All too often you get washed-up pop stars talking up their supposed long-standing allegiance to their local football club, as if anyone cared. In a new, occasional series Boyley catches up with United players past and present to get an insight into their musical tastes and how they went down in the dressing room. First up: Brian McClair.
“The first singles I ever bought were Ian Dury And The Blockheads’ Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and Driver 67’s top ten hit smash Car 67 which was some Brummie guy talking about a lost love and how he can’t call at house number 67.”
Q: Like an English Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa?
“Aye, a Brummie version. Growing up my parents had records but none that really stick out apart maybe from the album from the musical South Pacific which featured the song covered by Captain Sensible and reached the top of the charts, Happy Talk. They also had some Johnny Cash stuff like A Boy Named Sue and Folsom Prison Blues. This is stuff I loved when I first heard it and still do to this day. I was interested in music for a long time and bought a few of the magazines that preceded Smash Hits with stars such as Slade, Sweet and the Bay City Rollers on the cover. I also enjoyed listening to whatever music was on the ordinary outlets like the radio and Top of the Pops.”
Q: What sort of music did everyone listen to in the United dressing room?
“We didn’t. I think Wimbledon and their ‘crazy gang’ who started that off but we didn’t. We felt it was a bit vulgar.”
Q: What about your post-match night out then? Kells nightclub up by the airport?
“I never went there but some did. Generally whoever was captain at the time would half organize a get together after an away game in London. If we got back in time we often would grab a pint together before going home. I recall if we lost we’d never stay in that hotel again. We never went as far as arranging any sort of entertainment at hotels though.”
Q: Eric, Giggsy and Sharpey were spotted in places like the Hacienda and the Brickhouse. Was that your sort of scene?
Q: Not even The Venue? I saw you in there one Friday night in the early ‘90s…
“No way. Depending on the time of year though we used to have what we called our ‘Monday team talk’. We’d work really hard in the morning in training, then we’d go and have something to eat and knowing we had Tuesday off so we’d go out and have few drinks. It was more than just a booze up though. We’d all discuss where we were at as a team, things we needed to do and so on. It was very open, a bit candid and at times very brutal but that’s how things are in the dressing room sometimes. These were very open and frank discussions. We’d often start in Hale and usually ended up in town. We never really got any hassle that I was aware of. I mean, I used to do ordinary things like take the kids to school, go to the supermarket with the family and head down the pub with my mates just as I do still now. I don’t socialize with any players nowadays so don’t know where they go now but I think the demands at club level and internationally are so much nowadays that I don’t imagine they get out just down the pub for a quick pint like I did and still do.”
Q: You and Pat Nevin were seen as the cool guys with regards your musical taste after years of footballers running through their dour and uninspiring record collections in interviews.
“Pat Nevin was very much into his music and much more comfortable than me and anybody else at mixing in music circles. The young players at Motherwell were really into lots of good music. I suppose now it’s easier to haveto access to all kinds of music and carry it all on your mp3 and i-pod. Ben Collett [the promising young United player who recently had his career ended through injury] used to turn up to training in a Joy Divison – Transmission T-shirt and also loved bands like Primal Scream. He was a quite intense person so I’m not sure the music was helping! Nobody apart from me knew what the T-shirt was though.”
Q: Meanwhile, the NME featured you in the past didn’t they?
“Yes, one of my biggest ever buzzes was being an answer in the NME crossword. After years of reading the paper and doing the crossword I was finally actually in it. I was also in the famous Pseuds Corner in Private Eye. I’m very proud of these achievements – if anything my career had peaked before I came to Old Trafford, although I was in NME again at United.”
Q: You were in Red Issue quite a lot in your final United days too…
“Anyway moving on.”
Q: How do you rate the songs sung about you during your career?
“Well most of the time it was the same one, but it’s an honour. It was a good laugh near the end of my United playing days when all the fans were changing the words to other songs so they were about me [Kosice ‘97]. I love people having a good time and they certainly were.”
Q: Any embarrassing stories about United players and their music?
“In the early pre–Stars years of Simply Red, Mick Hucknall and the group came into the dressing room before a game. Hucknall was going round Robbo and the big hitters at the time with Jim Leighton hovering in the background, trying to pluck up the courage and seize the right moment to approach the flame haired one and eventually that time came. ‘Hi Mick, I’ve got two tickets for next week’s gig at the G-Mex.’ Hucknall just looked at him and said, ‘Yeah?’, before turning straight round and out of the dressing room. I think Jim had visions of being invited backstage for pre- and post-gig hospitality but oh no, haha.”
Q: Another opportunity slipping through his head, eh? Any other examples of shocking taste?
“Gary Pallister always listened to Sting and really thought it was groundbreaking but that was a hardly a shock to me. However to be fair I was driving him home once and I was listening to Joy Division and he asked who they were, and said it’s pretty good this.”
Q: Is there anything that you’ve been into but would never listen to now or vice versa?
“Ultimately my musical tastes are wider than they were but they were pretty wide anyway. I enjoy a lot of classical stuff now too but I still enjoy all the stuff I’ve always been into. I’ve never liked or got into jazz or disco. Like many people I tend to put my i-pod on shuffle but at the moment I suppose you could say I’m ‘into’ Kings Of Leon who I’ve liked for a few years.”
Q: Does Jim Ryan still like to sing The Israelites by Desmond Dekker when he’s out?
“His regular party piece is singing bits of numerous songs in the hope that one of us will join in with him but he’s usually disappointed.”
Q: What’s your favourite gig?
“The best gig I ever went to was when I was a lad growing up and playing football. Airdrie were my local team and me and a mate went to see them play on my15th birthday and we won so it was a good day. After the game I was saying ‘see you’ to my mate and he said ‘you’re not going home’. He then produced two tickets for The Jam who were playing in Glasgow that night as part of their Setting Sons tour. He’d cleared it with my parents so we got the train in, had fish and chips, The Jam played a mind-blowing gig and we got the train back. All in all a fantastic day from start to finish and that’s why I’ll always remember it.” Did you mention it to Paul Weller when we were in his company the other year? “No, I didn’t speak to him like you! I’ve been lucky though in that the people I’ve met in music had all been ordinary down-to-earth people. Ed O’Brien, Cerys, Mani and Ian Brown. They’ve got great jobs and enjoy doing them.”
*Thanks a lot to Choccy for his time and a good laugh as ever. Coming soon: Alex Stepney, Rio Ferdinand and others…
This article was first published by Pete Boyle in Red Issue magazine