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Spike Island-First Time 1989 

by Bernie Bostik


The gang were all sitting on the wall of The Red Lion on a sweltering Bank Holiday Sunday in May. My mate Brendan, and me had just pulled up in his rust coloured escort. As soon as we stepped out of the car the questions started ' What are they like?...Giz a look at one then?...What's the bat on them? They were inferring to the 150 t'shirts in the boot of Brendan's Danny, which were emblazoned with a very poor Jackson Pollock type  picture of the Runcorn bridge, and the words 'The Stone Roses' above and 'Mersey Paradise' below. The reason for us having all this swag with us was that one of the most talked about and hyped-up bands of the time - The Stone Roses, were playing probably the biggest concert of the time, in our own back yard - a kind of Woodstock for that baggy/Sadchester generation, but this wasn't some farm in upstate New York, this was the baron wastelands of the Northwest and in-particular the banks of the Mersey in chemically induced Widnes.    


It was being held at Spike Island , which technically speaking was a Bruce Grobbelaar punt away from being in our own back yard. You see, we all inhabited a small hamlet, a little bit further down the Mersey estuary between Widnes and Warrington , called Penketh, if you were to walk along the Leeds/Liverpool Canal from Penketh which runs parallel to the Mersey and behind Fiddlers Ferry power station, you'd be in Spike Island in 20-30 minutes tops. For years we had spent every school holiday and weekend along this stretch of land, this was our very own big fuck off Disneyworld adventure playground. You had Warrington Tip to the left and The Ferry Inn Pub to the right and passed the pub you had (The Pipes) big grey metal pipes about eight ft high that ran for about half a mile to (Glass Hill) a massive big concrete slope near to the power station, which was great fun for sliding down in a cardboard box after a bottle of Thunderbird and a flim deal of weed and which still to this day has a gigantic anarchy sign painted in white gloss on it (now I wonder who done that, whilst saggin' double maths and under the influence of a rather large tub of Evo?...not me your Honour).  




Next was Anglia Canners which was a dog food factory - no dog ever went hungry on our estate. Then you had reservoirs full of gunge the colour of Kryptonite, pipes pumping steaming sludge into the canal, derelict buildings galore, and lots of other interesting things to explore at the back of the power station - it was here one night while I was encamped in a pump house type building, with a few amigo's, that I had my most intense and evil mushy trip ever. For a laugh(?), whilst I lay on my back in a small dingy dark room, the lads buried me in bits of old cable...just to let you now...I have a phobia of all things snake! Which, got even worse when I found the rascals had jammed the door shut!  


You also had the railway line that ran along side the canal which brought the coal for the Power station and also the odd train full of cars passing through from Fords in Halewood, which were eagerly anticipated because of their bounty of car stereos. The trick was jumping on as the trains slowed down at the Ferry Inn level crossing then once aboard ragging the cars of the stereos before jumping off again a few miles down the track when the train slowed down going round the bend at the back of Lever Brothers- quite a tricky manoeuvre but a few of the lads had it off to a fine art. I don't know why we bothered really as the majority of our Dads worked at Fords (mine included) and getting a radio from there was as easy as, well, according to my old man 'you just put one in your bag and walk out the factory gates son’. He must have been an expert on the matter because he had a stash of them under his bed...just to the left of his porn. Then you had the back of Bush-Booke-Allen, a big chemical firm who supplied all the major crisp manufacturers with the chemically enhanced flavourings for their crisps- the smells that emitted from the factory were a bit of a cunt, especially if you were a half starved 12 year old to enthralled in a soggy edition of Mayfair to go home for his tea, and all that was finding its way into his aching stomach was an intoxicating but pleasant prawn cocktail vapour. Then last of all, Spike Island itself.  




To be truthful we rarely ventured all the way to Spike Island only because the chance of bumping into a marauding mob from Runcorn on a mid summers day mooch was about even money. Anyway, you get the layout. This was our gang turf and no way was this concert going to happen on our territory without us getting something out of it, call it our type of ground rent. So Brendan's elder brother who was quite a little 'entrepreneur' at the time, hatched a plan were we were going to get 150 t'shirts printed up. He had a few contacts in the printing/rag trade and a girlfriend (who came from Greece and had a thirst for knowledge and she studied art at Halton College ) who'd offered to do the design. My ears pricked up when he got to the nuts and bolts of the operation 'the shirts cost 'so much' and it's 'so and so' to print the design on, and if we sell them at 'so much'  that would leave us with a clear profit of 'that much’. Yours and our kids job is to flog the swag on the day and you will each receive 'so much wages'...Lovely Jubbly...Count me in.  



So with a week to go before the shindig all the talk in The Red Lion was obviously of a Rose's nature. 'The Event was going to last all day & all of the night and would have DJ's galore and great support bands. Shaun & Bez were even joining them on stage'...according to Reggie Rumour (Ronnies wooly back cousin). I wasn't a big fan myself but I could tolerate them...just. Everyone else was besotted with them especially my cousin who was a proper Stone Roses anorak who followed them up and down the country and waited itching in anticipation for every new release like a gerb does whilst yearning for his next bag of brown. Christ! He spent the three days leading up to the concert sat on the grass at Spike Island watching the cunting stage being erected! Now that is an addiction! Although he was rewarded on the last day of his homage by Ian and the boys, arriving for a sound check.    


Every house you went back to after the boozer their album always used to get bunged on. Even on a Saturday night out after the match you couldn't escape them, even in our late night haunt Legends at Warrington 's old rugby ground. If the Roses weren't topping the bill (I've seen them play there three times) the DJ would play 'I am The Resurrection' at least three times a night! It wasn't a bad little venue legends, of course it had that 'Madchester vibe' thing going on, but if that was your bag you were in heaven. We had been coming here for a few years (pre-Sadchester days) and we had seen the student crowd slowly crystallise from Goths and Morrissey heads into full blown members of Candy Flip (see enclosed photos). For me, it was always just a bad student gaff that was cheap to get in, cheap booze, you could gain entrance in your match going attire and you could chong till your hearts content without getting too much grief off the bulldogs on the door.  



The only other people who might of gave you a bit of bovver were the Orford heads, they use to congregate in the opposite corner to all us Penketh/Sankey lot, but at this stage both mobs just wanted to get high - It was only when Legends exploded as a dance gaff and the lucrative market of banging out tablets and the money that went with it became an issue, that things become a little bit nasty between the two mobs. But first and foremost, the place started out as a live music venue. Some of the bands I remember; James - Ok'ish, Mondays - pure class, Shaun collapsed on stage and Bez spent more time at the bar than on stage, Alarm - good, Manic Street Preachers - manic, Dread Zeppelin – boss. And here are some of the bands I instantly forgot; Primitives, Chameleons, New Fast Automatic Daffodils and the Charlatans. My all time favourites must have been The Colour Blind James Experience - when the lads high on speed and window-panes steamed the stage for the encore 'I'm considering a move to Memphis '.  My abiding memory of this was Tez, one of the gang, repeatedly twatting the lead singer on the head with a maraca and the xylophone/glockenspiel players face as Pikey, crouching on all fours, attacked his ankles like a rabid scabby mongrel, much to the amusement of the bass player who watched the whole debacle unfold from the side of the stage in bulk.     


Del-Boy was as good as his promise and came up with the t'shirts with two days to spare. We were rearing to go, I had already spent my earner (in my head) on a dark blue Chevignon coat (I had previously seen in a small shop just off Oxford St on my last visit to the Smoke) a nice little 3/4 length waxed-like material thingy with collars, two pockets on the front and a small Chevignon label at the bottom near the zip. The day of the concert arrived, and to start off we sold a few (2) to the lads at the Lion. Then off it was on the short journey to SI. As we arrived and parked up (it was still pretty early) we were inundated with numerous wags all trying to sell their wares...SHIT!  This was going to be tougher than we first thought. The strategy was to pitch-up were the main coach and car-parks were. A few hours in and still no joy with only a hand full of shirts sold (one of which I swapped for two wraps of speed).  A bit later we were joined by a few touts who we knew, my brother-in-law being one of them. He suggested trying to smuggle as many t'shirts inside as possible and flog them outside the merchandise tent.   



So after dumping the majority of the stock back at the car, in we went, with as many tops as was humanly possible to carry/wear (without wanting to look like a couple of  bang-on-top swag grafters) we breezed past the security. Once in, they sold like hot cakes!!!  So with a few 'blags' back out and in past the security, things were on the up. With the Roses’ due on soon we bumped in to a couple of girls we knew from Warrington , so we thought now was a good a time as any for a well earned brake. With the speed earlier bombed and fermenting nicely in our stomachs, what followed was a few hours of tablet/brandy/spliff/lip on lip hip grinding action. So with the brake over and the concert due to finish soon, it was back to work for me and Brendan. We quickly disposed of the girls with an option of meeting up later and darted gazelle like in, out and over the crowds on our way to the exits.    


Outside the other more 'professional' of the swag trade were already set up and ready to go. We collected the rest of the shirts and set up at the gates of the car park and before long the steady stream of punters begun emerging from a small subway, towards us. The t'shirts started to fly out, we only had a small window of opportunity though, as the steady stream of punters wasn't going to last all night. So the bat got dropped near the end just to entice every last penny out of the stragglers and acid casualties. We ended up with about twenty shirts left, all-in-all not a bad result.




So with our pockets stuffed with cash we headed off to Legends to meet up with the rest of the clan and the two girls from earlier. Brendan and myself drank some more, chonged some more and even managed to fit in a quick 'hot shoe shuffle' on the dance floor to 'Lazyitis' by the Mondays, before retiring back to one of the girls flat, where I spent the twilight hours lying naked and sweating on a bed, while the frustrated bird tried in vain to suck life into my walnut-whip of a cock…


Oh, and I forgot to tell you, the Roses sounded shite!  



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