NORTHSIDE – CHICKEN RHYTHMS (1991)
My introduction to the quartet named Northside came in my second year of college, I believe, a few years after the release of their only album, Chicken Rhythms. As a teenage fan of all things Madchester, I’d heard of them, of course, but it wasn’t until Liz lent me a cassette that I was able to give it a listen. Although I was at first dismissive of what seemed to me to be by-the-numbers Baggy, over time the album unexpectedly grew on me.
Northside were formed in 1989 by Warren “Dermo” Dermody (vocals and United supporter) and Cliff Ogier (bass and City supporter). They were soon after joined by Michael “Upto” Upton (guitar) and Paul Walsh (drums). Upton was soon after replaced by Timmy Walsh. All were residents of either Blackley or Moston, in Manchester‘s Northside. In August they recorded a demo at The Cutting Rooms, part of Abraham Moss College.
Northside received some airplay byTony the Greek’s program on Piccadilly Radio and Craig Cash on KFM, Stockport. They capitalized on their growing local fame with their September live debut at Manchester’s Boardwalk which sold out. Not long after, Tony Wilson visited them at their rehearsal space and offered them a contract with Factory and they accepted. They closed out the year opening for Happy Mondays at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in November and a performance (supported by Paris Angels) at the Haçienda‘s Christmas party. In early 1990, Northside were profiled on the Granada documentary, Madchester – The Sound of the North.
In April Northside headed to the capital to record their debut single with producer Ian Broudie, “Shall We Take A Trip” b/w “Moody Places,” released on Factory. It was very much of the time, with wah-wah guitar, funky drumming, and vocals sung in the style of The Stone Roses‘ Ian Brown or The Charlatans‘ Tim Burgess. A not at all veiled paean to LSD, it was predictably banned by the BBC and climbed to No. 50 on the singles chart.
Second single, “My Rising Star,” was both less derivative and less distinct but no less winning. It was their first love song and it reached No. 32 in the charts and spent seven weeks on the charts.
Chicken Rhythms was released in 1991 (some re-issues also included “My Shining Star”). The album’s cutesy artwork, designed by Manchester’s Central Station Design, suggested strangely that Northside were some kind of twee boy band. Their third single, “Take 5,” climbed to No. 40 in the UK (and No. 1 in Canada). It was released on 1 June, the same day they played Leeds’s Elland Road Stadium with Happy Mondays, The Farm, and The La’s.
Northside began working on demos for a follow-up but Factory went out of business in 1992 and the follow-up was never completed. Northside went their separate ways in 1996. In 2003, Dermo and Ogier formed Silent Partners, with Malc Law (drums) and Danny Yates (guitar). Ogier left and was replaced by Dom Morrison.
In 2006, following the reformation of Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays, Dermody, Morrison, Yates and new drummer Spencer Birtwistle (The Fall) played as Northside on a handful of dates. In 2014, the original line-up of the band re-formed but so far no new material has emerged.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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