Guest Post: Marnie Riches – Born Bad
Manchester’s musical inspiration by Marnie Riches
Manchester has a world-class music scene, and I’m lucky to have been a teen before and during the Madchester heyday, when the cool kids went to the Haçienda. I used to go there almost every Wednesday and Saturday to dance my little cotton socks off, praying that I might clap eyes on New Order, who co-owned the place. I was also an aspiring rockstar in my early twenties, when I returned home for a year after university and an abortive first stab at London life, trying to get a band together. In 1996, you could say I was a contemporary of the upcoming (as they were then), Elbow, and if you’re an Elbow fan, you’d be interested to know that I tried and failed to bag off with the legendary Seldom Seen Kid at a party, shortly before he sadly passed away. I remember him painting the railings of The Temple bar just outside where I worked at Manchester’s Training & Enterprise Council. We’d chat about being in bands and the struggle to get signed and “make it”. I migrated back down to London a couple of months later to immerse myself in proper trainee rockstardom. Three years of close-but-no-cigar followed, playing the Britpop wannabe circuit in Camden and Islington, but alas, my excellent band had missed that groovy gravy train… We were always in the right place at the wrong time.
But sod that! I’m now a best-selling crime writer, so all’s well that ends well.
It will come as no surprise to you, then, given my musical past, that I have a soundtrack to all the novels I write. For Born Bad, it comprises quintessentially Mancunian classics. Here are my top four tunes with thoughts on why I’ve chosen them to describe musically a story about Manchester’s gangland and gritty underbelly:
Isolation by Joy Division
I was always more of a New Order fan than a Joy Division fan, but Isolation’s industrial sound and effortless lo-fi cool makes me think of Manchester. When it plays in my car – the only opportunity I really have to deafen myself with my favourite music, nowadays, since I work in silence – I envisage bleak, grey streets on council estates. I feel the urban anti-chic of the city pulsate through me with every beat, putting me in mind of Born Bad’s Leviticus Bell, living in his crappy high-rise council flat on the Sweeney Hall estate. He is isolated by his poverty, lack of opportunity and desperate situation at home. But he’s street-smart and authentically urban-cool. He’ll do for me!
Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order
Frank O’Brien in Born Bad owns the world-class super-club, M1 House. Though I’m not stretchy enough to go clubbing more than once or twice per year now, M1 House is an amalgam of all the great clubs in Manchester, past and present. The DJs play the best music. The kids have the best time, obviously blighted by lethal gang violence – not that Manchester clubs are immune to being occasionally caught in the crossfire. Bizarre Love Triangle played in the Haçienda during its finest hour. I can remember standing in the lofty foyer, by the full-height, industrial plastic flaps, ringing wet with sweat from dancing on the packed dancefloor, listening to the track booming from the sound system. I revelled in how marvellous it was to be a Mancunian, listening to one of Manchester’s biggest bands in one of the coolest clubs in the world at that best of times. The clean electronic sound, with Hooky’s distinctive bassline over the top, embodies Mancunian artistic endeavour and the need to dance the blues away. Listen to it and understand Manchester.
Fools’ Gold by Stone Roses
Though I was never a mega-fan of the Stone Roses, I always loved Fools’ Gold as a song that epitomised Mancunian cool. Its shuffling backbeat and Mani’s iconic, super-funky bassline represent everything that’s effortlessly, timelessly stylish about Manchester’s music scene. Since it was used in the soundtrack to Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a film I must have watched at least twenty times for its slick dialogue, complex story-telling and sharp humour – Fools’ Gold has also acquired gangland connotations for me. In fact, the Manchester series with Born Bad as its first installation, is all about the pursuit of a villain’s fools’ gold – dirty cash you can barely get away with or enjoy spending because those ill-gotten gains might bring the law and the tax man down on you. The track brings to mind Manchester’s mean streets, its glittering new buildings and the clean crispness of freshly laundered money. Scratch the surface and you can see how really filthy it still is beneath!
How Soon is Now? by The Smiths
The Smiths are a long-standing love of mine, musically – the early Smiths, that is. Morrissey and Marr are undoubtedly one of the best songwriting duos ever and the pair encapsulated a working class desperation and loneliness like no other band has managed to do. Their sonically brilliant songs represent true Mancunian misery, black humour and poetry at its best. When I wrote about the hopeless life of Leviticus Bell in Born Bad, How Soon is Now? might have been his personal soundtrack. There’s nobody who truly loves him – even his own mother, Gloria. The chugging Bo Diddly-style guitar of Johnny Marr creates an impression of the grind of urban life with a searing, whining guitar-sound layered above it that puts me in mind of emergency service sirens, whizzing by in the night. But in among the canon of work by the Smiths, there are tracks that bristle with humour and hope, just as this book boasts the darkest and the lightest of moments, introduced by Gloria and the eccentric henchman, Conky McFadden. So, The Smiths had to be on my list!
If Marnie’s choices have made you want to revisit these classics then she has very kindly pulled together a Spotify playlist which you can access here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1142057371/playlist/0DgbSgJtWpOF14WgYiJC0e
Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Bad-Marnie-Riches-ebook/dp/B01KTKEX2Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489098471&sr=1-1