TODAY SHOW, Australia, clip


Radio doc

This Day In Music documentary

Bay City Rollers: When the Screaming Stops

The dark history of one Britain’s most successful boy bands. What happened to the group is one of the greatest scandals of the music history.

The Face


From the loft: 1991, Simon Spence wrote both lead stories: Spike Island and A-Z of new bands. Liam of Flowered Up should have been on cover but refused to remove his baseball cap during the photo shoot after bad haircut. Kate Moss got her debut cover instead

Si Wolstencroft

Words On Music panellist Simon Wolstencroft is close to completing the writing of his memoirs, You Can Drum, But You Can’t Hide. 

Born in 1963, Simon’s drum skills became self-evident early on. From keeping a beat with paint pots and knitting needles as a small child, via a family holiday in Spain – on which a generous cabaret drummer allowed the starstruck 9-year-old the chance to play a real drum kit for the first time – to ultimately being given the ‘Funky Si’ moniker by Johnny Marr during their time playing together; Simon’s style and technique evolved over many years into the distinctive solid back beat still in evidence today.

Passing the 11+ and earning a place at the prestigious Altrincham Grammar School in 1979 provided the beginning of a lifelong friendship with classmates Ian Brown and John Squire. From listening to the Buzzocks, Sex Pistols and The Clash to visiting the Manchester Apollo after school (helping load tours in and out of the venue in order to gain free entry to the gigs there) and then on the night bus back to Altrincham after underage nights out – sometimes sleeping rough; the three formed a strong bond which ultimately led to the formation of The Patrol (with Simon on drums, John playing guitar and Ian initially on bass then singing).

After an explosion of local youth club and village hall gigs, attended by an entourage of hardcore punks, The Patrol played fewer gigs and ultimately disbanded during their time at South Trafford College. As his classmates went on to forge The Stone Roses, a chance meeting in a local pub with two like-minded musical aficionados in the form of Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr produced Freak Party – the precursor for The Smiths. The only part lacking at this juncture was a singer. After Morrissey had been found, despite playing drums on the original demo recordings, Simon declined the drum hot-seat in the band as he didn’t like the cut of Morrissey’s jib. As The Smiths’ star rose, Simon went on to work with, briefly, The Stone Roses and Terry Hall’s The Colourfield.

As Madchester, The Hacienda, and the local area became the centre of an unparalleled musical universe, Simon continued to play for a number of the era’s most evocative artists such as The Weeds, before finally becoming a long-standing member of The Fall. He debuted with the band in 1986 on the Bend Sinister album and in the following decade became much loved by Fall fans  who described him as ‘a human drum machine’.

Simon departed The Fall in 1997; before coming almost full circle to collaborate with, and play for, Ian Brown in 1999 on his second solo album, Golden Greats. Simon co-wrote the Top 40 track ‘Golden Gaze’.

The opportunity to play once more with Ian and John Squire, at a secret benefit gig with Mick Jones of The Clash in December 2011, completed the musical circle for the trio who first performed together all those years ago [see below for an exclusive insight into that night].

Since then Simon has continued to work with and play for a number of bands and solo artists; developing his repertoire into a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Manchester music  scene. Simon is currently playing with The Family Bizzare, alongside Jez Kerr (ex-Factory signing ACR ), who supported New Order on their recent UK tour. Simon has also undertaken a new project called HouseShare, recording their initial demo tacks during June and July 2012.

For Words On Music, Si Wolstencroft writes: My first ever gig was with Ian Brown and John Squire as The Patrol back in 1980, when the three of us left Altrincham Boys Grammar School and started at South Trafford College – this was how we began to cut our teeth as musicians.

I have played hundreds and hundreds of gigs since; some of them small ones like our first gig as The Patrol at the Sale Annexe Youth Club; then a few larger ones during my eleven years as the drummer in The Fall – including supporting U2 at Elland Road on their Joshua Tree tour.  In 2000, I was back with Ian again on the main stage at the huge Mount Fuji festival in Japan.

All these experiences pale, and none have delighted me more, than when I was ultimately reunited on stage again with Ian and John – if only briefly – at the Ritz Theatre, Manchester, in December 2011…

The Stone Roses reformation and Heaton Park gigs had only just been announced; it seemed the whole of Manchester was buzzing with the news and everyone suddenly wanted to see the Roses first ‘on stage’ performance together.

Ian rang me in the morning to invite me along to the benefit gig with Mick Jones of The Clash; where he and John were due to perform The Clash’s ‘Bankrobber’ and Stone Roses’ song ‘Elizabeth My Dear’. This had not been announced as part of the gig and was a very hush-hush affair.

I grew up listening to The Clash and wanted to be one of the first to see Ian and John back on stage together after such a long time – it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Mick’s drummer was late for the sound check so his roadie Davo asked me to fill in on drums which I gladly agreed to do. As I sat down on the drum stool to begin, I looked out to the front of house and saw a beaming John Squire with red guitar stood directly in front of me on stage, ready to launch into ‘Bankrobber’. This was a song Ian and our mate Pete Garner (who played bass in an early Roses line up) had actually witnessed being recorded at Pluto Studios in Manchester all those years ago – providence indeed!

After shaking John’s hand for the first time in 16 years, I sat behind the drums, started the obligatory ‘count-in’ for my friends, and launched them into the Clash classic. Talk about going full circle, this was amazing; I was actually shaking when the song had ended, a sensation I had never encountered before, nor since.

That’s how much the Patrol reunion meant to me. There I was with old friends and a boyhood hero, Mick Jones. Never meet your heroes, they say – Mick Jones has to be an exception to the rule.

It didn’t matter to me that Mick Jones’s drummer turned up for the show and I had to watch from the sidelines; I’m best known as the man who turned down the gig with The Smiths after all…

‘Si Wolstencroft’ was the answer to a recent question on Mastermind. He was interviewed for War and Peace and, on the road with the Roses during their recent European dates, gifted his copy of the book to Ian Brown.

Bob Dickinson

Bob Dickinson was the chair for the Words On Music event. A freelance producer and presenter of radio programmes, he has worked for BBC Radio 4 for over 10 years, making documentaries and features for the station such as: a profile of the radical performance group Forced Entertainment (2012); Merzman: The Art of Kurt Schwitters (2012); a personal portrait of the town of Barrow-in-Furness (2011); a history of the happening in art and culture, Really Happening! (2010); The People’s Republic of Hulme presented by Mark Kermode (2010); and two series presented by Jarvis Cocker, a history of fanzines, Zine Scene (2009) and The Art of Pop (2008), a history of UK art schools. Dickinson has also made several notable documentaries for Radio 1 including: Cease To Exist: The Rock & Roll Life of Charles Manson and a biography of Johnny Thunders.

He also produced live sessions by many artists including Geoff Buckley, The Creation, Kevin Ayers and The Troggs and produced many live concert programmes for Granada TV including James Live at G-Mex and The La’s live at Manchester Academy.

Dickinson has written for publications including The Guardian, NME, The Observer, Manchester Evening News, City Life, and Art Monthly. He is the author of two books, the graphic novel, Dog Hendrix and Imprinting The Sticks, his history of the alternative press in the north-west of England. Bob also plays drums in the surrealist blues band, Salford Sheiks.

At the moment he is working on a book about audiences, and various documentary projects for BBC radio. In War and Peace, Dickinson is credited as the first local journalist to interview the Roses – for an article that appeared in City Life (Manchester’s Time Out equivalent) on 29 March 1985. Dickinson wrote that the Roses were ‘dramatically different from all other bands’ and coined the term ‘Deviant Merseybeat’ to describe the band’s sound. ‘I wanted to say they were a bit more 60s “freakbeat” but they rejected that idea,’ he said.

For Words On Music, Bob writes: 

I suppose I see music and music writing from both sides because as well as writing for the music press, I’ve played and sung in bands (and still do), and I’ve been in groups, some of which received great reviews in the press while on other occasions they were totally slated, so I know what’s it’s like to be on the receiving end of some young music hack’s desperate attempts at writing and getting attention. I’ve also run an independent record label, Monsters In Orbit, and I have known that need to get coverage in the press, and to get the recognition you believe your releases deserve.  But on the other hand, I’ve written a lot about music, for fanzines like City Fun, magazines like NME, Blues & Soul, and Echoes, and newspapers like The Guardian, and I’ve worked in music radio, for BBC Radio One, and on music programmes for television, for Channel 4, Granada TV and the BBC, and all of those programmes involved the promoting of new music in some way or other. In addition I’ve made and still make documentary programmes and features for radio about music and musicians.

There has long been a relationship between the media and music industry, which still exists, despite the crisis that the music industry is going through.  I’ll leave aside the question of whether the music industry will survive, or deserves to survive – frankly, I don’t care, because musicians will always be making music, whatever happens to the fat cats behind the record labels.

What really interests me is the importance of the relationship between music and music writers. Music writing is an ancient art – I think as long as there have been words, people have used them to try and describe what music does. Music takes us back to some very primitive level of communication and words not only provide an impression of what happens when we are making and experiencing music, but they also contain music in themselves: language reveals its musicality and therefore its depth and complexity, through poetry and song.

Historically, in my lifetime, I consider that relationship – between music and music writers – to have been forged because of the emergence of subcultures in this country shortly preceding the importation of rock and roll, from the 1950s onwards. This is why music writing, in the way we are referring to it, specifically talks about forms of music that are made and experienced by the young.  Music writing therefore has the potential to contribute to, as well as to explain, all the factionalism and fragmentation that competing forms of music and competing subcultural groups inevitably thrive on.

As a result, there have been times – punk and post-punk are perfect examples, in my experience – when writers have become musicians, and vice versa. And it’s no coincidence that situations like this were made even more volatile by the existence of a healthy alternative or DIY press which represented and argued about much of the new music of the period. For this reason, I’m pleased that so much music writing now goes on in new media, outside the control of conventional publishing and broadcasting forms.

But all writers, like all musicians, want to get better. As a musician, you don’t simply crave fame and fortune – you want to be recognised as having done something well. Likewise most music writers want to write well – or risk not being understood. But I think there’s very little great music writing around at the moment. Why is this? The older generation of writers – the Paul Morley’s and Greil Marcus’s of the game, may well have said all the important things they will ever need to say. The entire formative history of pop and rock have been thoroughly investigated, but so what? You can rewrite history if you want. And there’s an amazing amount of music out there, from all over the world, that is still totally unrecognised, and not being written about. Someone’s got to do it.