A6 where we estimate Johnny Kidd of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates fame died. We can’t be sure of the exact stretch of the A6 in either case, just that it was just outside the town centre in the former case, and just past Stockport on his way back from Manchester in the latter case.
In Heaviley, we paused to nod briefly in the direction of The Blossoms, as it’s lovely stained glass exterior features on the inner sleeve of the aforementioned Badly Drawn Boy album, before presenting the highlight: Riley’s Sports Hall. This largely unnoticed building on the corner was once a cinema in the 80′s, and is now a pool hall. Back in the sixties, it was the Taberknackle David discovered, after much internet research and close questioning of friends and relatives. The Taberknackle being where all the big gigs of the day were played, and some of the big names passing through included the Walker Brothers and Jimi Hendrix, the latter of whom (very surprisingly) played two gigs there within just a couple of weeks. We walked around the building trying to figure out which door would have been used by bands/roadies for loading in equipment, and which the stars had passed through, then we walked back into the centre for coffee and cake at the continental cafe at the bottom of The Brew.
As with the People Like Us LGBT tour, the traffic on the A6 caused problems, as unless you naturally have the lungs of a town crier, it’s hard to make yourself heard when extolling the finer virtues of Turners art shop, the Town Hall, or the old Infirmary building. Still, a good time was had by all. Not exactly C.P Lee, but not bad for a D.I.Y heritage tour.