In 1986, The Smiths posed outside the entrance of Salford Lads Club for a photograph that would appear on the inner sleeve of arguably their best album 'The Queen is Dead'. Little did they know that in their wake would be a steady pilgrimage of Smiths fans making their way down to Salford to have their picture taken in front of the famous doorway.
This year marks the centenary of the club's opening by Lord Baden Powell in 1904 and while the world outside has evolved in the intervening years the club remains largely the same as it did back then. But for the massive effort of the local people the place would have been bulldozed years ago, it receives no funding from the local authority and has survived in recent years due largely to its emergence as a suitable film and TV location for period dramas; a trend started by 'The Forsyte Saga'.
To celebrate the 100 years of its existence Project Manager Leslie Holmes and artist Kevin Lloyd with the help of countless others have staged an exhibition entitled 'From Baden Powell to Morrissey' whereby local kids dressed up as famous figures from each decade and posed outside the clubs entrance. From Lord Kitchener to Marilyn Monroe and Ena Sharples the pictures adorn the walls of the main hall, that doubles as a five a side pitch but which for now is carpeted for filming purposes.
Incorporated into the exhibition has seen the opening of 'The Smiths Room', a place for visiting fans of the band to go to pay homage and at the same time providing a fitting place for all those copycat pictures to hang. In support of the event ANDY ROURKE the one time bassist of The Smiths and 'local lad' VINNY PECULIAR played an all too brief acoustic set of both Smiths and Vinny's songs. They played 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What
I Want', 'Ask' and 'Big Mouth Strikes Again' from the Smiths back catalogue, interspersed with two of Vinny's songs 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' and 'Everlasting Teenage Bedroom' which, suffice to say, did not appear out of place alongside the better known numbers. They invite the audience to join in with them claiming to have reworked the songs in a lite jazz fashion and they provide a fitting tribute.
The biggest shock of the night is the transformation of the once fresh-faced Andy Rourke into a cross between one of the Gallaghers and Dudley Moore from the film '10'. He's certainly aged much more gracefully than the Moz so all credit to him
and there's a good cameraderie with the amiable, slightly geeky but still cool Peculiar (Who had a collection of his releases to date on sale with all proceeds going to the club, nuff said). Both have recently undergone the W&H Chat treatment so check out their respective features; there are plans afoot!
Away from that, the club itself remains an amazing example of a bygone age and the warmest welcome was extended to all in attendance. We were invited to have a look round and I advise any visitor to check out the boxing gym for a real feel of nostalgia apart that is from the inclusion of a midi system in one corner which of course contained the obligatory 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor! (I made that last bit up; I daren't look inside the CD
player for fear of disappointment). Even more enlightening are the group photographs from each years 'Lads Camp' adorning the walls of the games room. Running from the 50s to the 70s they provide an invaluable insight into the shift in tonsorial trends occurring through the decades. They even laid on food, which included Sushi and pasta, not a meat pie or a chip in sight, now that's regeneration for you!
One of the aims of The Smiths Room is to have as many of the pictures of fans taken outside the clubs entrance on display for all to see and enjoy alongside other assorted Smiths memorabilia. All you have to do is send a copy of your picture with your name and the time it was taken to the club and they will put it on the wall ready for you to inspect the next time you're in town. For more info on this or the latest happenings you can log onto the website: www.salfordladsclub.org.uk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
After buying a copy of that famous picture and getting it signed by Andy Rourke we thanked Leslie for his hospitality, he told us that since going online 18 months ago the website has received over 500,000 hits, this after people telling him a website was not a good idea and that no one would bother looking! His enthusiasm for the place knows no bounds and he remains convinced that a visit from Morrissey and Marr, so far withstanding would happen within the next 12 months. It certainly won't happen for the lack of trying on the clubs behalf.
We made our way from the club to be accosted by a local ruffian in a Spiderman suit and headed off to Rusholme to sample not the delights of their ruffians but rather the eastern delights of the curry mile to round off a dansakstic night, replacing one warm glow with another.