The Farm – All Together Now

Music / April 4, 2014
by admin

I love ‘All Together Now’ by The Farm. If the band were ever truly fashionable it will surely have been before this song lodged itself in the national psyche across all castes, creeds and colours (by which I mean football colours). At that point, having cracked it, commercially after many, many years’ service in the trenches of regional indie and fanzine legitimacy, The Farm went overground. It has been some years since I was among those five or six good men and true, but I rather think they are enjoying their people’s longevity.

They have the keys to Liverpool, figuratively if not actually, and occupy the same post-punk Scouse pantheon as Pete Wylie, Ian McCulloch, Pete Burns, Ian McNabb, Holly Johnson, Julian Cope, Ian Broudie and, although it would annoy him, Lee Mavers. Such figures do not drift in and out of fashion, they exist in perpetuity in collective local mythology rooted in the Cavern and Merseybeat. ‘All Together Now’ is a sentimental song, made in a sentimental city, sung by sentimental people then and now, in sentimental situ.

The Farm and their mentor Suggs (who took them in hand) seized their moment as the 80s jigged into the 90s and years of marginal struggle coalesced into right-place-right-time-right-trainers relevance. With fashionable production on their side, this band of brothers gave it everything they had and found a chart-topping album within, Spartacus. Their thumbs-up bonhomie didn’t hurt. The Farm once gave me a tour of Liverpool that took us from Walton Gaol to Robert Tressell’s grave and we had our photo taken at a Yates’, one that I still treasure. Unlike the Madchester bands, The Farm came with added socialism.

Using Johann Pachelbel’s Canon In D as its kicking-off point – a common pop nick in the 60s, but audacious in 1990 nonetheless – ‘All Together Now’ uses the gentle orchestral waft and a plangent rising guitar signature from co-writer Steve Grimes to lull the listener into a false sense of decorum before a pull on the bass ignites what historians will identify as a textbook “indie-dance” groove. If all this song did was lay a trendy backbeat under a classical riff, it would be worth a cursory listen and a tap of the trainer, but Peter Hooton’s voice and lyric are what see a studio lark ascending.

It’s distant and high, more delicate than anything the Happy Mondays would attempt (and neither should they have done), gloriously augmented by the mighty Pete Wylie on backing vocals, and sets out a bold stall, for this is a song about the Great War when “baggy” songs tended to be about lager and rainbows. “Remember boy that your forefathers died,” he entreats, a man as capable of tomfoolery and wisecracks as any burgher of Liverpool, but not messing about herein. “Lost in millions for a country’s pride… But they never mention the trenches of Belgium, when they stopped fighting and they were one.”

The England-Germany truce is a well-worn, proto-pacifist fairytale with a mile-wide target on its back for the creatively bereft and suitable for all ages, and it even contains a kick-about which might have been a cynical button-pushing exercise in the hands of the insincere, but who else in the hedonistic Italia ’90 theme party along the M62 was singing about “a spirit stronger than war” on a “cold, clear and bright” night in December 1914? Not Northside. The Farm were like baggy’s older brothers. They’d been round the block. They were granted certain privileges. It didn’t take much to be a militant tendency in that largely apolitical landscape.

All together now? What a sappy deal, eh? Arms around each other. Blokes hugging. Scarves in the air. Tears in beer. Working Men’s clubs. The further away we get from No Man’s Land in December 1914 and successive outbreaks of togetherness among fighting men, the more vital such sappiness arguably becomes. The Farm’s moment in the sun seemed all too brief, but they abide, with at least one certified anthem suitable for sporting tournaments and occasions of national unity. You write a song like this, and you are forced to bequeath it to whichever group of people have gathered together in hired hall or sports stadium to sing it. ‘All Together Now’ sorts out the fashionable from the unfashionable, and who’d want to be cordoned off among the first group?

Studied interest? No, just abandon, bejewelled with treasured memories of all the voluble, winking Liverpudlians I met when working for the NME meant getting the hell out of London on a weekly basis. If The Farm were waiting for you at Lime Street, you were alright.

Read more like this on Andrew’s blog Circles of Life

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  1. I first met Tony while working for the NME in the mid 1980s. I was lucky enough to attend the New Music Seminar (NMS) conference run by Tommy Boy’s Tom Silverman in New York every year, and Tony was always one my guaranteed dates for lunch, except I usually ended up paying!! However, in 1990 Tony called me to ask me out to lunch while in New York (and he was paying). He also dropped into the conversation that he wanted me to meet a women, I enquired if he’s started an escort agency in the Big Apple?! On the appointed day Tony came to my room in the Marriott Marquis, where the conference was been held, and yes, he did have a rather beautiful woman in toe, Yvette Livsey, who would be Tony’s partner till he taken from us in 2007. Over lunch Tony and Yvette explained that he wanted to launch his own version of the NMS called In The City in Manchester, and could I get NME to help support the venture. This was the start of what turned out to be an amazing and sometimes rollercoster relationship with Anthony H. I went from being a supporter of the event to helping him run Interactive City the digital spin off of ITC, and then on running all the Interactive panels at ITC for 3 or 4 years. There are too many highlights to post hear, but two that stick in the mind, include Seymour Stein’s birthday dinner in Chinatown with the great and the good form the UK record business. This was however topped by hilarious lunch in Carluccio’s Restaurant in Charlotte St where he recounted his journey to Peru with porn-model Jo Guest and actress Meera Syal where he had to take ayahuasca in the Amazon Jungle, to the delight (or disgust) of most of the people sitting near us! I spent some amazing times with Tony, he was not only an inspiration buy a great mentor, and is sadly missed. He’s probably at the great gig in the sky, still arguing with Hannett and Gretton, and putting his fatherly arm around Ian Cutis’ shoulder. Miss him dearly, what a great great man…

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