Half past six it said on the advert, so there I was – unfashionably early – going twice round the block to find a space, sheepishly passing a long queue outside the shop.
Having checked parking restrictions several times, convinced Preston’s traffic wardens were hovering menacingly nearby, I made my way down Derby Street to join the punters, a few minutes spare.
That next 20 minutes or so seemed to take forever, a nearby bar having hit happily pissed up hour, echoing karaoke seeping into my brain. Or was it in my head? Nobody else seemed to pick up on at least two murders of dreadful Bruce Channel song, ‘Hey Baby’. A favourite at Preston North End, I seem to recall (please tell me it no longer is), the words in the chorus mutated into more or less one slurred word then an ‘oof’ and ‘aah’. Painful.
A week before, Jon McClure told me he hoped to get along early to flick through the racks at this iconic Church Road store, having missed out last time he called. Was he already in there? No, voices carrying from the front end of the queue suggesting excitement or relief, Jon and Makers’ guitarist Ed Cosens soon walking nonchalantly along from the direction of Fishergate, guitar cases in hand, The Reverend’s new moustache leading to collective double-takes. Was that really him? Course it was.
Not long after we were in, this punter taking the left aisle, tempted to leaf through some vinyl. But it seemed rude, Jon and Ed already strumming, even that early jam impressing, the acoustic pair with a couple of runs through ‘Son of a Gun’ by The La’s. I always felt they had good taste.
This was the last of four intimate acoustic record store sessions and the only one outside Yorkshire, the 27-track Best Of album – double-CD or double-LP – launched five days before on their home patch at Bear Tree Records, Sheffield. And this time, a 35-minute set ensued, Jon telling us, “I feel I’m engaged in an exercise to ascertain how many people we can fit into a small record shop.”
Prompted by flattery from a woman close up, Jon introduced his ‘tache, suggesting she liked it far more than his better half, bandmate Laura, who he reckons looked at it with disdain. And having mentioned the record, suggesting it made sense to ‘get y’sen a copy’, we were off.
We helped them get going with a communal singalong on ‘Open Your Window’, one of the tracks that ensured the success and continuing appeal of their 2007 debut LP, The State of Things, our ‘we’ll be together in the Springtime’ hardly the singing ‘like your life depends on it’ he requested, but fairly together in the circumstances.
It was all going well, even if we couldn’t bounce along like a regular Makers gig, ‘in case we knock a Forrest Gump VHS on your head’ or ‘be injured in the critical case of a Fall boxset coming down on us’. Jon liked the imagery of that, suggesting ‘what a way to die’, adding, ‘If that does ‘appen to anyone and you’re killed by a Fall boxset, I’ll ‘appily deliver a glowing eulogy at your funeral’. Touching.
A more mellow ‘No Soap (In a Dirty War) from 2009’s A French Kiss in the Chaos was next, the quality coming through in this near-raw form, the lyrics all the more stark on a number that could only have been penned by a band with genuine, burning frustrations to voice, and achingly personal in this setting, delivered at close quarters in front of less than 100 people.
In fact, Jon told us how now and again he’ll forget a line, admitting feeling a little flustered when he spotted a girl near the back who knew his words better than he did, adding, “I could feel mi’sen about to fuck ‘em up!”
A gruesome tale followed about an ex-girlfriend and a poo sample before Jon and Ed gave us ‘Sex With the Ex’, so to speak, the show being live-streamed and The Reverend letting on how his Mum, holidaying in Spain, would be watching, uneasy about him telling that previous tale.
A rant about Thom Yorke refusing to play first crossover hit ‘Creep’ live with Radiohead preceded their crack at breakthrough single ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’, discussion following between Jon and Ed over whether to try another bash at ‘Hidden Persuaders’ from the second LP, the Rev suggesting it was ‘shit‘ in this format last time. Well, it was great on this occasion.
A talkative young lad halfway back was getting restless, Jon mocking a telling off before namechecking him, announcing, ‘When you’re older, you might be able to play as badly as me’. But a poignant solo rendition of ‘Long, Long Time’ proved his stage and songcraft is not in question.
Ed re-joined for a more upbeat ‘Bandits’, the lads back to the first LP, with laughter part-way in when Jon’s right-hand man stepped across to take lead vocals, a shared microphone causing hassle, Jon a fair bit taller and Ed struggling to stretch and hit those notes, doing commendably, his bandmate in hysterics. And where Laura would have chipped in with her lines, Jon covered, telling us mid-song, ‘Obviously, my wife’s not here, so you’re going to have to put up with me doing an impression, in my own inimitable way’.
Then came ‘What Goes Around’ from 2012’s ‘@Reverend_Makers’, the duo’s harmonies impressive in a perfect finale, the next half-hour seeing the pair carry on their community service, signing records and sharing more stories. There’s one I’m tempted to retell, but I best not. Next time you see the Rev though, ask about the couple with the shared Best Of at Chesterfield’s Tallbird session.
And if you haven’t yet, ‘get y’sen a copy’ of The Best of Reverend and the Makers. Highly recommended. I look forward to an Unplugged follow-up.
With thanks to Gordon Gibson, Action Records’ next event taking place at the nearby Blitz nightclub with The Sherlocks on Tuesday, October 8th. For more details head to the store’s Facebook page or pop in and splash out on more great music than you planned to.
If you missed this site’s interview with Jon McClure last week, including links to a previous feature/interview and live review, head here. Meanwhile, Reverend and the Makers’ Best Of tour starts on Thursday, October 3rd at Nottingham Rock City. For more details head to their Facebook page or www.reverendmakers.com.
Finally, it is still possible to follow Jon McClure’s example and get your hands on a copy of This Day in Music’s Guide to The Clash by Malcolm Wyatt, with details here.