BLACK GRAPE could only have been made in Manchester. The swagger, fun and cryptic humour seem hewn from a city historian AJP Taylor once described as offering an archetypally different way of English urban life to London. Both Shaun Ryder and Paul Leveridge, known as Kermit, came from edgy-but-cool parts of the city. In Shaun’s case Salford, (though I know better than to designate that side of the Irwell as Manchester in certain company) with Kermit originating Moss Side. For those unfamiliar, ‘the Moss’ lay in the shadow of Manchester City’s old stadium at Maine Road, and was one of the first multi-ethnic areas in Manchester. I recall as a youth once going there with a mate to score drugs. This guy had been around, but his customary levity vanished when he warned: “the Moss can get fookin heavy.” We were given the run-around, and eventually the address of this party. So I had gathered that. However, it wasn’t heavy on this particular night as we had terrific fun in the company of a weird and wonderful assortment of friendly strangers. They weren’t hanging back when it came to caning it. It was the type of scene that wouldn’t be unfamiliar to either Shaun or Kermit. (Fuck me, they were probably even there…)
So we have two restlessly creative men, both from the wrong side of the tracks, neither inclined to go to art school or enrol on an MFA programme, yet loaded with street smarts and musical talent, and wanting the world. Good old punk had told every scally they could have it, and a generation of us went for it in our own ways, with varying degrees of success. Shaun’s astonishing rise and fall with the Happy Mondays is the stuff of legend.