In late 1995 I moved into a flat in Manchester city centre, Whitworth Street to be precise. My new flat-mate Pete and I didn’t really know each other that well, so when a mutual friend passed on tickets to a premier screening of John Woo’s Broken Arrow movie we took it as an opportunity to get to know each other a little. The event is at one of Manchester’s first multiplex theatres - the Showcase over in Belle Vue, Gorton, so when the night arrives we both get suited and booted and call a cab.
When we arrive at the theatre it becomes swiftly apparent that this is a more up-market shindig than we had anticipated, though God knows why – it’s a John Woo film. Anyhow, it’s a black tie occasion and the press are out in force, there’s even a long red carpet and everything. The other guests are arriving; footballers, soap actors, comedians and local TV presenters; as we make our way towards the cinema, flash bulbs flare and folk lining the carpet point and chatter - they are mostly saying, “Who the hell are those two?”
The movie is pretty poor, not a patch on Woo’s Hong Kong based output, so after the screening we leave quickly with every intention of heading back to Manchester and perhaps a bar or two, but as we emerge from the cinema we notice that all the other attendees are climbing aboard three big coaches.
They could be going anywhere.
We climb aboard.
Surrounded by dinner jackets, black ball gowns and well, people who are actually supposed to be travelling, we feel pretty out of place, but that’s nothing compared to how we feel when we arrive at our destination.
Luckily for us the coaches aren’t heading anywhere too far a field and roll up at the car park of Bury FC (or was it Bolton FC? I forget, but it was one of those places just outside Manchester beginning with B that has a football club). There’s a gigantic marquee, sweeping floodlights and the like, and the personalities filing inside are all brandishing big Wonkaesque tickets, so I pick someone at random and ask how much the tickets were?
£150 a pop.
Plainly we don’t have a pair of one hundred and fifty pound tickets, so we mingle with a group of soap actors - Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Brookside - one of those things, and bizarrely are waved right through. Inside, we step into plush surroundings, and as you’d expect copious amounts of free booze and food alongside fifty or so large banqueting tables. Having nowhere to legitimately sit we hug the bar as surreptitiously as we can.
We drink, and try to remain anonymous while a few celebrities do turns up on stage; I remember Foo Foo Lamar doing something or other and there’s an expensive raffle – hosted by, I think Chris Barrie. Oh, and Skelmersdale songstress Sonia is plastered and falls over. At some point we spot Collin Welland, and being fans say hello; we talk for a while about Kes, Z Cars and Newton Le Willows, but are interrupted by a glammed-up girl who has wandered over.
“Are you in a band?”
“Actually I am.”
The girl spins round to face her table where there are ten or twelve of her friends staring in our direction.
“I fucking told you! It’s Radiohead!”
“It’s Thom fucking Yorke!”
Ok then, let’s hold it there.
Thom Yorke and I share the same birthday, same year, same date, but any similarities end right there. I was in a band, but no, not Radiohead, and we don’t / didn’t look very much alike.
The girl whips out a pen, a scrap of paper and a camera and asks for an autograph and a photo, while behind her the table empties and a queue forms. As other party goers from other tables join the rear I have to make a split second decision - own up and admit to not being Thom Yorke and maybe ask “Do you like Gold Blade instead?” or brazen it out.
For some reason I decide to brazen it out. This creates another problem however, as the growing line assumes that my new pal Pete is in Radiohead too, but which member do they think he is? Pete solves this one by making his signature thoroughly indecipherable.
Finally after all scribbles are done and pictures taken things calm down and it looks like we may have gotten away with it - though Lord knows what they thought when they scrutinized the photographs in the cold light of day, or indeed notice that in my haste I’ve signed Thom without the H.
It’s now pretty late, in fact it’s the morning, as early edition newspapers with pictures of the party we are still at are delivered; we find ourselves propping up the bar beside a gruff looking, 50-something bloke who without introduction says…
“Want a drink fellas?”
“Sure, but I think they may have closed the bar.”
“Not to me they haven’t.”
He turns to the barman and asks for drinks, the nervous looking young lad left manning the bar apologises and says that unfortunately the bar is now closed.
Very, very slowly the man says…
“No, you misunderstand me, I want some drinks for me and my new friends.”
The barman delivers drinks.
As we get to talking it becomes apparent that the menacing guy who’s just re-opened the bar for us is ‘old Manchester business’, he’s an interesting chap to be around, but Pete and I are both dog-tired so say our goodbyes and prepare to leave. Before we go our drinking partner has some parting counsel.
“Fellas, I can tell you’ll both do ok, but let me give you this one piece of advice. It’s the best piece of advice I can ever give you.”
We pause with bated breath.
“If anyone gets in your way in life, fucking crush them.”