Courtney Love in Liverpool: The Scousers who taught the grunge icon how to rock | The music


IIf you were in Liverpool in 1982 and used to wander Mathew Street, perhaps going to the Probe record store, you have probably seen Courtney Love. She was 17 years old and lived in the city, having been invited there by the leader of Teardrop Explodes, Julian Cope. Probe was one of his favorite places to go – if not to buy records, then sit outside on the steps, drink cider with his American friend Robin Barbur.

A hundred yards from Probe was Eric’s site. From 1976 to 1980, Eric welcomed everyone, from the Ramones to the Joy Division. A regular group was Big in Japan with lineups including Jayne Casey (later Pink Military), Bill Drummond (later KLF), Holly Johnson (later Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and Ian Broudie (later from Lightning) Seeds). “We were the most damaged children’s society that turned out that year! Remembers Casey. “And we were just on stage together. “

Love wanted to be closer to them, especially the Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen. She later remembered seeing Ian McCulloch of the Bunnymen “wandering” around town: “He wore a big thick coat and glasses and hung out with Pete Wylie and mumbled.” Wylie, from the Wah group! Heat, also had a big coat. Liverpool’s winters are cold – but the coats stayed during parties and concerts. Love claims to have already stolen McCulloch’s, but he is not sure: “I think she could have stolen a look rather than real clothes. But if it is, good luck. “

“Love gravitated closer to him” … Julian Cope plays with Teardrop Explodes. Photography: Brian Rasic / Getty Images

Drummond recalls Love as an “American punk with a strong mouth”. She was strong, this is something that everyone agrees on. Pete Burns, later from Dead or Alive, had a clothing store in the back of Probe. In his autobiography, Freak Unique, he described what it was like to be beset with love: “It’s like when a baby throws a rattle across the room and shouts because he can’t communicate.”

Love’s parents, Linda Risi and Hank Harrison, met at a party for Dizzy Gillespie in San Francisco in 1963. “We were making tons of acid,” recalls Harrison, “changing sexual partner and stumbling.” . Apparently, he led the Warlocks in 1965 before they became the Grateful Dead. Risi, then 19, came from a wealthy family. Love’s grandparents provided him with a $ 500 a month trust fund. It paid for the trip to Liverpool.

“Before Liverpool, my life does not count” … Love at Sefton Park. Photography: Robin D Bradbury

On July 9, 1964, Risi gave birth to Love Michelle Harrison – later known as Courtney. But Risi and Harrison fought, and after their divorce in 1970, a custody battle ensued. Risi and one of Harrison’s girlfriends testified that he gave his daughter LSD when she was four years old.

By the end of 1973 Risi had moved to New Zealand, leaving Love behind. She was only eight years old. She ended up in a temperamental teenage institution after being caught shoplifting. At the age of 17, she decided to leave her unhappy childhood in San Francisco and, in 1981, she left for Ireland. She moved into a squat in Dublin and started attending the McGonagles music hall, where she collided with the post-punk scene in Liverpool.

The Teardrop Explodes played in Dublin in December. According to Bernie Connor, who was friends with Cope and who sold T-shirts during the tour, Love sent the monitor engineer a note for Julian. ” Are you married? It said. “So Courtney comes back to the hotel,” Connor continues, “attaches and gravitates a little closer to Julian with each passing minute. “

Cope gave Love and Barbur his address in Liverpool and said they could stay, neglecting to mention that he would not be there. They quickly moved into a “horrible” apartment on Princes Avenue. Love recorded everything in her diary, from “tan-beige-green and brown-silver and white-old man textured wallpaper” to “swirlfudgesludgepatterned earth tones carpet”.

The right place at the right time ... The Albert Dock in Liverpool was refitted in 1982.

In the right place at the right time … The Albert Dock in Liverpool was refurbished in 1982. Photography: Mirrorpix / Getty Images

Maybe he didn’t want to, when they were sitting in their coats in a cold, dimly lit apartment on the edge of Toxteth, but Love and Barbur were in the right place at the right time. In April 1982, John Peel broadcast a Radio 1 broadcast live from Liverpool. The weeklong extravagance fueled and celebrated the scene that so delighted the girls. It was a time of energy and ambition, with bitch galore.

While the sharp-spoken Burns were often at the center of acrimony, a feud – between Cope and McCulloch – had an astounding lifespan. The pair have not had good things to say about each other for four decades. In Liverpool, making music and making enemies went hand in hand – a lesson that would hold Love in its place.

David Balfe at the Liverpool Zoo label wanted to launch a female version of Soft Cell, so he lent him a synth and a four-track recorder. She didn’t know how to use them, but her enthusiasm galvanized her. Regarding the compositions, it seems that his mud-colored apartment is useful. “I talked about porridge,” she recalls, “because all we had was porridge.” While she describes the songs as “stupid”, they at least reflect her life in Liverpool. One of the first issues was an ode to Cope, with a refrain beginning: “Julian, Julian, where were you? “

Love once said, “Before Liverpool, my life doesn’t count. Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope taught me a lot. I owe them a lot. Liverpool had been a great school to become a rock star. “

“You buy a guitar and it burns like coal in your hand” … Love fronting Hole in 1995. Photography: Ian Dickson / REX / Shutterstock

It’s important to understand the mechanics of songwriting and find ways to channel influences and experiences, but attitude matters too. “Julian told us to live your life as if you were being followed by a camera,” said Barbur later. “I remember Courtney started walking confidently, head high, fast.”

A decade later, when Love was the singer for Hole and married to Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Cope published an ad in the NME who said of her: “Free us from the heroin holes fixed on Nancy Spungen which cling to our largest groups and suck their brains. “What had slipped under Cope’s skin? “She’s always been in front of you,” says Connor. “I was able to detach myself when she was pointing at him. I can understand that it oppressed him. “

Barbur is less forgiving. “Julian was crazy. It was part of the charm. I don’t want to be a bitch, but maybe by this point she had gotten a little famous and he had gotten a little bitter. He hadn’t seen her since she was 17, 18 years old. He probably saw this grumpy and obnoxious girl was now pretty much a superstar, and he thought, “Shit.” I do not know. She really adored Julian. “

Love wrote to Cope and said that her announcement had made her gravely ill: “Imagine that we are in 1983, 82, 81 and 80, you are a teenage white trash can and not even decorative from a distance, but you like the big one dream of rock and that’s all you have … And you buy a guitar and it burns like coal in your hand and you feel a little power and for once it is not the power to make fun or making fun of him is […] the power to change the fucking world. “

I suggest to Connor that if Love had been a guy with drug handles, bowling through life all stuffy and stubborn, then she would have been treated like a hero in a Kerouac novel. “Undoubtedly. We were very young and so was she. And being in your face like that was new. We were quiet young people, it was a small closed network. “

Large thick coat and glasses… Love reminds us that Ian McCulloch “traveled” the city.

“Best British band of all time” … Ian McCulloch of the Bunnymen. Photography: Leon Morris / Getty Images

The best days of tears were over. In fact, they were finished in July 1982, when Love had returned home. Mick Houghton, the group’s RP, remembers Cope’s situation at the time. “He knew he no longer belonged to Liverpool – and that as a group they no longer belonged anywhere. “

But the glory days of Echo & the Bunnymen – which Love called “the best British band ever” – were yet to come. Other groups in Eric’s scene also got huge. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax became the first of three consecutive singles to hit No 1. Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) also climbed to the top. Even Pete Wylie’s Wah! ranked in the top five with The Story of the Blues. So the city that Love let noisily knock out the hits, having shown a girl who had grown up without anyone listening to her how to assert her identity and what was possible.

On July 21, 1982, she took the National Express bus to Heathrow, stopping for eggs and fries in the Midlands. At the airport, she wrote in her journal, “I can play music and understand technology. I can stay and resist the temptation to take the first step, or stay too long or worse become intense. I can make tea now. I can stay enigmatic, pose well and look feminine. She thinks of everyone she has met and concludes, “There is one thing everyone has until they spend it. Their mystique. “

Before glory, terrible choices, losses and injuries. Rock’n’roll was his dream, Liverpool his inspiration, and facing Hole gave him a voice – an honest, not ignorable and insistent voice that broke the silence.

Finding Love for Dave Haslam: Courtney Love in Liverpool is available from Confingo.


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