Saturday, 22 December 2012

Northern Monkeys - Interview with William Routledge

We were lucky enough to grab a couple of beers with William Routledge a few weeks ago in his native Preston. William has just published his latest book, Northern Monkeys, tracing the most important subcultures of post-war Britain to the present day with interviews and comments from people involved in them as and when they were taking place. We sat down and asked him a few questions about the book and the idea behind it.
When and where were you born:

I came in to the world in the mid-swinging Sixties in the North West, then town, Preston – a somewhat backwater town.

Musical influences from the past decades:

60s: The Beatles, The Who and the Trojan label 

70s: Punk Rock; There are too many groups to mention

80s: The second wave of Punk and Oi!

90s: Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Oasis

2000s & currently: No-one really inspiring springs to mind, I am getting old though... But I still go to the odd Punk gig

What age did you leave  your childhood to become involved with the punk scene:

Around 78 I got hooked on Punk, and over the next couple of years I collected vinyl, dressed the part and began going to local gigs and further afield. The street sounds of Punk captured my teenage attention and still hold meaning that moulded who I am to this day

The cross over point as a youngster when and what inspired it:

During 1980 I began knocking round with lads a few years older than myself and started going out on the town with them – I was only 15. This lead me to dressing differently, rather than wearing Punk attire. Quite a few of these lads went to Wigan Casino and dressed accordingly; chunky knit jumpers, shitstopper jeans and slip on shoes. I adopted some of the look, apart from the slip on shoes. But 1980 became my pivotal year in the dressing department.

Yes, 1980 was a transmogrify for myself and the threads hanging in my wardrobe alone by the ass-end of year. The clobber consisted of, the remnants of an assortment of Punk attire, a MA-1 flight jacket and Lonsdale of London sweatshirts. I had both a red and a black Harrington jackets, a chunky burgundy knit jumper and a blue & white/silvery flecked, oversized fisherman jumper too. Two Ben Sherman shirts, a gingham and a Prince of Wales check, plus varied colour ways of Fred Perry’s. Fruit of the Loom white T-shirts. Straight leg Levis and Wrangler cords and jeans. A yellow Le Coq Sportif cycling top with navy piping and wording with a ribbed zipped collar. A white, navy and blue three stripe trefoil adidas T-shirt, a brown Slazenger jumper and an ST2 adi black cagoule – because they had no navy blue left –with obligatory red, quilted lining. And a Crombie that my Mum had treated me to, and which hangs in my wardrobe to this day.
First ever PNE home game:

I can’t remember the exact game, but it were early Seventies. During this period, my sister’s boyfriend had started taking me on to Deepdale. The Spion Kop was the end, with its white wall in the middle, asbestos roof and panels with a gap at the top where kiddies would gob on fans queuing waiting to come in. Yes, these were home fans! The Spion Kop was big sweeping end full of lads and boys with scarves around their necks, wrists, heads, tucked in their flared jeans or sta-pressed pants. Scarves were even sometimes also used as belts. These must have items ranged from silk, wool or even homemade knitted scarves by granny. Jam-jar lid badges, sewn on patches, ‘PNE RULE OK’ or the two fingered style ones on Wrangler or Levi denim jackets. This was the age were the scarf was the football fans main accessory, the equivalent of today’s replica shirt as in those days shirts weren’t produced on the scale of today’s ‘sell, sell, sell’ approach to mass marketing.

A kaleidoscope cascade of images and happenings that got me captivated, along with the football, for the next 30 years – up until recently, that is.
At first glance the current path your on is a more relaxed approach to putting pen to paper. Do you think that this will be mirrored by other authors as its seems to be the current trend? Also, do you feel this will open up a younger audience:

Yes, there is a plethora of books out there on the FV subject which I think have run their course. This is not to say that some of the books that fall in to that category are the same-all-same. Some authors tell their life stories through their books and are well worth a read. But other books, you just have to change the name of the team they followed to whoever, and they go over the same old ground. I think folk nowadays want to read more about what made the authors tick away from the match and all the shenanigans that seemingly went hand-in-hand when attending. That is why I wanted to get Northern Monkeys out there.    

Why is it that you decided Northern Monkeys centres it attention around the Northern culture and touches on the outsiders:

The truth of matters is... that the majority, if not all, of the so-called factual facts on who was first in, best dressed, seem to be portrayed by events and happens that happened down south/in London. I wanted to put the record straight on such. So, the wide ranging book spans the evolution of terrace fashion from its deep roots at the end of the Second World War through youth cults, northern working class hang outs, music, football and how those who have been touched by this world have emerged and influenced different areas of life and culture, in the main, in the North, put the record straight.

Who has contributed to Northern Monkeys:

All stories are told from the original voices of more than 40 upstanding Northern Monkeys – and the odd southern too - ranging from blokes touching seventy years of age, right through the spectrum down to teenagers of today and on how they perceive the subcultures/non-cults of 2012.

As well as authentic nostalgic tales of ordinary madness, of a tender and sometimes violent northern life, there are new twists and insights on our shared history from respected authors like Dave Hewitson – The Liverpool Boys are in Town – telling of Cunard Yanks bringing back goods to British shores from around the world and Scouse fixation for being first in, best dressed; Phil Thornton, author of Casuals, reflecting on the development of the scruff look in the mid-1980s and untold tales of 2-Tone by Ian Hough – Perry Boys & Perry Boys Abroad – as only he can write in his flamboyant ramblings.

A War Baby, on growing up in a backwater Northern town in the Fifties and Sixties. Mods, Boot Boys and Hippies. Skinheads, Scooter Boys and Soulies. The Twisted Wheel nightclub is covered by lads who walked the walk, and danced the dance along with Blackpool Mecca, The Golden Torch and Wigan Casino. The book also touches on the politics of it all – the disruption to everyday life by an economic slump, and the right wing element of the terraces. Stories of raving and misbehaving and Madchester. Wayfarers tales of travel and mischief. And, much much more from lads who have experienced happenings in bygone eras. The book also features entrepreneurs who have made a decent crust connected to sportswear and its later twists and turns; Liverpool retailer Robert Wade-Smith, adidas brand guru Gary Aspden and Barry Bown, the boss of JD Sports.

But for all the recognition that casual/dressers/football lads changed fashion and culture – was it just a northern thing? No, West Ham terrace legend Cass Pennant has his say with tales of travelling ‘op noff’ in the Seventies for football and visiting Northern Soul venues plus his thoughts on Northern Soul when the south had gone all funky. A unique take on the rise of the Casual/Dresser movement with a comparison on the North-south divide in dress.

Northern Monkey’s is an astonishingly honest anthology of Northern life – chronicling a scene and providing insights into something that is so much more than just a look, but an obsession and a way of life.

From toe to flick you got one last chance of getting togged up what would one be sporting:

Diadora Borg Elite, Paul Smith socks, Levis cords, Kappa undies, Lacoste polo, burgundy ski jumper, Elleese ‘it’ ski jacket and, of course, a flick. 

Best dressed Era:

It has got to be the Eighties with looks changing seasonally, monthly, sometimes weekly.

What do you think about similar European cultures and there affect on the way British lads dress today:

With the internet and the latest product available at the click of a button, and European attire as good as anything else out there, the gap is getting closer on what labels are being worn right across Europe and the on streets of the UK.

When did the first books launch and what was the response:

We had low key launches in both Preston and Manchester and the feedback has been good. 

Do you feel that the international market will grasp the message of the book:

I do hope so. Books have been flying out to every corner of globe, so the message is reaching all our targeted market, with the first print completely sold out. Northern Monkeys explains how Northerners evolved setting standards that never had, or ever will be again, set on music, fashions and cults. 

Will the youth of today also want to read Northern Monkeys too:

Once again I hope so. The book not only covers past cultures,  there is chapters on ‘Healthy Obsession’ and ‘The Youth of Today’. Lads to need to know where the dressing is in connection to the culture they hold close to their heart. Just like your own label and the connection with the youth of today!
A massive thanks to William for giving us an insight into Northern Monkeys and his hospitality on the day. If you haven't grabbed a copy already, you might struggle as the first run sold out within days! Fear not though, there's another run in production and will be available soon. Check out their Facebook page for updates...

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