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Groove Is In The Heart

October 26, 2011


I couldn’t ask for another – oh no,

I couldn’t ask for another.

Groove is in the heart. But I can’t find mine. My groove or my heart. Have you ever been to Manchester in 1990? It could kill you. It has nearly killed me. I have been stuck here for over twenty years.

They call it The Rainy City. But that doesn’t begin to cover it. The rain is a million metal sheets that fall out of the sky and separate the people into their own little individual capsules. But it is also a great, moist, soggy mass of damp cloth, wrapping itself round you as you try to walk down Deansgate. And the greyness. The greyness is enough to send you over the edge.

Somewhere Madchester is starting to happen. Somewhere Ian Brown is practising his popstar monkey faces in the mirror, and ordering a job lot of corduroy trousers to last the whole of his career. Somewhere Shaun Ryder is writing lyrics on the backs of beer mats in a pub in Salford. ‘I only went with your mother cos she’s dirty’. It’s all about to kick off.

But all I know is the rain, and the interminable length of the Oxford Road, that takes me from the Cornerhouse to Rusholme to Fallowfield to the outskirts of Chorlton and back. And the awful realisation that this is what adult life is going to be. Shit.

And Groove is in the heart. People are putting on plastic faces and faking it till the forcedness of their smiles nearly causes them to have a heart attack. Or maybe that’s just the drugs. These are the 24 hour party people, the shiny, happy people, the ravers and the dancers, the next generation. The only way is up. Their life shines on. They are taking over. First the Hacienda. Then Canal Street. Then the world.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the antidote to all this. The kryptonite that can save the world from Happy House remixes and dodgy cuts of coke. Maybe if I position myself in the correct place in a specific corner of a specific nightclub at a specific time and date, maybe when Groove Is In The Heart is being played for the seventh time that night, maybe I can stop it all. I imagine taking the beer glass in front of me and raising it to my lips slowly and just as the liquid reaches my mouth  the music stops and the room goes quiet and everyone stops dancing and nobody speaks and suddenly all the people in the whole city realise simultaneously they are chasing an empty dream and they give up the drugs and the clubs and the high NRG music and they go home and hug their children and their girlfriends and their brothers. And they start living. But perhaps I got the wrong club on the wrong night and the wrong DJ because I am sitting here alone in the corner again, sipping my beer while my mates are in the Ladies doing their second E of the night, and the DJ is playing You Got The Love and everyone is dancing and smiling those fake smiles. I hate this place.

Manchester. So much to answer for. And so hard to escape. You hear stories of people leaving but you never see them go. That tale of the Happy Mondays taking their album advance to the Caribbean and blowing it on drugs and drink and coming back with only a couple of scratchy tracks. I don’t know if that is true. I think maybe they just holed themselves up in a pub in Moss Side – a two week lock in, with a few sessions in their home studio at the end, so they had something to show for it.

Years later I live in Sheffield on the other side of the Peak. Sheffield is easy to escape. All you have to do is look up and you see the top of a hill and it gives you something to aim for, like a guiding star. Or you can walk through Endliffe Park from Hunters Bar to Forge Dam and before you know it you are in deep countryside. Sheffield is a difficult city to stay in.

 But Manchester in 1990 is flat, and endless, and all-encompassing. The buildings trap you and the people who don’t know anywhere else trick you into thinking it’s the centre of the fucking universe. Groove is in the heart is playing on a loop tape on all the radios and in all the clubs and in all the bedrooms in the city. I couldn’t ask for another oh no. I couldn’t ask for another. Somebody help me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Stavrogin permalink
    October 27, 2011 2:25 pm


    I’ve noticed you have a passion for describing weather with greys and metals. It cropped up in Camera Lucida too!

    Maybe your next book should be set in Marbella?

  2. October 27, 2011 3:20 pm

    haha. Yeah I noticed that after I’d written it but I thought I’d leave it in as a trademark, like DH Lawrence’s haystacks and rainbows.

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