Calling All the Heroes – It Bites (1986, Virgin Records, Taken from ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’)
Carlisle United are I think, right now, the closest professional football team based in England to Scottish border. Their ground, Brunton Park, is according Google Maps, just 11 miles from the Nike Factory Store on the Glasgow Road in Gretna, which is located about half a mile from the border. The Nike Factory Shop is perfectly placed because all the teenage runaways who flee to Scotland to marry when they reach sixteen go to the Factory store first to kit themselves out in new tracksuits and trainers before their weddings.
I also think that the journey to Brunton Park from the Priestfield Stadium of Gillingham, takes around twelve hours one way, and is currently the longest journey between two clubs in English football. Until Carlisle get promoted or Plymouth or Exeter get relegated (whichever is sooner) that is (looking at a map, Crawley to Carlisle might be longer anyway).
I imagine that this will be promotion by Carlisle because right now they are one of League Two’s in form sides. They currently sit second in the league and have since the reappointment of club legend Paul Simpson as manager slowly chipped away at the runaway lead that Leyton Orient have had since around November.
All this seems a long way from the dark days of the club. In 1992, the club were bought by ball juggling tight short wearing UFO seeing whacko Michael Knighton. Football fans will remember him as he once tried to buy Manchester United and even went on Wogan to try and convince the public of his credentials. United were not convinced by this and Knighton ended up buying Carlisle United instead. In 1997, the club were upwardly mobile (well in League One anyways) and managed by the only footballer to have ever been namechecked in a Beatles song, Mervyn Day (yes he is, look it up), so Knighton did what all good chairmen should do. He sacked him and replaced him with himself. Carlisle were duly relegated back down to League Two and were saved from a double relegation by a last minute goal by on loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass.
In 2002, a local businessman bought Knighton out and some sort of normality returned to the club although they have remained largely restricted to the third, fourth and (briefly) fifth tier of the football pyramid.
A few weeks ago a map detailing the most successful bands to come from certain geographic areas of the UK. According to that map the most successful band to have ever hailed from Carlisle are prog rock behemoths, Spooky Tooth. For years, Spooky Tooth used to be referenced in a joke that I would repeat whenever I got the chance. For instance someone might say “Oh I need a new crankshaft for my car” to which I would reply “Pretty sure I saw new crankshaft supporting Spooky Tooth at the Astoria in the early nineties”. You had to be there really.
Something To Say – Spooky Tooth (1970, Island Records Taken from ‘The Last Puff’)
Elsewhere there isn’t a lot of write home about where famous bands from Carlisle are concerned, a couple of X Factor wannabes and the odd boyband member, so we will widen our search to include Cumbria and see what that throws up. Apparently Jez Willis, one half of ‘energetic rave pop act’ (that definition is lifted from Planet Radio.com) was born in Brampton which is about ten miles west of East of Carlisle and as such qualifies under the now obligatory Black Rebel South Devon Clause.
What Can You Do For Me – Utah Saints (1993, FFRR Records, Taken from ‘Utah Saints’)
That is about it. So let’s crack on with a previously unheard Cumbrian band who is this week Haz King, who makes a kind of grunge-y lofi indie – a bit like the band wunderhorse who I raved about at the end of last year.
Struggle (Locked In) – Haz King (2023, Self Released Single)
Next Week Mansfield Town
Carlisle is a strange wee place, but one that I like. I’ve passed through it on dozens of occasions, taking the West Coast Main Line trains down to other places south of the border.
Went there in the midst of all the lockdown restrictions being confused. Pubs in Scotland weren’t allowed to let folk in, but pubs in England were….well until the next change of mind. Anyways, 10am train down and 10pm train back with a decent crawl in between. Took a wander out to the football ground and it’s one of the best, old-fashioned stadia still in use. It’s got to ne hoped they never have to shift to a field out by the motorway.