…and with a day to spare in Manchester I found myself setting out on another of my little musical pilgrimages. I once visited Paris to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. I took freelance jobs in Liverpool and London so I could chase the ghost of The Beatles around their hometown and their Studio 2. This time was different. I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour. I was heading to Salford Lads Club without much of a clue about what it meant other than it being immortalised in a photoshoot by The Smiths which became the inside sleeve for The Queen Is Dead.
I later found out it was where The Hollies practiced before they become famous. Allan Clarke and Graham Nash were members. It was in Shameless, The Forsyte Saga, Survivors and The Football League Show. All of these things were cool but I was going because my heart is a cardigan-covered and bespectacled pump in the shape of a spruce of gladioli. I love The Smiths because they mirror exactly how alienated and troubled you want to feel at a certain time in your life.
As a result of the closeness I have with the band, I can forgive anything they have said or done since (yes I’m talking about you Marr’s Money or Mozza groping his own tit during a show).
After forty-something minutes of wandering around with their back catalog making winky water in my ears and Google Maps giving me secret directions so I didn’t look like a soft southern shandy or indeed a vicar in a tutu I headed down Coronation Street which was worringly cobble-free and out in front of my second favourite green door (Bilbo Baggins just has the edge here).
I stood and looked at it and got this intense feeling of being in the same place as someone I deeply admired. I’ve had it before in a number of different ways. I’ve played on a stage The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys played on, I sat in Abbey Road and could have sworn I had George Harrison’s favourite chair (of the 200-odd in attendance) and I once shared a stage with Joe Pasquale.
I gave a cursory Morrissey wail as I stood rooted to the spot, trying to work out if it would reverberate against the brickwork like when people clap at Chichen Itza. Instead, my attempt had an open sesame quality to it and a face appeared from behind it.
‘Did you want to come in and have a look around?’ the old boy asked. I looked around. There wasn’t anyone else around so he must have been talking to me.
‘Is that alright?’ I asked, wondering if he could tell I was a deeply poetic soul and therefore worthy of entrance to the club.
‘Yeah, of course. I suppose you’ll want to see the Smiths room’ he said. I stink-eyed him. What was this?
Inside, it was exactly what you would expect from a lads club. There was a sports hall vibe beyond the grandiose entranceway and tucked off to one side was a little locker room. If I hadn’t sworn myself to a life of asexuality like my hero I would have ejaculated.
Once I had circled around the room and written my love out onto a post it note I headed into the pool hall where I was offered a cup of tea. I bought a t-shirt and became a tourist.
For some reason they weren’t eager to kick me out and offered to show me around upstairs.
From the window you could see the gasworks from Dirty Old Town – “I met my love by the gasworks wall”. They told me about the heritage of artists and musicians who had been in and out of the lads’ club, the relationship they had with it and the history of Salford. It was fascinating. The last point of the tour was when they unlocked their office for me and showed me Morrissey’s uncollected post and a bust of him and Marr created by a local artist.
I finished my tea and thanked everyone there. It had exceeded my expectations and was an incredible place to visit.