AS a friend of mine recently pointed out the music business seems to revolve around an endless succession of anniversaries.
With CD sales down to a trickle (Rihanna scored a number one album earlier this year despite shifting just 9,578 CDs in a week) any hook, however tenuous, is seized upon to remind us to re-buy that album we already own.
Occasionally though these anniversaries do give us just cause for celebration and here in Liverpool we’ve been lucky enough to experience two in a week.
Friday October 5 marked the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ debut single Love Me Do, an event which probably made many people feel very old indeed. There’s no getting around it – 50 years really is a long time and it’s the sort of landmark which sounds strange in the context of popular music. The fact that we are still talking about the Beatles, celebrating their incredible music and still, occasionally, even purchasing it, shows just what an impact they’ve made. TV crews from all around the world flocked to Liverpool to acknowledge that here really was where it all started.
Less celebrated, but in its own way equally era defining was the 20th anniversary of a night club in Wolstenholme Square which arguably became Liverpool’s biggest musical export since the Fab Four.
For about five hectic years in the 1990s, Cream came to define a veryBritish way of spending Saturday night as clubbing became a way of life for millions of young hedonists.
I was lucky enough to arrive in Liverpool in 1996, when the Cream brand was at its peak.
Being a cynical indie kid, whose experiences of night clubs extended to little more than avoiding a beating in Maidenhead’s 5th Avenue or trying to get served in Burnham’s Tudor-themed hell-hole, Henry’s, visiting Cream was low on my list of priorities.
Thankfully within a few months I’d be converted and so began a brief but passionate affair with the place. My timing of course was perfect. Within just four years, Cream supremo James Barton and co had created a club which was fast approaching legendary status with a simple but effective emphasis on having a good time.
When I look back on nights at Cream it is this atmosphere which I remember. Coach loads of punters would arrive from all the over country and you’d hear “can I borrow your bottle of water?” in every accent imaginable. One time I ended up dancing on a podium next to Steve McMannaman. It was that kind of place.
In many ways the music was secondary and I’d be lying if I said I still regularly slip on the David Morales remix of Mariah Carey’s Dreamlover or dust down the Seb Fontaine mix tape, but there are good musical memories too: the Chemical Brothers finishing their set with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Death In Vegas silencing the Annexe with a thrilling version of Dirge and any time Joe Smooth’s Promised Land came through the speakers.
Cream is now better known as a “brand” used to sell festival tickets across the world and Barton holds the rather ridiculous sounding job of President of Electronic Dance Music for American entertainment company Live Nation. Earlier this year Cream sold for almost £14m.
But back then for a short, messy but glorious period Liverpool was, once again the place to be.
Now that’s worth celebrating.