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There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: Remembering The Smiths, The Stranglers and more – Edge Hill’s musical memories revealed

June 21, 2024

Edge Hill University has a rich history of education and learning stretching back to 1885 but in among the stories of academic success, achievement and innovation, there is also the sound of music.

The University has a long history of gigs, guest appearances and links to the musical industry, reflected in the list of honorary doctors, which includes Soft Cell star Marc Almond, the late great music radio legend Janice Long and music journalist and DJ Stuart Maconie, who also studied at the University in the 1980s.

Maconie, now an author and presenter on BBC Radio 6 Music, once told Times Higher Education: “Towards the end of my degree, someone tried to launch a music fanzine at the University. I wanted to be a music journalist, although it was a pipe dream at the time, so I offered to interview a band who were playing at Edge Hill.

“They were called The Bluebells and they’d had a couple of hits. After the gig, I went to their dressing room to talk to them. After about 10 minutes, I said something like: ‘These are really good times for The Bluebells.’

“It was then that they said: ‘We’re not The Bluebells.’ It turned out I had been talking to the support act and The Bluebells had gone; I’d interviewed the wrong band. I switched my tape recorder off and thought: “That’s pretty much the beginning and end of my career as a journalist.”

To mark World Music Day today (June 21), we asked staff and alumni for their musical memories of Edge Hill. Here’s our top 10:

The Smiths at Edge Hill
The Smiths at Edge Hill. Picture: Adam Marsh

1: The Smiths

Manchester’s legendary partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr swept into campus, complete with obligatory flowers, for a sold-out show in November 1983 just days before their debut appearance on Top Of The Pops to perform This Charming Man. Alumni Sarah Riley said: “I remember the Students’ Union had to buy the flowers and I thought what a waste when he flung them all over the stage.” Fellow alumni Adam Marsh who took the pictures featured added: “I had the good fortune to witness The Smiths, on the brink of fame, playing our college canteen. Beads, flowers, stage invasion, This Charming Man (twice). Anyone remember those curtains?”

The Smiths at Edge Hill
The Smiths at Edge Hill. Picture: Adam Marsh

2. The Farm

Liverpool indie band The Farm topped the album charts with their long player Spartacus in 1991. They also clocked up three top 10 singles, most famously Altogether Now. Singer Peter Hooton recalls playing on campus in the 1980s: “It was a great venue but we went over our cut off time because everyone was having a great time. The caretaker turned the lights on and the Students’ Union banned us after that.”

Ironically, bass player Carl Hunter is now a Senior Fellow in Filmmaking at Edge Hill while Peter was awarded an honorary doctorate in philosophy by the University in 2015.

3. TV21

TV21 were formed at Edge Hill in June 1979 by Norman Rodger and Neil Baldwin, the post-punk outfit also played their first gig on campus. That gig was supporting a band called Another Pretty Face, which featured Mike Scott, who later went on to form The Waterboys. TV21 released an album in 1981, A Thin Red Line, and supported The Rolling Stones when they toured Scotland in 1982.

4. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD)

Wirral electronic band OMD’s anti-war song Enola Gay hit number eight in the charts in 1980 and was hailed as one of the best 10 songs of the year by readers of NME, Record Mirror and Smash Hits. At the time of writing it has clocked up 179 million listens on Spotify. That very same year the band played at Edge Hill as part of their first headlining tour.

OMD at Edge HIll
OMD at Edge Hill. Picture: Patrick White

5. The Mock Turtles

Largely remembered as a one-hit wonder for their 1991 song Can You Dig It? the Manchester baggy band fronted by Martin Coogan, brother of actor and comedian Steve, came to Ormskirk for Freshers Night at Edge Hill in 1990.  A journalist from Melody Maker came along too, interviewing the band in a room in Lady Openshaw Hall.  

6. Shack

Shack’s Mick Head was infamously pictured on the front of the NME with the headline: “This man is our greatest songwriter – recognise him?” A musical cult hero to many, including Noel Gallagher who signed Shack to his Sour Mash record label, Mick and the band played Edge Hill University in 1990, in between debut album Zilch and follow up HMS Fable. Mick’s last two albums, Dear Scott in 2022, and Loophole, released in May, charted in the UK top 10.

7. Prefab Sprout

Nine of Prefab Sprout’s albums reached the Top 40 in the UK Albums Chart, and one of their singles, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, peaked at number seven in the UK Singles Chart. This post from Keir Husband suggests that  brothers Paddy and Martin McAloon once graced the grounds of Edge Hill.

8. The Stranglers

The legendary band have clocked up 23 UK Top 40 Singles including No More Heroes and Golden Brown. But they first broke the top 10 with Peaches in May 1977, six months after a gig at the Edge Hill Refectory in November 1976.

Alice Yarwood recalls: “I love The Stranglers. My partner saw them at Edge Hill University in the 70s and recalls an incident while the band were queuing at the Refectory for a meal with the rest of the students. He saw them flicking peas at the dinner ladies who were tolerating their bad behaviour. Despite protests from his friends he went over to reprimand them for their cockiness…”

Mark Slater adds: “Saw The Stranglers at Edge Hill College in Ormskirk in November 1976. Not many really knew what punk was, it was just another midweek band in the college Refectory, but they were sneery, rude, scary; like they didn’t want to be liked. They alienated a large audience of mainly PE teacher training students and JJ Burnel then offered them all out. No takers of course. Great gig.”

9. Jah Wobble

Look at this, an actual ticket. Digital tickets for gigs are now de rigueur but once upon a time not so long ago gig goers clung onto paper versions as a souvenir. Legendary bassist Jah Wobble, known for his work with Public Image Ltd and his genre-bending solo career, brought the dub vibes to the Edge Hill Arts Centre in 2023.

A ticket for Jah Wobble at Edge Hill

10. Keyside

Two Edge Hill alumni, drummer Oisin McAvoy and lead guitarist Ben Cassidy are part of Keyside, a band making waves and tipped for the top that recently signed to Primary Talent’s Matt Bates, who also looks after a long list of successful bands including: Alt-J, Babyshambles, Pete Doherty, Supergrass, The 1975, Wombats and Two Door Cinema Club. Keyside, who fuse a sound of The Smiths with a rhythm of The La’s, play the On The Waterfront Festival at Liverpool’s Pier Head today (June 21) alongside Embrace, Cast and Ocean Colour Scene.

Edge Hill’s new £8.5million Students’ Union building – currently under construction as part of a huge £53m campus development which also includes 248 new en suite rooms and a new Life Sciences building, opening in 2024 – is sure to mean musical memories are created on campus for years to come.

But for some, those memories are already made and those curtains in the Refectory will never be forgotten.

June 21, 2024

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