Bez’s teenage obsessions: ‘With cider, you can literally taste spirituality’

As the Happy Mondays dancer releases his first track as a vocalist, he reminisces about his youth, from spells in prison to bonding with Shaun Ryder at the Haçienda

Cider

I’ve had a long-lasting love affair with apple cider over the years. I just love the apple. There’s no contest as far as fruit goes, in my eyes. It comes from the garden of Eden. With some cider you can literally taste the spirituality in it. When you think about it, the apple covers every angle: it gets you drunk, it’s great food, plus it’s really beneficial medicine.

There was a huge Bulmers cider yard near where I grew up in Little Hulton in Salford. When I was 11, me and a group of lads did a raid on it before my first-ever school disco. We hopped the fence and grabbed a load of cider for the occasion – which became a common thing we used to do as young men – and that was the first time I ever got drunk. It was a fantastic night that I’ll never forget, and I might even have got my first kiss that night too.

Prison

My old fella was a policeman; he was a chief inspector of the anti-terrorism squad. When I was a young man, from the ages of about 16 to 22, I was involved in a lot of rebellious activities – which of course didn’t go down well with him, and I wound up homeless because of it. From there, I went down a path of open rebellion. Unfortunately, the path led me to a detention centre and then after that, I did a stint in Hindley prison.

When I was at Hindley, this realisation hit me that I didn’t want that lifestyle. There were a load of knobheads in there and I didn’t wanna become one of them so when I got out, one of the first things I did was go travelling. I went to Greece, Turkey; I travelled all through Europe and Africa. I had to remove myself from my old environment so I didn’t fall back into hanging about with the people I was getting into trouble with.

Bez (second left) dancing at the Haçienda, 1988.
Bez (second left) dancing at the Haçienda, 1988. Photograph: Photoshot/Getty Images

The Haçienda

I’ll never forget the first time I went to the Haçienda. It was like walking into a big butcher’s fridge, with the plastic curtains hanging down. It was everything we had ever dreamed of in a nightclub. There was no dress code, there were absolutely no rules. It was like stepping into a world of utopia where you could do anything you wanted and nobody batted an eyelid.

Before I first met Shaun Ryder – which was when I got back from travelling – so many people were telling me that I needed to meet him because they just knew we would have this amazing connection. When we first met, we were a little stand-offish, but then we started hanging out at the Haçienda and that’s where we grew closer. It’s also where I joined the Happy Mondays for the first time on stage, supporting New Order. The Haçienda made me the man I am today; it’s given me such a great life. It was such a melting pot of activity, not just music.

Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps, by Emmett Grogan

I came across this book completely by accident and it absolutely blew my mind. I knew immediately that I wanted to be Emmett Grogan [founder of art and activism group the Diggers]; he became one of my ultimate counterculture heroes. I loved what he was doing in San Francisco, holding up lorries and giving everything away for free because he believed it belonged to the people.

Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps by Emmett Grogan.
Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps by Emmett Grogan. Photograph: PR Handout

He had this thing called a Free Frame of Reference. He built this great big frame, and everything in it was free: information, food, clothes ... He talked about how nothing costs money, everything costs manpower. He envisioned a reality where everyone becomes a worthwhile member of the community by contributing their manpower in order to live free. I thought it was absolutely genius.

During my bid to become an MP in Salford, I was campaigning for free energy, free food and a load of other free stuff. I got that idea from Emmett. But nobody quite understood it because we’ve been a slave to currency for so long. No one can imagine a life without money and how it would even work.

Honey

My grandad was in the Eighth Army during the second world war. He didn’t tell a lot of stories from his time in the war because people back then liked to keep their cards close to their chest, but there were a few tales he would occasionally come out with. Being in the Eighth, he was stationed in North Africa, and he also ended up being involved in chasing the Germans out of Italy. For my grandad, these were some of the best times of his life.

One of the things I always associate with him is honey because he would always tell us about these huge tins of honey he brought back from the war. So as a kid growing up, honey was a major part of my life because of my grandad’s experiences; we would put it in absolutely everything. I still put loads of honey in everything to this day, and I even keep bees myself. Thanks in part to my grandad, honey has become a massive part of my life, through my childhood, teenage years and now my adult life as well.

Football

I used to play football every day as a kid. We had a dole office right across the street and I must have smashed every one of its windows kicking the ball around. One year, my dad got me this duffle bag with a Man United kit in it and a pair of George Best boots – this was the moment I knew I was gonna be a United fan. I would walk around with the full kit on, collar up, boots as well, and I used to tell people that I played for Man United.

Football was a different game back then. The players were heroes to the working classes, and the culture around the game was different, with the drinking and everything. Players used to get pissed, they all smoked, and half of them probably turned out on to the pitch half-drunk from the night before. I remember going to my first United game and watching Alex Stepney come down the tunnel and throwing his cigarette on the floor. Now, the players are all elite athletes. Their diet, their workouts, everything is down to science. I do still enjoy watching a game every now and then, and taking my youngest son – although I think he loves the hotdogs more than the football – but the game has become a bit too corporate for me.

• Bez and Doorly’s single Flying Bus (feat Firouzeh) is out 30 July on Reptile Dysfunction

As told to Will Lavin

The GuardianTramp

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