Local Author and music writer, Matthew Jacobson has been described as “one of the finest writers in Liverpool”. His current series for Explore Liverpool, “On the Streets I Ran” has been hugely successful and Matthew has received glowing feedback. To celebrate the success, we turned the tables and interviewed the man himself about the series, Morrissey and finding the perfect goalpost.
Hi Matt, it’s nice to see you on the other side for a change!
Hi Michelle, lovely to see you, it feels very strange sitting on this side,……. but I was promised a drink for my trouble!
You already have a drink?
I have lots of troubles! it’s ok, I’m only teasing – I’ll save it for another time, I am heading home for Emmerdale soon!
Watch it on catch up?
It’s live from the ‘dales Michelle – fire away,
Ha OK!, was music played around the family home when you were growing up?
Yes, very much so. Music was an integral part of the home. Not in terms of the family playing musical instruments, unless playing your knife and fork on the table to the theme tune from Brookside counts, but the playing of vinyl. For me, it was poetry in motion watching the turntable turn with grace and beauty. The sound from it; captured me, comforted me, rescued me and invited me in for more. And I wanted more.
As a teenager, Mum and Dad’s record collection was my go-to place, and I never left it to go anywhere. Within the box of records, I found faithful friends in Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and importantly, Billy Fury. As I left for school, I would say goodbye to those records and artists and then, I would say hello to them on my return.
Did these artists start your passion for music, what was it about them?
For sure, I listened to lots of new music growing up, but something was missing. The voice of Elvis and The Everly brothers made the world softer and warm. Those, three or so minutes per record could make the 24 hours in a day, well……. erm, bearable! The tone and the tenderness in the voices made the story within the record…believable.
If the story within the record was heartbreaking, my heart would break, if the story within was celebratory, I would celebrate, if the story within was sad…. etc. etc. It felt like the records were real life, and real life was …. erm (laughs), pantomime!
And Billy Fury?
Billy Fury has become part of family history. As a teenager, I watched a repeat of “Ready Steady, Go”. I dropped to the floor in awe of Billy, the quiff, voice, chiseled jawline and stance. I shouted in my Mum, she ran in, stopped in her tracks and said, “Oh Matthew, the lovely Ronald Wycherley – Billy Fury”. She loved him. We both just stared at the television in silence. Mum and I then talked, not just all night but for years after about Billy Fury.
The day after the TV repeat, I went to town and bought several Billy Fury records. Mum and I then had ‘our’ artist. For years we listened to Billy, at every family gathering we played his music and danced to Billy. I took Mum to Fury fan club events, and tribute shows. I met Billy’s brother Albie Wycherley. And Mum and I also met Billy’s Mum – Jean, she was lovely.
Mum and I saw the beauty in Billy. He was shy and softly spoken and kept away from the limelight, a quiet man, but a rocker, vulnerable, but beautiful.
He meant a lot to you both?
For sure. As you know Michelle, suddenly and sadly, my Mum passed away just over 12 months ago. The world changed overnight. Stars are dark now, the sky isn’t as blue, flowers don’t have colour and the birds are singing out of tune. Punishing pain meets relentless punishing pain – hourly. And now, when I talk, I talk through huge sadness and when I sleep, I still feel huge sadness. Sadness hurts, it really hurts.
(Matt pauses, sips his drink, struggling for words, his eyes are filled with tears)
We played Billy Fury at Mums funeral. And her plaque at Springwood Crematorium has a lyric of Billy’s just above my Mums name. I have rarely listened to Billy since. But I’ll listen to Billy again one day and I know Mum will be singing with me – it’s just too soon.
I met her at an event once. She told me she was so proud of you…
(Smiles and pauses) That is so nice….so nice……
(Matt wipes eyes and gazes out the window for a few minutes)
I was so proud of her Michelle. I was a lucky boy to have her in my life, she will always be with me, and I will always be with her. I must say “thank you” to those who reached out to me and still do, beautiful, beautiful souls – I’ll never forget it.
The power of Billy’s music on Mum and I, and the influence of music in people’s lives in general is amazing. l love that feeling of fandom, it takes you to different or new worlds and zones.
Around what age did you start going to gigs, any stand out gigs?
Around 15 years old, many, many gigs. Some stood out and many didn’t! I enjoyed the gig experience, but I must be honest, at 15, when I first ventured out, I always went back home for my own gig with Billy Fury, Elvis, The Searchers and Bobby Vee!
Your big passion and obsession are The Smiths and Morrissey in particular, what is it about him and his music that means so much to you?
At the age of 15, I found The Smiths and life changed – for the better. Growing up is not easy, then again, being an adult is not easy. But it was an awkward world at 15/16. And The Smiths arrived like an answered prayer. The songs, sound, image, all combined into this poetic rubber ring. Gift wrapped with the lyrics of a Northern genius, a Northern poet, a Northern Lifeguard. Morrissey immediately comforted me. And at last, I had a band that spoke to me directly. And remember, it was the 1980s …….
Yes, it was a tough time.
It was tough for everyone in the North. It was 1980’s Liverpool and the city was being forgotten. The liability that is ‘Thatcher’ and her campaign to let us all rot, made us all feel uncertain and weary. The Smiths, I always felt, were fighting back against the government, the royal family and the meat industry. Through those times, our city bonded and a true Liverpudlian and Northern spirit grew strong and remains today.
And Morrissey’s solo career?
The admiration, love and obsession for Morrissey grew and grew from my love of The Smiths and throughout the solo years. His lyrics are unique; charming, witty and poetic. Full of meaning, full of substance. Social commentary with social justice. Unfiltered and honest. Determined and unafraid. He stands alone.
If you stand alone, you may not fit a certain narrative and elements of the media want to mute you. I’ve seen it happen, a Morrissey interview is released and 4.4 seconds later, they cut and they paste four of his 2000-word interview into a tweet. People then react to the feed. Debate is dead.
Like a pack of upper-class trophy hunters, some of the media search to bring him down. I’ve seen it since the solo career began – wanting to end his career. But Morrissey is still playing the Hollywood Bowl and a new record and tour is here. Morrissey has a catalogue full of the most breathtaking and beautiful iconic pop songs and records that will always stand the test of time.
The new album is due out soon, I presume reviews will be out soon?
Most record reviews aren’t about the record anymore, it’s about the media view on him based on a team meeting seven days prior. His latest song “Bobby Don’t You Think They Know”, with gospel, soul and disco singer Thelma Houston is sensational, its stunning, but not mentioned by anyone in the media.
I’ve heard it, it is brilliant ….
His band also deserves more recognition. They are from various parts of the world and have, I feel, individually brought a wider influence, sound and beauty to songs, and collectively it all works so well together. It is wonderful. And that is not dismissing anything previously at all, it really isn’t. I’m just highlighting they deserve more recognition within any review, I just hope it happens.
Are you going to any gigs on his current tour?
Yes, in the UK he’s playing Leeds and London – I’ll be at both and he’s just announced a residency in Vegas!
I know you’ve already been around the world to see him, where have you travelled to in the past, will you go to Vegas?
All over Uk, Ireland, France, Denmark – twice, USA. As for Vegas, I can but dream. If I go missing for a week, I’m in Vegas, check my post and let the cat out please!
Do you have a cat?
Ok, just check my post …
Your book Pieces of Morrissey, is about your obsession, and that of other fans, and the importance of treasured memorabilia, what made you write a book?
Well, as you know I have Morrissey’s shirt from a gig in Liverpool in 2009. For that gig, my Mum queued up for tickets for me and even managed to buy front row tickets! I caught the shirt that night! The shirt, well, I always felt there was something, sort of spiritual about it, it comforted me…
Yes, I know, you won’t let me hold the shirt!!
Have I not let you? Oh well! (laughs)…never mind!! After taking the shirt home, I was then fortunate enough to appear in a couple of documentaries including; Mozarmy film on BBC Inside out and then The People’s History of Pop for BBC Merseyside. After the shows, fans contacted me with details of their memorabilia and importantly what it meant to them. The fans stories are unique. As I read them, I realised, their memorabilia is more important to them than their own family mementos.
Memorabilia had started friendships, ended friendships. Fans had also broken bones trying to retrieve memorabilia. Morrissey memorabilia was the first item they packed when moving home. Drumsticks, pieces of shirts, setlists, plecs, signed albums, you know…were all placed above fireplaces, in cabinets on display in living rooms, on shelves, in bedrooms etc, usually you would see family momentos in these locations.
And the language and words they used, I felt the obsession was bordering a religion, and I could certainly relate to it I analysed my obsession and theirs and threw myself into writing about it and where it fits in society.
How did you find the process?
Exciting really. I submitted my initial draft to two publishers and one of them, Empire Publications called me in. We had a good chat, they offered me a contract there and then. I was so excited. The drafts went back and forth. Ashley at the publishers had the patience of a Saint with me, but he helped and guided me. And when I eventually saw the book, the cover, layout etc., it was an amazing feeling.
I’ve read it, I really enjoyed it….
Please read it again, there’s no cost, you don’t have to buy another Pieces of Morrissey to read it twice! (laughs)
I would, but I’m busy interviewing! You also appeared on the BBC couch with Morrissey’s shirt?
Yes, I did, with Author Dickie Felton. To promote the BBC Inside Out feature, filmed and directed by the brilliant and lovely Sally Williams, who really understood pop fandom and obsession, I was asked to go live on the BBC couch with Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid to talk about our love of Morrissey. I was very nervous. Dickie and I had a few drinks the night before to calm the nerves, and then a few more. And it didn’t work, I was still very nervous and could still taste Gin!
They were sort of poking fun at us, in a light-hearted way, but spikey at times, about our obsession. Then Susanna Reid basically said Morrissey has the same audience as Barry Manilow, the way we talk about Morrissey, is the same way as Manilow fans talk about Manilow.
What did you say?
I just said, “there is no similarity whatsoever” and ordered a taxi! (laughs)
We did a photoshoot at the Salford Lads club last year. It was the first time you had seen your book on sale there. I’ll never forget the expression on your face, as you saw your book, can you put into words how you felt?
Well, if my quiff could cry! It was the pinnacle Michelle, it really was…
You’ve curated two successful Smiths/Morrissey nights at the British Music Experience (BME), how did they come about, do you have plans for any more?
I met with the BME about displaying my Morrissey memorabilia within their exhibition. they asked, why don’t we celebrate the memorabilia going into the BME?.
So, I then organised and curated; “Morrissey Day at the BME” in 2018 and “The Smiths, Unite and Take Over” – 2019. With live music playing Morrissey/Smiths, interviews and The Salford Lads club, plus artists selling merchandise etc.
There are plans for another, watch this space!
It really is a celebration, no one gets paid, the artists or myself and I’ve never wanted anything and never will. It is all from organised from our own time. It’s a true celebration of the music and that’s the way I want it to stay, it’s not my night, it’s a fans night. It is a nerve-wracking time though, I pray everything goes well and it does, but I do love the feeling of watching everyone enjoying their night as it progresses. Special nights.!
Your series, On the Streets I Ran has received wonderful feedback – how did you come up with the concept?
I was asked if I’d like to write for Explore Liverpool. I wanted to write and interview local artists, creatives. But I wanted to write something reflective for the reader to enhance an interview. So, I combine the interview with a piece on reflection.
So, for the Janice Long interview, I reflected on music / radios in the family home and for the interview with Keven McManus (Curator at BME) I reflected on the Three Graces at the Pier Head. And, I reflected on a game of football for two in the 1980s for the interview with ex Everton FC footballer Ronny Goodlass.
The introductions are to reflect, but it’s for the reader to reflect on their own experience before the interview begins.
The introductions are wonderful – your feedback has been great
Feedback has been wonderful, very humbling. I have received some wonderful reviews, comments and emails that left me crying on the couch……again!
And your question at the end of each interview, can you name three streets that mean the most to you and why? – is very thought provoking!
Yes, very much so. We seem to be interested where someone is from, I just wanted to be more, well…. specific, not nosey ! (laughs) But, again the response to it has been amazing, I’ve spoken with Radio and TV presenters who adore the interviews, theme and concept. Media reps have also mentioned taking the artists back to the actual area and street to talk about the reasons why they have picked that street as most important – It could go much bigger……
We’ve worked together for a while now, photo shoots for your articles. I’ve never seen the words before the article is released, why is that?
I know, sorry, I’ve lost your email address!
You have it!
Oh …err, , sorry, I’ve lost MY email address!!
Prior to the shoot, you call me and tell me what you are hoping to photograph, I then worry at what you are aiming to capture! I recall at the Pier Head, I watched you hold aloft your ‘Smiths” flag to passengers on the Mersey Ferry. Also, the tourists looked a little confused when you stood by the Beatles Statue in your Smiths jacket, holding flowers!
Can I ask, what goes on in your head?!
(Laughs) Many things, it’s a theatre inside my head, a theatre that closed in 1973.
The Smiths / flag pics, well, what else are you meant do to on a Sunday? They made great promo pics for the BME night. It wasn’t being disrespectful to anything Beatles’, it just an idea of to show the level of importance of The Smiths. Just good fun with a camera really, well your camera!
And then I found myself trudging over a muddy field to find, as you put it – the “perfect goalpost”.
Ha, Ha, you are the only one who will work with me! The pictures you take, I adore, they capture what I have in my head. They enhance the article, especially when it’s about self-reflection.
The goalpost just had to be right, with no people, cars etc in the background, they had to match my memory and the reflective story. The Sefton park pics, I love that article as the park itself means so much to me – Africa Oye festival is at home there.
What’s next for you?
Emmerdale in 25 mins!. Then more interviews for Explore-Liverpool and my series. I must say thank you to the Explore-Liverpool team for their faith in me and the idea and concept of the series. Forever grateful.
Away from my series, I interview bands artists, creatives and contribute to various articles/mags. I have been offered another book deal, but that’s only in planning stages – well, I’m planning to think about it.
For Explore-Liverpool, I’ve interviewed; Pete Best, OMD, Louis Berry, Red Rum Club, The Illicits and Mellowtone Records and many, many more. I have many more artists lined up, very busy, but I enjoy it all, I really do.
Finally, as you’ve put so many artists on the spot, there’s one question I must ask, can you name three Liverpool streets that mean the most to you, any why?
Good question !!, I now know how others feel now (laughs), well;
1)Scargreen Avenue, Norris Green. I lived there from day one for 30 years, I am proud to be from that area. I just have lovely memories of family times, especially being a boy and spending time with my lovely Mum. I also remember blossoming friendships and a solid, hearty community. And those friends I am referring to, I’m still friends with now, all from meeting in Norris Green in the 1970’s.
I recall stepping off the bus just by Scargreen Avenue, I was quiffed up, denim jacket, Smiths T shirt, black jeans and turn ups and DM boots etc. A young lad ran over to me and asked, “Penny for the guy, Elvis? “- (laughs)
My school, St Theresa’s was around the corner, and my secondary school, De La Salle wasn’t too far away, and just past the school was Brookside Close and Goodison Park wasn’t too far either!
My love of music, The Smiths/Morrissey originated from the family home in Norris Green. It started everything. I began writing in that house, usually scenes for Brookside, Coronation Street, even Eldorado! Overall, special, special days and special times….
2) Rodney Street; My Mum was a receptionist there for 30 plus years. As a young boy, with my elders – I used to go there to see her, but I remember her smiling face as she opened the door; hugs and treats awaited. Then we would all cause chaos in the place! Eventually, in early twenties. I would drive to pick her up from work, I was in Rodney Street the other week, I could still see her waving at the window – brought tears to my eyes, but it’s a beautiful street, with beautiful memories.
3) Bold Street. It’s a city in a Street! It has some lovely café’s, bars, clothes stores, with FACT around the corner. It just seems to have soul. And I am there most weeks. I studied for years and years and spent most of my study days in the cafés and then the bars. Somehow, I graduated and owe the street a thank you for letting me use it as an office or study! And, I’ve had some great nights out down there with friends and family
Well, thank you Matt! That’s the end of the questions
No thank you Michelle…. I really appreciate it, from the heart I do
“Do you want that drink now Matt?” I gathered my belingings ; camera, pad, recorder and as I did, I waited for Matts response. At that point, Matt handed me a piece of paper and scrawled on the paper, it read;
And I watched the “quiff that may cry” walk off into the distance, and I thought to myself……I knew he didn’t have a cat!
Huge thanks to Matthew Jacobson, from myself and all at Explore Liverpool,
“On the Streets I Ran”