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The swagger, fun and cryptic humour seem hewn from a city historian AJP Taylor once described as offering an archetypally different way of English urban life to London. Both Shaun Ryder and Paul Leveridge, known as Kermit, came from edgy-but-cool parts of the city. In Shaun’s case Salford, with Kermit originating from Moss Side. For those unfamiliar, ‘the Moss’ lay in the shadow of Manchester City’s old stadium at Maine Road, and was one of the first multi-ethnic areas in Manchester.
So we have two restlessly creative men, both from the wrong side of the tracks, neither inclined to go to art school or enrol on an MFA programme, yet loaded with street smarts and musical talent, and wanting the world. Good old punk had told every scally they could have it, and a generation went for it in their own ways.
Black Grape are widely regarded as one of the most innovative and iconic bands of the last twenty five years. Black Grape have had 4 Top 10 singles and their debut album ‘It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah’ shot straight to No.1 in the UK charts upon its release in 1995 and went Platinum. Follow up album ‘Stupid Stupid Stupid’ went Gold in 1997.
Nearly 20 years after the release of ‘Stupid, Stupid, Stupid’ Black Grape recorded ‘England Till I Die’ for the European nations of 2016. This was the catalyst for another Black Grape collaboration. ‘Pop Voodoo’ was released in 2017, Ryder’s word play was deployed to devastating effect and it received critical acclaim.
Ryder’s triumphs, struggles and diversions have been well documented. The usual contract and money hassles, a best-selling account of life in the Mondays, a stunning electropunk album from nowhere in ‘Amateur Night in the Big Top’, a serious and informative investigation of UFOs as an author and broadcaster, a reality TV bon vivant and finally, a life as a clean-living family man, which has supplanted his old ways. In 2005 he sang lyrics on the Gorillaz No.1 single “Dare”.
Ryder has grown from a wild young tearaway into a British National Treasure. Black Grape always were a grimily cosmic musical jigsaw, melding rock, hip-hop, acid house, psychedelic pop and reggae with Ryder’s gutter poetry, delivered in his inimitable shyster’s bark.
They have spent 2021/22 playing festivals and will be playing live again this Autumn with a new UK Tour.