For me, it started with an apple. For there, in my local record emporium (the glorious Left Legged Pineapple in Loughborough) as I thumbed through Cocteau Twins, King of the Slums, Fuzztones, A.C. Marias, Blur, Diesel Park West, Lush and Bridewell Taxis records, I kept coming back to this record, with nothing more than an illustrated apple on the front, and in the end, that’s what I left the shop with.
Maybe it was its bright cover, or the name of the band on the back – Northside, or the label – the ever reliable Factory Records or the drug reference of the title, Shall we take a trip, which made me feel rebellious and that little bit more dangerous than indeed I ever was.
But it was when I got the record home, that’s when it really came alive. The drug references are worn on the sleeve, right from the off, but its this Indie, or Madchester shuffle that was, and is, irresistable. It’s the sort of track that is just so ridiculously catchy, that it pretty much lived on my turntable constantly around that time.
Turns out Northside were lads from the outreach of Manchester, Blackley and Moston, principally Warren “Dermo” Dermody on Vocals and Bassist Cliff Ogier Bass. They were later joined by Guitarist Michael Upton and Paul Walsh (Drums). By the time Shall we take a Trip (1990) dropped onto the shelves Upton had been replaced by Timmy Walsh. Two more singles followed Shall we take a trip, and one album – Chicken Rhythms, before the band split, torn apart by the financial meltdown surrounding Factory, and various internal disputes.
Continually dismissed as 2nd rate, lower division Ma(d)chester wannabes, it’s slightly unfair that Northside are shoeboxed as this when clearly they weren’t given time or more importantly finances to develop or grow – indeed a second album was recorded and the lead single ‘Want a Virgin’ was given a Factory catalogue number (FAC338) but neither saw the light of day.
What is indisputable is that the three singles that Northside released – My Rising Star and Take 5 alongside Shall we, are comparable with just about everything else released during that period of time. All three are packed with this slacker druggy attitude, but also great tunes, these warm basslines and these choppy guitars.
I availed myself of the album upon its release in 1991, and then there was this unforgettable (or was it forgettable) night at Leeds Irish Centre around the same time that meant Northside, to me at least, were never second-rate anything. Listening to the album again, the single’s sparkle above the other songs, but there are great moments on the album as well, in particular Tour De World, which has that downtrodden Inspiral Carpets feel about it, minus Clint Boons keys of course, but Funky Munky is, well, funky – and possesses this delicious bassline.
Elsewhere, Yeah man has this sort of delightful playfulness about it and Weight of Air has an uncanny knack of making you dance whilst pointing at the floor and throwing your head from side to side (or, is that just me). No it wasn’t the Stone Roses first album, but there again, there have been very few albums ever that have been. It’s an album of its time, but its a good, strong enjoyable album that showed the world that, given the chance, Northside could have been contenders.
And those three singles still stand up today. Maybe not the Roses or even the Mondays, but seconds division, or second-rate – never.
As it happens, you can go see Northside in their glorious original line up – this April. Dermody has reconvened the original members for a short tour, unfinished business maybe. Maybe its time for the long-awaited unveiling of that second album, and a final, long overdue promotion party into the premier league of Manchester bands. Where they belong.
17th April 2014
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
18th April 2014
The Venue, Derby
24th April 2014
The Classic Grand, Glasgow
3rd May 2014
Club Academy, Manchester