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Fantastic Day

By Mike Love


What was the score on Haircut 100 then?  Three classic early singles, in 'Favourite Shirts', 'Love Plus One', and 'Fantastic Day', then cutie lead singer, Nick Heyward, gets too big for his boots, goes solo, and, within two or three further releases disappears in Pop's great big dumper (see also, Charlie out of Busted).  Anyway, this introduction bears no resemblance to what the article is about, but the title of the Haircuts (as absolutely nobody called them) third single is germane to what I am about to say.
Don't know about you, but our school was a dump.  I went to Breckfield County Primary, in Everton, between 67-72, a seat of learning where you were thought to be posh, if you had two shoes (particularly if they matched) and didn't have an olive-oil soaked piece of cotton wool in your ear.  Other than the annual 5-a-side tournament, at the Albion House, on Mere Lane, the only highlight of the year was 'The Governor's Prize' for writing a short story.  The premise was a simple one.  With a title of 'Fantastic Day', you had to write about the best time you had ever had, and the winner would receive a 5 book token, and get to go on stage, during prize giving, to accept the plaudits of the whole school.  Modesty forbids, but I lifted the trophy, in 1970, for my seminal work on how Sir Alf called me up to the England World Cup squad as a late replacement for Jeff Astle, and I scored the equaliser against Brazil.  The Governors liked, I think, my little twist, in which I still had England going out in the Quarter Final, and me joining the squad, in the Top of the Pops studio, to sing 'Back Home' (although 'sir' deleted the bit about me seeing Pans' People in their knickers).
And, you know, in some small way, I often wonder what we as adults would write if we were ever given a similar essay to compose?  What is our version of a 'Fantastic Day'?  For many, I suppose, it would involve maybe Football, Women, Blokes, Alcohol and perhaps no little sexual activity.  For me, though, things came full circle, and my genuine Fantastic Day, happened only a few hundred yards from the Alma Mater where I had secured the Governor's Prize all those years ago.  Back in 1997, my employers hit on what was a pretty good idea in fairness.  One day a week, for twenty weeks, certain members of staff would go out and assist in a project in the local community.  When the list came around, I leaped on the chance to return to the Oakfield Road Barrio, to do some stuff with a youth group.  Having kids m'sel, and being down with yoof culture (albeit from a safe distance, in suburbia), I thought that I would deffo be able to 'give something back'.  Although there was no real gun or knife culture, in those days (albeit only 11 years ago), the kids I worked with were nails, and some of the stories are legion.  Maybe for another time, though.  The thing is, here, on my final week, in May, the 'Project Worker' - on abar 6,000 a year, disgracefully - wandered into the office (well, it had a desk and a PC), with a load of laminates in his hand.  "Just been given these", he said, "'cos my mate is in some Gospel Choir, and they're doin' 'You'll Never Walk Alone' at the Justice Concert.  Anybody want one"?  I inspected the freebie, with suspicion.  Rubbed my eyes once.  Rubbed them again.  'Hillsborough Justice Concert, 10 May 1997, ACCESS ALL AREAS'.  Do I want one?  Do I want one?!!!!!!!!!!!
It is now the next day, and I am backstage (underneath the Anny Road end), sitting down to some scran.  Loads of faces having their lunch; there goes Frank Skinner, Tommy Scott from Space, John Lennon (or maybe one of the Bootleg Beatles), and John Peel.  I sit down with some young lads in leather jackets.  "What you's doin' then"?  "We're on the bill, mate".  "Who are yer"? "We're called Stereophonics".  "Oh, good luck".  Shit name, that, no wonder nobody ever heard of them again.  Lunch over, I wandered up to the Centenary Stand, where each acts 'rider' was in separate Executive Boxes.  Sat off with Franny and Tommy from Space (they remembered me from when I interviewed their first band, 'Hello Sunset'), before having a chat with Paul Heaton about Sheff U's play-off against Ipswich.  By then, the ground was packed, so I had a wander onto the stage (I kid you not, those access-passes are GOD, at this sort of thing), camera in hand, and the crowd went ga-ga.  I will never have a more surreal moment in my entire life.  Thousands looking at ME, and wondering who the eff I am.  Returning to the boxes, I sat in with Terry Hall and the entire Peel clan, and watched The Stereophonics, Bootleg Beatles, Dodgy, Smaller (Digs gave me a bit of grief when I asked him if Noel really was gonna make an appearance), Space, Lightning Seeds, The Beautiful South, Manic Street Preachers (who hadn't 'mingled' all day), and Skinner doing Three Lions, before we were all sent backstage for the finale of Holly Johnson doing 'Ferry Across the Mersey', and the Gospel Choir's impressive rendition (and I say that as an Evertonian) of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (although I did nip to the bog, when the ensemble were joining in, in deference to my Blue-status).
And that, incredibly, was it.  It really happened and I have the pics to prove it.  So many memories, but the most abiding one was of Pete Wylie begging the security guard to let him in.  As I walked past, laminate shining in the spring sunshine, Wylie shrieked; "ee ar, ee knows me" - pointing in my direction.  "Never seen you before in my life, mate" I said, before sauntering off for afternoon tea with Nicky Wire.




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