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A Day in a Humdrum Town

"The rain falls hard on a humdrum town" The Smiths, 'William, it was really nothing".

I thought of these lyrics the other Monday when I decided to take a tour round Manchester's Northern Quarter and the city's more gritty next door neighbour, Salford. I'd stayed in the Premier Inn on Dale Street and wandered through the Northern Quarter, stopping off at Trof. Now this is a venue with gigs and a bourbon bar, but it was the fact it does breakfast - very nice ones too - that drew me there.

It was there that I decided I would try to find the Salford Lads club, which was pictured on the inner sleeve of The Smiths classic album 'The Queen is Dead' and featured in the video for 'Stop me if you think you've heard this one before'. I was inspired by Phill Gatenby's excellent little book 'Morrissey's Manchester' which is like a Rough Guide to places in the city and around frequented by the quiffed one and fellow members of The Smiths in both their formative and band years.

I'd first come across The Smiths back in the '80's when John Peel introduced them to the world beyond Manchester. Tracks like 'Reel Around the Fountain','Hand in Glove' and the remarkable 'Suffer Little Children', Morrissey's take on the Moors Murders, were unlike anything we'd heard before, representing a view of Northern life that to this day still rings true.

With Google Maps as my guide, I headed across the Irwell and into Salford. As the rain started to come down, just like the song, I headed off up Chapel Street, past Salford Crescent and away from Manchester. After about 25 minutes, I turned left on Oldfield Lane and headed towards Regent Road, passing scruffy waste land and bleak-looking flats with doubt and concern increasing. I eventually came out by Sainsburys and turned right, just like Google said, and then a couple of hundred yards later, it was left down West Crown Avenue and there it was, complete with a couple of suitably quiffed and attired Morrissey acolytes posing for pictures by the famous entrance.

Salford Lads Club
Today, the club is still providing activities for the lads (and lassies) of Salford in what is a pretty deprived part of the city and provides a warm welcome to fans of The Smiths, although it was shut when I was there.

I re-traced my steps, back along Oldfield Lane, then Chapel Street. The New Oxford in Bexley Square was open, and provided a welcome respite from the rain.

New Oxford
This is a fantastic pub, like a local in the middle of the city, with around 10 ales and a decent representation of ciders(for which they have won a number of awards) on the bar. After a pint of Bartrams, I moved on, by now, thankfully, the rain had stopped.

A quick pint in the Salford Arms, new to me and new to the Good Beer Guide, followed, accompanied rather unusually for a pub by a hip-hop soundtrack.

My next port of call was shut. I walked to the Eagle on Collier Street, once a classic Holt's pub with gas lights, no spirits and no modern trappings(that was by 70's standards). I found it but unfortunately all I could do was take a picture, as the girl coming out of the pub and slamming the door firmly shut told me they were closed Monday lunchtimes.

The Eagle, Collier Street, Salford....
Ah, well, not to worry, an excuse for a re-visit sometime....

I headed back to Chapel Street and back over the border to Manchester. With time to kill before my train back there was only one place to go, 73 Rochdale Road, more commonly known as The Marble Arch.

After a couple of pints there I headed off back to Victoria to catch my train, passing through the new Co-op campus, affording a view of Manchester which could be a backdrop from 'Blade Runner'...

An interesting trip, with some good beer and a visit to a iconic location in a city that actually has more about it than to be dubbed as simply a 'humdrum town'. And so, here are The Smiths with a classic track, including some of the area I visited....

'Morrissey's Manchester' by Phill Gatenby, is published by Empire Publications.


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