British born, New York-based artist Kosmo Vinyl – once a music mogul for The Clash and Ian Dury & The Blockheads and an MC for Stiff Records during punk’s heyday – is in town for the launch of his new exhibition at the National Football Museum.
Called ‘Is Saitch Yer Daddy?’, the exhibition consists of hand-made collages that Kosmo created after every match played by his favourite football club, West Ham United.
The pieces had originally been sent in the form of postcards to a Chelsea-supporting friend in a far-flung area of Canada – “Salt Spring Island, you’ve got to take a boat to get there,” he says – but at the suggestion of his two sons, Kosmo started a soccer-themed art blog called ‘Is Saitch Yer Daddy?’ which eventually led to the exhibition.
If you’re wondering who Saitch is, Google is no help at all. Thankfully, Kosmo is happy to explain.
“I named the blog after an old piece of graffiti”, he says. “Actually, graffito would be the correct term. When you left Bromley-by-Bow tube, there was a wall curving around there and written around the wall in big letters was “Is Saitch a daddy?” And we’d go out to Upton Park and everyone would be saying, ‘What is that all about?’ and nobody knew.
“So when I did the blog, I decided to use that, and then I changed “a” to “yer”, because I thought, ‘Well, what if somebody’s used it?’
Such is the power of the internet that Kosmo did eventually discover whether or not Saitch was a daddy.
“Fast forward a year or so and I get an email from a bloke: ‘Saitch was my father’. It turns out he was a train driver on the District Line and his brother had heard that he’d got a girl pregnant. He’d had a few too many beers and he painted it on the wall, where he thought he would see it when he was driving the train! And it just stayed there for years.”
A lifelong football fan, Kosmo has many memories of watching West Ham play, including matches against Manchester United and Manchester City.
“As a child at West Ham I saw George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, which is the holy trinity of Manchester United,” he recalls.
“And I saw George Best take out a copper, at West Ham, with a football. He missed the thing and he hit the copper and the copper went down and the whole stadium erupted in applause.”
Some of Kosmo’s football memories are a sign of just how much things have changed. “I remember, as a small kid, the Red Army – this was early hooligan, skinhead days – came down over the roof of the North Bank stand and invaded the West Ham end from the roof. It was like out of an action movie! It was pretty wild.”
“Manchester United are trying to sort themselves out at the moment”, he says, “but one is not going to have sympathy for a team that has dominated for so long, so often.
“I can remember being a little boy and all these girls in school are in love with Georgie Best and support Manchester United. You’re like, ‘How can you support Manchester United? You come from East London!’ But they’re all, ‘Oh, he’s so nice…’
“But Manchester United will be back”, Kosmo concedes. “I mean, they’re Manchester United, right?
“City are the team to beat, aren’t they? They’re an absolute wonder to behold when it’s going on. I’ve liked De Bruyne from when I first saw him – I just think he’s fantastic. But when City go forward? Ah, it’s Roy of the Rovers stuff!”
“My other memory of City is that the Buzzcocks were City” he adds. “And City may have Oasis, but West Ham has the Small Faces!”
Mention of the Small Faces brings us to a discussion of Kosmo’s early life in the music business, MC-ing the Stiff Records tours and working closely with Ian Dury and The Clash. As such, he has fond memories of playing gigs in Manchester.
“I always remember it as an ‘up’”, he says. “You’re going to play Manchester and it’s going to be good. Being as both Ian Dury and The Clash were London based, we were always thinking Manchester was going to be good.
“The north of England, people wanted it. In London, you got a bit more of a blasé thing, but I always found with The Clash, the industrial cities, I think that was the strongest reaction from an audience.”
Naturally, Kosmo has a Tony Wilson story.
“My first memory of Manchester was with Ian Dury, coming up on the train for the day and doing Tony Wilson, So It Goes. The show had just started to take off, and I remember Ian recited a poem – I think it was Two Steep Hills, that he’d written about skin blemishes.”
“Afterwards, Tony drove us to the station himself and he took us to a used bookshop and Ian bought the Honor Blackman Book of Self-Defence. It was like a karate book by her when she was Pussy Galore. Ian bought that and we were looking at it on the train back. I’ll never forget that.”
‘Is Saitch Yer Daddy?’ runs from 14th January to 5th May 2019 at the National Football Museum.