Squadron leader

You owe your freedom to the Avro Lancaster, a four-engined World War II aircraft, and the crews who flew it. Here we pay homage to the glorious dam-busting, Tirpitz-blasting, viaduct-smashing bomber

Jack, December 2003

Story by Lee Gale 

If it weren’t for the Avro Lancaster, you might be reading the opening line to this story in German. It would start off, “Dank zur helligkeit von Ernst Heinkel und er seines He-111 mittelmäßiger bomber… and drift into a frightening, umlaut-rich diatribe of how superior German aircraft helped bring our nations together. Your attention would be broken as the front door of your hovel was kicked off its hinges, and your aged, ill grandfather dragged into the street for summary execution because he was no longer contributing satisfactorily to the German Empire. In fact, this magazine would probably be called Jackboot, or Ulrich

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I’m not a number, I’m a free Manc!

The inaugural Festival No.6 in North Wales mixes Sixties spy drama with the better elements of indie rock. Despite the rough red wine and absolutely miserable weather, it proves an outstanding, curiously British, cultural gathering

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2012

Taking the paranoia of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner and adding Britain’s foremost purveyors of rock-dance crossover – ie New Order and Primal Scream – sounds like the loose plot of a late-morning dream, the sort of wonky scenario you find yourself in once the alarm has stopped and you’re drifting idly back to Boboland. Despite the weirdness, Festival No 6 piques the interest. If cheese and brown sauce can magically combine in sandwich format, then maybe merging an ingenious but frequently unfathomable Sixties spy series with cooler aspects of British indie music might just work. 

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Prince doesn’t like Motörhead: a review of Sziget 2011

Budapest’s annual music festival is better attended than Glastonbury but chances are you’ve never heard of it. It’s planned as a British gathering which is why Sziget feels like a home away from home. It even has bobbies on the beat…

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2011

Now in its 19th year, Sziget in Budapest is a week-long festival on the wooded Obuda Island (sziget translates as island in Hungarian) in the middle of the Danube. Hungary’s major tributary, rather than being a bubbling, lead-infused, froth-churning black snake connecting industrial heartlands, would actually make an acceptable image for a 1,000-piece jigsaw.

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Station to station: in praise of a reborn King’s Cross

With its problems of prostitution and drug-dealing, King’s Cross in London had reached the end of the line, but £3bn of investment and an influx of artists and creative minds are changing the perception of this former no-go zone

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2013

In the not-too-distant past, when trains operated in pizzazz-free “rail blue”, King’s Cross in London was Hell’s waiting room, a den of iniquity with a dilapidated rail terminus and derelict goods yard at its core. It was unwise to hang about in N1. Travellers from the north arrived at the station, moved with the crowd towards an Underground exit and kept a tight guard of the money in their pocket. 

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Fjällräven Kånken backpack: Too cool for school

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2012

One of the main problems with casual fashion is that the Iberian peninsula and, by association, South America, holds too much sway over the way the British currently dress. Where once our fashion pointers were derived from All Creatures Great And Small, golf or WWII armed forces, today’s High Street hotsteppas are more likely to resemble Mario Kempes on a post-Argentina ’78 beach holiday.

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The Hard Sell: Indesit Moon

The Guardian’s The Guide, 2007 

You’d need to know New Order’s back catalogue with McWhirter-like obsession to realise that the soundtrack to the Indesit Moon washing machine commercial is Hey Now What You Doing from the 2005 album Waiting For The Sirens’ Call. New Order and white goods – let’s Hoover up the irony. I once asked bassist Peter Hook if drugs were ever a problem with the band, and he replied; “Yeah, sometimes we couldn’t get hold of any for days.”

With its round window and centred, circular dial, the curiously-named Moon resembles an Apple creation: it’s an iPod that’ll soak your big, baggy Eddie Yates underpants. It costs £280 at one large supermarket and comes with an A+ for energy saving, A for wash efficiency and B for its spin. That’s all well and good, but is Indesit now targeting the potentially lucrative market of students and football hooligans?

The word on the Manc grapevine reckons the Italian kitchen appliance giant may be perilously short of stock – by now, New Order will have sorted out Indesits for themselves, all their families, Bez, Shaun, Mani, MC Tunes, Johnny Marr, Tony W, Fat Neck, Sir Bobby, A Certain Ratio, The Smashing Pumpkins, Anton Corbijn, Deborah Curtis, the One True Saxon office, Jayne who does their press, and all their mates’ mams in the north-west. You watch. Due to freebies, Indesit will end up making a 5p loss on every washing machine they make. Let’s recap. Blue Monday has been used on Sunkist and Mars ads, and Hey Now What You Doing for Indesit. What’s next? Everything’s Gone Green for the Tory party?

GQ Icon: Bernard Sumner

By Lee Gale

GQ, 2012

One of the unsung architects of the Manchester sound, the Salford stalwart has influenced every major musical movement of the past 35 years. Whether pioneering post-punk with Joy Division, melding rock/dance with New Order, or blowing £1m on a nightclub, “Barney” was there. As his band limber up for an Olympic concert, GQ pays tribute to the straight man of Madchester

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A Menace to you, Rudy: The Specials’ Horace Panter and his Beano art

By Lee Gale

British Ideas Corporation, 2018

For men of a certain vintage, a Beano annual was a guaranteed gift beneath the Christmas tree, sitting among a pile of pressies that might also include an Airfix plane or three, Matchbox car transporter, farm set, full football kit, five-colour torch and, if you were lucky, a gleaming Raleigh bike. Girls, of course, got dolls and prams. Flicking through the pages of your annual in the evening, stuffed to the gunwales with selection-box chocolate, there was almost a sense of joy that the protagonists in The Beano would usually end up tasting a size-nine slipper. Meanwhile, Walter the Softy was basically a frightening prediction of Shoreditch in 2018.

This year, The Beano celebrates its 80th birthday and to mark the occasion, Horace Panter, bass player with The Specials  – and also one of Britain’s finest exponents of pop art and fine art – was invited to paint a series of compositions to be exhibited. The likes of Dennis the Menace, Lord Snooty and Billy Whizz were given the fantastically in-yer-face, wildly colourful Panter treatment, and can be seen at RedHouse Originals in Harrogate until 15 December.

In the more monochrome existence of The Specials, news has emerged that Britain’s reggae-tinged punk-pop kings have recorded a new album: Encore is to be released on 1 February. Panter puts down his brushes to tell British Ideas Corporation about his busy year.

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Unbroken: interviews with Ben Thornley from Manchester United’s Class of 92 and writer Dan Poole

By Lee Gale

British Ideas Corporation, 2018

It all started with “Fergie’s Fledglings”, a group of players that were recruited into the Manchester United set-up in the late Eighties, round about the time Alex Ferguson was the bookie’s favourite for the sack. You may remember the likes of Lee Sharpe, Russell Beardsmore, Guiliano Maiorana, Mark Robins and Lee Martin. They won little but looked great in those classic, Sharp-sponsored Adidas kits.

There followed a second wave of talent in the early Nineties who became known as the “Class of 92” and included some of the players who’d go on to achieve resounding success under Ferguson. David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville would become household names but there is one member of this gang of super-talented ball wizards – Ben Thornley – whose ascendency through the United ranks came to a clattering halt just as the club’s fortunes were rising.

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