Steve Cragg

The Cragg

Steve Cragg RIP. Liverpool Legend. B: 1970 D: 2015

I can’t remember his exact birthday now. It was not long before or after Jimi Hendrix died. A fact Cragg never assumed was coincidental.

We met on the steps of the bombed out church at the top of Bold Street about Summer 1988. He was with a girl and we shared a spliff. We hung out of the next two days solidly, going to clubs, pubs, parties and bars. No idea what happened to the girl. I think she went home.

At the time, Cragg lived in the Hot Pot Café in Old Swan. It was abandoned and had a faded Pepsi sign on the front. A kick of the jukebox would crank Suzi Quattro to life. A climb of the ladder revealed a first floor den of debris.

We went to nightclubs like Planet X and Krazy House and brought girls back. We never paid into anywhere. Cragg had this way of breezing in doors and he’d just say “He’s with me”, waving a thumb over his shoulder in my general direction. To be fair, we looked the part, both in leather biker jackets, him in snakeskin cowboy boots and huge hair, and me with a mohican in whatever colour and 11 hole DMs.

One biting winter, I went down the ladder and out the back to the outside toilet. There was a snow flurry up to the bowl. I sat on it shivering.

“Where’s the toilet door, Cragg?”, I asked on my return up the ladder.

“Went on the fire”, Cragg said.

The next time I came to Liverpool and visited. We had been out, met some girls in a club and headed back to the Hot Pot Café. It had by then been condemned and his days there were numbered. He was using the backroom fireplace as a urinal. The only electricity was in the one room. I stepped into the back room in the dark and promptly crashed through the floor, stopping only because my bollocks said hello to a joist very hard. My legs had punched through the plasterboard ceiling into the café and I was wedged on a beam in agony. “Nafe!”, Cragg called, “Watch the boards!”

Cragg had been burning all loose wood in the building to keep warm in that derelict building. Last resort was burning every other floorboard in the back room.

Later he lived in Little Parkfield, off Lark Lane. The place was still just a mess of junk, dominated by the stereo. We were always playing music. It was a constant.

Cragg often had some kind of injury. He smashed his pelvis twice and couldn’t sit on a toilet seat for six months. I saw his medical file once and read as much of it as I could. It was a weighty tome.

Once he was skanking to dub reggae on a paving slab placed on a chimney stack. The paving slab shifted and he fell five floors, on his back spreadeagled through a tree that broke his fall. He got up and everyone was asking if he was OK. He laid on a sofa and slept nearly 24 hours. On waking, he coughed up blood and an ambulance was called. He had a punctured lung, two fractured vertebrae and a cracked pelvis.

The first time he fractured his pelvis, he was sat in a first floor window, fell out backwards and landed in a basement. I laughed at this and said he was really unlucky. He said earnestly, “No it wasn’t, I missed the spiked railings on the way down”.

In the days before mobile phones and email, I used to come up to Liverpool and always find Cragg somewhere. We always just had the knack of finding one another somewhere in town or club or bar. “Alright Nafe”, he’d say even after months of not seeing each other, and off we’d go on an adventure.

One of the last times I saw him, he was living in the front room of the Ivanhoe Road/Little Parkfield House. His living room was madder than ever. The entire room was dominated by a huge pile of bricks. The chimney had collapsed inwards and invited itself into his house. I went to make a cup of tea, but there was a fish in the washing up bowl. The fish tank had got smashed and he’d saved one of the fish.

I was going to look in on him, having not been to Liverpool for nearly three years–the easily the longest duration away since I was a child. It was going to be a chance visit as I’d bought tickets to a Linda Perhacs gig and accidentally bought Liverpool, not London ones. I wasn’t bothered and was actually happy to be going to the going there. “I’ll go and find Cragg”, I thought to myself.

As it turned out, Linda Perhacs had a riding injury and fractured her collar bone. The gig was cancelled indefinitely. I didn’t go to Liverpool at that time and a few months later, a random post on Facebook mentioned an ambulance outside his house, by now living on Hartington Road and that he’d died.

This photo was taken about Summer 1991–4 (I can’t be more accurate right now!). I think it is a music festival in Princes Park, but could possibly be Sefton Park also.

Cragg’s social scene was wide, disparate and not always interconnected. If you want to share a story or memory of him here, it’d be great to hear from other people that knew him in the comments bit below.

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4 thoughts on “The Cragg

  1. I met Steve in 1979, him a fat little boy and me a skinny little boy both sent to Glan Alyn Boarding school,him because his parents had sight and hearing problems and me because I was from a one parent family,it was run by liverpool education comittee and there was nothing posh about it.We were put in neighbouring bed cubicles and made each others aquaintence, the first night many of the boys acted up running around shouting after lights up,Steve and I had not particularly we had just been chatting but the housemaster came looking for the rabblerousers who by that time had gone quiet,not finding anyone to punish he randomly selected Steve and proceeded to wack him across the arse with a slipper numerous times,I could hear him crying just an 11 year old boy on his first night away from his familand met with an instant shock to the system,he never came back from his first weekend home a month later.

    I was there for a further two years before joining a school in liverpool and lo and behold who did I see on my first day but craggy lol after that I used to call at his house in the morning and we walked to school together,often his Dad Dave would take his two glass eyes out and or let off large audible farts to try and shock us just for a laugh,while we would raid his ashtray for capstan full strength stubs to make rollies from,between then and leaving school we got into smoking weed and anything else we could get our hands on.
    What was to become the hot pot cafe was originally owned by our other friend Geoffs mum and was called the Stanley Cafe,I used to go there at school dinnertime and get a free plate of chips and gravy and a few games on the arcade machine frogger or donkey kong .

    We eventually shared a flat together on peel street rented from a greek guy called Mr Melliotis or as we dubbed him smelly otis.
    The first time he broke his pelvis was at his first floor flat on princess road,him,me and a fellow reprobate by the name of Billy Murry were getting stoned when steve decided that at early evening it was a good time to get outside on the ledge and start cleaning his windows,no sooner than he was out Billy decided to prank him by closing the window,he didn’t mean him to fall and was about to open the window to let him back in when steve lost his balance and fell landing on his feet but the impetus sending his arse to the deck and fracturing his pelvis,we got him upstairs before deciding he was badly hurt and I went and called an ambulance from the phone box, once the ambulance took him away we carried on getting stoned in his flat.

    The last time I saw him was at his flat in little parkfield off Lark lane in 1999,I had just got back from living in Holland,
    then we lost touch it was only a few months ago I found out about his death because I had been searching the internet to reunite with my old buddy,I was gutted to hear the news the tears flowed,even now writing this the tears well up, he was often an absolute idiot but he was a character and one of the friends i grew up with,one of the brothers, of our little band we are either dead or recovering from a misspent hedonistic youth.
    Rest in peace brother.

    James M.

    1. Thanks for sharing the comments, really appreciated. Great to hear another angle of the falling out of the window story.

      Is that the same Hot Pot Café you mention? He never told me he’d visited when it was open.

  2. There used to be 2 cafes there The stanley cafe owned by our mates mum and Dees Place next door,I think at a later date they bought Dees place so owned both and renamed it the hot pot cafe,I’m pretty sure he must have gone there when it was a cafe,Craggy used to go home from school at dinner time while I went to Dees place and sometimes the Stanley cafe when I was not banned by my mates mum hehe,it used to have a tabletop pac-man arcade game .couple of games of pac-man cup a tea and toast and bought a loose cigerrette on the way back to school,there was an abbotoir across the road that used to stink haha.It wasn’t a bad school it pretty good in hindsight being surrounded by all that nature to have adventures in but its the way of kids not to always appreciate stuff till later or its gone,but he did have a pretty bad first nights experience.

    1. I think Cragg mentioned something about shooting rats at the abattoir for pocket money? Using an air rifle, and being paid by the tail?!

      BTW, will post some more pics of him in the coming months.

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