In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: the Happy Mondays frontman/Black Grape singer Shaun Ryder gets his melon twisted.
1: What type of shoes did Chris Evans offer you to stop swearing on TFI Friday?
“Well, they were a pair of Patrick Cox brogues, innit?”
“I wouldn’t have fuckin’ wore those ones!”
Note: due to his copious F-bombs, Shaun was banned from appearing live on any Channel 4 programme for several years – the only person listed by name in the station’s compliance manual.
2: Which Happy Mondays song did Tony Wilson have played at his funeral?
“That would either be ‘Lazyitis’, ‘Wrote for Luck’, ‘Kinky Afro’ – one of them. Or ‘Hallelujah’. I don’t know.”
WRONG. It was ‘Bob’s Yer Uncle’.
“’Bob’s Yer Uncle’! I was at his funeral. So it fuckin’ was! It’s our version of a Balearic love song where we’re talking about fucking chicks up the arse and everything else so it’s typical Tony subject matter! It went down well! No-one threw any cans at me or anything.”
What music would you like played at your own funeral?
“Oh God, I don’t know! Just turn on some Absolute fuckin’ ‘60s or ‘70s – that’ll do me!”
3: What sweet did you gift to the Embera Tribe in the Amazon?
“Mmmnn, God, got no idea! Wouldn’t have been an Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball or a humbug. I don’t know.”
WRONG. It was a Werther’s Original. When you took part in the 2015 reality TV show Singing In The Rainforest.
“OK, right yeah! It had to be something like that! Singing In The Rainforest was a good thing to do. We made a track with their musicians and got it released on download. Any money from it for the rest of its life goes to that tribe to keep them living in the traditional way.”
You’ve done a lot of reality TV…
“We’re a bunch of old fuckers almost hitting 60. If you want the band known to younger generations, that’s what you’ve got to do now. Believe it or not, me and Bez choose the reality TV we do wisely. If we’re playing a festival, we look out into the audience and the ages range from eight to fuckin’ 80.”
One of the highlights has to be 2009’s Ghosthunting With The Happy Mondays where you all visited a haunted house and Bez offered a ghost a swig of his brandy and you claimed unexplained wails “sound like my next door neighbour getting fucked on a Friday”….
“Well we did what we were paid to – which was that I was Shaggy and Bez was fuckin’ Scooby.”
4: Which historical landmark did Bez once claim he’d attempted to steal?
“A landmark?! Not a fuckin’ clue! I know that we used to steal the big metal bins with the big Boddingtons ‘B’ on and we had a couple of them in our flat. We’d put them in the boot of the fuckin’ Fiesta and the next morning when we weren’t off our tits wonder how the fuck we lifted it up.”
WRONG. He said that in the ‘80s, he turned up to Glastonbury two weeks early, and tried to nick Stonehenge and take it back to Manchester.
“I don’t remember him trying to steal Stonehenge – but then I don’t remember a lot of the fuckin’ ‘80s and ‘90s!”
For a bonus half-point, which Hollywood actress did Bez once turn down a date with?
“Oh that was Julia Roberts – that’s true.”
“‘Cos he had to ask me who she was, because he didn’t know – Pretty Woman had just come out and I had to remind him that he’d watched it. At the time, it didn’t seem weird because we were young and hanging around with Johnny Depp and Kate Moss and whoever were the popular figures of youth.”
What was being over in Hollywood like?
“When I was over there doing the editing of the first Black Grape album, I’d go to Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode’s place. He became a pal of mine at the time and I’d gone back to his house. This is 20-odd years ago and at the time, he had the biggest fuckin’ treasure chest filled with heroin that I’d ever seen and one with cocaine. We’d been in his house for a few days bashing it out and he said: ‘I’m just nipping out.’ I’m sat there watching telly and maybe an hour later, he’s fuckin’ running up Hollywood fuckin’ Boulevard naked fuckin’ arguing with police with helicopters chasing him. I’m sat in his house watching this! That was real reality TV!”
What’s your favourite, Beziest, Bez moment?
“When he was young and because he was off his nut, Bez would spit when he talked. When we first got to New York in the mid-‘80s, crack cocaine had just hit the streets. We’d read about it. The first thing we do when we get off the plane is say to the bird who’s working for Factory in America: ‘Take us to get crack!’. She dropped us off in the hood and refused to go any further in the car because she thought she’d get killed. We were sold it by a Vietnam vet who showed us how to rock it up and we smoked it with him in his crib.”
“After a couple of hours, we said goodbye to him and were walking through the hood and decide we want more. We found some other kids, but Bez is talking to him and spitting. The kid thinks it’s me and pulls out a fuckin’ gun and shoves it in my fuckin’ eye socket and was gonna blast me. But I can’t go ‘It’s not me, it’s him’ because then I’d look like a sissy grass. We managed to calm the kid down and the next day when the crack wears off, you’re sort of like ‘Fuck me!’. But that’s my best Bez memory.”
5: Which track was taken off the Happy Mondays’ ‘Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)’ album and replaced by the song ‘24 Hour Party People’?
“(Long pause) Oh God! (Bangs table) Is it the one to do with The Beatles something or another? I do know but I can’t remember.”
WRONG. It was ‘Desmond’.
“Desmond! I knew it was Beatles influenced thing!”
Apparently Michael Jackson, then owner of the Beatles’ back catalogue had a (one gloved-) hand in removing it.
“Look, it’s never the artist, is it? It’s the business people. It was just when sampling was coming through as a big thing. We never sampled a piece of tune, but what I did in ‘Desmond’ was I stole a vocal melody [from ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’], not even all the words to it. Because Factory were being over-cautious, it went down as a sample but it was never a sample. That was in dispute for a long time but that’s why it didn’t go on.”
6: Who once called you “The Queen Mother of junkies”?
“Sounds like something Boy George would say.”
WRONG. It was Russell Brand.
“It’s better than being just a fuckin’ junkie, innit? I’ll be the Queen Mother of junkies!”
Is there any Royal you’d compare you’d compare Russell Brand to?
“Er…(Long pause) No. (Laughs) He’s not fuckin’ nobility!”
“It’s a long time ago now. I’m fuckin’ nearly 60. I stopped drugs at 40. That’s 17 years ago now. When we came along in 1982, music was getting boring – like 1976 when punk hadn’t happened. We wanted to be rock’n’roll. We grew up with The Velvet Underground, the Stones and Mars bars and Marianne Faithfull and we knew we didn’t want to be boring – and we weren’t!”
Do you see anyone following in the Happy Mondays’ hedonistic footsteps?
“Well I don’t think there is. A lot of the grime scene, it doesn’t matter if you’re from Cornwall or Manchester, they’re (adopts patois) all talkin’ in the same style, blud and talking about stickin’ it in and turnin’ the shank. But it does affect knobheads like rich kids that come from Hale who think they’re in the fuckin’ hood. And decide they’re going to rob the drug dealers who aren’t in Hale and then they get beat to fuck and somebody gets stabbed and killed. I know young kids will rebel against what their parents think is sensible and fantasise about this sort of bollocks, but there’s a big difference between what’s come along before and now talking about sticking knives in and twisting it in your fuckin’ belly.”
7: You once mistakenly turned up onstage at a Simply Red gig after going out for a few drinks – only to be told by Mick Hucknall that the Happy Mondays were actually playing next door. But which actress once vomited over Mick Hucknall’s head, causing him to have to shave off his dreadlocks?
“The only actress I ever remember seeing him with in the Haçienda was the big blonde bird who was married to Sylvester Stallone. Who Bez was in Big Brother with [Brigitte Nielsen].”
WRONG. It was Martine McCutcheon.
“Oh was it? Right!”
Mick Hucknall tweeted that you should be the new James Bond. Would you do it?
“Fuck me, I’m way too old for that! They’re retiring Daniel Craig and he’s only just 50. You can’t have someone who’s pushing 60 fuckin’ playing James fuckin’ Bond. He’s lost all his hair and he’s fuckin’ walking with a crutch! And just had a hip operation. I mean, come on!”
8: What was the original name of your Gorillaz collaboration ‘Dare’?
“It was always called ‘Dare’. Look, there’s two versions of this story. There’s mine and whichever one Damon [Albarn] ever tells. The way I remember it, I was invited down to do the Gorillaz thing and try to write something. I walked in and was trying to get them to adjust the headphone levels, saying ‘It’s going up, it’s going up’, and in my text speak I go ‘it’s der [There]’. Then Damon said: ‘Stop! Do that again!’. There was never a working title.”
CORRECT – if you say so. It’s been claimed that the song was originally called ‘It’s There’, but was changed due to your strong Mancunian accent making it sound like you were saying: ‘It’s dare’.
“That’s an urban myth! Don’t forget, I’m dyslexic and I’ve been writing in text since I was fuckin’ four years old. R u ok? B4. It’s der! Now we’re all finally coming around to how I’ve been fuckin’ writing all my life!”
Do you have anyone you’d still like to collaborate with?
“Well, they’re all dead!”
You get holograms now…
“You’re right! In that case, Sid Vicious, Tupac, Elvis, Bob Dylan… (Pause, then laughs) He’s not dead yet though, is he?”
9: How did you upset a Manchester Evening News journalist at your ‘Hallelujah’ book launch in 2000?
“Oh, I stuck a fake gun in his nose.”
“Somebody had given me a toy gun and I was messing around. But look, he was a young kid and the next thing he’s got a big headline in the Manchester Evening News, so I made him happy, didn’t I?”
10: What is the name of the hotel you’re pictured at on the famous ‘E’ NME 1990 cover (and which also features in the ‘Step On’ video)?
“I know which hotel you’re on about and it’s in…(Hammers the table) fuck me! …agggghh, Sitges! But I don’t know the name of the hotel.”
WRONG. It’s Hotel Subur Maritim
“It was funny because at the time Sitges was the gay capital and we walked into this club and were fair game for being pulled. There were lads pulling their kecks down and swinging their dicks and bums at us!”
“Spain was weird in the mid-‘80s because we’d be visited in a club by two or three different lots of cops and we’d pay them off each time, so then they’d go back and say ‘Hey they’ve just paid us off!’ and send another fuckin’ lot. Whether it was CID or drugs squad, you’d spend your time constantly paying them off.”
The verdict: 3.5/10
“I’m happy with that! It’s better than fuckin’ zero, innit?”
Happy Mondays’ 29-date UK ‘Greatest Hits’ tour kicks off in Inverness on 23rd October.