Julian was there right at the start.
We got our guitars the same Christmas in 1988, mine a red Squier Bullet, his a black Squier Bullet Bass. Julian was in the first few bands I was in, the first of which was called State of the Art.
Now, I’ve been trying to think of ways to describe this little ensemble in a way that will make it seem somehow as cool as I thought it was at the time, but to no avail. Its just too… odd. There were three of us, two guitarists and a bassist. No drummer. No singer. Not much ability between us. Amongst other crimes against music, we played fairly poor cover versions of Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 and Apache by The Shadows (including the little dance) while looking like a cross between the children of Ramsay Street and Iron Maiden wearing novelty slippers.
A little later came Pandemonium. This was the band where mine and Julian’s collective teenage heavy metal wet dreams finally came true. We had a proper heavy metal drummer, Marshall amps, pointy guitars and a look that simultaneously said satanic worship and sports casual. By this time, we could actually play too, kind of.
By the time we were 16, Julian looked just about old enough to get served booze in McLeans, our local off license, by which I mean he looked 16. McLeans was run by a bloke known to his customers as ‘Chief’, for reasons which I never got to the bottom of but I don’t think it was because he was formerly a fireman due to the illegal games arcade that he opened in the cellar of the shop that had one way in and no fire escapes. Anyways, much to our delight, along with fire regulations, Chief didn’t much care about age restrictions either, so Julian would go in to buy various bottles of the most potent, puke inducing, fruit based, sugary awfulness that you could imagine.
Came in two ‘flavours’, apple and pear. Apple was best in the same way that drinking petrol is better than drinking diesel.
Mad Dog 20/20
A variety of fortified fruit wines that came in a small bottle full of coloured liquid so luminous that it could double up as a night light if necessary.
Hooch is the booze equivalent of a ninja, in that it creeps up on you without you realising it. Feeling good, feeling really good, feeling great, feeling good, feeling good, still feeling good, feeling bleeeeuuurrggghhhhh!!!!
When Joan, the generally afflicted with poor health OAP who occasionally worked the till in McLeans, said to Julian one day “Have you tried Over 21 love? Its lovely!”, she was FUCKING LYING.
Horrendous booze purchased, our little gang of school leavers would then transfer it into a guitar case (upstairs for thinking) and head down to the football fields at the end of Parker Road, where we would drink as much as we could possibly bear whilst swearing blind that even after we turned 18 we’d still do all our drinking in a field.
Later, when we started writing and performing our own songs, as much as I wanted to be the cool frontman of the outfit, much like Nicky Wire from the Manics Julian was always the coolest member of any originals band we were in together, with his bass guitar slung down by his knees and his brooding rock star intensity, hammering out powerful, precision timed, bass lines with an effortlessness that would make any song I could write sound a thousand times better than it actually was.
Later still, Julian joined a band called Gledhill, who recorded an album with Owen Morris, producer of Oasis’s (What the Story) Morning Glory? Upon the album’s release Gledhill embarked on a UK tour supporting Tears for Fears. I went to watch them play at the Manchester Apollo and was struck by how everyone on the stage looked a little tense… a bit like the desire to play well surpassed their ability to relax. All except for Julian, who just looked right at home on that big Apollo stage.
I’ve known Julian for over 30 years… That’s three quarters of the time I’ve spent breathing thus far. We’ve never spent our friendship living in each other’s pockets, except perhaps for our school years. Like most enduring friendships, in adulthood, we’ve drifted in and out of each other’s lives as the years have passed but, thankfully, we’ve always had the making of music to pull us back into one another’s orbits.