We Stood Together Then We Stand Together Now
Keith Mullin has been the guitarist in 'The Farm' for over 25 years and more recently member of The Justice Tonight Band. He is the only Evertonian in the The Farm; Evertonians will know him best as the voice on "Altogether Now". The Everton single for the 1995 FA Cup victory over Man Utd. For the last 10 years, Keith has been a Music Lecturer at LIPA.
BLUE KIPPER: What has been your involvement in the charity single "He aint heavy he's my brother"?
KEITH MULLIN: For me, we need to go back to September 2011 and the "Don't Buy The Sun" gig at Liverpool Olympia. It was Peter Hooton's idea really; Pete wanted to do something as the News International scandal was breaking, the "Don't Buy the Sun" boycott has been running for years, additionally we had been approached to do something for James McVey. In Aug 2011, we met with Jaime McVey, MP Steve Rotheram, Dave Pichilining (Sound City) and Sheila Colman from the HJC to discuss how to proceed.
In light of events occurring in the media all agreed the timing was right and that a gig would be great thing to do, raise awareness of the DBTS boycott and support the James McVey charity. That gig set the tone for what would follow over the coming months and like most things the JTB went on to do, it was spontaneous and pulled together quickly. We set about asking various local artists and significant others to play, that included Mick Jones from The Clash and local celebrity Pete Wylie. There was not much time for rehearsals or anything in terms of preparation; however, after speaking with Mick, he asked could we (The Farm) inclusive of Pete Wylie be one band, as he would like to play some Clash songs and play on our songs respectively. So getting the band together was an accident really, a genuine unplanned affair that at the time felt like the right thing to do, and still does.
The Olympia gig was a huge success, dare I say, historically significant when considering it was a catalysts for the eventual creation of "The Justice Tonight Band". The show itself developed into something more like an old school political rally, a mixture of music and politics, Tom Watson amongst others came and delivered speeches, Punk activist John Robb compared, the Olympia radiated with passion and revolutionary fever.
We all enjoyed it that much everyone wanted to do more, especially Mick, so the Justice Tonight Band was born. Mick contacted SJM who agreed to organise a tour Christmas 2011, the focus was to be - Hillsborough in collaboration with the HJC, with John Robb as compare who eventually became a fully-fledged JTB member. Initially, the idea was to tour under the banner of DBTS, however after numerous discussions and taking advice from representatives of the 96, everyone felt the focus should be toward the campaign for Justice, so we came up with the name Justice Tonight.
We invited guests to play at every gig, James Dean Bradfield played in Cardiff, 'The Stone Roses' in Manchester, Richard Hawley and John McClure Sheffield, Glasvagas, Glasgow, Cast, John Power & Billy Bragg in Liverpool. In London JTB were joined by Primal Scream, Holly Cook, Richard Archer Hard Fi, however the ultimate blessing had to be Paul Simonon re-joining his comrade Mick Jones on stage for a rendition of Guns of Brixton.
It was after the Manchester gig that the Stone Roses invited TJTB to play with them at Heaton Park and other European jaunts. We spent a whole year as the Justice Tonight Band, eventually doing what was perhaps the last gig at Strummerville, prior the Hillsborough report coming out. The report actually came out a year after we had played the first 'DBTS' gig in September 2011.
The JTB were all in Liverpool when the report came out, we attended the vigil at St George's hall, Mick Jones came from London with Davo the unsung hero of JTB, who plays with Big Audio Dynamite and Paul Weller. Davo's a local lad from Wavertree, who has to be applauded for the work he's done with both JTB and He Aint Heavy. He's is a legend in my eyes, we share the same area on stage, therefore we are legion and we are one. The outcome of the report was such an important event for all concerned.
The following two weeks many footballs clubs did their own tribute, which was very moving, and I remember all the debates on twitter and Facebook regarding what type of tribute Everton should do. There were a lot of discussions as we all know, whether Everton should play YNWA, I don't think anyone anticipated the choice of song or the simplicity of the eventual tribute, two children holding hands one wearing an Everton kit with a no 9 and the other Liverpool no 6. It was such a powerful but dignified statement, when 'He aint Heavy' came on I had a tear in my eye. I remember Peter Hooton texting me saying 'This is sheer class'. The image of those two children really hit home and I know it resonated with so many people in terms of "yes" this is what it's all about. Hillsborough goes beyond the tribalism of football, I lost a mate at Hillsborough; He was a Liverpool fan, however he was also someone's son, brother, boyfriend and friend, when you attend a funeral football allegiance pales into insignificance.
I was so moved by the choice of song, I text Rossie (Radio City) and asked was that you? He text back immediately 'with No Keith, it was our chairman who picked the song'. No matter what people think about Bill Kenwright, he got that 100% right, our chairman got that right.
I have been in a band full of reds all my life and more recently with The Justice Tonight band, however we have a QPR fan now - Mick Jones and I am the prevailing Evertonian. If we consider the squad rotation system used by TJTB, all the artists that have given their support, we could make our own parody Premier League from the different teams those artists support. The Stone Roses are all Man Utd fans, they wanted TJTB on their tour as they realised it could have been them at Hillsborough, they understood the history and were well informed when it came to the cover up. They gave TJTB a platform to get a message across to an audience that perhaps were not fully aware, they "The Stone Roses" did not have to do that. I think it helped that Davo worked for them however I also believe every band in the country wanted that gig and would have paid good money to get it, instead they chose the JTB and in that, the campaign for Justice.
Time moves on, the report is out and we are talking about possibly doing one last gig at Christmas in Liverpool. At the same time, individuals that will eventually become a part of The Justice Collective, (Steve Rotherham Dave Pichilingi, Kevin McManus Peter Hooton and Phil Hayes) are talking about rereleasing a record to keep the Campaign for Justice in the public consciousness and raise money for the families associated legal costs.
I had no input at that time. Initially the suggestion was to re-release the 'Fields of Anfield Road.' to try to get a number Christmas No1. Peter Hooton was against the idea and felt it was perhaps too parochial.
Whilst they quite rightly love FOAR, and I understand why they do, getting Man Utd fans or even liberal thinking Evertonians to buy FOAR would be difficult, in my opinion I just couldn't see it happening. Consequently, they changed their minds after discussing it amongst themselves realising it was perhaps a little to provincial, speaking to the converted as opposed to speaking to all. As far as I am aware, Peter Hooton suggested using "He aint heavy" inspired by the Everton tribute, as it was heartfelt and represents a journey, the song possesses additional symbolic meaning when used in the context of Hillsborough. Therefore, they decided to go with "He Aint Heavy", initially a re-release of the original, the idea was born there; it was Steve Rotheram that suggested a rerecord, in fact he insisted.
I am only talking about just over a month ago. Peter asked me what I thought, Straightaway I said, "It's a brilliant idea Peter". Members of The Justice Tonight Band along with The Farm's Management and "The Fields of Anfield Five" then set about discussing what artists we might involve.
Things started quite randomly; there were no meetings as such, although I did meet with half the Collective at Camp & Furnace one Tuesday late afternoon in October, when we started to allocate responsibilities. I asked do we have a producer, or even a band? I was concerned as a studio had been booked and we didn't even have a band, did they want 'The Justice Band' to do it? As much as I love us, we are not going to sell records to 11-year-old kids, or appeal to the markets we need to reach if we have any hope of achieving a Christmas number 1, you need at least 500,000 to 600,000 sales in one week to get it.
I work at LIPA, in September we'd invited Guy Chambers along to deliver a Master Class. After the master class we quite rightly retired to the bar to watch some bands at an event called the 2Ube, we started talking about TJTB, the DBTS gig and Justice Campaign. He was well informed and aware of 'TJTB and was complimentary.
Guy also confessed to being a massive Clash fan and a fan of those involved, he initially asked if he could guest at some point and said, "If you ever need anything let me know". A month later, I am sitting there thinking OK we don't have a producer, a band, an MD, no plan as such and people are thinking Christmas No1, so I told Peter what Guy had said and asked "do I have got the go-ahead to call him? If I make the call, we will be handing the responsibility of recording over to him, if we want a great record, a Christmas No1 we need someone who can do that job and bring in additional artists. Pete discussed it with Steve Rotheram, "The Fields of Anfield Five", and it was a thumb's up. I rang Guy and explained the idea; he didn't hesitate, just said, "Yeah I'm in". Guy then offered up his studio, his company Sleeper Sounds and his address book, this changed everything; a hit at Christmas was now looking possible.
That was the day before The Farm was due to play in Newcastle 19th October 2012;
In the van on the way to Newcastle, everyone is buzzing; it was during that journey we started to approach artists via text, phone calls and email, John Power (Cast), John McClure (Reverend and The Makers), Paul Heaton (Beautiful South) were already confirmed, so the text tennis began in earnest.
Those initial stages were spontaneous; with Davo texting the likes of Shane McGowen, Holly Cook, and Peter on the phone to Steve Rotheram and Pete Byrne and shouting messages across the van. I am getting texts from Guy saying I'm going to ask Robbie Williams, what do you think? I am like "fuck yeah" ask him'. On the other hand, can we get the RLPO? Err "Of course I can Guy." then think 'Shit', whom do I know at the Phil. So I ring Steve Rotherham Sunday morning at 9 o'clock, 'Steve Do you know anyone from the Phil?' He said 'Yeah I do'. Monday morning we had the RLPO. That's the way it was, in the moment, everyone supporting each other focused toward a common goal, Kevin, Dave and Phil all doing their own bits, I'm sure everyone involved will have their own a version of events.
By the Tuesday Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith, Ren Harvieu, Chris Sharrock, Mel C and Rebecca Ferguson had agreed to do it, but we couldn't announce them. We had to wait until the Thursday when Steve Rotherham, Kenny Dalglish and Guy Chambers would do the official announcement at House of Commons; exactly one week after Guy had agreed to produce the record. We still didn't know at that point who would be singing what, or even if some would make the final mix. It still amazes me that so many world-renowned artists agreed to be part of "He Aint Heavy" at such short notice just by asking them over the phone. Guy could not contact Holly Johnson by phone so he had to tweet him to get in touch. I suppose the Justice Collective is the epitome of punk, unplanned, I know that is a romantic notion; however, it really was and still is being shaped "in the moment"
The Hollies version of 'He Aint Heavy' is amazing, covering such a great song whilst trying to maintain its authenticity, would be difficult. We discussed that with Guy and said 'You're the boss, you're the producer, however any tribute record has a responsibility of representing the 23-year Campaign for Justice, the unity amongst football fans "He Aint Heavy" symbolically depicts that Journey, which is the responsibility Guy Chambers and all the artists involved willingly took on.
If you listen to the record, the vocal flows beautifully, you have to know and understand voices to get that right, you cannot just put any old voice next to another, the timbre has to be right throughout.
After recording the Choir and RLPO in Liverpool, we went for a pint in the Munro. I could see Guy is really enjoying it; He said "this is one of the best things I've ever been involved with and the spirit amongst all the team and artists involved is amazing".
I believe him, as without that spirit, that unity, that is the sentiment of the song we would not have gotten this of the ground. I thought then, The Justice Collective I suppose is all those involved those that have shown their support and contributed, those that are still working the record, currently that stands at about 300-400 people and countless organisations, this is "something of the people for the people".
Record labels usually spend 6-months planning a Christmas release, whereas an idea inspired by the Everton tribute to completion has taken just over a month, which is unbelievable when you think about it. I think people just know it is the right thing to do, and everyone is giving their time free. Since the truth has come out, people have been falling over themselves to help and rightly so. The whole point of a cover up is to deflect blame away from the guilty, deceive the public, spread mythology and dissuade those that are unsure, from offering their support.
The Farms management company Pete Burn and Peasy have been project managing along with Dave Pichilingi from Sound City they managed to get 'Universal records on board to distribute the record via Metropolis. To get a major industry player agree to distribute a record two months before Christmas just does not happen.
I have to commend Pete Byrne, The Farms manager for the work he's done and still currently doing, it's an incredible job, no Christmas shopping for Pete Byrne.
What I love is that it is Evertonians and Liverpudlians, the wider footballing community as we have Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham fans working the record. Oh yes and a QPR fan.
Today I received an email; I have never met the person that sent it, his names Steve Tandy its Steve's job to work regional radio, he is over the moon at these figures. "697 plays at radio in the last 7 days with 8.88 MILLION impacts"
The campaign for Justice will be fixed in the public conscious this Christmas, which was the intention, JFT96.
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. Richard Buckminster Fuller
We actual asked Keith a few more questions. So we will have the rest of the interview on here at a later date.
The Hillsborough tribute single, 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' by The Justice Collective is released on 17th December 2012.
A strong contender for the coveted Christmas Number One spot, 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' features a stellar line-up of artists including Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Paloma Faith, Eliza Doolittle, Beverley Knight, Melanie C, Andy Brown (Lawson), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Mick Jones (The Clash), Peter Hooton (The Farm), (The Justice Tonight band), Chris Sharrock (Beady Eye / Oasis), Glen Tilbrook (Squeeze), Ren Harvieu, Dave McCabe (The Zutons), Paul Heaton (Beautiful South), Hollie Cook, Jon McClure (Reverend & The Makers), John Power (Cast) and Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers), all giving their time for free to record the single.
'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' is produced by the Award-winning Guy Chambers, with all proceeds from single sales going towards the Hillsborough Families legal costs in their fight for justice.
Pre-order the single for mobile download at 11am on Thursday 22 November 2012 by texting 'JUSTICE' to 80010.
OR through itunes HERE
Lets make it Number 1.
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