Anyone who has spent anytime in my company or indeed has read any of our occasional blogs about Sheffield will know,like pretty much everyone else who comes from Sheff,that I am intensely proud of my Sheffield heritage.The guys in the LMM office are at turns intrigued and bored by my banging on about my hometown.
So just to prove that I am not alone in this area I point you in the direction of Jarvis Cockers Musical Map Of Sheffieldwhich was a Radio 6 programme this week.You can still catch it on the BBC IPlayer and I am listening to it as I write this.Its a very interesting view of the city seen through Jarvis eyes and although a tiny part of me is still miffed at Jarvis slagging me off in a book about Sheffield bands I have to hand it to the lad …he always makes a good documentary (if you check out the book by Martin Lillekar you will find a hilarious but spectacularly unflattering description of the Mirror Cracked,my boyhood band.I can laugh about it but my Dad was furious!)
So though the show is mainly about Jarvis family and his own early years much of it is set in the Sheffield of the 70s and 80s which is raw in my memory.
Sheffield is a very different place now but in many ways its better.The city centre has had the kind of investment other Northern towns can only dream about and the town planners have got it 100% right with the public spaces and sculptures plus its still punching well above its weight when it comes to music ( guitar music,folk and dance music) and culture.
Jarvis mentions Jacks Sarsaparilla Bar on Langsett Road which was near where I lived in a pub (the Rose Inn on Penistone Road…theres a little metal plaque where it used to stand ….not because I lived there of course but because it had been used as a makeshift mortuary during the great Sheffield flood.)As I lad I played football on the roof of Kelvin Flats opposite Jacks Sarsaparilla Bar and played several gigs with the Mirror Cracked at the George iv. Pulp played with us back in the early 80s.
He also mentions The Limit which I blogged about here http://www.lmmuk.com/agentblog/?p=386 and talks about the Castle Market, where we would stop for cockles and whelks when we were kids, and the Whicker Rehearsal rooms where most of the Sheffield Bands recorded or played at some point (they are not there anymore .)
He mentions a band called Artery who were the first local band that I saw.I went on my own to The Marples to see them play live (which was a big deal for me at the time) I have no idea why I went (or why I was on my own as I did have friends!) but they were great.Arty rock and compelling to watch.This led me to seeing other local bands and forming my own band.Which in a long and painfully round about way led to me working at LMM and writing this blog (the fickle finger of fate that led me to this place.)
Banging on about Sheffield seems to be a complaint that most Sheffielders have.There seems to be an inordinate number of Sheffield artists,writers and bands who have the City running through , informing and shaping their art from bands like The Arctic Monkeys,Pulp,Human League,Richard Hawley artists such as Pete Mckee,Joe Scarborough and writers like Barry Keefe . Ex pats and citizens alike seem to mention it with pride more often than people from Dulwich or Leeds or Birmingham.When Joe Cocker (a singer most people probably associate with Woodstock more than Crookes) called his album “Sheffield Steel” he was running with a tradition that continues to this day with Tony Christies recent “Made In Sheffield” CD.To my knowledge Ozzy Osbourne has never made a “Made In Birmingham” album.Although Welsh and Scottish artists sometimes display a national pride in their work and Americans are always referencing their home town its rare for a UK town to be eulogised in this way.
I am often puzzled by the secret references media Sheffielders sometimes put into their work.I give you a for instance….when Tommy the Sheffield character joined the Coronation Street cast he was not only running from his hometown .He had crossed a gang in Hunters Bar.This reference would not have been understood by anyone outside the city and anyone living in Sheffield would have known that the only gang you were likly to cross in Hunters Bar would be a gang of capuccino sipping students or yummy mummys in Endcliffe Park.For the writer though it was obviously a chance to mention his stomping ground.
Likewise when a band from Sheffield are mentioned on the radio or tv or in print it is always “Sheffield band…..blah blah blah”.You rarely hear a band from Nottingham or Leicester introduced in the same way.I guess in this respect that although there is no Sheffield sound as such the town has the same credibility as saying that a band are a “Manchester band.” The phrase carries a weight of expectation because of the great names that have come from there….far more for instance than a major North American city like Toronto or a town like Edinburgh or indeed Nottingham where you would struggle to mention anyone apart from Paper Lace and The Tindersticks despite the thriving Rock City Alternative scene and the underground dance scene stretching back to the late 80s.
Besides the culture I think a lot of Sheffielders are proud of the town because it is situated on seven hills with views of greenery in every direction.If you drive out of town whether from the East End (where I grew up) or straight up Ecclesall Road it doesn’t take long to wind up in fantastic countryside.You are 20 minutes drive in any direction from some of the best countryside in the UK.We are right on the edge of the Peak District.
And of course the people , in particular the humour and the unpretentious down to earthness of the people ,are central to our pride in the town.
So I eulogise again about a town I no longer live in! I get back most weekends though and I will leave you with a little story which sums up the place.
When Walkabout first opened in Sheffield the macho and straight Aussie manager Steve had previously worked in a gay bar in Soho.He said to me “you know we seem to get a lot of gay men in the pub. Not like the gay blokes in Soho though.They’re really friendly and all that but there seems to be a lot of them.Not that they look or act gay but every time they come to the bar they say “can I have a pint love.”
I had to explain that calling men “love” in Sheffield was just a term of affection and didn’t mean you were gay.In fact it probably meant you were a rock hard macho straight man but dead friendly…… just like the rest of us Sheffielders.
If you are reading this and wondering what it has to do with work…nothing….just a way of passing an hour on a Saturday afternoon.