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If you love the North, then Northern Soul is for you. Written in the North of England by Northern writers, Northern Soul is a celebration of culture and enterprise, from theatre, music, authors and art to heritage, small businesses, food and leading figures, as well as everything in-between.

Talking to people who work, rest and play in the North of England and scour the region for interesting stories, histories, ambitions and events. Want to read a carefully crafted article about an oddball museum or go behind the scenes of a leading institution? You can find that on Northern Soul.

Review: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Only one record mattered to me in 1977. Tightly coiled within the grooves of a treasured seven inch single, the three minutes of sonic exhilaration soundtracked my summer during that year of street parties, flag waving and anarchy. I wasn’t alone. After all, that was the power of The Muppets back then. When the “US […] The post Review: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols appeared first on Northern Soul.

Only one record mattered to me in 1977. Tightly coiled within the grooves of a treasured seven inch single, the three minutes of sonic exhilaration soundtracked my summer during that year of street parties, flag waving and anarchy.

I wasn’t alone. After all, that was the power of The Muppets back then. When the “US frog-fronted puppet ensemble” (to quote the Guinness Book of Hit Singles) released its take on the novelty 1960s tune Mahna Mahna in May 77, the infuriating nonsense refrain swept through playgrounds like a dose of cheery chicken pox. Children across Britain were powerless to resist.

Never mind the bollocks that our older teen brothers and sisters were listening to. The Muppets made it a blissful time in which to be a kid.

I realise now, of course, that other records mattered more in 1977. While I wait in vain for a deluxe, digitally remastered version of The Muppet Show album (featuring Mahna Mahna along with other classic tracks including The Great Gonzo Eats a Rubber Tyre to the Flight of the Bumblebee), the Sex Pistols’ debut LP, also released in the year when the two-sevens clashed, is onto its umpteenth fancy reissue.

Sex Pistols 'NMTB' 40th '3D'If you failed to buy a copy of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols in any of the 40 years since its original release, you can now pick up a ruby anniversary edition that includes three CDs, a DVD of live footage and a 48-page hardback book. And if that all sounds a bit bloated and decadent – the kind of thing that might commemorate the cocaine-speckled sheen of mid-70s Fleetwood Mac rather than the Pistols’ expectorated glob of neon yellow punk bile – you probably haven’t been paying attention to the way the music industry works.

As far back as 1980, there was a Sex Pistols compilation called Flogging a Dead Horse. What makes you think they’d stop now? But if it’s the music you want, this 40th anniversary edition, released at the end of last year, is as good a means as any to acquire it.

The first CD is the original album in all its tainted, threatening glory, a fearsome burst of noise that still manages to give me the creeps. The second CD is a collection of B-sides, demo versions and alternative mixes, a breadcrumb trail of tracks that lead us to the final studio decisions made by the album’s producer, Chris Thomas. And if these versions sound raw, beware of the third disc’s collection of live recordings; they seem to spatter the listener with blood. It’s a shrill and shambolic reminder that when witnessed at first hand, this group really was incinerating what rock music had become.

In January 1978, John Lydon left the Sex Pistols, taking his rabid, rolling Rs with him, and leaving the band to collapse into a curious comic-strip caper devoid of seditious threat. Within little more than 18 months, British punk had done its job of elbowing the hippies aside and letting a new creative generation flood in. However, while the Sex Pistols may have been the shock troops, Never Mind the Bollocks’ bludgeoning garage guitars could never be a template for the good stuff to come. It would take groups like The Fall, or Gang of Four, or Lydon’s own stark and strange Public Image Limited to create the real benchmarks for rock’s reinvention.

Sex Pistols 'NMTB' 40th '3D'But listen again to Never Mind the Bollocks while holding images of 1977 in your head – the Queen’s silver jubilee and the Black and White Minstrels, picket line violence and the Muppets and me – and you sense the urgent necessity of its brutal attack, its recalibration of what was culturally worthwhile.

Four decades ago, my mind was elsewhere. But considering all the stuff I’ve listened to since, I owe Never Mind the Bollocks a lot.

And the Muppets? Not so much.

By Damon Fairclough

 

Never Mind the Bollocks: the 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is out now on USM/UMC

The post Review: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Sat, 03 Feb 2018

Food Review: The White Hart, Lydgate

Come and eat at the top o’ hill, they said. There’ll be roaring fires, they promised. It’ll be stotting down outside and you’ll be glad to be in a building with a roof, they insisted. OK, I made that last one up but the first two are true.  I suspect that, no matter the weather, […] The post Food Review: The White Hart, Lydgate appeared first on Northern Soul.

Come and eat at the top o’ hill, they said. There’ll be roaring fires, they promised. It’ll be stotting down outside and you’ll be glad to be in a building with a roof, they insisted. OK, I made that last one up but the first two are true. 

I suspect that, no matter the weather, The White Hart at Lydgate is a welcome sight. On the day I motored through Oldham to this 18th century former prison and schoolhouse, it was tipping down and proper cold. You’d think that living in the North would acclimatise you to the inclement conditions but I still ran faster than a speeding bullet from the car park to the Brasserie. 

And there, like a warm blanket without the cat hairs that cling to fabrics in my house, was a room that shouted ‘come in you nesh jessie, warm yer bum by our fire and let someone else take care of you’. I yielded like a blancmange waiting to be set.

The White Hart Inn at Lydgate, crabWith views across the Pennines and the whisper of rural goodness just a stone’s throw away, The White Hart is a happy marriage of two restaurants and a petite slew of boutique hotel rooms. On the day I visited with a Northern Soul colleague, the Brasserie filled up quickly. An entirely unscientific Facebook straw poll suggested this was a venue that, if I’m honest, I could lord over my friends. And (cackling witch laugh), who doesn’t enjoy that?

They had me at rosemary and potato bread. What’s that you say? Bread and potato? More carbs than you can shake a bread stick at? Oh my, now you’re spoiling us. Hot on its heels was the amuse bouche: those tiny teacups. Is there anything that screams ‘posh’ more then teeny, tiny cups that aren’t on the menu? Frothing away inside the teensy porcelain was broccoli soup with stilton and almond. And, unlike other concoctions of this kind, it was hot. Tetley Tea hot. Poshness aside, I could have downed a pint of this delectable stuff.

As we blew the froth away, the starters arrived: Dorset crab cocktail, mango, black bean and chilli for the pair of us, and thank god we chose the same thing. If Cathy had enjoyed this on her own, I may have been forced to create a diversion while I swapped plates. The dish was all zingy, fresh as a rock pool after the the tide has turned, and pretty as a picture. As Cathy said, “it’s really fit”.

Then, as the flames of the real fire licked our comfortable clothes (we are freelancers eating in the middle of the day, elasticated waists are our friend), the mains made their entrance. Slow-cooked ox cheek, burnt onion and kale for me pal, and chicken with tortellini on my side of the table. Winking seductively without a care in the world was the creamy mash. Oh, what naughtiness was this? Eat me and savour me, it coaxed. As did the melt-in-the mouth ox cheek and I-don’t-know-how-the-chef-made-tortellini-a-must-have-dish. No chewy, indistinguishable weirdy pasta parcels in Saddleworth.The White Hart Inn at Lydgate., Ox cheek

We were exhausted; teased and toyed by our food. Before we knew what was happening, we were ambushed by amalfi lemon posset, poached blueberries, blueberry sorbet. Oh frailty, thy name is posset. With n’er an inch of space in our respective stomachs, we tipped our teaspoons and, in the best possible way, we were replete.

By Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul

Rating: Chef's Knife Chef's Knife Chef's Knife Chef's Knife

 

thewhitehart.co.uk

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Published on - Sat, 03 Feb 2018

Book Review: Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean

Last year marked the centenary of the Russian Revolution. In the fifth of a series of articles for Northern Soul, Alfred Searls explores how 1917 – and the Soviet society which developed in its shadow – has been portrayed by writers since that momentous year of revolution. You couldn’t make up the life of Fitzroy […] The post Book Review: Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean appeared first on Northern Soul.

Last year marked the centenary of the Russian Revolution. In the fifth of a series of articles for Northern Soul, Alfred Searls explores how 1917 – and the Soviet society which developed in its shadow – has been portrayed by writers since that momentous year of revolution.

You couldn’t make up the life of Fitzroy MacLean. Born in Cairo, this scion of Scottish gentry was raised in Italy and educated at Eton and Cambridge before completing his studies in Germany, just as the Weimer Republic was giving way to the Third Reich. Later, in just seven years, his career took him from diplomat to private soldier; MP for Lancaster to officer in the SAS; commander of the British Military Mission in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, and finally in 1947 to the rank of Major General at the age of 35.

All that takes us to where his splendid 1949 memoir, Eastern Approaches, leaves off. But the book begins with his departure from a comfortable posting as a diplomat in Paris to take up a new job in the British Embassy in Moscow. Soon we’re accompanying him on one of four remarkable great journeys he undertakes into the Caucuses and Soviet Central Asia.

Reliable first-hand observations of life in the Soviet Union in the 1930s are rare, which makes Maclean’s book even more valuable. At a station restaurant in Barnaul he details an encounter with two successful Soviet citizens; one a foreman in a building organisation earns 900 Roubles a month and the second, an engineer, earns 1,000 a month. Both are happy with their lot and sing the praises of the State, seemingly sincerely. At other times he meets peasants who complain bitterly of the poverty in which they live, struggling to feed their families on 100 Roubles a month on the despised collective farms where they’re forced to live, farms where none of the modern machinery they’re sent ever works properly. Special_Air_Service_in_North_Africa_E_21337

In Samarkand, in the shadow of crumbling mosques, he sees a party of Uzbek school girls (such a thing having been unthinkable until the revolution) being briskly drilled by their teachers, marching in fours and singing hymns of praise to the glorious leader. Later he witnesses Turkomen being deported on mass to Central Asia and later still ethnic Koreans being deported in the other direction. But it’s in his description of the great Stalinist show trials of 1938 that MacLean really comes into his own.

His is an important eye-witness account to the bizarre, savage theatre of repression that gripped the world in the spring of that year. Stalin’s great terror was at its height and his victims now included old comrades such as Nikolai Bukharin, whose charge sheet was, in common with the rest of the accused, wholly ridiculous. MacLean’s account is gripping and his forensic analysis of why people with impeccable Bolshevik credentials should have been so willing and convincing in their admissions of guilt is both shrewd and fascinating.

Yugoslav-leader-marsal-tito-talking-with-itzroy-macleanAt the outbreak of the Second World War, MacLean found himself in a quandary, desperate to join up but stymied by the fact that as a diplomat he was in a reserved occupation. Using a little-known codicil, he pointed out to his employers that while he was forbidden from resigning in order to join the army, he could do so to pursue a career in politics. He promptly handed in his resignation and caught a cab to the nearest recruitment office where he enlisted as a private soldier.

After some months, officials in the Foreign Office began to get the feeling they’d been had and started to make noises about recalling Maclean from the army, prompting him to seek election as MP for Lancaster, a seat he held for the next 18 years.

Not long after this the Right Honourable Fitzroy MacLean was posted to North Africa where he served with distinction with the newly formed SAS. Following on from his exploits in the desert he also found time to kidnap a troublesome Persian General in Iran, before being personally selected by Winston Churchill to become head of the Allied Military Mission to the partisans fighting the Axis forces in Yugoslavia. To say he had an eventful war is something of an understatement.

Maclean’s own Golden Road took him to places no outsider had visited for decades, places of magical, mystical memory including Bokhara, Tashkent and Samarkand. His account of his wanderings rivals that of Patrick Leigh Fermor in his great travel memoir A Time of Gifts. Yet in repeatedly documenting events and places, which few people with an independent voice ever saw, Maclean also left behind a valuable historical document.

By Alfred Searls

The post Book Review: Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Sat, 03 Feb 2018

Scran: Recipes that make Northern Soul want to say “oh, f*ck off”

I’ve realised that when I read cookery recipes in the weekend papers, about 75 per cent of the time I can’t get through the whole thing before something makes me say “oh, fuck off” and I know I’m never going to cook it. I’ve also realised it’s much more fun to say “oh, fuck off” […] The post Scran: Recipes that make Northern Soul want to say “oh, f*ck off” appeared first on Northern Soul.

I’ve realised that when I read cookery recipes in the weekend papers, about 75 per cent of the time I can’t get through the whole thing before something makes me say “oh, fuck off” and I know I’m never going to cook it. I’ve also realised it’s much more fun to say “oh, fuck off” out loud.

Usually it’s an ingredient that will be a pain in the arse to get hold of, require a special trip to a really big supermarket, an Asian grocery in Manchester’s Old Trafford, or a delicatessen, and I’ll only use whatever it is once before it goes off.

Here are some of the different things in recipes that have made me reach the “oh, fuck off” point today:

2-3 tbsp chipotles en adobo. Oh, fuck off. If I have to Google it to find out exactly what ‘en adobo’ is, I bet my local Morrisons won’t have it.  A quarter of a teaspoon of pink peppercorns. Oh, fuck off. I’ll use them once in a blue moon and besides they go soft and gum up the pepper mill when you try to grind them. I’ll use black ones, or most likely I won’t bother with the recipe. 2 juniper berries, roughly crushed. Oh, fuck off. When else am I going to use those, even if I can find some? Unless I have a rush of blood to the head and decide to try and make my own gin. 40g Japanese pickled ginger. Oh, fuck off. Like they’re going to have that in Tesco Express. 10-12 fresh curry leaves. Oh, fuck off. I bet they smell and taste great but I’d be surprised if there’ll be anywhere I know that sells them, and even if they do I don’t know what they look like so I won’t spot them. I could probably substitute curry powder but I’ve no idea how much and…oh, fuck it, the deal’s off. 1.5 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds. Oh, fuck off with knobs on. I expect this is actually in the spices section of Morrisons but I really can’t be arsed. 2 tbsp kecap manis. Oh, fuck off. Apparently it’s a sweet soy sauce that can be found in larger supermarkets, online, and in south-east Asian food shops. Well I’ll just spend an hour on the tram going to Chinatown and back, shall I? “Fill a very large pan with salty water – it should be salty like the sea – and bring to the boil”. Oh, fuck off. How do I know how salty the sea is? I can probably remember the right taste from last time I got some sea water in my mouth while swimming but I’ve no idea how much salt I’m supposed to chuck into a pan to achieve that level of saltiness. It doesn’t come up very often, to be honest with you. And I’m buggered if I’m going to be standing round tasting the boiling water I’m about to cook my pasta in. And yeah, I could take a guess, but the chances are I’ll overdo it and the whole thing will be inedible.

By Drew Savage

Main image by Chris Payne

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Published on - Sat, 03 Feb 2018