Steve Diggle – Maximum Harmony (Part 1) Manchester

By Mark Youll | 21st March, 2011 | Q & A interviews |

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In this, the first of a three part exclusive interview with chief guitarist & songwriter with Buzzcocks, Steve Diggle talks to Mark Youll about his early childhood, his role in one of the most influential and explosive bands to come out of punk and about his own prolific solo career.

“Ray Davies lives up where I live now, and I'll be having a coffee and I'll see him buying a morning newspaper, it doesn't get more British than that does it?”

What were your first memories of Manchester as a child?
Lots of terraced streets. I was born in a house with a garden and stuff and I suppose that might have been posh then, a semi-detached. Me mam had a business and that went down the pan so we had to moved to a terraced street, like Coronation Street, that was when I was seven.

In fact me mam had this babies clothes shop and she’d give credit out to people as you did in those days, people would pay back weekly you know? One of them was Myra Hindley’s mother, or some other relation or weird connection. My dad also decorated Ian Brady’s bedroom around the time Brady was sixteen and he was coming out of Borstal. Dad never told me till years later, I think it was the eighties when he mentioned it, around the time of the Smiths and stuff. I couldn’t believe it. That whole Moors murders thing was lurking in the background for us, it was a big thing in Manchester and we didn’t live far from where it was all going on.

Was this when you were growing up in Rusholme?
Well, I’d moved to Bradford by then but I was born in St Mary’s hospital just off Oxford Road. I’m the only Buzzcock that was properly born in the centre, just to the left of the curry mile. In the 1980s at St Mary’s they split these two Siamese twins, it was the first time it had been done so it was a big thing.
So I was born there and then because me mam’s business went down, we had to move. That was a great time, I remember being seven and walking down the street and there were all gangs on the corners and I thought what are we getting into here? But it was great, and we adapted to that and it was very inspiring, that street. It was called Goole Street which is where the new city ground is now. The pub on the corner is still there, The Bradford Hotel. I keep meaning to go back and see it, see where I come from.

What were your first memories of Manchester as a child?
Lots of terraced streets. I was born in a house with a garden and stuff and I suppose that might have been posh then, a semi-detached. Me mam had a business and that went down the pan so we had to moved to a terraced street, like Coronation Street, that was when I was seven.

We had a street army defending the woody on bonfire night. It was the school holidays and we stayed up till twelve or one in the morning defending the wood, because kids would come round and you would throw bricks at them because they were trying to nick your bonfire wood you know? We would get up at seven and we’d be running down the street with people’s back doors, about forty back doors for the fire, and then we’d be back in bed for half ten!

Me and another mate had a street newspaper as well. We had a little printing machine with a cylinder and so we made a street newspaper. It only lasted about one and a half issues!

What sort of things went into the newspaper?
The main thing was about a Great Dane escaping from a security van, and just stuff about the neighbours you know? You kind of knew everybody which was great, like in the east end, but it was a real northern thing. There was a lot of interaction with people. We would get in trouble with people and we’d get a clip around the ear off some bloke if was up to summat. We never thought anything of it then, like you’d get arrested these days. But it was a great environment. There was a croft at the end the street, it was just like wasteland where we would go and play football and end up smashing some blokes window or summat. Great times, you know? The guy I did the newspaper with, we would be told by people in the street that we would never get anywhere, but he ended up a brain surgeon! Very creative and inspiring times.

When did your interest in music begin?
My cousin lived two doors down and he loved Elvis. He was a rock & roller and from his upstairs window there would Elvis and Little Richard coming out.