Modern day music folklore, the Happy Mondays story is one of excess, chaos and musical genius. Simon Spence's recently published new book, Excess All Areas tells the the tale of Shaun Ryder and co, and in this exclusive extract he recounts the band's attempts to chase a hit in the wake of the release of their second album, Bummed. With Lazyitis the second single to be taken from the album, the band begin their attempts to record new material with producer Martin Hannett, a process that will ultimately produced the Madchester Rave On EP...
On 4 May , after a gig in London at the Kilburn National Ballroom, Shaun Ryder travelled to Jersey to do an interview with the NME to promote Lazyitis. Karl Denver often played a residency in a cabaret club on the island, but the Mondays had paid for him to go there to recover from the flu he’d caught filming the Lazyitis video. The idea was for the NME to interview the duet-tists together, but on arrival at Jersey airport, Shaun was arrested after being found with a small polythene bag containing traces of cocaine. He was charged with importation and possession of the drug – an offence that could result in a three-year sentence. Blood tests revealed he also had cocaine in his system. "I was out there with him," said [band manager] Nathan McGough. "We were due up before the beak at four on Friday afternoon. There was a bank holiday weekend coming up and the customs officers were applying to have him detained on the island until trial – which was a six-month lie down. So I got five grand wired over from the mainland to the lawyers." McGough asked the barrister to pay Shaun a visit but he came back saying Shaun had refused to see him. McGough asked him to try again, but he kept coming back saying Shaun didn’t want to see an advocate.
"So we’re up in Jersey Royal Court, guy in a white wig, red coat, Friday afternoon, four o’clock. We had a Hillsborough disaster fund-raising show coming up at The Hacienda and we’d already raised fifteen grand. The barrister argued if they detained Shaun on the island this money would be lost and the bond we were offering of £5000 was substantial enough to bring him back." The judge, who Shaun maintained was Roman Catholic and, recognising him as a fellow Catholic, was therefore willing to show him some leniency, allowed him to leave the island. On the plane back Shaun asked McGough, "Why the fuck did you leave me sat in the cell all day, why didn’t you get a brief sorted?"
"The brief was down there every hour asking to see you," said McGough, "and you wouldn’t see him."
Shaun said, "Fucking hell, they never asked me if I wanted to see a brief, they kept asking me do you want an advocaat? I said to them no, I’ll have a cup of tea. They never asked me if I wanted a brief."
McGough said, "Advocaat? You mean advocate. An advocate is a brief."
"I thought that was bit weird," said Shaun. "My Nana used to give me that at Christmas."
The bust made the national press, and while it enhanced his reputation as a bad boy it left Shaun shaken. He’d never been in prison before and although people were saying it wouldn’t come to that, there was a three-year sentence hanging over his head. The publicity didn’t even help Lazyitis, although it was another single of the week in Melody Maker: "The lunatics have taken over the Hacienda.| For all Tony Wilson’s buoyancy over the potential, and reports that it was currently the favourite single of America’s newest hip-hop stars, De La Soul, it was a commercial flop, peaking at six in the indie charts and not troubling the national charts. The video, centred on football, was not shown by British media outlets in view of the recent tragedy at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium, when ninety-six people lost their lives during an FA Cup semi-final featuring Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
The show Shaun had been allowed back from Jersey to perform at – one of the first benefit shows for victims of the disaster – took place at The Hacienda on 8 May. The cause and the band were so popular in Manchester – despite the footballing rivalries – that the Mondays played The Hacienda again the following night, raising even more money for the Hillsborough fund.
They then headed to Pink Museum studios in Liverpool hoping to record new songs, including Clap Your Hands – "an anthem for thieves", said Shaun. Again, they had chosen Martin Hannett as producer. But the recording went badly. Hannett was drinking heavily and back on heroin. During a break in the recording he went out for fresh air. Derek Ryder [Shaun and Paul's father] found him three hours later sitting in the corner of a nearby pub. He walked up to Hannett, who said, "Fucking hell, Hiya Derek, what you doing round here?"
"What?’ said Derek. "What do you mean, around here? We’re in the studio, Pink Museum, everybody’s been waiting for you. He said, Fucking hell. He thought he was at home in his local pub."
Back at the studio things got worse. Earlier in the day both Hannett and Paul Davis had bought replica guns from a fishing tackle shop. Davis let off shots in the studio. "As soon as he did it Hannett went right, let’s go home, session ended," said Paul. "He couldn’t hear anything. There was nowhere for the sound to go, it just stayed in the room and bounced in and out of our eardrums." It didn’t end there either. As the band grumbled and moaned, Hannett pulled out his gun and fired six shots – one at each member of the Mondays.
A sense that things had begun to unravel followed the band to Spain for an all-night summer festival show in Valencia on 15 June. Bez was missing, occupied elsewhere in Europe with a well-known crew of Mancunian pop concert bootleggers. When they stopped off in Barcelona for interviews with the Spanish media, Shaun fell asleep outside and got badly sunburned, leaving him in agony for the gig. The band was due on stage at a dangerous- sounding 6 a.m. and as soon as they arrived in Valencia asked around for Ecstasy. A Spanish guy called Juan said he could get some but he would have to drive to Barcelona, and it would be a couple of hours’ wait. The band told him to hurry, they’d cover his costs. He arrived back at four in the morning, "clicking his fingers, big smile on his face", said Gary Whelan [drummer]. "He said, 'Ecstasy yes, we have Ecstasy.' We were like great, where is it? We all sat down, he put it on the table and there was one tablet. We all went, 'What’s that?' He said it’s your Ecstasy. He’d driven all the way to Barcelona to bring back one Ecstasy!"
The gig was a complete shambles, the band scowling and snap- ping at one another on stage. Whelan was so drunk he fell off the stage and the band carried on, doing a couple of songs without him. In total they managed just four songs, lasting just ten minutes. A photograph of Shaun at the gig, clearly holding a joint, was printed in the British music press.
Back in Manchester, Shaun tried to unwrap the bandages he’d used to cover his sunburnt legs and found his blistered skin had stuck to them. He claimed it was the pain that caused an increased reliance on heroin, a habit that was now costing him more than £40 a day. McGough noticed for the first time that Shaun might have a problem with the drug but thought he was taking it to escape from the worry of the cocaine charges hanging over his head. A second attempt to record new material with Hannett at Pink Museum went no better than the first. Shaun, who would always ask for the music in the studio to be turned up so loud the sound started to distort, blew the speakers and the recording was abandoned early. The only thing the band came away with was a bill for £3000 to replace the speakers.
Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas by Simon Spence published by Aurum and is out now, Head to Excessallareas.org.uk for full details.