It's dull. It's cold. It rains all the time. Of the entire twisted mess, only one square mile - the centre- has been 'improved' - mainly by those guardians of British culture The Brewers. The IRA did Manchester a bigger favour than any planners, councils or governments ever managed when they Semtexed the shopping centre.
Legendary electronic music pioneer John Foxx first escaped from Manchester when he hitchhiked down to London as a teenager to catch Pink Floyds legendary all night 60s raves, staying down South longer in the 70s, when he formed and fronted Ultravox. Going solo in 1980 he released his critically acclaimed masterpiece Metamatic the same year, basing himself back home in a city hes always known and understood with a devastatingly bleak and perceptive vision.
Everyone knows that tarting up that one square mile of city centre is a bit of Elastoplast on a motorway pile-up, but it allows a pretence that something resembling civilisation is finally being carved out of the surreal rat's wheel wilderness of nonsense roadways, freewheeling supermarkets and corrupted planning. Comes in nice and handy when 'visiting dignitaries' get off the train. (They should be kidnapped and left in Wigan), he continues.
But don't get me wrong, I was Made In Chorley, Me. One of the Marooned.
Still wake up most nights drowning in a panic of tarmac, trains, pissing rain, factories, drunks, institutional strip lighting and Alsatians tied to fridges in the backyard. Went to Manchester Art College. Lived in Chorlton. I love Manchester just as much as I fear it.
One of the Marooned as he puts, refers to the many Manchester people reliant to some degree on state benefits (or as he prefers to call it the Social- The Songwriters Support Committee, as well as the Feckless Supporters Club, the Brewer's Asset Register, the Dealer's Benevolent Fund and the Single Parent Promotion Commission).
If not for the Social, Manchester would fall apart. It's taken the place that art schools used to occupy - except you only have to draw money, he says.
It's become such a structural necessity for the following blindingly obvious but seldom discussed reason: All British ex-industrial cities have millions of people marooned in the rain - with no reason to be there anymore. The factories are long gone. So the places have no function - and nor do the populations.
Manchester is one of the biggest, certainly one of the most complex and definitely the wettest.Radiating out from that token tart-up of Manchester's single square mile of a city centre, is 30 miles of horrific dereliction in every direction. Take a walk. See where you get.
Everybody except the football team is relegated. Just try to flog that cosy Salford terrace and move your family somewhere decent. You discover your housing's worth the equivalent of a South East dog kennel. Subsidies and other money intended to remedy the situation are intermittently trousered (pocketed/ stolen). Nothing else to do but take drugs, shoot each other and complain. The imaginative ones try to sing their way out. Sure, the most inventive artists come out of Manchester - and they stay out.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Is there any truth in the suggestion that Mancunians are cocky?
John Foxx: Totally - When youve got nothing, you got nothing to lose.
Skrufff: What connections do you retain?
John Foxx: My family live there, in a satellite town. They gave me a hell of a solid base to build the rest of my life on. They are like many people in those places - honed by generations of adversity, poverty and World Wars into a tough, realistic goodness. Honest, cheerful, generous and marooned. Some happily, some still in the rubble of what used to be respectable working class terraced streets, right next to demolished factories.
That's what makes me a wee bit (a little) bitter. All those magnificent people taken for granted and neglected by local and mainstream politicians. Relied on not to make a peep (complaint). To make the best of it, to look on the bright side, as they always did.
Louis and I mastered our first recordings watching kids set fire to the factories every day in Ancoats, five minutes walk from the lovely new city centre. Louis recently legged it (ran away) from his glorious sink suburb, where there are no buses in or out after 7pm, the kids burnt the only fast food joint and the sole surviving landlord left town after a death threat. What finally decided Louis was his brother getting stabbed as he watched TV in his own home one night, then one of his mates being casually shot in the spleen at a traffic light (mistaken identity). Still, it's always very friendly there.
So perhaps the Second City might consider colonising the First (London). That might really bring it home. Mass Internal Immigration. Manchester Asylum Sneakers. Do a Bittersweet Symphony, swagger in and take it all over. Take the train down to Knightsbridge. Refuse to pay the fare - if you do it magnificently in millions nobody can stop you. Knock on Blair's door. Squat every night in a different Chelsea apartment. Do a dance down Whitehall, Brew up in the House of Lords, do your laundry in the Commons. After all, our parents and grandparents paid for it. With their lives. They died working in factories and mines while the money they made was siphoned off and you were finally left abandoned and passive and uneducated and daft enough to believe every hard-faced government and two-faced politician that intends to screw you.
You will soon have no Health Service. No pensions. You already have no education. Your parents and grandparents worked all their lives on the promise of these for their children.
You are relegated. Powerless. Forgotten. Overlooked. Left to live out lives in pointless satellite towns with no function and no purpose. You have to drive to takeaways and supermarkets to buy crap you don't need. Daft enough to drink yourself stupid and buy drugs that will kill you. And you'll soon be fighting in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan to defend interests you may never share or properly understand.
But let's look on the bright side - Everything is OK, now. Sorted, with one stroke of a PR pen. No rebuilding necessary. Great what a nifty bit of re-titling can do.
(Sponsored by Brewer's Group PLC, Kabul Pharmaceuticals and Kalashnikov).
Skrufff: What do you think of Birmingham?
John Foxx: The same. And why the hell does anyone want to live under a motorway interchange anyway? Whose idea was that?
Skrufff: And what is Birminghams greatest cultural asset?
John Foxx: Cultural Asset? - A fascinating road and rail system, so convoluted no-one can find their way out. You come across pensioners who started off in 1960 surviving on Twix bars in derelict emergency phone boxes.
John Foxx & Louis Gordons new album From Trash is out now.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)