No 1 1985
SHEFFIELD GOOD TIMES
Philip Oakey says goodbye to bad times and tales Scoop Simper on a guide tour of his beloved Sheffield.
Philip Oakey has lived in Sheffield since he was 15 and he loves it.
No lure of the bright light of London for this lad. With his own house (‘Orchardlea’), his own studio (“24 track – the biggest in Sheffield), his own motorbike and his long standing girlfriend, fellow Leaguer Joanne Catherall, he’s quite content. You can see why. Contrary to popular (Southern) belief Sheffield is no dull industrial wasteland of a town (though today it’s certainly a drizzly one). Everywhere you go there’s greenery, be it the hospital where Philip used to work as a theatre porter or the old café by the river where a young Oakey used to bunk off school runs.
“The people are a lot friendlier here as well,” says Joanne, who’s acting as long suffering chauffeur for Philip’s guided tour.
“Here if you get on a bus people’ll say hello to you. Do that in London and they’ll get up and run away.”
On that optimistic note we head for the heart of Sheffield…
BACK TO SCHOOL
I WAS at St Ted’s about three years. It was quite exciting because I went to a public school in the Midlands which had like military discipline – you didn’t speak when the teacher was in the room and all that – so I then came to this school in Sheffield where the kids were so bright they were running circles round the teacher.
The teachers couldn’t control them. These kids were just brilliant.
I wasn’t in a band at school. I didn’t believe in all that sort of business really. It was quite accidental me being in a group.
Our school had mice. If you were in there working late you’d see ‘em come out.
I was good at exams so I got away with murder. When I can here there were no girls. The next year they introduced six. I went round with one of them – Deidre.
The lot I went round with were very anti-sporty. We were into progressive music like The Flock and Van Der Graaf Generator(!!)
PORTER, THORNBURY ANNEX HOSPITAL
I WAS at this hospital five or six years ago. I worked there a couple of years and a couple at a children’s hospital. It’s the last play I actually worked.
I was a porter… well, say ‘theetre porter’… I had to shove ‘em in and out on trolleys, hold ‘em down when they start fighting under anaesthetic, grabbing sick bowls… I was squemish before I did that job but you don’t get a chance when you’re doing it. I did all the horrible things like walking in on rooms where they’re doing post-mortems.
It’s a good job. Great atmosphere. Full of nice people who are not just working for money, they’re working because they want to do it.
Nurses are some of the best people that there are anywhere – which is why they always get twisted by the people who pay ‘em.
I applied to be a nurse nut they said there was a big waiting list unless I wanted to do mental nursing. And I’d heard about that…
I’ve never been back to see any of people here. I’ve never kept in touch with people I’m not working with – that’s partly why I’ve got no friends!
SHEFFIELD’S GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND
SHEFFIELD’S GREAT. We got a really good Labour council. I wish I got involved with the Labour party when I was younger. I should have.
The council are now trying to get their own 24-track and music publishing company. It’s absolutely amazing. They’ve bought this huge building that was a car warehouse and they’re making it into the Sheffield Music Cooperative.
I was talking to them about it, asking them why they were doing it and they said, “We don’t want to see young kids getting ribbed off anymore.” It’s brilliant. No other council has thought of doing that. The guy they’ve got in to run it used to work for 2-Tone, Tim Strickland.
They’re going to have really good rehearsel rooms to rent out. It’ll take them ten years to get paid back. Sheffield council is really commited.
I think the scene’s getting better in Sheffield again. It’s happening everywhere. Suddenly there’s independent labels again and a live scene.
I think the Culture Club years are over… There’s one or two venues in Sheffield. A few pubs. It was weird to see all that die because it was in that atmosphere that we started. Then there was a real good circuit where you could make enough money to keep it all going.
I dunno what must have happened to small talented bands over the last two years. I s’pose the most talented got snapped up by record companies, had one or two hits and got dropped…
UPSTAIRS AT OAKEY’S…
MOST OF our time in here is spent wondering what we do with all this stuff…
Basically me and Ian work together here. Ian’s more musical, I do the programming. The hardest thing to do with a friend is work with them but me and Ian get on well. I’m still often at loggerheads with the others.
We got this house and built the studio in it before we started ‘Hysteria’. Then we got totally confused and went to London to have somebody else engineer it. We ended up spending all the money we made from ‘Dare’ on ‘Hysteria’. We won’t be doing that with the new album…
We’ve always planned to get the studio out but we can’t find another building. We’re so unorganised and inefficient that it takes up all of our time. I’ve not been on holiday since the start of the original Human League.
There’s always been something to do but we really don’t achieve very much. Really gets on your nerves.
It’s partly because we don’t have a boss. There’s nobody in The Human League who’d put up with one. It looks a bit like a democracy but it’s not – it’s still who shouts loudest.
I enjoyed working with Giorgio Moroder in the studio (on the two solo singles). He was great. It’d all be done in a couple of days..
He said to me: “You know, Philip, the thing I like about your singing is you always sing flat. You don’t mind. “He’s more concerned about getting across a melody, about just singing the song. He’ll start the drum machine and off you go.
ON THE RUN
THIS WAS the café we used to hide when we were ment to be on runs.
This place has been exactly the same for ten or 15 years. On a sunny day you can’t move round here. And they sell Parkin ( the Sheffield equivalent of ginger bread – well, actually it’s pretty much identical thought Philip insists otherwise).
THE OAKEY ORANGE DEVIL
I DON’T use it that much but recently we went round Sheffield on it filming with a video which was fun.
I can’t stand all those pop stars who just put bikes in their videos – bloody Simon Le Bon on the back of a bike… And Wham did that one where one of them had Triumph on the back of his jacket. Disgusting!