Thursday, 10 September 2009

Phil Hayes, Rock Promoter

My friend Tim Brunsden emailed me about Phil Hayes. “I think you should take his photo”, he wrote, “He is a positive force in Liverpool and good to know”. Intrigued, I googled Mr. Hayes and found out the following;

Phil is the driving force behind The Picket, one of Liverpool’s iconic music venues. In 2004 it was forced to close when its Hardman Street home was sold to developers. Luckily, Phil found a converted warehouse in the up and coming area around Cain’s brewery, trendily called Liverpool Independent Cultural District and it is here that the spirit of the original venue is continuing under his auspicious and dedicated leadership.

Well, enough said about that for now. That could be a PR release. I emailed Phil and we arranged a pre-shoot of sorts during a band rehearsal. Never having met him before, I prefer to cover myself with a “pre-shoot” clause in case I mess up (and mess up I do).

Liverpool’s ICD, as I shall now call it, is basically a motley assortment of bland industrial units, neglected council homes, Victorian quasi-ruins, and the magnificent, now renovated Buddleia Building. In some ways, the streets remind me of the iconic line from Adrian Henri’s Liverpool 8 poem: “now a wasteland murdered by planners not German bombers”.
In between a cacophony of prefabricated structures, the history of Liverpool hangs dankly, in the air, on yellow bricks, crumbling stones, and more than anything, across the streets with names of Brick, Kitchen, Flint - hinting at their erstwhile trades. Cain’s Brewery itself was billowing out smoke that day, pulsing forward into the blue June sky, a sign that all had not passed - yet. The skeleton of a modern and extremely ugly apartment block dominated the skyline. The shape of things to come. Someone told me that its design had actually won an award.

Apart from this, only the weeds appear to be thriving, growing out of broken cast iron drainpipes and cracked lintels, upwards towards the blue. Of The New Pickett we could find not a trace. I called Tim. ‘It is on a corner, somewhere near Greenland Street. He hasn’t got a board up yet”. So we drove around some more. On our final slow crawl around we found the building - shuttered. Phil had forgotten.

He eventually sent me an apology by email, but I was riding the proverbial high horse and so never replied.
Some months passed and I found myself at the opening of “The Beat Goes On” at The Liverpool World Museum. Very interesting too, it was, and quite a number of the people depicted on the wall posters were standing around in the real flesh. Echo and The Bunnymen, The Zutons, that guy from Cream.

It did not go unnoticed by me that many of these same were rather inebriated too. I don’t know what they were on, but surely it was not that luke-warm sparkly stuff I had been offered downstairs in the foyer? In no way am I suggesting that anything untoward was afoot, just that there was another party in (com)motion somewhere that I had not been invited to.

It was as I was bending over a memorabilia case containing Billy Fury’s guitar, that I heard, “To live outside the law, you must be honest”. I beg your pardon? Looking around I came face to face with none other than Phil Hayes. It’s Bob Dylan, he muttered. Never mind Bob Dylan, Phil was rather the worse for wear. How did I recognise him? From Tim’s “Liverpool Story” on him. No mistaking.

You stood me up, I told him, and I was supposed to have taken your photo? Swaying uncertainly, he peered at me, and then said, you were?

Around noon the next day Phil called and apologised for being drunk. I was impressed. We are all entitled to be rat assed from time to time. Also, forgetting an appointment is not the crime of the century. Being on a high horse is not an admirable trait.

Soon after I did the real thing, and by then the exterior wall of The New Pickett boasted a magnificent Irish Mural. It was the perfect background for Phil’s green blue eyes and highly coloured tattoos. Phil and I had a good talk, about life, his love of Shakespeare, and drugs in the music industry. And of course, Bob Dylan.