Star rating - 9/10
Legendary figure on the Manchester, and indeed national, musical and wider cultural scene, Paul Morley, was in talkative mood at Gorilla Bar for the latest in Dave Haslam's informal interview events. His tour is to promote his new book The North (And Almost Everything In It), but the evening inevitably also dwelled on his amazing personal experiences of the Manchester scene with the likes of Joy Division and Tony Wilson.
The evening started off with some random slides for Morley to explain and entertain us with. And it was very refreshing to hear him recount a myriad of entertaining and fascinating reminiscences, intelligent opinions and random factoids without being annoyingly interrupted after every few words, as he so often is by Sarah Churchwell on The Review Show (or is that just me taking an unsubstantiated dislike to the veritable professor?).
Morley spoke passionately about his love of author J G Ballard, whom he once interviewed in the back of a car up and down motor ways about, funnily enough ... motorways. And his informal education at Reddish Library with its wonderful evocative smell. He posed a potential bleak vision of our future as Apple or Google replace northern cities with corporate gloss, and former glorious urban centres 'disappear into their own murk'.
His book is certainly a veritable tome - running at 592 pages - and weighing (as one audience member helpfully informed Mr. Morley) more than a bag of sugar. Morley was quick to counter that it was really 10 slim volumes, with 'a remarkable index that goes from Susan Sontag to Sooty'. But it is not just sweet reminiscences, although there are some of those. It also contains random, spontaneous fragments of the history of the North sourced from Internet, which he freely admits are not acknowledged in the book, and are not necessarily even true. Interviewer Dave Haslam commented that it would be depressing if all our view of the North amounted to 'is Liam in his parka'. Hopefully Paul Morley will help to make sure that it is not.
You will have to wait for my review of the book, having only just devoured my first tenth of the bag, so to speak, but judging by the portion I have read, and by the wonderfully produced recent extracts on Radio 4's Book of the Week, it will be a real treasure trove.
In person Paul Morley is intelligent, thought provoking, fascinating and very funny. He might be criticised for writing about the North, and Manchester in particular, from his adopted home of London, but as he agreed with me as he was generously signing my copy, he could not have written this book without moving away and gaining perspective. I'm just glad he returns from time to time for our listening pleasure.