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Sheffield - Ten Songs That Made Me Love...

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 26 / 11 / 2022

Sheffield - Ten Songs That Made Me Love...


In 'Ten Songs That Made Me Love...' Fiona Hutchings pays tribute to her hometown with ten of the best from the Steel City

The idea for this piece came to me when I was considering the special bit extra sparkle hometown gigs seem to include. It’s just a different vibe, an easier give and take between performer and audience, a bit more knowing and shared. Or at least it is around these parts... Welcome one and all to the Steel City in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire. We might be generally seen as both a bit laid back and blunt speaking, not the softest bunch shall we say, and yet we do seem to share a deeply protective attitude to and pride in our home city. We are so much more than a stereotype of flat caps, being tighter than a gnat’s arse with cash and begrudging with praise. We don’t all sound like Sean Bean – although his way of saying the word bastard is the correct one for the record – but we do have an issue with Leeds, even if no-one can remember why. And woe betide the fool who even tries to talk about Worcester sauce within our borders. Henderson’s Relish, (Hendo’s) is the one and only condiment in these parts. I have personally seen a very well respected restaurant and food writer be booed by a very polite BBC Radio 4 audience for trying to compare the two. (Don’t worry, when I visited him in that there London I took him a bottle of the real stuff.) Sheffield also has a long and rich musical history. And okay, I will admit there’s a lot of crossovers between bands depending who was in which school / pub/ working men’s club at any given point but that just proves there is a lot of creativity in the air around these parts. The wheels of industry might have been mostly crushed by Thatcher (the North remembers) but we work hard and play hard in Sheffield and we channel our fury, sarcasm and wit into some of the most anthemic tunes in music history. Come fight me if you like, we can meet by the fountain down the road. 1. Jarvis - Running The World Opening as strongly as possible, join me please in a chorus of ‘Cunts are still running the world’. Because they are. The only thing that gives me pause with this track is that it’s depressingly more relevant in 2022 than it was on release in 2006. When it shot up the charts in 2019 I have never missed ‘Top of The Pops’ more, I’d have loved to see how they’d have handled this one. This is a different class of lyrical poetry, it is so precise, cutting and correct. It’s also such an upbeat singalong too. My first post lockdown gig was seeing Jarv Is in Sheffield and this song (already my absolute favourite) was the undoubted highlight of a fantastic show. We shouted the chorus, waved our arms, stamped and of course he brought out surprise guest Richard Hawley to play guitar. Happens a lot in Sheffield this sort of thing. They used to be in a band together and are mates, so popping up in each other’s performances is both glorious and normal. 2. Richarf Hawley - Standing At The Sky’s Edge The very week this is being written Jarvis appeared at one of Richard Hawley’s gigs at legendary Sheffield music venue The Leadmill just to prove my point. I suspect Hawley and I share a similar level of affection for the city of our birth. He has written so many songs referencing Sheffield but I had to choose this one. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling, taking in so many decades in 6 minutes 39 seconds and each character feels real and believable. No matter how many times I hear it, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s also the name of the award winning musical set to a soundtrack of Hawley’s music. I saw it during the first run at the Crucible. I saw people crying in the audience and I have never seen a play receive a standing ovation before but this one did. In my (entirely made up) scientific opinion I think if you were to check, those of us that scrambled straight to our feet as the last note rang out were all natives. I mean, in Yorkshire, we don’t do soppy emotions and all that business but we did that night. The rest of the audience followed us and stood up too naturally. 3. Pulp - Common People It’s not cheating having Jarvis singing two songs on this list, Pulp are quite a different animal. There is a temptation when writing this kind of piece to throw in a couple of more obscure numbers to prove what a real fan you are, and I am – honest. But Common People is one of those songs that I remember hearing for the first time and it landing fully formed into my consciousness. Other entries on this list proved to me that actually not all music came from London, people from Sheffield made it into the charts too. Pulp were the first band I heard talk about places I knew and experiences I had and this one was the biggest. Mid 90’s was maximum Britpop and suddenly being working class was the cool thing to be. Mockney accents from down South were dominant and suddenly my accent up here didn’t immediately mean I was thick. Working class was cool and NHS specs were in. Finally I thought, not wearing the right labels and being poor might get me less aggro. A weird thing became obvious very quickly though. A lot of people around me suddenly going on and on about being working class just… weren’t. It’s really weird seeing your experience of actual poverty performed around you by people who had never actually gone hungry, been given their winter coat by ’the social’ and sat in a cold, dark house because there was nothing left to put in the meter. And this song nails that one hundred percent. More than once I’ve danced to this in clubs and caught others around me angrily spitting out the lyrics “You will never understand how it feels to live your life / With no meaning or control” while the tourists nod their heads and smile at how cool it is to be poor. 4. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor If Jarvis & Co nailed the hometown references, Alex Turner really sounded like he came from round here. The Monkeys carry the theme of dry, witty storytelling forwards and this has just got such a storming intro. The pace never slows. They might have looked like my mate’s band at college but they took on the whole world. 5. Heaven 17 - (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang Oh, this was so nearly ‘Temptation’ which remains a world class banger but I can hear the drop of the Forgemaster steel works hammer in the DNA of this song. It calls out the entire world pretty much, got banned by the BBC (which generally guarantees a song is worth playing) and just like Jarv Is, still bloody relevant forty-one after it was released. Anyone who think Heaven 17 ‘just’ wrote pop songs are being deliberately obtuse, they nailed their colours to the mast from dayone1, they just did it with style. 6. Reverend and the Makers - Heavyweight Champion of The World It was a wet Sunday afternoon at Tramlines and perennial visitors Reverend and The Makers very quickly turned a half full muddy field into a massive mosh pit with this one. It is classic, no nonsense, straight to the point story of the endless cycle of the working life. “Get born, get schooled, get job, get car / Pay tax and find a wife”. Our protagonist knows he’s missed the bus. He had hopes and dreams but they got lost along the way. One of the best parts of the song comes at the climax of the repeated ‘Be like everyone else’. Jon McClure, the Rev himself shouts that he’s NOT like everyone else but pushes it far enough back in the mix that it is virtually drowned out. 7, Def Leppard - Animal If Heaven 17 (and Human League along with ABC) showed me people from Sheffield can end up on TOTP, Def Leppard proved you could come from here, sell out stadiums in America and end up on MTV a lot. The video helped a lot: Sunshine! Glamour! Hair! Circus folk! And alright, he’s technically from Dronfield, but drummer Rick Allen displays exactly the sort of grit we are famed for. Losing an arm in a horrific car crash he ignored the naysayers. He was also the first visibly disabled musician I ever saw. Laid up in hospital with a pretty spectacular broken arm (even by my usual standards) that meant something. 8. Human League - Tell Me When Is this technically the best track I could have picked with which to showcase the full scope of the ‘League’s innovative back catalogue? Does it have something earth shattering to say or musical boundaries to push? No. It is the first Human League single released when I was old enough to go and buy it myself from HMV (between Moor and Fargate in case you’re wondering). But when you’re the weird kid who likes ‘old’ music, it’s deeply satisfying when they start charting again and suddenly everyone is dancing to it at parties… 9. Joe Cocker - Delta Lady My first gig, I brought the average age of Row Y down significantly by being a mere 15 years old when I went to Mr Joe Cocker. See earlier comment about being the weird kid who loved ‘old’ music, I went alone. Did I give a shiny shit? No I did not. He tore the arena up good and proper and was a class act from start to end. He had an amazing voice and stage presence, he could croon one minute and really rough it up the next and we were all dancing in the aisles. The story just hooked me a very long time ago and remains my favourite Cocker song. 10. 65Daysofstatic - Aren’t We All Running They might not be from Sheffield but they formed here. The first ever photo I had of the boy I married is him sat with a member of 65Days because we were all at Uni together. Yeah. I once met someone whose big thing was he was at Uni (Exeter –Anorak Radiohead fan, Ed) with Thom Yorke of Radiohead. At least I’m not claiming it as my main personality trait OK? I am pretty sure if I wasn’t at their very first gig I was at the second. Even then we knew it was something different. By the turn of the Millennium the guitar jangle of Britpop had been roughed up and battered but this was like no other ‘my mates’ gig I’d been to until that point. This was different, hypnotic and arresting. ‘Aren’t We All Running’ paints so many vivid, beautiful, terrible pictures in my brain. Mid-song it pauses to take a breath and then it’s wonderful assault continues. Despite what the Hovis adverts might have tried to tell you, things don’t stay still in the grim north. And we make grim bearable by creating music that makes the whole world dance.

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