With his latest book released today, Dave Haslam looks into the story of Courtney Love’s time in Liverpool and Getintothis’ Banjo hears a strange and sad tale.
Dave Haslam isn’t the kind of person to sit still and take it easy.
Less than two years ago he published his excellent autobiography, Sonic Youth Slept on my Floor, which he promoted with a Q&A at Liverpool’s BME at the Cunard Building.
He was back at the same building in March the following year, introducing New Order‘s Decades documentary and then just a few weeks later he was back again, interviewing Stephen Morris for his own autobiography.
From this it seems there is but one conclusion we can draw: Dave Haslam loves Liverpool.
If this were in any doubt, the subject of his latest book should confirm it. It looks at an almost mythological time when Liverpool bands the coolest bands in the country. A time when Top of the Pops and the front covers of the music weeklies were their rightful territory.
It was also a time when Courtney Love lived in Liverpool.
Following the publication of his fifth book, Dave Haslam decided to write a series of shorter books, set to be eight in total, that will take up three months of his life each rather than the two and a half years his ‘proper’ books take him. The books will be gathered together under the title Art Decades.
He describes his books as albums and these mini books as singles, before saying that he wants to be like Buzzcocks and be remembered for a great run of singles.
Searching For Love: Courtney Love in Liverpool, 1982 is the third book in the series, with the others looking at New York Nightlife and Haslam‘s shocking decision to sell his entire record collection.
On the day of the book’s release, what better place for a discussion of the book’s theme to be discussed than in the very city the events took place.
Before we get to the discussion, Dave Haslam takes to the stage to introduce the night’s proceedings. He also pre-empts some of the questions he might get asked by wondering aloud why he ended up writing a book about a woman he never met moving to a city he has never lived in.
Although he never lived in Liverpool, he visited often and his love of the city and its scenes is evident as he talks of the thrill of walking down Bold Street and seeing people who were the cover stars of that week’s NME.
He mentions that on his first visit to the city, he encountered a woman pissing in an underpass and was then taken to the Armadillo Tea Rooms where he had hummus for the first time. From this he concluded that all human life could be found in Liverpool.
He introduces Gerry Potter, who is here to read his poem I Never Went To Eric’s, a wonderful and sprawling tale of someone who was in the thick of Liverpool’s cultural whirlwind in the early 80s but, like Haslam, had never been to the fabled club.
He introduces the poem by saying that he has heard so much about the club, so often and from so many friends that he now feels like he actually has memories of the place. As he put it, “scousers don’t tell you stories, they implant them in you“.
The poem sets the scene for much of the discussion to come, mentioning local bands and faces by the score.
Next up is Campbell L Sangster, who Dave Haslam met and befriended at a Wah! gig in London, where her band Send No Flowers were supporting. That there is still a bonhomie between the two is evident from the on stage banter during the introduction, as much as I hate the word ‘banter’.
Sangster starts by playing a melancholy guitar with a haunting vocal. She introduces her songs by telling us what they are about; song number two concerns “being housebound and not being able to take your books back to the library” while song number three is about “isolation, cities and all those things.”
She wears her heart on her sleeve and in her songs and gives the audience a glimpse into the things that concern her. She closes her eyes and emotionally leans into her songs and takes us all with her.
Her album is out soon, which is good news. Watch this space for more details as they become available.
After four songs from this singer wongwriter, Dave Haslam settles himself down on stage, as does our own Paul Fitzgerald, who is tasked with asking tonight’s questions.
This was not to end well; in his autobiography, Cope refers to Love only as ‘the adolescent‘ and sometime after her visit paid a considerable amount of money to take out a full advert in the NME proclaiming “Free Us From Nancy Spungen-Fixated Heroin A-Holes Who Cling To Our Greatest Groups And Suck Out Their Brains“, later also stating “she needs shooting. And I’ll shoot her.”
Quite what Courtney did to deserve this ire is undetermined, although Haslam tells us that, as a result of the book, he and Courtney are now “pen pals” and she emails him frequently. In one of her emails she told of when she was staying in Cope‘s flat and took the opportunity to read the love letters sent to Cope by his wife, describing them as “the best pornography I’ve ever read.”
Maybe if Cope knew about this it could have started the antagonism he now obviously has for her.
Haslam describes the process of writing the book as detective work and meeting people, but also saying that it involved a fair amount of “going into the back of your own head.”
As with his other books, the writing of Searching For Love: Courtney Love in Liverpool, 1982 led to the author looking into himself and discovering something new there.
Courtney‘s tale, as it unfolds, is a sad one, quite apart from the antagonism she received as a result of her stay in Liverpool. Her childhood was wildly dysfunctional, she was first given LSD by her father at the age of four, was rejected by her mother who moved to New Zealand and left her behind, and later served two years in a juvenile detention centre for stealing a Kiss t-shirt.
Her relationship with her father is still an uneasy one at best, especially since his public pronouncement that she killed Kurt Cobain.
The question has to be asked. If Courtney Love was an attention seeker, as many who knew her during her time in Liverpool have said, then who could really blame her after that start in life? Who could blame her for looking for affection, for friends, for family from the people she most admired.
This attitude seemed to follow Courtney around. Haslam tells us of her first ever music press front page, that featured the question “Why does everybody hate Courtney Love?”
Her first cover. Some people it seems are set up to be hated.
The Courtney Love that emerges from this story is naive and almost tragic. Interviewer Paul Fitzgerald tells us that his opinion of her changed as a result of reading Searching For Love and Haslam agrees.
Courtney Love is undoubtedly great at self mythologising, but then so is the city of Liverpool. When these two entities came together, it was perhaps destined to create a mess of one kind or another.
Courtney has said that the few months she spent her are amongst the most important times of her life and that she describes that life as being Before Liverpool and After Liverpool.
Throughout this sad tale, Dave Haslam is a natural storyteller and an affable comic and is able to empathise with his subject matter and the treatment that has been dished out to her over the years.
It is notable that Courtney has never played a gig in Liverpool, although Dave Haslam puts this down to being “more by accident than by design“. There is however some exciting news that she may be returning soon.
We hear that she is writing her own autobiography and may head to Liverpool on it’s release for an event, possibly at The Epstein Theatre.
Her return will be much anticipated. And hopefully this time there will be less emotional fallout afterwards.