walking. i don’t think it is something that people appreciate enough. city centres are amazing places, full of back streets which are never seen, lost architecture, broken windows and forgotten buildings. most people got off a bus, walk down the high street and see primark, tesco and hmv. why not head off around the places you never go? don’t know how to find them?
well, the best way is to find them by accident. so, stick on an album and see where the music takes you. to start this experiment i’m going with nick cave and the bad seeds 1994 record ‘let love in.’
1. do you love me (part i) – the tree of remembrance (piccadilly gardens)
from the moment the album starts it is obvious where i need to head. the rolling drums sounds just like a train approaching, so i’m off towards piccadilly station. the bustling energy of this song quite suits piccadilly gardens, though i doubt that the christmas shoppers and office workers would appreciate nick cave’s sombre view on love. # as the bells from the chapel go jingle jangle # well, time for a change of direction then. i head up aytoun street in search of a church. i find a beautiful building on bloom street at the top of canal street.
2. nobody’s baby now – bloom street
smokey keyboards and tales of a lost girl. the thought of a girl lost to the maker, away from a man who cares for her pushes me out towards the star and garter. i’m not going to go any further into the reasoning, i think anyone who has been round that part of town at the right time of day will understand. so off in that direction i head, rather than to the station. down minshull street, but just as the song ends i am confronted by a rather large road sign. given the timing i feel there is no choice, so elsewhere i head.
3. loverman – minshull street / mmu city campus
# devil waiting outside your door, awake with evil…# following the one way sign my feet lead me up auburn street. the devils of cave’s lyrics may well find solace with the business and stockbroker types smoking outside piccadilly’s swanky hotels. i carry on up ducie street, but roadworks force me onto dale street as the devil whispers in my ear. left down lena street. right onto back piccadilly. at this point i’ll hold my hands up and say that this is my favourite street in town, so i was always going to head down here if i got the chance.
4. jangling jack – back piccadilly
this is nick at his most fervent, the track throws straight into jack hitting the bar, and hitting the ground. i turn right to see what i can find, up china lane. this is the kind of seedy back alley where jangling jack would probably end up in a pool, calking out for his mommy.
5. red right hand – top china street
# take a walk to the ancient town … past the bridge, past the mills # best bet for manchester is to make for the canals. turn right, past the shiny new apartments, designed very much for the ‘new’ manchester. this is the new town meeting what made it, the hidden arteries of the place. the rochdale canal runs through piccadilly basin in the same place it has been for years, yet around it buildings are flying up. the simple bridge over the canal here is stark, but a masterful piece of architectural engineering. a piece of simple metalwork curling over the water. the view from the top gives you the true sight. the lock. the mills. the city centre creeping out towards ancoats.
i don’t use the bridge though. head left, following the canal to a now defunct boatyard, now used only for the view from the executive flats. you get the feeling that cave’s man with the red hand would probably kill someone round here…
6. let love in – rochdale canal / piccadilly basin
this is much more upbeat stuff. away from the slight unease of the canal, up towards the bright lights of ilva on great ancoats street. a symbol of modern style whilst cave sings an perturbed love song which sees him bound and gagged by the one he loves.
this suits the decadence of this style, cave is being dragged into a life that he wasn’t prepared for. # far worse to be love’s lover than the love it has scorned # nick is far more comfortable with the downcast great ancoats street than the modish chic of scandinavian design.
7. thirsty dog – great ancoats street
i know that nick isn’t actually a dog in this track, but i catch sight of a man with his dog heading towards oldham road. i need to reach them. great ancoats street is a strange mix of times now. on one side, business and promise. on the other, seedy cafés and sex shops. art gallery tempered by pubs with smashed windows.
8. ain’t gonna rain anymore – oldham road
dark and seedy, a storm in the form of a girl. i need to find a back street that suits this mood. left down marshall street. old factories. broken walls. abandoned offices. # she ain’t coming back anymore # neither are these buildings, this is the part of town that isn’t being picked up. whilst other parts of manchester are having funds thrown at them, this back end of ancoats / shudehill seems to have been forgotten. the thing is, this is where the true beauty of the town is. this is discarded industry, derelict buildings. in the shadow of a town redeveloped, inspired by unwanted destruction, this part of town seems to hold true character.
9. lay me low – marshall street
then again, new developments are springing up either side of the forsaken pubs and offices. # stories will come out, friends will see my work in a different light # nick is planning his death, but this is triumphant. # here’s to the man on top of the world # the thing is, this town isn’t dead, rising up from the desolation is the ‘green quarter’ – the newest part of manchester’s ‘development.’ this isn’t canals. here we have artfully designed water ways in fancy urban manors. this is a triumph of the new over decay, a re-evaluation of manchester’s industrial past. this architecture feels more like barcelona than northern diligence.
10. do you love me (part ii) – sharp street
strange how the album ends with a reprise of ‘do you love me.’ thing is, it is with a much more macabre feel, whilst i look out over the older railway arches coming out of victoria rather than the freshly developed piccadilly. st. michael’s flags doesn’t quite set the right tone for cave’s talk of paedophilia at first glance. yet down towards the corners of the park are dark, foreboding stairways, left abandoned. this park is designed to cut them off, no paths reach them, there aren’t even any desire lines trying to attach them to this new vision of the flags. yet when you realise what this place used to be / still is underneath it all, nick starts to make more sense. st. michael’s flags used to be manchester’s burial ground for the poor, the cast offs who couldn’t afford a grave. now, now it is simply a green space to suit the needs of the developments springing up. this is manchester cutting off the likes of cave’s abuser, abandoning the young boy with his pants round his ankles, and forgetting its’ own sense of self.