Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Andrew Weatherall

This is a post I didn't expect to be writing. Andrew Weatherall died in hospital yesterday of a pulmonary embolism aged fifty six. This unwanted piece of news turned up in a Whatsapp group and then my social media timelines, people who were fans or had connections with him, were deluged with reactions, tributes and memories and his music. It goes without saying that this blog has reflected my love for the man's work. This is the 499th time that I've tagged 'Andrew Weatherall' on a post and his music and influence has been the subject of my writing since Bagging Area's first week of existence back in January 2010. My personal history with Lord Sabre goes back twenty years before that, to 1990 and his first remixes. Loaded, Hallelujah, Come Home and Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Raise by Bocca Juniors. It all started there and then mushroomed in spectacular style, from Screamadelica in 1991 to his most recent works in the Woodleigh Research Facility and solo records. It's not an exaggeration to say that a huge swathe of records and CDs I've bought since 1990, shelf upon shelf of artefacts (plus books, T-shirts, prints and posters) are because of his involvement as producer, musician or remixer or because in some way he recommended them, through interviews in the music press, articles written for magazines and websites, out DJing, warming up for bands, club nights recorded onto cassette, internet DJ mixes and his regular radio shows for 6 Music and most recently NTS.

I had a number of encounters with him in real life, DJing at club nights and events. In the 1990s Weatherall was a regular at Cream, the Liverpool superclub. He played in the backroom, a dark box of a place where we- me, Lou, Nick, Meanie, Mandy, Ian, Vinnie, Julia, Ross, Amanda and others- gathered on a monthly basis to dance to his sets, mad techno, dub and electro that often ended with the room bouncing in unison in an acid house pogo. The train ride over from Manchester to Liverpool would be filled with anticipation and the return journey the day after with the warm glow of a night well spent. There was a night at the Hacienda circa 1993 I attended which has gone down in legend but of which I remember little except that it was the stuff that reputations rest on. At some point he played Sankey's Soap, then an outpost in a post- industrial wasteland north of Manchester city centre. Somehow (via Julia I think who had an acquaintance with Ian Weatherall, Andrew's brother) we were on the guestlist. We arrived at the front of the queue, our names checked against the list on the clipboard and then the door-woman called across the courtyard to the inner door 'these are Andy's guests, they can go straight in'. I floated across the courtyard.

In 1998, very close to the birth of our first child Isaac, we went to a performance at the Cornerhouse on Oxford Road. Weatherall was playing records to accompany a screening of the 1922 silent movie classic Nosferatu, music, sounds and noises to go with the freakiest film of early cinema. Isaac, in utero, at some point found it all a bit much- a limb protruded and made a wave from inside Lou's stomach, like a shark's fin in time to the ghostly soundtrack. This event doesn't exist anywhere on the internet (or least I've never found any record of it). In modern parlance, 'pics or it didn't happen'. But it did happen, I was there. I went out a bought a pair of Levi's cinchback jeans not long afterwards as a result of Mr Weatherall wearing a pair that night. When he put together the Nine O'Clock Drop compilation album in 2000, punk funk ahead of the curve, one of the gnomic remarks on the inner sleeve was to 'keep your secrets, they're all we've got'. The Nosferatu Cornerhouse event fits into that ethos.

In the early 00s at a venue on Oldham Street called Planet K we saw him play a minimal electro/ techno set, sparsely attended but musically perfect (also attended by Johnny Marr if memory serves). There was a night at The Music Box on Oxford Road with Keith Tenniswood, part of a Two Lone Swordsmen tour done with turntables and laptops. Later on in 2008 or 2009 TLS had become a rock 'n' roll band, playing the songs from the excellent Wrong Meeting albums, garage and rockabilly inspired music with Weatherall on vocals and Chris Rotter on guitar. Chris and James Fyffe on Facebook have both hinted at times when that band played a festival, went down like a sack of shit with a crowd clearly wanting something else, and then overdid it recreationally. Fail we may, sail we must.

More recently, since 2010, in partnership with with Sean Johnston Weatherall put on a roaming club night called A Love From Outer Space, an oasis of slow in a world ever speeding up, slow motion, cosmische chug, transporting and transcendent music. I attended one just under a year ago at The Refuge and had a ball. There was an ALFOS night at The White Hotel in Salford a couple of weeks ago which I missed for a variety of reasons. Never mind, I thought, they'll be back soon, I'll go next time.

In 2018 Harvey and I travelled over to Liverpool to see Weatherall DJ at a pub called The Merchant in Liverpool, an afternoon drinking beer and listening to a Music's Not For Everyone set of rock 'n' roll, blues and garage rock. I approached him and stumbled through a fairly excruciating exchange (for me)- I was nervous. I met him a couple of times at Cream but only in the end- of- set, handshake, 'nice one, great set, thanks mate' kind of way. In Liverpool two years ago I introduced myself and bumbled my way through some kind of conversation and got a photo of me and him. I always meant to re- introduce myself at a gig, say hi and apologise for my tongue- tied nature in Liverpool, mention the blog (which I neglected to do in 2018- duh). He was familiar with Bagging Area apparently- a friend of his from the old days had been in touch with me once or twice by email to thank me for my work sharing AW's work and said that he, Weatherall, knew of the blog- that on its own blew my mind.

I'm just scratching the surface here and I suspect I'll have more to say this week and beyond. What a loss. A true maverick, a pioneer, a genuine talent, a lovely bloke and an inspiration. My life has been considerably richer because of his. My most sincere condolences to his family and friends for whom all of this is much more personally felt. The world was a better place with Andrew Weatherall in it.

Smokebelch II (Beatless Mix)


drew said...

Great piece SA. Still totally shellshocked by this. Weatherall gone and that Orange bampot and the bawbag are still here. Someone's having a joke at our expense.

George said...

Excellent piece of writing Adam. You shared some nice memories, I particularly enjoyed your encounter with him in 2018, of a middle-aged man (you) being star struck with another middle-aged man.

Dirk said...

Very sorry for you, mate! As you know his stuff was not my cup of tea most of the times, still you'll find 'Get Out Of My Kingdom' on every bloody mixtape I ever made since you posted said tune here. Genius!

Having read all your posts about AW and the love you put into them, I can imagine that it will be a similar loss for you as (or should this be 'than'? No idea ..) the loss of Peel was for me.

Very sorry for you, as I said ...

Michael Doherty said...

Fantastic piece, Adam and I imagine very hard for you to write. Gone far, far too soon but someone who we have no doubt has left an utterly indelible mark on music, culture and our lives.

Jake Sniper said...

Well said and a great choice of track (not an easy choice) For a little over 30 years I've been listening to AW, he has been a part of my cultural life and has shaped my love of music. Much praise has been deservedly been given and will continue, all I can think to say is "We know that music is music"

JC said...

I'm guessing that was one of the most difficult and painful bits of writing you've ever turned your mind to.....and yet, it reads and flows so naturally that you clearly got yourself locked in immediately.

As with Dirk, not everything ever resonated with me as it did with you, Drew and ctel among many others, but there is no question that Weatherall was the key to really getting the purest of indie-kids to do a different type of dancing.

The other thing I'm picking up from the various tributes across t'internet today - and there's a huge outpouring from readers of The Guardian via the comments section - is that he was a genuine bloke, never keen to play up on his fame and always looking out for those who loved the music. It is no real surprise that he was aware of Bagging Area....and I reckon he would have been very happy to see your unbridled enthusiasm for his work.

His absence from your and many others lives will take a bit of getting used to.

The Lighthouse Mancunian said...

Your love for the man shines through.
Lovely piece. A huge shame you had to write it.

TheRobster said...

I immediately thought of you when I heard the news last night. I turned on 6 Music and Huw Stephens was playing the Weatherall remix of MBV's 'Soon'. A really good piece here Adam, I love that you've made it so personal. It's always hard to write things like this about people who mean so much to you, but you've done him proud.

Stanley said...

Younger than me. So so sad. What an incredible life he lived though.

Anonymous said...

Terrible news Adam, we all know how much Weatherall meant to you. In fact i first found your blog when looking for Weatherall rarities and mixes. You have kept me updated with the great mans work ever since. The great gnostic traveller in sound took us all on a great journey. Thank you Andrew, Jah bless. RIP

Rol said...

My first thought on hearing the news was, Jesus I hope Swiss Adam's all right. Which probably seems a bit odd, but our minds make these connections for us.

A worthy tribute, just as I expected.

C said...

As has been said above, I immediately thought of you too when I heard the news
yesterday on 6 Music. I have learned much about him thanks to you and feel especially sad and shocked too because somehow you've been that connection so I've been more engaged than I might otherwise have been. Plus I'm the same age.
Beautiful, heartfelt tribute SA and fab photo.

keepingitpeel said...

Long time visitors here will know of our ongoing Monty Burns/Homer Simpson thing with the comments. I have no idea when it started or why. I think because I ran out of superlatives to use to describe his work.

His impact was huge, as is his legacy. Luckily for us looking at his Discogs profile so is his work which I'm sure means that SA will still be posting in memorium and for me with the Burns/Homer response (*groans all round*) for as long as he wills it.

Loved his work. Peelie played some of his productions on his show but sadly not enough. Over at my other gig on Football and Music I posted his Bocca Juniors tracks using the excuse of the project being named after the team to justify it. There's a few times that he's appeared actually. And on my all time list of great football and music tracks it's the No Alla Violenza Mix of Englandneworder's World In Motion on there.

As I said, big impact. I remember one I even tweeted a photo of myself (which I hope you've kept for future blackmailing purposes) when wearing my flat cap, but not the beard as mighty a his, that I've styled my look on him.

As JC as others have said above and elsewhere my first thoughts were with you and Drew and CTel when I read the news. Stunned I was, we are.

And so for now as is with tradition, I will sign off with:

"Swiss Adam - Who is this individual ?!"

colhd76 said...

great tribute. i think also one thing that shows the genius of him was on facebook the amount of joyous articles written and people posting various youtubes of remixes and mixsets all very varied showed just how much love there was for the man and his art and how much of it there is. a sad day that filled the socials with love and appreciation.

Swiss Adam said...

That made me smile keepingitpeel. Stick around and yo may find there will be more of Andrew Weatherall's work featured here.

Everyone else- thanks for everything you've said. It feels like a massive loss. I cried last night and welled up again today. Soft git that I am.

I think we should remember that to his family and friends this is the loss of a loved one. To us its a public thing. To them its private and personal.

As colhd76 says the social media platforms have been a torrent of AW memories and music. I have sometimes felt that being a big AW fan was quite niche but when it came up on the news last night and then a 7 minute item on Newsnight you realise how many people were affected by him. Bowie, you knew he had huge impact, Joe Strummer too, millions were affected by their deaths. Andrew, Sabres, TLS always felt a long way from the spotlight. A quote by him has done the rounds today- many have but this one particularly is apt. He was asked how he'd like to be remembered, which club/record/remix etc. His reply was that he hoped he be remembered as a decent bloke ahead of any of those. A friend on social media recounted a time when he approached AW to say what a massive impact he'd ha don his life and Weatherall replied 'its just playing records in a disco dear boy'. Which it was. But as those of us who are affected by aspects of popular culture can attest, its also much much more than that.

Robert said...

As 1/2 of the defunct FlightPath Estate @ Hyperreal, I've been following your blog for some time now. Mostly popping in to snag a weatherall track I didn't have but some other nice write ups too. Sad to see this as a blog post but it's a great tribute.

The Swede said...

A tremendously warm and well written tribute SA, which must have been crushingly difficult to put together in the circumstances. The photo of the two of you is simply magnificent.
To the best of my recollection, the first Weatherall record to appear in my collection was the magnificent Boys Own Mix of 'Abandon' by That Petrol Emotion in 1990 and the most recent was his remix of 'Meatraffle On the Moon' last November. Even more recently I've been enjoying 'A Very British Coup', the tune he recorded with Jah Wobble, Mark Stewart, Richard Dudanski and Keith Levene
But beyond the music that he made, produced and mixed, it was his sheer enthusiasm that was particularly endearing. The bloke was clearly immensely passionate about music, much like Peel before him. You could tell it from a mile off. His monthly 'Music's Not For Everyone' NTS show (which you turned many of us on to) has cost me an arm and a leg over the years, introducing me to a huge amount of stuff that I simply would never have come across otherwise. 99% of each show was absolutely new and unknown to me and I always got a little thrill when he played a tune I was actually familiar with.
As you say, by all accounts he was also a really decent bloke. His passing is an incalculable loss to his family, friends, fans and music lovers generally.

Adam Turner said...

It's funny the way things have worked out. When I first got on the internet, late-ish all things considered, one of the first sites I visited was the Flightpath Estate at hypereal. I printed the entire thing off to use as a checklist of what I had and didn't have.

Echorich said...

I have to admit, in the last 10 years, it is you, SA, that had been my alert mechanism to all new things Andrew Weatherall. I really can say that Bagging Area and new Weatherall material have always gone hand in hand for me.
As hard as it must have been to write, your personal experience and observations give real depth to the importance of AW.
You introduced me to Convenanza, an album that I consider one of the most essential of the last decade.

We live in a time where we can't find our heroes in great political leaders, social leaders or charismatics. Those days have past us by. We find them as part of the world we inhabit, alongside us, plying their trades, following their muses and contributing to our lives. That was Andrew Weatherall.

Brian said...

Well done. You touched a great many people with this piece on your hero today, Adam.

Walter said...

Great Tribute Adam. I read many of them during the last days but Nothing can be copared to your warm and heartful words.

Khayem said...

Wow, I wouldn't have expected any less Adam, but that was an incredibly moving piece which I could relate to in so many ways. Like many, "Loaded" was my introduction to Andrew Weatherall and he was the first DJ/remixer whose work I actively sought out for my record collection as I had done with bands and solo artists.

I can honestly say that, despite changes of direction and collaborators, my interest was unwavering and I've found something to connect with in pretty much everything that Weatherall has had a hand in. Sadly, I never got to see Weatherall DJ but his mixes (which I found mostly thanks to your posts) are a thing of wonder.

I'm not a DJ but I have made amateurish attempts at mixtapes over the years and including Andrew Weatherall somewhere in the mix will always give it that extra...something. I had a go at a full-on Weatherall mixtape after a few drinks last night. Ignoring my chainsaw editing techniques, I'm continually struck by how everything Weatherall has done in the past 30 years "fits" together, despite the stylistic changes. The challenge was how much I didn't include: it could have been a 420-hour mix and still only scratched the surface.

I'm absolutely gutted that the world has lost someone who was still giving so much, but what a legacy. As well as an amazing body of work that I return to time and time again, there is still a vast amount of Andrew Weatherall music that I haven't heard yet and is waiting to be discovered.

Your blog has played a big part in this. It's all about the music, but your witty. heartfelt and evocative posts are the reason I keep coming back to Bagging Area. What a tribute, and what a legacy.

Cheers, Adam and thank you, Andrew.

Adam Turner said...

Swede- I don't know what were going to do without MNFE once a month. Seriously.

londonlee said...

Wonderful post Adam. You were the first person I thought of when I heard the news