What's On

Your guide to everything in North East

Shaun Ryder brings back Black Grape to twist our melons at the Riverside in Newcastle

The Happy Mondays front man is celebrating 20 years since the release of the album It’s Great When Your Straight……Yeah

Joel Goodman Shaun Ryder performing with Black Grape
Shaun Ryder performing with Black Grape

When it comes to the passage of time, big pop culture anniversaries often offer an eye-rubbing reality check.

Thirty years since Band Aid, 20 years since TFI Friday, 26 years and 171 days since Bros Dropped the Boy (and Matt dropped his jeans) at Whitley Bay Ice Rink are just some of the recent ones which have made me sigh wistfully.

How can it possibly have been more than a quarter of a century ago that I screamed myself hoarse while waving a home-made Bros banner in the air?

For nineties legend Shaun Ryder, the 20th anniversary of Black Grape’s debut album It’s Great When You’re Straight... Yeah offers similar emotions.

“It seems as though I went to bed for eight hours’ kip and then got up and 20 years had gone by,” says Shaun, who formed Black Grape after the Happy Mondays fell apart in 1992. “It’s gone really quick. We’re also out doing 20 years of Pills ‘n’ Thrills (and Bellyaches, the Mondays’ third album) and that’s another one.

“It just goes like that. You’re 21 one day and you wake up and you’re almost 53.”

But while I’d probably risk some sort of medical intervention if the almost 40-year-old me turned up at a Matt Goss gig with a painted pillowcase and a pair of Grolsch tops on my slippers, Shaun and Kermit - his Black Grape other half (“Maybe we should call him Paul now he’s 50”) - are back out on the road, and loving it.

“This year, we were only planning to do four or five shows and a few festivals and then next year we were gonna do a tour and do 21 years of Great When You’re Straight... but it’s spiralled into 21 dates this year instead,” he says.

“When people knew we were up for performing, they wanted to book us. Which is good, innit? Better than no-one wanting you.”

Nicely put.

Shaun says the anniversary tour also gives him the chance to enjoy the songs properly.

“When you’re on the treadmill, back in the day just doing it - album, tour, press, album, tour, press... you just don’t appreciate it, and you’re not really getting the chance to enjoy it. I have more affection for the songs than ever now. It was like when we did the Bummed album,” he continues, referring to the Mondays’ second long player.

“The last time I’d heard that was when I walked out the studio in 1988. Then, about two years ago, we went on tour and played it and I was like ‘wow, I should pat myself on the back here, there’s some great stuff on there’.

“Now - and I’m not just saying it because I’ve got to sell it - I really do enjoy doing shows more than I’ve ever done. Apart from being compos mentis, it’s a pleasure. The sex and drugs have gone. It’s just the rock and roll and that’s great.”

Having had well-documented drug addictions, Shaun is also looking forward to remembering the gigs this time around - including one at the Riverside, Newcastle, on July 10.

“I’ve said it a few times. I was seven years old when the sixties ended and I can remember the sixties better than the 90s,” he laughs. “Touring is a very different experience these days. I don’t do the tour bus any more and if I’m within a few hours of home, I’ll get there after the gig. Make sure I’m in my own bed.”

Mind you, the Newcastle gig is likely to be a hard one to leave.

“We must have played Newcastle thousands of times and they’re always great. Better than Manchester a lot of the times,” he adds mischievously. “It’s gonna be a great show. The first rehearsals that me and Kermit did, Alan McGee (music manager extraordinaire) was there and he thought we had been secretly rehearsing for months.

“It really was as though we’d just left it three weeks ago and never really lost it. Me and him really have got chemistry - on stage and when we are writing together. It’s still there.”

As are the legions of fans who propelled Black Grape and the Happy Mondays to the top of the charts throughout the nineties... and now they’re joined by a whole other group of admirers.

“Because of our escapades into reality television (Shaun was the runner up in series 10 of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here and his Happy Mondays marra, Bez, won Celebrity Big Brother in 2005), there’s a whole new audience.

“So when you go to a Mondays show, the crowd are from 10 years up to 80. We’ve got an audience right across the board.”

Day to day, though, the only applause Shaun looks for is from his youngest daughters who are six and seven.

“I’ve got another chance at being a dad. My older kids are strangers. I didn’t know them. I was building a career and was never there.

“To the girls I’m just dad. A full time dad who does everything. School pick ups, club drop offs - the lot. I’ll be getting off to the park when I’m finished talking to you. I can’t wait.”

I can take the hint.

Black Grape play Newcastle’s Riverside on July 10. Call 0191 230 1813 or visit www.blackgrapeofficial.com for ticket details.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer