View from the Bridge: 25

by John Morrison


25: Stairlift to Heaven

You can find live music most nights of the week in Milltown. There's the folk club in the upstairs room at the Flag, of course, where adenoidal nurses from Cleckheaton routinely murder ancient songs of lust and revenge. But it's not every band that would automatically pencil Milltown into their tour itinerary. So those bands which do play here tend to fall into one of three categories: those trying to climb up the greasy pole of pop celebrity, those sliding inexorably down, and those - like The Uncles - who, after years of stolid endeavour, are going nowhere.

It's way too late for these Milltown-based soft-rockers to attract more fans than can be fitted into the back room of a pub. And on those increasingly rare occasions when an ardent fan tosses her underwear onto the stage, it's most likely to be a pair of incontinence pants. Four old guys with paunches and straggly pony-tails, strumming their way through yet another rendition of 'Stairlift to Heaven'... what could you possibly say about them that hasn't already been said about Formica?

It must have been a very quiet news week when, a few years ago, the NME allotted The Uncles half a column of flattering print, and dubbed them the 'Hardest Working Band in the Country'. This back-handed compliment emphasised that despite playing almost every night of the week in some dreary northern town they have conspicuously failed to attract the slightest glimmer of interest from a record company.

They're still on the road (they hardly dare stop, in case they seize up), but the years have mellowed The Uncles. Their days of hell-raising are over. Persistent groupies who find their way into the band's dressing room will probably be asked to make up a foursome at bridge. Instead of trashing hotel rooms the band members prefer to tidy up and do a little light dusting. After a gig they look forward to cradling a mug of Horlicks and having an early night. They are back in Milltown this week, on the last leg of their 'Still Alive' tour. And even their most ardent fan (Wounded Man, since you ask) prays it will be their last.

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