Two big reasons I chose Liverpool for university in 1981 and they were: politics and music. The city was bubbling with revolt and great bands. This was the high point of 1980s Liverpool music. The Beatles were yesterday – pardon the pun – and what interested me more was Echo and the Bunnymen and The Mighty Wah!
The music scene at the start of the 1980s hadn’t made its decisive shift to Manchester yet. So we weren’t raving quite yet. Instead, it was a post-punk hangover mixing New Wave, Futurist, synth-based electronica and psychedelic revival.
Julian Cope lived in Toxteth. Unbeknown to me, Courtney Love was apparently wandering around Liverpool at this time seeking inspiration. And on the bus going through Toxteth, you’d rub your eyes in disbelief to see Pete Burns walking down Upper Parliament Street in a mini-skirt. This was before his band Dead of Alive got into bed with Stock Aitken and Waterman.
I once remember going to the NatWest bank to cash a cheque so I could continue afternoon drinking in the pub only to find Echo and the Bunnymen in the queue in front of me. The pub in question was The Cambridge where Clare Grogan once drifted in to dance in front of the juke box. They were strange times.
Matthew Street is now a Beatles-themed nightmare but in the early 1980s was a honeypot for trendies in mascara and blonde highlights – and I’m talking about the chaps. We gravitated towards the Armadillo Tea Rooms near Probe Records, where the aforementioned Pete Burns worked – or rather insulted the clientele on a whim.
Liverpool 1980s music was celebrated at Larks in the Park in Sefton Park. Below is the festival mag for the 1985 event. It includes ads from some great nightspots of the time in Liverpool like Keith’s wine bar (we used to think that place was very posh), Jody’s (gay upstairs and futurist downstairs) and the Armadillo.