Tony Christie; In the Avenues and Alleyways and Launderettes
November 20, 2008
Here’s Tony Christie in a launderette. I used to work in a Dry Cleaners, which is like a launderette without water. You can see me at work here.
Last night Tony wasn’t in the launderette, or the Alleyways. Last night was definitely the Avenues as he played the swanky Cadogan Hall near Sloane Square. Sloane Square, where the Christmas lights are made from diamonds and the only transport that circles the square is like a tongue twister gone wrong; Red Bus, Rolls Royce, Red Bus, Rolls Royce, Red Bus, Rolls Royce, Red Bus, Bentley…
And so I wandered into an area of London that I feel, as a lad from Salford and now a poor Londoner, I should have a passport for. My passport to Sloane Square acceptance was a shiny suit and the accompanionship (I think I might just have made up a new word) of the gorgeous Andrea Mann. I took Andrea along as a way of saying thank you for… well, teaching me how to blog. (So, if you’re reading this and thinking “Oh shut up!”, firstly, stop reading. Secondly, blame Andrea.) Oh, and as I say, I took her along so they’d let me into the Avenues and out of the Alleyways.
There’s more to Tony Christie than Pudsey Bear and Peter Kay. And to let us know that he knows this, and to let you know that I know this, the one song absent from his set last night is also absent from this review. Is that a bit pompous? Sorry if that’s how it comes across.
Tony and his fellow Sheffieldiers like to give their emotions a sense of place; to wrap up the ins and outs and ups and downs of love in the physical landscape; to map the terrains of the heart in the A to Z of the city. Journeys, destinations, meeting places where only one turns up. They’re all there; in the avenues, in the alleyways, in the launderettes, the chip shops, Coles Corner, and Paradise Square.
Coles Corner and Paradise Square both feature on Tony’s new album, Made in Sheffield, produced by fellow Sheffielder, Richard Hawley. Made in Sheffield because it was. In many senses. Some of the contributors were made in Sheffield, by their parents. Songs are written by Sheffielders, known and not so known. There’s Louise by the Human League, and the epic and sublime Born to Cry, by Hawley, Banks, Doyle, Mackey, Webber and Cocker (Jarvis, not Joe). Just how many successful Cockers can one city produce?
The gig was great. And Richard Hawley’s band, accompanying Tony, were glorious. But I’m no music critic, what do I know?
In fact, I need help, I need tips to appreciate things. There are songs that I know and love, and then I realise a long way down the line, I actually love but don’t know. It’s taken me over twenty years to understand some of the songs of Elvis Costello, and the rest I’m still working on. But I think you can love without understanding. And sometimes you may be the better for it.
Last night Tony helped map out the geography of a rocky heart. Coles Corner and Paradise Square are both songs dedicated to Sheffield landmarks. Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner was a meeting place for lovers; Coles Corner is no longer what it once was, and the corner of this song has now become a place of loneliness for its unloved singer.
Paradise Square is a beautiful song, but with the darkest of hearts. Why don’t you meet me there? There where we can dedicate some time to this affair, that’s if you have the time to spare, why don’t you meet me there? It sounds like a love song. It’s a fragile piece, sung delicately, as if the slightest wrong move might shatter it into a million pieces. Why don’t you meet me there? There on the cobbled stones of Paradise Square. But a clue comes along later in the song; There where lovers meet to make the most of memories, only to discover they have now become sworn enemies.
Paradise Square. Paradise. Where the good go after death.
Moments before singing,Tony tells us that Paradise Square in Sheffield is where all the lawyers are. And then he drops his microphone to talk to the band, realising, as if for the first time, it’s a song about the end of love, about divorce.