Straight off the train at Lime Street and up Bold Street, an affable, drunk, homeless guy comes up:
“Hey! You look like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and John Wayne”.
The next day I’m taking pictures on Aigburth Road. Despite town having been tarted up for City of Culture 2008, much of the rest of the city still looks like 1978. So does much of the UK, to be honest.
Anyway, I was just photographing in the street and this old soak comes out of the offy,
“Are you here for me?”, he says, stumbling off the step with a smile. and plays for the camera.
Liverpool, it’s good to be back.
Living brain’s first ever gig at Brian’s Diner
Just found some old ‘analogue’ photos from the first ever living brain gig at Brian’s Diner. This is when the band was a two piece with Ged Lynn and Lars Gabel.
We drank as much tea as The Rutles at their peak
– Ged Lynn
See the photos here, or read on…
Brian’s Diner was a large café bar squirrelled just off the main drag of Liverpool town centre on Stanley Street–Just beyond where the music shops are, or where: Rushworth’s, Hessy’s and Curly’s.
Outside is the Eleanor Rigby statue. Make a point to sit with her when you visit town.
Brian’s Diner was the place to plot after visiting the music shops. Escaping the hustle bustle of the town centre (especially on a Saturday!). Always a good feeling going in the door and up the steps. You’d be greeted by a good tune, animated conversation and maybe a hello from Gloria, Ben or Brian at the counter. Weaving through the thick green-glossed pillars and over bare floorboards to a booth and sitting under the large steamed-up windows with a pot of tea in that place was bliss. There was a giant oompah band bass drum on the wall. There were other instruments I think too, but the bass drum was enormous.
The gigs at Brian’s were legendary. There’d be the build up. We had no phones then, so it was all in the street: You going? Yeah, You going? Yeah. Sound, see you laters. la. What was better was when the living brain played: You gonna see the brain at brian’s? A dyslexic’s nightmare and I’m sure a few photocopied flyers did actually say living brian at brain’s diner.
The night gigs would usually have at least five bands playing. It would be £3 to get in, which was already pretty cheap. You’d get a raffle ticket when you paid. At midnight, in a break between bands, there’d be a mad rush around the bar and kitchen as producing your raffle ticket at midnight got you a plate of veggie curry. £3 for five or six bands AND a plate of curry.
Just found these pictures. I should point out that the graininess is not a limitation of the analogue film technology, but ironically, of a more modern analogue to digital conversion in a high-speed scanner. At some point, I’ll have access to a darkroom again and hand print these properly. Kind of like the ghostly look though :-
Life at Brian’s
Beautiful vignette about Brian, Gloria and some colourful Liverpool characters, as well as early Echo & the Bunnymen jams in between:
Curly’s seem to still be going:
A little nugget of video on Hessy’s. This is where my guitar came from– the one Lars is playing in the living brain pictures:
Outtake at Liverpool Psychefest 2016.
The Stairs get totally papped at Liverpool Psychfest!
Last time I photographed The Stairs, there was one other local photographer and myself. We were happily dancing amongst the crowd getting our shots, standing aside for one another in a flirtatious creative dance. Tonight at Liverpool Psychfest was different. It was a macho, moody experience and passive aggressive Alpha type behaviour. Some very poor photographic etiquette taking place, as well as a sloppy approach to photography that sometimes gives photographers a bad name (standing right in front of the musicians and pointing flash in their face – whilst not even looking at the camera!). I’m more bemused by the behaviour than incensed by it. I had to pally with security to get into the absolutely rammed photo pen. I did get in (Jedi Mind trick) thankfully! That’s Mark McNulty in the paisley shirt, a really prolific music photographer, and lovely chap – especially Liverpool based artists. Always impressed by his work.
The Stairs played a STONKING set. The place was rammed. Lots of dancing and a really good atmosphere.
At the end, the security guard said he’d been stood there all day and that was by far the best band he’d seen. It’s old fashioned, but The Stairs knock out songs, whereas most of the other psych bands are playing 15 minute jams. Suits a certain type of person 🙂
More photos coming soon!
Probably not the best business practice featuring another photographer who’s work field slightly overlaps with mine, but love Mark’s approach with people and the way he gets people comfortable. It really shows in his photos:
Twitter – @lpoolpsychfest / hashtag – #PZYK
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/liverpoolpsychfest
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LiverpoolPsychFest
Spent a very sunny Bank Holiday indoors, down in a basement via a lift with a code – like Thunderbirds, with The Stairs practising for their upcoming tour. Pretty honoured to have a ‘private gig’ to be honest. It was great to see the inner workings of this monster music machine.
The Stairs tour dates include:
- 2 June 2016 ABC, Glasgow
- 3 June Gorilla, Manchester
- 4 June Concorde 2, Brighton
- 5 June Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Liverpool Psychfest 2016
Go see them, they are ferocious live.
Click below for more.
Also, check out the great Silent Radio review of the Gorilla, Manchester gig.
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.