mates. I’ve still got a schoolboy mentality. When it stops being a laugh. I won’t have it. I’ve never been disciplined in my life to do anything.’ Indeed. the next day. a cover feature for The Face iscanceHed.
He brightens up when his girlfriend Trish walks in with the shopping. until he discovers the vest is white (‘I’ve got loads of white’) and the silk boxer shorts aren’t long-johns. It transpires that Ryder’s joke that he’d pose full-frontal for Penthouse was taken at face value by his press officer. The schoolboy in him hasn’t cancelled that interview. He’s playing safe with shorts and vest but three ‘models’ will be joining him in bed. ‘You should see my bedroom.’ he cackles like Steptoe Snr. ‘You can’t get in there for clothes. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough ofthem. I’ve got loads ofshoes and I don’t even wear them.’
From Mr Scurvy of Little Hulton to the Imelda Marcos of Madchester— not bad in five years. But then not everyone has Factory MD/Granada talking head Tony Wilson on their team. From the second Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses strode together onto Top ofthe Pops. Wilson has taken the ‘they’re wild. wicked. they’re after your valuables. watch out missus, now then, now then’ line. ‘The new Rolling Stones’. he’s crooned before. ‘At first. I wondered what the hell Wilson was saying about us. but then I thought about it — years ago. we were stealing food to survive and now we’re in the national papers.’ Ryder shrugs. ‘I don’t care much about what he says about us because this has always been like some daft film to us. so we just treat it like that.’
But Happy Mondays are revolutionary. Their background embodies punk’s rallying cry of ‘No Future‘ while their lifestyles are living proof of Anarchy in the UK — these boys will happily admit to and chat about any illegal or taboo subject that interests them (drugs. parties, crime, clothes. sex) with no moral conscience.
‘I never will stop going on Blue Peter and saying “I love to smoke loads of fucking dope Ryder asserts. ‘I’ll always say stupid. bigmouth things I shouldn’t.’ But an explanation of ‘God’s Cop’. inspired by the conﬂicting views of ‘soul’ held by Manchester’s Chiefof Police, James Anderton. and Shaun Ryder. winds up on trickier ground, over the case of Anderton vs The Hacienda licence. ‘The police knew that drugs were in the club by the number of kids they’ve picked up over the years. It was two organised gangs who started going in and firing guns in there that drew attention to the Haccy. It’s the gangs they want, not the kids. This isn’t going out in England. is it? I wouldn’t really like to make comments on these people.’
The Mondays haven’t been spending much time in Manchester anyway. They’ve been globe touring. even agreeing to their manager’s PR plan to record Pills ‘n’ Thrills. . . in Los Angeles so that they and their US record label Elektra could indulge in some serious mutual pampering. The potential ‘sell-out’ backlash was further fuelled when they re-hired DJ-turned-remixer/producer. Paul Oakenfold. who’d already made the Mondays’ cover of ‘Step On’ sound like a pop group rather than the act ofnature we’d come to trust.
Ryder maintains the band all worked hard. thieving as usual (Donovan, The New Seekers. Stretch, Dean Martin and The Velvet Underground among others) and writing in the studio. The last song was the steamy ‘Bob’s Yer Uncle’ after Oakenfold requested ‘a sexy one for
the ladies’. ‘Four in a bed, three giving head,’ Ryder croaks. brilliantly anticipating the
Penthouse shoot — ‘With my kind of upbringing, I can only write dirty nursery rhymes.’ is his excuse. He points out that Oakenfold suggested and collaborated rather than rewrote the Mondays’ unique sound ‘n’ vision. which the album confirms. This is still provocative. lopsided Happy Mondays. ‘although we’re just playing better now.’ Ryder adds. ‘We originally wanted to go to Jamaica or Amsterdam but then we wouldn’t have got anything done.
‘One English journalist said we were no longer the kick up the arse pop needed because we’d become pop’s arse. But anyone who likes our early singles like ‘Delightful’ and ‘Freaky Dancing’ is mad, because they were us learning, a load of kids trying to make a tune. We‘ve always wanted to make pop music. not something like “a bit ofindie guitar and a bit ofthat”.’
But the band’s mutant melting-pot angle has always been their appeal. Ryder won’t solve this riddle wrapped in a conundrum. but he will admit that this album, ‘was the first time I sat down and wrote properly.’ as opposed to the usual spontaneous collage ofone-liners. even to the point of pre-empting nosey journalists on ‘Loose Fit’. ‘I changed “skin tights” (tight jeans) to “skin types”. I thought. you know.’ switching into an affected English accent. ‘I’ll put a bit of a racial message in there. guys. let’s see ifthey get it. I wondered if I’d get asked if I was making a political statement or about blacks. I’m not trying to make any statements. I’m just trying to write some fucking songs.’
Safe to say. Ryder might be resuscitating Donovan’s career by co-writing with the 605 ‘Sunshine Superman’ (‘His Greatest Hits was great to play in the tour bus at six o’clock in the morning after all that crazy disco noise ’cos it was mellow and had some hippy. mad words that made us laugh. Then I saw him play and it went from there.’) but he won’t be tackling issues. Well. not unless. ‘someone sat me down in a room for four days and explained the Gulfcrisis to me. . . I’d sound like a drunken idiot in a pub going on about something he knows nothing about. I know my limitations. I haven’t got a great brain, but I’ve always had money and a decent pair ofjeans.’
Ryder inspects his silk undies and cackles again. As he does. another hospital closes, the homeless return to cardboard boxes and Little Hulton’s council estates still combat drugs and poverty. Where was his conscience? ‘Right now I don’t give a fuck,’ is the unabashed reply. ‘I’ve never done charity things ’cos I’m into money for meself. When we first got money. I felt “fuck all you lot”. I still haven’t enough clothes. but I’ll still help people. But the ones on my council estate who’re on unemployment. I’ve been with them, and they wouldn’t give a fuck about me. I’m thinking about giving money to a kids’ hospital for Christmas. but it would look like advertising, and I don’t want that shit. This sounds like my psychiatrist. hah hah.’
As for Drugs ‘n’ Parties ‘n’ Shoes. Ryder won’t admit there’s more to life. but acknowledges he’s had enough. ‘Just for a while. I’ve got bored with it. I couldn’t handle going to more sweaty Acid House parties where you come out looking like shit. Parties were better then too. But something will happen again. it always does. especially with us lot. We’ll find ourselves in the middle of something, we always have done.’
A Penthouse. for starters. Ryder’s got a long way to go before misery sets in.
Happy Mondays and Donovan play the SECC, Glasgow on Tue 27 and Sun 2.
The List 23 November— 6 December 199017