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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, June 13, 2003
    God gave us Life (have a Superlambbanana)
     
    Liverpool's European Capital of Culture - but what sort? The city has always excelled in low culture, writes Andrew Hussey in today's New Statesman. He's right - whether that's The Beatles, the Erics scene, Hairy Records, Cream, or (I shudder to mention these) Jimmy Tarbuck, Lily Savage, we've consistently turned out folks whose gifts the chattering classes have snubbed but who have kept nations, galaxies, alive through their "classless, surreal and subversive wit." Great.

    Hussey is an Erics survivor, one of those who in the early eighties saw the world coming to Liverpool, and not the other way round. "In a single week, you could watch the Clash, the Cramps, Joy Division, turn contemporary music upside down." This means he's qualified to affirm the city's slant on popular philosophy and politics:
      The atmosphere was exciting, often drenched in LSD (then the most unfashionable drug in the UK) but also relentlessly intellectual - you learned about the films of Warhol, books by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, the philosophy of Guy Debord (it was at Eric's that I first heard the term "situationist"). Eric's looked to New York for inspiration, not London, but never felt inferior.
    It didn't look inferior today, either, the first day of the Mersey River Festival, the centre humming with life as the sun beat down from a clear sky, the waterfront so good on the eyes as hundreds of people took in the sights of the sea to the backdrop of those famous old buildings and the Kings Dock's shining new designer flats. (Where are these people from? Isn't anyone working today?)

    Of course the doubt about the culture bid is that it'll promote nice sanitised celebrations which only show a small side of of this complicated city. I'm with Hussey in celebrating the Euro win, I'm well impressed with what's happening down on the waterfront today, but I'm also keen to be at one with the underside, the home of so much of our energetic culture. Keen to be at one with voices like the infamous Half Man Half Biscuit, whose take on our Euro cultural celebration I eagerly await, and who in the meantime offer many wonderful insights to the discerning listener, such as:
      There is nothing better in life
      Than writing on the sole of your slipper with a Birol
      On a Saturday Night instead of going to a pub.