Big Boots FC
Big boots FC
Football is such a wonderful leveller – Doesn’t matter how hard and fast or smart and beautiful you think you are, if you can’t kick a ball then you’re not playing for Big Boots FC.
In any recording situation, if the landscape has permitted we have always seized the opportunity to play a game and during the course of our stay at Boundary studios in Wales we squeezed a whole domestic season’s worth of absolute class into a little over 6 weeks.
Moi, and Simon plus our distinctly portly bass player Colin ( he’d long since lost his fitness but our rotund bass unit could kick a ball ) and two of the studio engineers, Peter Groomer and Aarvid Cooper forged the rock solid Big Boots FC over a case of Wrexham bitter.
Anyone will tell you that Wrexham beer is absolutely shocking but cheap, and if your going to play 5 a side for 90 minutes then a case of 24 just about greases the nipples in the pre match training camp – Not a real ale like a Bishops Finger or a Nuns Flap but more like a tepid barley broth that’s probably still drunk and savoured today by the oldest Teddy boy in Cricketh.
Needless to say, it was this heady brew that Simon had developed a real thirst for and like Jack Charlton would feed the Republic of Ireland fry ups before a game, Simon would make sure that Big Boots had fuel in the engine – Si always maintained that a nauseous team was a cautious team and in some ways he may have been right.
It didn’t matter how good you were, try and beat 4 players and a running goalie high on the fumes of Wrexham piss and you’re in for a kicking. And trust me, when the word got out, the local hordes did come looking for a kicking.
It mattered not, for Big Boots were aptly prepared, as in the 90’s the trampy smelly crusty traveller look had bled over into mainstream fashion and hairy striped jumpers, Army greens and marching boots were all the rage and nobody had bigger Russian marching boots than Simon Manning.
The regular opposition was usually shaky – More of a mackle of a team than any real threat to the boys at Big Boots but the Skinooski Warriors as they liked to be known would come and have a go – Singer, Terry Norton, the teams’ mentor and centre forward was quick – Lightning quick infact. The drummer Mickey Chapman (the biggest pile of shit ever) stayed at the back always. Hovering bored and nonchalant in goal he would occasionally spring into action like a wasp around a toffee if the ball came close. Usually if you kicked the ball within 8 feet of his shin you could guarantee he’d spoon it out for a throw in or a corner.
For this very reason; the long ball over the top was a firm favourite with Simon because if I didn’t connect on the end of it, then you could guarantee that Mick would always spaz it out over the spinney behind the goal and we’d regain possession.
Terry, not exactly spoilt for choice had drafted in some local lad whose name escapes me from a nearby village. A lanky ginger lad who claimed that he played at UCL level and apparently was being brought in to give us a hiding, with studio manager Mike Tarbuck and tea boy Merv Dulux, Skinooski were able to turnout on most days and give as good an account as they possibly could under the circumstances.
About three weeks into the recording, Melvin label boss Erik Crean and his head of A&R Tony Seal had put in a call saying they were on their way down to the studio to have a listen to what we had done thus far – This was not good.
Arse (it was on this very session that Simon Manning’s alter ego Arse Negro was born) was a good producer no doubting that but never in a rush to get finished - He knew that most A&R dummies could bowl into a studio at anytime and if he needed to could mix stuff on the fly. He’d just put loads of cocoa on the snare and vocals and fire up the guitars blisteringly loud – It usually did the trick.
A&R twats are really easy to confuse and Seal could easily have been bought off by nothing more than 3 weeks worth of us jamming with a washing machine – We could have sounded like crap 70’s band ‘Geordie’ and Arse would have cobbled something remotely audible together to appease the likes of Seal but in reality, Crean wouldn’t buy any of that shit.
He wanted to listen to 3 weeks worth of money well spent. Not 6 tracks of drums with only guides laid down by myself and Colin – He wasn’t coming down to listen to a half finished pile of turd and we knew that he’d turn the rest of the session into a regimented 9 – 5 if we weren’t making progress.
He was every inch the archetypal Jew and what he lacked in generosity he compensated for with dictatorship. But then of course he could – In a career that had lasted decades he had represented the biggest acts in the World – ‘The Spunking Guns’, ‘The Firemen’, Jamaican soul legend Rick Wheat and more recently folk stalwarts Tassle’s Skip.
We all knew that whatever Arse tried to fob Erik off with, it wouldn’t work, so we pondered for a sec, poured a Wrex, lit a blanger and he fired up Floyds ‘Wish you were Here’, loud……..Very loud.
Fate is a funny thing.
On any other day of that session, blowing up the speakers would have been a disaster ( try finding a studio technician out in the middle of rural Wales when you need one – it’s pointless even bothering ) but today…Well today was a good day, a good day indeed and when Crean and Seal rocked into the control room Arse and Tarbuck were knee deep in dismantled cabinets, drivers and tweeters attempting to patch something together that would give the much awaited mid stage playback the audible quality it deserved. The arse knew the repair was fruitless because the crossovers had blown and there was no way to fix but he was making a fuss and effing and a jeffing purely to smokescreen Crean. It worked because the only playback Si could offer was through the Yamaha monitors.
To this day Crean never even knew that the mix we fired up through the poxy NS10’s was nothing more than earlier demos that he had approved two months prior. Marvellous.
In theory at this point it should have been nothing more than a quick visit for Shylock and his monkey and once they were half way up the drive we’d be back on the pitch (Both Crean and Seal were scheduled to go back to London to see one of their acts – Can’t even remember the guy’s name, Chuck Woo or something but one of those solo efforts that even though they are part of a band goes off and does their ‘self loathing woe is me acoustic set’) and Seal didn’t want to miss the furore at the Camden Monarch. Crean however happened to notice that half of the studio entourage were outside kicking a football around and had made his mind up that whilst the studio was out of action we should pick sides and have a game. Rumour had it that Crean had once had trials with both QPR and Crystal Palace - He may well have done but it meant that he would have to team up with Skinooski. Big boots didn’t want Seal, he’d have to suck the half time orange on the same side as Crean – We were suspicious that he would be fearful of getting in the way his boss on the pitch so we poached Groomer and although now outweighed in body mass, we knew that we wouldn’t be outgunned.
What ensued from the kick off and for the next 30 minutes was what may well be described as the most selfish performance I have ever witnessed on a football pitch. I’ve seen some greedy bastards in my time – Norton himself in fact was up there with the best of them but he looked like ‘Jesus Distribution’ compared to Crean. Eric even passed to himself from the kick off and ran the length of our half only to get nobbled a yard from goal by Arse. For 30 solid minutes he ran and he chased and when he got the ball he kept it for as long as he could weather the storm of mighty blows that reigned in about his lower abdomen, groin and kneecaps. For 30 solid minutes he tried to breakdown the mighty Big Boots back 2. And for 30 solid minutes he never once laid a pass into Seal even though on several counts Seal was in open goal territory. Megalomania is all you can say and like a puppy dog might beg for milk, Seal chased after his master for 30 solid minutes in the forlorn hope that he might just get a scrap or two and for 30 solid minutes he was disappointed every time. The thing is, Tony Seal was definitely not football material – He liked West Ham and had once introduced Trevor Brooking as the speaker at an after dinner event but that’s as much as he knew about the game. He was without question the most unfit person I have ever seen on the park and towards the end was literally like a heap of boiled beef and maggots. He’d taken his glasses off before the game (he’d suffered tunnel vision since childhood) and it was just as well as his face had swollen up like an inner tube and the lids and the bags of his eyes were now glued tightly together leaving just a minute crack of skin for him to peer through. His glasses would not have even fitted on his swollen head at this point. He looked like a boiled mole and no matter how hard he pleaded or how much he tried Crean just would not pass him the ball or for that matter…. anybody else. As luck would have it he slipped over in dog shit and had to be stretchered off. As he lay there on the touchline whimpering and baking like a sausage in the afternoon sun he probably drifted in and out of consciousness maybe 5 or 6 times before his body regained its original sloth like mass and shape.
So that was about it – For 30 solid minutes we just watched the Eric Crean show – He just charged around like the big fat money lender he was pushing and barging, running and running, panting and sweating – Even his teeth were sweaty and he had a lot of very very white teeth – A whole mouthful, and in fact distinctly equine I recall. But even after 30 minutes of blood sweat and gravy and all the power and the wealth and the teeth that Eric Crean possessed he never scored once. He put it wide every single time – Even when steady keeper Pete Groomer met him in mid air and came down on his back knocking the wind out of himself (If you have ever hit a dead cow around the mid rift with a stick it’s quite a distinctive sound – Quite unsettling was the noise that Pete made as he hit the deck, back first) Crean failed to cash in. Pete lay there thrashing around fighting for breath and Eric somehow managed to spoon the ball against his rib cage and up over the crossbar. Talk about adding insult to injury for poor Pete – Eric hadn’t even allowed him the courtesy of recovering in a sporting fashion. A winded man is a lifeless man save for the involuntary spasms that the thorax administers but that didn’t stop Crean – Not a chance. Groomer was then also stretchered off to join the lifeless Seal on the touchline and it was at this point that we thought it best to call it a day.
So that was it – Melvin records never did get their playback and although they didn’t fare any better in the game of life that day I’m sure that by the time Crean and Seal arrived at the Monarch that in their own minds they were victorious – Football is such a wonderful leveller.
“Familiarity breeds contempt and I’m afraid to say that Mick’s weekend seems to start on a Thursday and finishes on the following Wednesday. He is of no use to me at all.” Robert John Godfrey.