My Madchester

Written by Johnny Mckeown
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I can feel the earth begin to move, I hear my needle hit the groove and spiral through another day, I hear my song begin to say. Kiss me where the sun doesn’t shine, the past was yours but the future’s mine, You’re all out of time!

The first time I heard this song as a young fourteen-year-old thirty years ago, is one of life’s moments you never forget. The only way I can possibly describe the feeling all these years later as an adult would probably be something like this. The very first time I heard the Stone Roses legendary debut album was the musical equivalent of sex.

I wanna be adored, with the best (give you Goosebumps) opening bassline ever would be your 5 minutes of foreplay. The rest of the album is an absolute musical orgasm. Arguably the best debut album of all time at the start of the Madchester scene that exploded all over the country during the late eighties and early nineties. A scene which was already building momentum in the early eighties long before entering my life.

I wasn’t lucky enough as a teenager to see the Stone Roses live before their split, leaving a feeling of disappointment for years before their eventual comeback in 2012. Northside was the only other favourite band of mine from my teenage years that I’d never seen live. Over two decades since my first ever gig, I saw hundreds of live bands but the closest I ever felt in touch with and being a part of the Madchester scene was seeing the Happy Mondays at the SECC in what was the craziest bounce I’d ever been in, during their classic anthem Wrote for Luck. That was a ‘score off my bucket list moment’ as my good mate Alan ‘Macol’ Mcilravie hoisted me on his shoulders which to this day I have absolutely no idea how he not only managed to get me on his shoulders but to keep steady without me falling in the madness surrounding us. I even managed to have a 3-minute dance with Bez to end another brilliant gig.

This wasn’t my Madchester though as despite the Scottish crowd being renowned for their electric atmosphere, I'd still never been to Manchester for a gig. I worked down the docks in Manchester for two weeks on a boat being refurbished and seen Rangers at Old Trafford in the Champions League in a memorable night as along with my two fellow Bears, Archie and Davie C we somehow managed a quick interview on Sky Sports News completely buckled before the match. The first time I actually spent a bit of time in the city was 2008 as over a quarter of a million fellow Gers fans descended on the city in a journey summed up with one of the M6 flyovers displaying a banner over the railing with the words ‘Blue Tsunami’. Nobody was ready for the size of our travelling support that hit Manchester that day. Their Chief of Police comically stated that we wouldn’t be allowed in the country that day. A statement that should have swiftly been followed by “Here’s your coat, P45 and close the door on the way out, You’re fired’! Nobody but Zenit could stop us that day and Dick Advocates team did just that, sending me home devastated as they completely outclassed us to lift the trophy. By the time we started our journey home we had no idea of the trouble taking place in the city centre. A few phone calls later from worried relatives as the news filtered through, it was Madchester alright, but for all the wrong reasons.

It finally looked like my Madchester would finally happen in 2012 as my favourite Manchester band The Stone Roses, the band I had waited almost a quarter of a century to see live was finally reforming and we had managed to get tickets for the very first Heaton Park show. They had announced the reunion the year before and the buzz and anticipation I felt were like no other. The second they announced it I listened to them nonstop, much to the annoyance of my wife. By the time the gig arrived, she was heavily pregnant with our first child leaving me as the designated ‘sober’ driver on a ridiculously windy evening that completely destroyed the sound from my standpoint. I left with a feeling of sheer disappointment from the gig that promised so much. I managed to see them twice after that, at T in the Park and Glasgow Green before my Madchester finally arrived

My good mate since my teenage years, Johnny P, was starting out his career as a writer for a few online alternative sites such as Zani, Louder than War and Your Own Clothing websites. June 2016 would be the last time the Roses would ever perform again with their final gig in our country. Our embarrassment of a National stadium ‘Hamdump’ in Glasgow. The month before their final performance, I tried an ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get moment’, in a cheeky attempt to score some VIP tickets for the gig after exchanging emails with Anthony Donnelly, co-founder of Gio-Goi and Your Own Clothing along with his brother Christopher. Admiring my attempt to try and blag 2 gold dust pass VIP tickets at short notice, we were invited to the official pre and after-show parties. During the email exchanges, I mentioned I was Johnny P’s mate and I’d bring some nice food from my local butchers in Bowhill, multiple award-winning Andrew Kirk’s. I didn’t think for a minute he’d remember me as the amount of A-list celebrity friends they have that modelled for Gio-Goi and Your Own Clothing is endless. The comments in their autobiography ‘ Still Breathing ‘ is several pages long with my favourite coming from Ian Brown. Incredible story.

My Dad drove us through for the pre-show party and dropped us off around the corner from the venue. I noticed Anthony outside chatting on his mobile. as soon as he'd finished his call he complimented the Your Own T-shirt I had on. I said, " Thanks mate nice to finally meet you, I'm Johnny P's mate." “Johnny?, are you Johnny?, Nice to meet you fella” he replied, which followed with a hug for both my wife and I. It was like bumping into an old friend you hadn’t seen for decades despite this being the first time we had ever met. This was my first Donnelly party I had the pleasure of attending and it was everything I expected and more with 3 separate rooms blaring out 30 years of classic Manchester anthems. The Roses at Hampden was the best gig I had ever been to but the pre-show party was better. From the moment we met Anthony as he showed us in past the queue, we had to stop him to hand over our tickets with a reply of “what the fuck did you buy tickets for?” Understandable as we were invited. Answering “Ant mate, the minute I saw it was an e-ticket, for some bizarre reason I thought it would come with a wee White Dove!”

The legendary Clint Boon of the Inspiral Carpets was the afternoon headline act performing a DJ set before the Roses final gig. The rumours had been flying all day that this would be their last ever performance, a rumour confirmed at the pre-show party. Rather than take the shine off our day it made it so much more special. We were already having the best day out of our lives long before the gig even started. By the time Clint started his set I was buzzing like a teenager all over again. Several pints of lager consumed giving me the courage to scale the security fence for a quick dance in front of Clint, the burly security guard pounced instantly removing me from the stage. After a few seconds, I remembered that I’m actually a dad of 2 beautiful kids, took a thought to myself and said: “what the fuck are you doing you daft cunt!” All fears disappeared though as I looked up to the balcony where Ant and Chris were standing as they gave the thumbs up. I did it again just before we left for the gig before saying our goodbyes.

My Dad has always said to me as long as I was old enough to learn about John F Kennedy that “everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news he had been assassinated” It’s probably a feeling similar to the first time anybody meets Anthony Donnelly. Still breathing to this day splits my sides every time I read of Ant and Ian Browns first time they met backstage at Spike Island.

If this was to be my only Madchester experience I would happily cross it off my bucket list. Next morning though, Ant true to his word sent me a message asking if I enjoyed the day and had I managed to get home safely. I felt like I had floated home and knew I had no chance of any sleep on Sunday night. Enjoy myself was a total understatement. If you haven’t already read the autobiography and if you like a good read, buy Still Breathing. Damien Hirst simply states “their story is insane" and their party was also insane. My mate Johnny P has asked me several times to read the book but when you’re good mates with them I’d rather wait until part 2 and read them both together back to back. Not long after the Roses Ant invited me to ACB in Sheffield, ringside seats at the Russian MMA event as a guest of Gio-Goi, a brilliant night of fights with big Thiago Silva sparked clean out by a scary Russian. I ended up in Manchester 2 hours after the event as I gave 4 of Ants mates, who had travelled by train a lift home to the “Hood” Manchester ghetto.

Manchester soon became my sanctuary of sorts whenever I felt down and in need of some time to myself. Just before Christmas of last year, I travelled down unannounced on a secret Santa type journey. I'd no idea where Ant actually lived and ended up using a Royle Family episode as a rough map to where I thought he might live.” Altrincham! Oooooh” as Jim Royle famously referred to whilst rubbing his fingers in anticipation as that was where his possible future daughter in laws parents lived and was loaded. It was a pretty good guess on my part as once I had called Ant I was only 10 minutes from his house from where I had stopped. Arriving with some of the best local butcher meat he gave me a quick tour of his house and art collection. I’d never seen anything like it as he had the coolest collection of artwork I’m ever likely to see. I returned home with several extremely rare Gio-Goi garments in return for my food and a personally signed copy of “ Still Breathing “

My Madchester will live forever but the MAN finally returned this year. I’d been planning on going down to the Bowlers Arena for Madchester in Wonderland but with my zero-hours job going tits up and the financial worry that comes with not knowing when my contract would end, I'd decided I probably wouldn't go. That all changed on the Tuesday as Ant messaged me asking if I was still popping down. A brief exchange of messages then followed as I explained my situation to him and how I might not make it down. He sent me a tune from his radio station “Feel the sound of my city son!”

I couldn't even listen to the tune but the moment I read the message I knew I’d be going to Madchester in Wonderland. I took my best female pal and mother of my two goddaughters Fiona for the journey as she needed a good night out herself. From the moment we arrived at the Bowlers we were completely blown away by the hospitality we received, with one security guard on the receiving end of a bollocking after he’d refused to let my car into the VIP car park as his radio wasn’t switched on. Once inside Ant told us to have a drink, relax and see a bit of the show before meeting him backstage. I only intended to see Shades Of Rhythm as my cousin Kelly danced for them back in the nineties. Sitting in the backstage area with Ant and big G who I'd met at the Roses gig in Glasgow, Ant offered me any help I needed as he knew I was feeling down. "I’m only here for a cuddle and a dance when Shades of Rythym come on mate so can you please make sure I don’t miss them”? I knew if I needed any help I’d only have to ask, all they asked of me was to visit again in a few weeks after I’d calmed down to let them know how I’m getting on. I saw Shades of Rhythm's set which completely blew me away and took me back to 1990 and the rest of the show I managed to see in the smaller Dj area and the Largest hall, for all the best cover bands had the same effect too. An incredible event that returns in October for Oktoberfest and I can't wait to return to Manchester for this one.

Two weeks later I popped down again to see Ant as he'd asked, to let him know I was doing fine. After our meeting in the little cafe where I received an opportunity of a lifetime in a potential new career, we were saying our goodbyes but not before I’d left Ant speechless by producing a large steak pie from my local butcher and multiple award winner Andrew Kirk. I’ll bet there are not many people that can leave the man with an answer and one-liner for anything speechless, but I managed it in a moment neither of us will ever forget.

I found myself lured down again in June as an invite from Ant to attend Marshall Jefferson’s book signing was greatly appreciated. I met the house legend for a quick chat after his set then a brief “How you doing fella?”, “Sound big man how’s yourself? chat with Hacienda legend Jon Dasilva, he invited me to join him and his mates as the night were far from over. I ended up spending the evening with Jon, Keith Laverty and Craig "Ash" Ashton in Keith’s house in the craziest ending to a night out I’ve ever had.

Manchester is my second home now and the love I have for the people and the city is something special and summed up by my pal Fiona on the journey home from the Bowlers.

“Johnny, don’t take this the wrong way, “she said.

“You think I’m full of pish, don’t you? “

“Well no but, sometimes“

“You think I’m full of pish don’t you?“

“Yeah sometimes when you came into my house I thought you were full of pish and I’m sorry “

“What part did you not believe pal? You knew I was pals with the Iconic Donnelly family. Was it that part? Or when I roadied for Dermo and Northside? Or was it that half the Stone Roses have eaten my food? Or the time Irvine Welsh finally met me after knowing who I was after I'd asked him for a photo for our mutual friend in Manchester?

“Haha fuck off, “ she said laughing before asking “Seriously though Johnny, how many pals do you actually have in Manchester and why were they all standing up when you entered the room to give you their seat?”

“Fiona pal, you’ve just spent the night with the coolest people from the coolest city in the world and I’ve absolutely no idea how many pals I have down there. I’m just extremely lucky to have met some really cool and famous people that have taken me to their hearts and became friends for life “.

I could write about Manchester forever but I’ll end this article by simply paying them the biggest compliment I can. They’re Staunch, Loyal and despite their celebrity status and who’s who list of celebrity friends, they’re just like you and me and from the bottom of my families heart, I thank every single one of you for being there for me this year.

" Everything happens for a reason Son!"

I keep having a recurring dream where Ocean Colour Scene are playing Travellers Tune in our beautiful Country. We live in a beautiful County in Fife surrounded by thousands of fields but missing our festival after Tinthepark ended with two failures before disappearing permanently. Thirty years after the legendary rave "Joy!" organised by Ant and Chris on Stan Lee's farm I'd love to see my dreams come true and bring all my pals up for a dance!

One Love, One Heart and One Soul!

Read 7922 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 August 2019 18:05
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Johnny Mckeown

Johnny Mckeown

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ZANI was conceived in late 2008 and the fan base gradually grew by word of mouth. Key contributors came from those of the music, film and fashion industry and the voice of ZANI grew louder. So, when in 2013 investor, contributor and fan of ZANI Alan McGee* offered his support to help restyle and relaunch the site it was inevitable that traffic would increase dramatically and continues to grow. *Alan McGee co-founder of Creation Records and new label 359 Music..


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