Album sleeve notes written by Rock Journalist 'Mick Middles'.
Echoes of Manchester. Echoes of a moment. Echoing down the
ages. I had a strange moment back in 2001. Adrift from any reasonable form of
employment, I had languished horribly in the grim clinging swamp of P. R. and
it was at some vast mill, post satanic to the point of meekness, that I
wandered to photograph a man celebrating 25 years of employment as a highly
skilled engineer but, nevertheless a man in a mill. A quarter of a century in a
mill. And then he stared at me.
A look of familiarity. He was, and is Craig Hilton. A
guitarist, he told me … a guitarist with Fast Cars. And my mind skimmed back to
some exiting time, down by the stage at The Deeply Vale Festival … a gargantuan
event indeed. Not by sheer numbers, nor by weight of collective aesthetic egotism.
Indeed, quite the antithesis this. Fast Cars, a band who took their name from a
Steve Diggle song, and significantly so. Diggle had, and continues to represent
the wholesome unpretentious street edge to Buzzcocks … a contrast to the fey
art school love lorn edge of Pete Shelley … it was Diggle who smiled a mod
smile and stood aside the Lambretta GP 200.
And so, indeed, did Fast Cars. More than any other
Manchester band – although they may prefer a Salfordian tag … I don’t know –
they captured the essence of the left fork of the post – punk dream. The fork
that refused pretension of badly hair cutted brittle funk … and slammed back to
the tap room. Fun time football kick, girls and gags, crack and ale … back when
all that stuff just did not dip to chav and all things grey-faced and gold
Fast Cars were latter-day Eddie and the Hot Rods blessed by
less ferocity but greater musical ambition. It was hard for them. Almost
impossible to capture the attention of the London media. And they struggled
gamely among the small Manchester labels, almost cementing a place on Tony
Davidson’s legendary TJM Records where they would have sat neatly alongside the
talents of Mick Hucknell’s Frantic Elevators and closer to home in many
respects The Distractions.
Their history was already complex. Two brothers, Stuart and
Steven Murray, had fumbled together as a High School band – Moorside, in
Swinton – and to an immediate fractured dynamic. Part rock part punk. Steven
the punk half, departed to form The Sirens, an embryonic unit featuring a young
Marc ‘pre – lard’ Riley, Craig Scanlon, and Steve Hanley … within time to
become the foundation of the most resilient version of The Fall. Already, a
touch of history woven into their fabric.
But Fast Cars fell neatly together, with aforementioned
guitarist Craig Hilton joining, leaving and rejoining the gang … vocalist Steve
Murray, Stuart Murray on bass and Tony Dyson on drums. Somewhere in the mix,
Haydn Jones had flirted with lead guitar.
I didn’t know about any of this. Didn’t care. Loved the
flash speed of their name, that Buzzcock link. Loved them too, at the Band on
the Wall, when their sprightly slammed pop shone like a gem from the general
murk of the Manchester Musician’s Collective … a worthy collective yes … to the
point of legendary perhaps. Fleetingly intriguingly but, for the solid chunk of
collective evenings. A dour slab of cake. Recall lank haired bass players
leaning forward over their instruments, eyes closed in concentration … some of them, not all. Not Fast Cars. Their single
“The Kids Just Wanna Dance”, was just that. An edgy Salfordian street anthem.
Daft as a brush. Fun time and cute. You couldn’t dislike them. You couldn’t
sense a future … but you couldn’t turn away.
Not least at Deeply Vale. A flash stab of young steel in an
eclectic gathering. Fast Cars were still funtime, ragtime. Still there for the
crack. But then the songs, the unfolding songs were gaining an emotive
presence. A resonance even. Perhaps, we thought, perhaps they might just make it.
Somehow … somewhere. And they so nearly did. Missing a Polydor contract by a
smidgen. Missing the breaks … just!
But then, 25 years
later, a swell of interest in Japan. The unlikely notion of ecstatic sell out
gigs over there … and back home. Booming sales at last. Bemused band members.
And this record. This echo of Deeply Vale. A beautiful,
perfect snap shot. In November 2004, I met another Fast Car. Stuart Murray.
Intelligent, cheery, glad to be around … sitting around at that transmission
party for Granada’s Deeply Vale film. In the kitchen I had found another ageing
Manchester hack … a brother hack called Bob Dickinson who had penned such rival
stuff for the NME and latterly, for the Beeb.
“Fast Cars” I told him … “A Fast Car” sits in the lounge.
Bob was genuinely excited, rushed to the scene. For a moment, the years just
dripped to a pool. Fast Cars were back … well kind of.
And it’s warming to know, as I type these memories … good to
know I will be seeing them … live … soon. Enjoy this distant echo. This glimpse
of Deeply Vale. That too, seems poised to return. Another warming thought … and
another thing. Sitting there, soaking this set of songs back into the old
bones. It’s more fun now. Even more than before.
On and on.