My standard line when talking about music was that the best band I ever saw live was the Who, the worst was the Rolling Stones, and the funniest was the Brownsville Banned. The last was always greeted by, "the Brownsville who"?
The story behind this was that when I moved from London to Manchester in 1976 I was looking for entertainment and someone recommended the comedy folk act Bob Williamson, who was on at the Palace. He was blown away by the support, the Brownsvilles - the one and only time I saw them. They were hugely visual so their comedy sadly doesn't survive, but I still remember rocking uncontrollably with laughter. They were loud, inventive and utterly surreal. Williamson's cosy Northern humour bombed after that. It is an evening I have never forgotten.
In the early 80's I moved to Eccles and told my stock story at a party to a drinking pal. And, instead of the usual response, I was greeted with incredulous smiles. It turns out he had been the lead singer. I never knew, though should have guessed. He is pictured here in typical stage costume.
Those surprise brushes with fame are only supposed to happen once. Not this time. I bought the house I still own in Eccles and became friends with the couple over the road. Over a few beers I told the same story. "Oh yes," Barrie replied, "I was their bass guitarist". I had only known him as a dodgy washing machine repair man and a brilliant neighbour.
Eccles is strange town, full of oddballs. The American author Lewis Mumford visited it in the 1950's and, though smitten by the Eccles Cake, left unimpressed.
Wandering about one of Eccle's Victorian suburban estates, I was struck by the fact that the ruling classes, even when they commanded plenty of land and money, had not known how to use these resources to produce a pleasant environment for themselves any more than they had for their workers; at best, they made an art of their ugliness and a virtue of the grime they shared with their poorer neighbours.
This judgement ignores something that can be found in any town or city. Amongst people living in an environment that a Mumford can only see as ugly, run veins of inventiveness, creativity and talent.
Barrie was part of the reformed Brownsvilles, put together after the gig I saw. However, he had also been part of a 60's band that still have a cult following today, Wimple Winch. They were well ahead of their time with a hard edge to their psychedelic sound.
This post was prompted by two things. The first is a growing revulsion at an education system fixated with preparing people for soul-destroying work rather than fostering the talent that can be seen all around us if only we choose to look. The other is more important. Barrie is poorly and in hospital. So this is the way in which I can say get well to him and publicly announce what a good friend and neighbour he has been all these years.
So I will leave you with the only Wimple Winch track on YouTube, "Save my Soul".
More tracks here at this fan site (including "Rumble in Mersey Square South", another one well before its time)