Today it is exactly 31 years since I went to “Hootenanny” at the Hammersmith Palais. This was a benefit gig hosted by Janice Long with a line-up that included Difford & Tilbrook, Billy Bragg, Phil Chevron from The Pogues, The Oyster Band & various others that I’ve forgotten over the intervening decades.
A few memories do still remain though. I can still remember Difford & Tilbrook, armed with just their voices and a couple of acoustic guitars, playing a brilliant version of “Footprints.” When everyone clapped at the end, one of them (probably Chris!) made a crack about how people always like that song live but nobody had bought it when it had been a single!
I also remember Boris Grebeshnikov handing out some of his Russian cigarettes to people in the audience, which seemed a little “off-message” for an anti-cancer benefit. Not that it stopped me taking one of course! (They were ridiculously strong and tasted dreadful!)
When Billy Bragg was introducing his version of The Internationale, he looked a bit taken aback when lots of us laughed in response to him saying that he’d recently recorded it with a Welsh voice choir! It turned out that wasn’t a joke but he did make some about the bar prices. We were already well aware of those, which is why kept popping down the road to the Laurie Arms in between acts. It was from there that we watched Phil Chevron being pursued down Shepherds Bush Road by an over-enthusiastic Pogues fan.
But just a mile up the road, there was another important story going on that day.
While we were at the gig, my beloved football team QPR were playing at home against Liverpool in the FA Cup Quarter Final. QPR had already had an eventful cup run that season. They had needed a replay to knock out Cardiff and two replays to get past Blackpool. I went to the Fifth Round match at Highbury which was a dreary 0-0. The replay at Loftus Road where we knocked out the League Champions has gone down as one of the all-time great evening matches at Loftus Road but I had missed it. It clashed with The Wedding Present playing at Top Rank in Brighton. After that gig, we had seen the highlights on a little telly in a kebab shop on West Street and I still remember going crazy in there when Andy Sinton scored!
So now we were in the last eight of the FA Cup for only the third time in our history and it had already taken an epic 7 matches to get there!
If the Liverpool match had been the day before, I would definitely have been there. But it was being shown live on BBC and so the kick-off time had changed to Sunday 3pm meaning that it clashed with the gig. For a while, I had contemplated going to both, but in the end I’d decided to go to the Palais, videotape the match and take the next morning off work to watch it.
Of course, in true Likely Lads style this meant somehow getting through the whole day without finding out the score.
None of my mates with me at the gig are QPR fans. Mike, Rich and Neil support Portsmouth, Woking and Chelsea respectively. But they were all on board with my plan and everything was going well. Before the match we had seen people heading to the match, so the walks to the pub up the road for cheaper rounds had to stop after mid-afternoon. Otherwise we would be in danger of seeing more QPR fans in the vicinity and accidentally deducing the outcome from their post-match disposition. It might not even be an obvious “tell” like an overheard football chant, even just the observation of a slight spring in the step of an elderly gentleman could blow the whole thing.
But then out of nowhere in between songs, Billy Bragg said “in case any of you were wondering about the football score, it was two…” and that’s all I heard before quick-thinking Neil slapped his hands over my ears!!!
I’d heard the “two” part of it! But what did that mean? My mind couldn’t help calculating all the permutations. Clearly the winning team had scored “two” because even though the printed results always show the home team’s score first, nobody would ever describe a score that way aloud.
So that left 4 possibilities:
- 2-0 to Liverpool
- 2-1 to Liverpool
- 2-0 to QPR
- 2-1 to QPR.
My mates had all heard the score so even though they were trying to help me, we still had to ban all discussion of it after the gig in case one of them accidentally gave something away. I managed to get home without any further “spoilers” so the next morning I fired up the VHS ready to watch.
Liverpool were one of the best teams around back then with rightly-revered club legends like Ian Rush, Alan Hansen, Bruce Grobbelaar, Ronnie Whelan and John Barnes in their team. Despite regularly finishing in the top half of the First Division in those days, there’s no question that QPR were the underdogs. But it was QPR who went ahead with a goal smashed in by Super Ray Wilkins.
That rules out the 2-0 to Liverpool I suppose. That’s good.
Early in the second half, John Barnes scores just as he seemed to do against us every season! He had supported QPR as a kid and later he was on our books as a youth team player. But he was never offered a contract and went to make his name at Watford. Since that day, he had seemed to be going all out for revenge against the club that let him go and every year he’d play a blinder against us and usually score! He scored 10 goals against QPR in a Liverpool shirt, more than he scored against any other club! This one was a direct free kick and even all these years later I still think David Seaman should’ve saved it!
Anyway that’s 2-0 to QPR out of the window then. Bollocks.
That just leaves 2-1 but will it be 2-1 to Liverpool or 2-1 to QPR?
Ten minutes from the end I got my answer. Paul Parker makes an uncharacteristic error and the ball runs to Ian Rush on the edge of the box. “And that’s it!” proclaims John Motson with an authoritative air of finality as the Liverpool victory that he and everyone watching was expecting now becomes reality.
Fucking hell. I’m annoyed with myself now. Billy Bragg was saying 2-1 to Liverpool. Of course he was. Why did I allow myself to even think that we would beat them? It’s Liverpool for fuck’s sake. They’ve won at least one trophy every single year since they pipped us to the League title in 1976. Of course, QPR aren’t going to knock them out you stupid stupid boy.
After that I’m annoyed with my mates. Billy Bragg told them that QPR had lost! They could’ve just told me that yesterday, put me out of my misery and saved me the trouble of watching the match. They understand how much football means and they would know that I wouldn’t want to watch a 90 minute recording of QPR losing! Why didn’t they just tell me the result?
But hang on, there’s Simon Barker, he’s running into the box and YEEEEEEEESSSSSSS!!!! SIMON BARKER! I’m up on my feet and jumping around the lounge shouting and cheering at 10am on a Monday morning!
2-2! That was he had been saying. Billy Bragg, you absolute beauty.
I hope you enjoyed my little story of redemption. Don’t spoil the dramatic ending by Googling what happened in the replay.
Three and a bit decades later and this is still the only time I have ever successfully avoided finding out the score of a football match. When I re-watch the Simon Barker goal, it still feels like it happened yesterday! I’m off to run around my lounge to it again now.
RIP to Phil Chevron, Alan McDonald and Ray Wilkins.
Related posts on this website:
- The Official Anthem for Shepherds Bush
- Phil Chevron R.I.P.
- The HMV Years 1988-1992
- Elvis Costello sings the rainbow
- Podcast 88: Festival special, Glastonbury 1989
Here’s a playlist of songs played at “Hootenanny” that day.