In the age of social networking, a new kind of fear infects the hungover. The art of piecing together the events of last night now bears with it the inevitable Facebook album of your night out, carelessly uploaded by your merciless friends and allies. Many a student is horrified by the digital reminders of the night before, but for me, the humble journalism student, the horror of the hand-held voice-recorder is also a part of my job.
It’s 11am, a Tuesday morning, and I awaken on a sticky leather couch in an unfamiliar living room. The sunlight is aggressive, and my head hurts, but before anything else, I reach for my voice recorder.
Flicking through the files, the machine bursts into life, throwing the sounds of a nightclub against the walls of the alien living room, and a thick Manchurian accent stutters its way into the room…
“This will just take a few minutes yeah? A proper quick one?”
That night I was interviewing Mark Berry: dancer, artist and DJ, better known to the world as Bez, the pill-popping talisman of the Happy Mondays.
Sat in a backroom of the Den, we pull up a chair around a disused freezer. Glen Keogh, the Culture editor of the Quad, sits on the other side of Bez, looking half-cut. I wondered if I looked drunk, but then turning to Bez, who was now snorting lines of cocaine off the freezer, I felt I looked stunning by comparison.
Glen kicks right into it, realising there’s no need to dance (Bez, dance…get it?) around the subject:
“What was your best drug experience?” He asks, grinning.
“I’ve had a few really good ones, to be truthful.. I couldn’t really single one out from the other, but some of the most memorable ones were in Brazil and Argentina…”
“Good coke there then?” I’m drunk, and making fun of him, much to the horror of myself sat in that living room 12 hours later. Luckily for me, he laughs, and carries on:
“Just all over the world I’ve had some really good ones, but in Brazil especially. Though to be honest, I have good drug experiences most nights…” Cue an obnoxiously loud, Cumbrian laugh from myself.
“Are you still going strong like?” Glen asks in his typical Geordie accent.
“Well I try not to, but every time I try not to, the opposite happens, you know what I mean? I just can‘t fucking say no”.
“Is that a sign of you slowing down then?”, I ask, consciously avoiding mentioning the prominent bags under his eyes.
“I like to think I have yeah”, he says, with a dismissive smile on his face, and then laughing to himself.
One of the themes me and Glen discussed for the interview (which neither of us stuck to, I might add) was to ask him about the many rumours and rock ’n’ roll myths that surround his cult of personality.
So I ask him about an incident in 1986 at Manchester’s Hacienda club, where after falling off stage and splitting his head open, he then proceeded to drip pure LSD into the wound, and get back onstage…
“I’ve heard that before but it’s what you call one them… err… urban myths! I love these urban myths though, they make you laugh don’t they? …but I’ve heard that one as well”
“Have you heard many other Urban myths about yourself?” asks Glen.
“Well just that one in particular… I’ve heard a lot of people blaming me for shit…”. With that he asks for a different question, and I know he’s avoiding that subject.
Glen is quickest to the draw, and has his list of pre-prepared questions out well before mine:
“In the Manchester scene you were part of, do you ever think things will be as good as back then?” He asks.
“Well, I truly believe, that the fucking youth hold the keys to the future, you know what I mean? … and, err, what’s happening today… when we were young we were the 1 in 10 (He’s referencing unemployment rates from the Thatcher era), now they’re the 1 in 6. They haven’t got a hope in hell of getting a job… The downside is unemployment but the upside is youth culture”.
I tell of an experience I had in Manchester, at a Trade Union rally, and the amount of angry, working class people I talked to whilst there, and ask him if he has an opinion of why that is.
“From the time of Margaret Thatcher, she said she’s going to bring back the class system. So she closes down a lot of grammar schools (which at the time had entrance exams, and were free to go to, meaning smart working class kids could go to grammar school). The Conservative party of today are continuing her ‘good work’ and dictating the education of the working classes… it’s a form of control…know your fucking place, you know?”
“Would you say you support Labour or Conservative then?”, I ask, seemingly forgetting who I’m talking to or why I’m there…
“I don’t really have a political stance… I’d like to be a dictator though…”
“I genuinely want to here what England would be like, under Bez…” Somewhere in the hazy recording, someone mentions the phrase ‘King Bez’, and I cringe, knowing fine well it was me.
“What we need… is a form if socialism, without the dictatorship…” he says, but true to form, quips that he would also legalise every drug known to man.
At this point, a manager comes, Bez is distracting hiding his drugs, and soon leaves in search of the free lager he’s been promised.
Back in the haze of that Tuesday morning, the voice recorder ticks off, and the room is silent. Glen comes down and explains I am in fact residing in his Living room, and that because I can’t seem to remember the night past the interview, he will write up the feature.
God my head hurts.