Mick Head: A Scouse and National Treasure FeaturedWritten by Andrew Vaughan
I still love listening to new stuff, old stuff. Discovering new stuff, discovering old stuff and I still love talking about music and on this Sunday we are talking music when I say, “I wish I was in Liverpool tonight watching Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band” and my mates concur and of course Mick formed the bands The Pale Fountains and Shack and we start talking about Shack. The fucking wonderful Shack. And as we chat about the fucking wonderful Shack a young kid sat across from us says, “You lot sound like my dad he loves Shack.” Now I don’t know you kid but I bet your dad’s a decent fella if he likes Shack.
See Shack matters. Mick Head matters. He’s our greatest living songwriter and it’s wonderful that he’s bang on it at the moment. This 'moment' that is leading up to the release of a new album early next year: Adios Señor Pussycat…
I’m looking forward to it as it’s been a long time coming and of course we’ll know it’ll be special. Everything he has put his hand to has been special.
I found this out in 2003. I was late onto Shack. They’d just passed me by but I saw the album Here’s Tom with the Weather in HMV, liked the cover and thought I’d give them a listen. I did and they blew me away. I’ll confess it wasn't immediate - it took me to the third verse on the third song on the album to think wow! The track is Byrds to Stone and the lines go:
“Learning to play the guitar , one for you, one for me
Who’d be the first one to learn all the tricks by Mr Lee
Stuck in me Ma’s old back room with endless cups of tea”
The melody is to die for and in just those few lines you have everything that makes Shack fucking wonderful. Beautiful guitars, sumptuous harmonies, lovingly crafted lyrics all sung in a scouse accent that has lived a life of plenty.
That song and the whole of the album is gorgeous. I played it to death. I still play it to death and of course I went back to the older stuff. HMS Fable, The Magical World of The Strands, Waterpistol, Zilch, The Paleys stuff and learnt about the tragic and magic world of these lads from Liverpool. These lads from Liverpool that write and sing so beautifully about Liverpool and it’s people. They are Liverpool’s band and by listening to them you’ll learn about Liverpool. The city, the sea, the culture and the endless fucking love that comes out of the place.
The back story to the band is all out there. You can read all about it on the internet or you can just listen to the words of the songs. Nothing is covered up. It’s all there and we have to thank Mick, his brother John and all the others that have contributed to the Shack story. These lads that learned all the tricks by Mr Lee and produced music to rival the great, great Love themselves. And this back story has shaped the music and how you listen to it and what it does for and to you. Of all the musicians and bands that I love (and there are hundreds) I don’t connect with anybody the way I connect with Shack and that is not because they are my favourite band (they aren’t) - they are just different. That is why they have a small but fervent fan base. People are passionate about all things Michael Head/Shack. They care about Mick, they devour his product, patronise his gigs and others put on by his record company Violette Records. And rightly so…
I’m not as rabid as others but I’ll listen to them three or four times a month. To uplift me when I’m down and to dance when I’m up. They make me cry like no other band: It only takes the horns to come in on Meant to Be from Here’s Tom and it sets me off. As for the words to Streets of Kenny? Well..
Shack are an emotional band. Mick Head’s an emotional man. Not Springsteen sliding on his knees emotion or Adele’s faux-emotion nonsense. This is proper emotion that helps produce this special music.
So on the day after the gig at the beautiful St George’s Hall in Liverpool - that I wished I’d been at - I read the lovely comments on social media of those that were there. The fact that Mick was looking and sounding so well (as somebody - @paulgigsy - commented on twitter: “Mick Head - off the ale and off the scale!”) and the band were as tight and varied as could be is just great news and a real pick-me-up before Christmas; and as a teaser for the new album and (hopefully) a nationwide tour.
While 2016 has seen us lose some giants of music it looks like 2017 will start with the return of another musical giant which can only be a good thing.
But don’t take my word for it. Give Mick/Shack/Strands/Paleys a listen - your life will be so much better for doing so. Then like me and the kid in the pub’s dad you might just learn to love Mick/Shack/Strands/Paleys.
Mick Head - I fucking salute you!