YEARS ago, Billy Connolly used to do a routine about Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’. For those who don’t know, this is a segment of the Today programme and is usually delivered by a vicar or priest or whatever and consists of a two-minute faith-based pondering on modern life. It usually opens with an inane question that leads, rather jarringly, to a philosophical point of some sort. The bridging line tended to be ‘and do you know, in some ways…’
Billy’s example being…
“The other day my young son asked me ‘Daddy, does God love Tottenham Hotspur?’ It made me think. And do you know, in some ways he does.”
That device is as old as the hills and I always frown when I hear or read it as it’s from the ‘Will this do?’ school of broadcasting. It’s Proust nibbling his biscuit and being reminded of incidents from his life. It’s a hackneyed conduit and I don’t like it. So, here I am doing exactly the same thing.
The other day I was watching the film Quadrophenia and wondered if there are any themes within it which echo with Liverpool FC. And do you know, in some ways…
That was seamless, wasn’t it?
Of course, some of you haven’t seen the film so probably feel a bit left out of all this. Maybe they’ve gone already and are clicking onto the next page to see why Mike Nevin is furious with everyone (he’s right) or want to see how the ever optimistic Gibbo is doing in this current sea of Anfield misery, but if you’ve seen the film or are just wondering what the hell I’m on about, then stay with me.
The film then. It’s set against the back drop of the Bank Holiday riots in Brighton between Mods and Rockers in 1964. The story is about Jimmy, an idealistic young-shaver who considers himself not just schizophrenic but double that — quadrophenic. I’m not even sure that that’s a word never mind a medical term, but there we are.
Jimmy’s life is going down the pan bit by bit and he’s not entirely sure how it’s happened. He’s engrossed in his Mod world — the clothes, the pills, the scooters, the girls and the dancing, but it means something more to him than a mere sub-culture. It stands for something more than all that. He wants to be different. He wants to stand out from the crowd. He is the living embodiment of former Who manager Pete Meadon’s summation of what it is to be a Mod when he said: “Modism, Mod living, is an aphorism for clean living under difficult circumstances.”
Jimmy is living in difficult circumstances.
So, what’s up with him? Firstly, there is Steph (played by Leslie Ash) who goes out with the local ‘face’ Pete. Steph doesn’t mind the odd fumble with our hero but he wants more. They briefly get it on during the Brighton riots but she soon runs off with his mate Dave, who, throughout the film, slowly morphs into the toothy one from On The Buses.
Jimmy’s life is Brighton. He loves all of it. The sea, the fighting, Steph’s acquiescence to his charms and the whole damned Modness of it all. It’s the greatest day of his life. He also encounters ‘the Ace Face’ — the ultimate Mod whom he befriends. Jimmy and the Ace. He’s riding a hell of a wave.
Then it goes wrong. He comes down from this perfect life when he learns that Dave has snaffled Steph. Confused by it all he quits his job in a magnificent flounce and soon becomes a pariah to his mates, who don’t want to know anyone who is a ‘bloody beatnik’.
He blows his pay off on a bag of ‘blues’ to impress them, but, nah, they’re not having it. He tries to get together with Steph but she reckons he’s gone all weird and tells him to sod off. Does it get better? Not really. He smashes his scooter in a crash and is kicked out by his parents once his mum finds his pill stash. His dad is great, though. If the film has anything to recommend it, it’s Michael Elphick in a vest.
I’ll come back to Liverpool in a minute. Promise.
He decides to head back to the only place where he can be happy — Brighton. He sleeps on the beach and encounters the Ace but learns to his horror that not only is the Ace Face Sting, but he’s also a bellboy at a hotel who takes orders from the very suits he despises. Everyone has sold out the Mod ideal.
If you haven’t seen it then please do so. It’s a chance to see what happened to young British actors and pop stars before success hit. You get to watch Sting dance terribly to Louie Louie and it’s got Toyah Wilcox trying to get off with the entire Goldhawk Road Mod Chapter. Then there’s the cast. You’ll recognise all of them. Honestly, it’s like a prequel for The Bill.
I’ll say this about it though. It’s bloody awful. It really is. The acting is atrocious, the continuity is a mere afterthought and the dialogue is so stilted that it could be delivered by Mr. Chomondley-Warner from the Harry Enfield show. Even some of the anachronistic basics are wrong. Leslie Ash, as agreeable as she is, looks nothing like a Mod(ette) and the so-called Ace has a punk hairdo and a long leather coat — about as Mod as Joey Ramone. That’s always bothered me.
But it’s also brilliant. The soundtrack is superb (if you like The Who) and it has a fantastic energy. It’s about being young, happy and not giving a toss — or at least the first bit is. Remember those days?
And do you know, in some ways…
Isn’t there something familiar in all this? The long trek back from Brighton to face a harsher, real world? The Madrid and United games of 2009 before the trip to Middlesbrough? There we were with all of our mates, jumping around, singing the footy equivalent of “We are the Mods” and now the thing we all believed in has dismantled around our feet. From Coutinho’s 2014 City goal to the Carlisle equaliser on Wednesday night. Our scooter has gone under a bin lorry and we can’t handle it.
There have been some pretty damning appraisals about the club since then and they’re mostly spot on. Slowly but surely the thing we love has turned into something we don’t. Putting to one side the flag and ownership issues, the football has become flat and no matter how much money and different formations we’ve tried, we still can’t score and defend. Either the players can’t understand what the manager wants or they’re just not good enough and we’ve blown the money on nothing. Wherever you want to point the finger, it’s all decaying. As The Who sing in the film “You stop dancing”.
Yeah, we’ve stopped dancing.
It’s the highs that define the lows. We all have the one moment in our life that you don’t think can ever be rivaled. It’s Istanbul for many but I can remember walking away from the 2006 FA Cup final and thinking that this was no longer a team. This was beyond that. We, and especially that man, could do anything. We thumbed our noses at the very notion of physical laws. We could conquer the world. Liverpool had transcended the game. We were above the stars.
The trip back to earth has been a tricky one to comprehend as well as navigate.
There’s a different and more important level to all this and that’s the community. The football is about your mates. I love the pre and post-game chat with them. Often as not, the car trip to and from away games is the highlight of the day. Hours of guiltless, glorious company with like-minded people. We’re all genuinely in this together.
This hit home recently when I read Rob Gutmann’s chapter about his car trip to West Brom last year in the new Liverpool book We’re Everywhere, Us which infests the bookshop of your choice. What struck me most about it was that was one car of hundreds, crammed with Reds, talking shite and just enjoying the mixed joy of supporting Liverpool. We all do this thing. We all come to one place to delight in this one entity. It’s our Brighton. This is why we’re here.
I’ve often wondered what other clubs do. Are there car loads of Rotherham fans doing the same as us? Getting up at God awful hours and arguing about stop offs, the iPod shuffle and the uselessness of their own shaky centre back? Of course, there are. It’s something we all do and the reason we do is that we love it. That’s the fun.
There’s not much to laugh about now. If Brendan’s days are numbered his eventual deliverance is going to be met with faction after faction and the fume will hover around our shoulders long into the next manager’s tenure. Not much fun in all that.
To bring this back to Jimmy, the problem is that we, like him, take it far too seriously. I know I do. Walking back from Wembley last season was like a trip to the gallows. Not just at the defeat or the manner of it but the shock of how this club can make me feel. Up and down like Tower Bridge. Jimmy’s mates are young and it’s a laugh to them as they can take it or leave it. I often feel that way when I see people leaving Anfield smiling after a defeat. How can you do that? This is life. It’s Jimmy’s life. That’s the difference.
At the start of 2013-14 I decided to just get back to following the game and to put the politics to one side. I’d started fighting the very thing I loved and, although I still frown at John Henry’s name after the Kenny treatment, I wanted to get back to the greatness of all this — my mates and 11 lads in red. Nice while it lasted. Another reset needed.
There have been a lot of big statements this week, a lot of bold assertions. Talk of walking away from the club forever and giving non-league a try etc. I’m not criticising any of that. I’ve been there myself, but there’s always something that drags me back. For Jimmy it was the sea at Brighton and an injured heap of leather on the pebbled beach. For me it’s thousands of people shouting the name of my club and city in the face of disbelieving heretics under seemingly impossible circumstances. For others it’s the pint. Always the pint. Yes, I’m quite keen on that part, too.
The fury of this Liverpool side has dissipated now for me. Poor Mike Nevin is still there, but I’ve resigned myself to it. Liverpool are shit.
I didn’t go on Wednesday but the result just left me sad. Sad at how we’ve fallen, at our own hopelessness and our inability to correct the slide. Sad that no one knows what to do. Sad that we’ve stopped dancing. That’s the hardest thing of all.
It’s no longer a laugh. How do you change that? What did we do the last time we felt like this?
There’s something to be said for caring less and just shouting more. That could be seen as an acceptance of mediocrity but I’m not sure we’re as good as even that these days. We could, probably have to, start again and hope the highs return.
I’m just going to enjoy the good things now while this state of entropy finds its own natural conclusion. Daniel Sturridge, meeting my mates, singing that song and trying to laugh about it. Trying to.
I just want us to dance again.
Pic: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo