Folkie Booknerd

By Folkiebooknerd

Paul Simpson: Wild Swan

I’ve long contended that ‘English Electric Lightning’ by The Wild Swans is as fine a single as was ever made by a Liverpool band (yes, I’m including The Beatles). Others will argue that their debut single ‘Revolutionary Spirit’ is even better.

Either way, The Wild Swans were a great band, and I’ve often hoped to bump into their leader/singer/songwriter, Paul Simpson, and tell him as much. Tonight, I finally had that opportunity.

Prior to founding The Wild Swans, Paul was the co-founder, with Julian Cope, of The Teardrop Explodes, and has also worked with many other legendary Liverpool musicians, including Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds/Big In Japan/Original Mirrors) in the duo, Care.

Back in 1982 (three years before I first pitched up in Liverpool) he was sharing a flat at 20 Devonshire Road with Echo and The Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas, when a 17 year old Courtney Love turned up on the doorstep, and announced that Julian Cope had said she could move in too. It was his old flat.

Courtney didn’t last more than a few weeks in the flat but she stayed in Liverpool for 6 months and immersed herself in the local music scene before her visa ran out and she returned to the USA and future global fame with her band Hole, her marriage to Kurt Cobain, her Golden Globe nominated acting career, and all points since...

This brief episode in Liverpool’s cultural history is the subject of a new book by famed Haçienda DJ and writer, Dave Haslam - ‘Searching for Love: Courtney Love in Liverpool, 1982’ - and Mr Haslam was in town this evening, at The British Music Experience, to talk about the book. Which is how I came to meet Mr Simpson...

In recent years Paul has stayed active in music and visual arts and has also been writing his memoirs, amongst other things. It was a real pleasure to shake his hand, take his photograph and have a brief chat with him tonight about those Courtney days. Massive thanks to him for being so charming, despite feeling a touch under the weather.

Today’s musical selection is, of course, ‘English Electric Lightning’ by The Wild Swans It’s over a decade old but it’s a song which resonates more than ever in these days of deep national division and confusion about English identity. To me, it asks the questions ‘Do we want to be our best selves, or our worst, as a country?’ and ‘How do we stop the seemingly relentless drift away from everything that’s best about us?’

Sign in or get an account to comment.