I have always been obsessed with music culture and memorabilia. As a youngster I’d visit the record stores scattered across the North West for Elvis, Billy Fury and Everly Brothers records. Hoping and praying that one record, one vinyl would be signed……..to me.
I bought all the music papers and magazines and carefully cut out pictures of pop/rock stars for display on my bedroom wall and door. Strategically swapping, moving and rearranging my display by the week – it was art in action.
I also bought badges, postcards and patches. Keeping them safe in their keep sake home. It may have been cheap mementos, knick-knacks and memorabilia, but they made me feel part of – or closer to – the artist. Over time, I would branch out, buying limited edition releases, coloured vinyl, imports, DVDs, fanzines, bootlegs and merchandise.
I also took a further step, or leap into the world of memorabilia – wandering gracefully around Graceland and experiencing the wonderful British Music Experience in the Cunard building – Liverpool. Immediately I felt in awe at the items on display and enjoyed the insight into the world of the artist.
The artist may not be your artist, your love, your passion, your cup of tea, but that cup of tea enhances the lives of others. And some fans may have memorabilia that instantly becomes cemented within individual or family history.
In my book ‘Pieces of Morrissey’, I analyse my 30-year healthy obsession with that of my fellow fans. On meeting Morrissey fans, I was fascinated how their very own treasured memorabilia items are strategically placed around their home; above a Victorian fire place, in a classy cabinet or beautifully perched on a bedside table. And I was interested how family photographs are shunted, moved or hidden as memorabilia takes centre stage.
Memorabilia consisted of signed and unsigned artwork; guitars, plecs, setlists, shirts, drumsticks, ticket stubs and programmes. Stories included memorabilia starting friendships and ending friendships; and memorabilia is deemed to be so important to be first packed when moving house, or first to be packed when travelling on a globetrotting holiday.
Memorabilia instantly provides a lifetime of wonderful memories.
Recently, I took up my usual residence inside a local pub. A friend asked, ‘so where have you travelled to see Morrissey?’ I rattled off locations from the 70 plus Morrissey concerts, including; Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Copenhagen, Paris, London, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Jose and Hull. And then my friend asked about my treasured item – Morrissey’s shirt.
I then recalled the tale behind it and my scrutiny of memorabilia – and my favourite Piece of Morrissey.
It was 10th May 2009. At about ten past ten, I gained some clothing for nothing, but worth everything. Morrissey at the Liverpool Empire – I walked away with Morrissey’s shirt. Not while he was wearing it! He launched it to the crowd, and I was lucky it landed in my hand. Since that day, I have sat and stared at the shirt and asked myself so many questions that turn my memorabilia into confuse’abilia and sends me memorab’ilious.
The shirt I caught is a Gucci shirt. I’d never buy a Gucci shirt – I want one, but I can’t afford one, so I can’t have one. So, fate hands me one, but I’d never wear this one and even though I won’t wear this one, I won’t give this one away. It’s a Gucci shirt, but sod Gucci, it’s Morrissey’s shirt, Gucci made it, but Mozzer wore it and I call it Morrissey’s shirt! And now because I have it, some people have named it Matthew’s Morrissey shirt.
BBC Inside Out film on Morrissey and his fans
My friend listened patiently and then replied: “Matt, you must meet Alan Condon, he is the Paul Weller version of you. Alan is obsessed with Paul Weller as you are about Morrissey/The Smiths.”
So I did just that.
Meeting Alan has been an absolute pleasure. A fan of music and a loyal and trustworthy fan to Paul Weller. I have spent many hours talking to Alan about his concert experiences and I find them truly fascinating. I am delighted for him, he is humble but proud.
So I interviewed the man himself about The Jam, Weller memorabilia and setting up the Jam exhibition at the Cunard Building;
The earlier Alan, did you frequent the gig venues in and around Liverpool?
Yes, I loved attending concerts at Eric’s, Pickwick’s the Royal Court and Liverpool University. The concerts were so vibrant with Mod looking youthful teenagers, full of energy, enthusiasm and style. It was so exciting to be part of this scene in the early eighties
What is your earliest memory of Paul Weller?
My earliest memories are from watching the Jam on the Old Grey Whistle Test, and Top of The Pops. I also recall my friend from school bringing a copy of the Melody Maker magazine to me. The Jam appeared on the front cover and I just thought – this looks so cool. I also remember the day my friend managed to get hold of a copy of ‘All Mod Cons’ album on vinyl which was great. I remember we would all pretend to strum guitar with tennis rackets and blast the album out in my Dads house in Bootle.
Was there a moment, a catalyst, or what aspect of The Jam / Weller caught your imagination?
Thinking back, it was just Paul’s/The Jam’s appearance – in the black suit, white shirt and black tie. It just looked so different to the previous Punk era. It felt like a new wave was happening and about to explode in Britain. Paul, came across as this angry young man with an attitude and an edge and I was completely taken in – this grew and developed into an affinity. The songs just clicked into place and felt right at the time to what I was doing as a teenager, you could just relate what he was trying to say lyrically about society. We all dreamed of being Paul Weller.
When and where was your first Jam gig?
1979 Liverpool University, Liverpool, followed by Deeside Leisure Centre, Wales.
One incident at an early gig certainly sticks out. That time I travelled to Blackpool by National coach. After the gig, my friend and I missed the last coach back to Liverpool. We had heard the band were staying at the Imperial Hotel. We eventually met the band and managed to have items signed, but we were told to **** *** by the Tour Manager.
We were freezing and the only place to keep warm without money was a telephone box. The next minute, we heard a few taps on the red phone box. As we looked up, it was a Policeman who opened the door and asked us what we were doing there? Having told him the story, which he genuinely believed, he escorted us to the Police station for a night in the cells – minus the handcuffs. To our relief we were not charged – just a free jail cell for the night. We travelled back on the first coach in the morning after being fed porridge and a cup of tea.
What was your first item of memorabilia and did that provide an incentive to gather more?
For me, this all started when I was trying to get a few pictures with Paul outside the Holiday Inn on Paradise Street (now the L1 shopping centre). Back in the eighties, my pictures rarely turned out well. But it was a throwaway cameras from Super snaps. I couldn’t wait to get the photos developed. I waited about 4 days before I could pick the photos up. At times, I would pay the £1 extra to bring the collection day forward! I was devastated as the flash did not really work on the pictures. They turned out very dark due to a low canopy outside hotel which clouded the print. However, I took a great shot of Paul stepping onto the tour bus as this prompted me get it signed, which I still cherish today. My collection progressed from then really.
Your collection, what items do you have and where did you, or do you, have it on display?
I have been blessed and very fortunate. I have signed vinyl albums, set lists and backstage passes. I also have been given, by Paul, an Italian scarf made by Etro. Paul singled me out when entering the sound check and he said he would pass something out to me soon. I waited outside for a while and his minder came out with the scarf!
Paul and I share a love of Adidas, and I supplied him rare retro pairs. I could see Paul with these on and I told all of my friends. It may have triggered off annoyance or maybe jealousy, but I was genuinely excited to share my story.
I have a lot of pictures kept in a secure folder, the rest either on a few walls or kept stored away. I don’t have a shrine as such, but once I have the space, then maybe?!
Back to my childhood School days, I had a big spare bedroom and pool table and every afternoon the lads from class would come home with me and I would charge them an entrance fee for a game of pool and I would play all the Jam albums and look at all the posters on my walls, they still talk about it now. The entrance fee went towards my next gig or Jam Album.
Your photo collection – it is obvious that Weller now knows Alan! Can you explain how that feels as a fan, a friend, being known by your hero?
To be honest, I am very honoured and grateful for the position I find myself in, And I have my fingers crossed I will still be involved in the future. It all feels so surreal at times. But, I keep my feet on the ground. Hopefully, this will continue as long as Paul keeps on touring and making records.
The photos taken, they just happen and by being a cheeky scouser. I sometimes wait for the opportunity, but I won’t exploit the bond I have with the group of people. I have had numerous pictures taken whilst being with Paul on tour, all over UK and further afield like New York, Paris, Germany and Holland.
God bless my late father, who had to suffer me blurting out The Jam/Style Council and Paul’s solo career in my bedroom. On one occasion, I was going to watch Paul and I called my father from Utrecht (Holland). I passed the mobile to Paul and said “it’s my Dad on the other end”. Paul Weller then had a conversation with my Dad! I will also treasure that moment as Paul was taking the mickey out of me for following him on tour! My dad thought it was a wind up, but it was actually Paul Weller on the other end.
You helped set up The Jam exhibition at the Cunard Building and you walked Paul Weller around the exhibition, how did that feel and how did Paul feel about this amazing exhibition?
The exhibition was brilliant – it was a few long hot summers ago and based in Liverpool. I received a call from Paul’s sister, Nicky, asking could I help them out as I’ve known her for a long time. I jumped at the chance to help and generally supervise the people coming into the venue. Over the weeks, I met some lovely people and a few musicians came in as well as local Television and Radio shows to promote the exhibition. I met the drummer of Blondie, Clem Burke, and Haircut One Hundred’s Nick Heyward, who both were charming men.
And I had the pleasure to walk and escort Paul around the exhibition and to look after him. It was amazing what his sister and friend Den Davis had managed to achieve. The first exhibition was held in London at Somerset House, which I also attended. I also was the keeper for two other Jam members, as well as Bruce Foxton bass and drummer Rick Buckler – an absolute dream of a job! And to cap it all off, a concert was held at the Echo Arena for all Jam fans as mark as fitting tribute at the end of the exhibition, with Weller’s current band From the JAM. Also, Nick Heyward, The Farm and Badly Drawn Boy appeared on stage and it was a great night – to be part of it was pure class.
Walking Weller into The Arts club – how did it feel?
I just felt like one those walking giants we have in Liverpool, I felt so tall and proud. The trust his people and Paul had in me just to walk them in the venue; there was no real facility for the band to change so they used the office at the back of the venue. It was an intimate gig for a charity, for One Percent fundraiser by Steve Pilgrim, Paul’s drummer. Afterwards, we all had a late after show drink with the band – which was also very, very cool.
What is your favourite item of memorabilia and what would your dream memorabilia be?
I was just chatting in Manchester at a Radio station to Paul after an acoustic session. I said to him, “I love your Italian brogues”. Paul responded by saying he would send me a pair! Three years later, he posted them direct to my home address with a personal letter, he had worn them on at his 50th Birthday Party at Hammersmith Apollo, which I had attended and the party afterwards!
It was like winning the Champions League. I was blown away by what he had done for me. Plus, and I never anticipated this, the night before Paul was playing Isle of Man, I/we were at the hotel and he gave me a big hug and went to the bar and bought me a pint! An hour later, I was whisked away as Paul then took us all for a curry! It is something, I will never ever forget – there I was sharing poppadum’s/samosas and stories with Paul Weller! It was an amazing experience and we all travelled back together on the same Liverpool flight.
My dreams are, I guess, more or less complete. In a way, just to keep the dream alive would be brilliant. Paul wrote a double A side called Going Underground with The Dreams of Children – well mine have definitely been fulfilled.
Finally – “On The Streets I Ran”
Can you name three Liverpool streets that mean the most to you and why?
- Bold Street, just for the vibe of the place as gone very cosmopolitan and nice little café/restaurants and some great various food shops.
- Mathew Street just for the obvious really, The Cavern and the tradition it holds for the City in the swinging 60’s and tourists coming Liverpool as still booming now as an attraction.
- Stanley Road (sorry not a street). My father’s name Stanley. And mixed in with Weller’s iconic album, plus the road is located in Bootle. I also use part of my email address as more sentiment really.
Thanks to Alan for a great interview with amazing memorabilia.
I’ve curated two nights at the British Music Experience (BME); Morrissey Day at the BME and The Smiths – Unite and Take Over. And my memorabilia/collection was there on display, standing tall and standing proud.
My Morrissey memorabilia brings me heart-warming happiness. I’ve always wondered what memorabilia Morrissey has, where he keeps it and what it means to him?
My Pieces of Morrissey are Pieces of life – for life