Liverpool in the 1980s was a place of social and political turmoil, poverty, unemployment and great creativity. The charts were full of local bands – Echo, Teardrop, et al – and the First Division table was dominated by Liverpool and Everton. Yosser Hughes and Shirley Valentine lit up the TV screens, and the football fans were repatriating new fashions on European awaydays. Eric’s was thriving and the footy fans were buzzing, and the two scenes were slowly merging together as people bumped in to one another on the terraces and at the gigs. Underpinning this knitting together of society was THE END, the fanzine described by John Peel as ‘perfect’ that brought together the worlds of football, fashion and music in one place, and took the piss out of people who took any of them too seriously. A man at the centre of this scene was Peter Hooton, lead singer of THE FARM, and co-editor of The End from 1981 until its demise in 1988. Bido Lito! caught up with him to discuss this period, independent media and The Farm’s chart-topping exploits of 20 years ago.
In 1981, the fanzine was the reserve of the obsessive muso, used as a vehicle to spout off about rival scenes and genres, like the punk ‘zines Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped And Torn. The average football fan got their literary fixes from the sports pages and official programmes, so it was a bit of a surprise when the first End emerged in this year, sold in the pubs and around the grounds of Anfield and Goodison. Football was the main thrust, but with more of a tangential angle in that Hooton and co-editor Phil Jones liked to marvel at the events and characters surrounding them at the games. As a result, the coach drivers and hot dog men became immortalized in The End’s pages, as well as the random acquaintances from awaydays (Squaddies) and nights out (bouncers). The humour was dark, biting and ultimately the driving force, with nothing and no-one being spared: not even their revered champion John Peel, who copped some stick in one interview, to his utter consternation and delight! Nothing came close to knitting together the football, music and fashion scenes on an underground level quite like The End did. Jumping from skits to Ins And Outs lists (heavily copied even to this day) to what tunes the lads were listening to or what gigs they were going to, The End locked in on the things that mattered to working class people on the terrace or in the pub, and it did this so effectively through its belly-laugh humour. Its popularity was not widespread, but it was revered by those who did read it. From the hand-drawn cartoons and lop-sided photos, to the lax attitude in production (only 20 were produced in 7 years, and months would go by between issues while the lads motivated themselves to cobble one together), everything about it was DIY and just a little shabby: but that was why it was so loved. It wasn’t glossy or slick, and it had no ulterior motive other than to make you laugh, and people could relate to that.
The birthplace of The End was the Cantril Farm estate in Knowsley, where Peter Hooton worked as a youth worker, and where he came to meet Phil Jones, and regular End contributors Mick and John Potter, Tony McClelland and Paul Need. There is an urban myth surrounding this estate, however, that Hooton is keen to debunk: “I’ve seen it written that that’s where we got the name of the band from but it’s not true. We got our name from a place called Caddicks Farm in Maghull where we went to rehearse. We’d always say ‘let’s go down the Farm,’ and when we were looking for a band name that just sort of seemed to fit.” From their humble beginnings in a disused barn, The Farm set out on the long path that would eventually culminate in mainstream success, on the back of the hole blown in the music scene by the likes of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, but it never always seemed likely that it would happen. Hooton: “One thing we were was very different from many Liverpool bands. This was a time, pre-Oasis, when most groups were searching for an image. And our image was just what we walked around in.” As a result, many people didn’t ‘get’ the idea of The Farm, and it wasn’t really until people like Simon Moran, and part-time contributor to The End, Kevin Sampson, got involved that people began to cotton on to their street-style, what Hooton calls the ‘neo-mod’ image. For a period in the early ‘80s, when The End was going strong, the band seemed to be coasting, but under Sampson’s involvement as manager in the late ‘80s, The Farm began their ascent. They had cultivated a dance/rock style that was interwoven with terrace culture, which made them appealing to lads going to the game then going out for a beer and a dance after. With album Spartacus hitting the top spot for a week in 1991, their popularity soared in conjunction with the wave of lad culture-oriented media like The Face and Loaded magazines and C4’s The Word. They even got a piggy back on the Italia 90 euphoria, showing that their appeal stretched beyond just the sound, as the anti-hooligan ‘No Alla Violenza’ t-shirts they sported soon became the must-have garment for the Ibiza ravers.
This influence can be seen today, in the many independently produced fanzines, most notably in football, but also in magazines like Viz and Pete Farley’s Boy’s Own, as well as the lad-mag flagship bearer Loaded: all these publications were all born out of the same spirit that brought The End in to life in the first place. That is why The End should be exhumed, so that a new generation can be inspired to take up the mantle and try and go one better, and keep the spirit of independent media alive. It was undoubtedly the mother of all fanzines, something that encapsulated the thoughts and feelings of every gig-going, game-going and pub-going bloke in the 1980s, in a way that no other publication before or since has ever quite managed. “To me, The End was the authentic voice of what was happening in Liverpool at the time,” says Hooton, and he is right. The bands, venues and characters that lit up that era may have been forgotten, but so long as one copy of The End remains, their memory will still be preserved.
A ‘warts and all’ reissuing of all 20 Ends has been mooted, but that will have to wait for the time being, as Peter Hooton’s focus is currently on The Farm’s upcoming shows at Liverpool’s O2 Academy. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of All Together Now, Saturday 4th December 2010 will see the original line-up brought back together for a special, one-off performance. “We thought it would go back to our roots and create an event which would attempt to recreate the atmosphere of 1990,” says Hooton. All aboard the Groovy Train then.