Music scenes and movements are not just full of musicians, they are also full of characters.
These characters are as essential to any good scene as the bands, the fans, the labels or anything else you might care to mention. Perhaps more than anyone else, it is these characters can give a scene its direction, its style and its conscience.
The Liverpool music scene, as you might expect, has had more than its share of characters, as does the city itself. When punk reached Liverpool, it found a city already in tune with its ideals, along with a bunch of people waiting for a spark to set them all alight.
One of the characters that rose from this was Bernie Connor. To those in the know, Bernie is a local legend, always in the thick of things, never afraid to voice an opinion and very much a recognisable face.
My first encounter with Bernie was in 1978 when I was having a pre gig pint or two with friends, prior to a Buzzcocks gig at Liverpool Empire. Bernie was of course going to the gig and was standing with his own bunch of friends who were, to a man, older, cooler and scarier than we were. He took the time to come over and compliment me on my home made Buzzcocks t-shirt, saying it was one of the best hand made shirts he’d seen. He didn’t have to, he could have left us bunch of kids well alone and not wasted his time on us. But he did and I instantly gained some street cred, a valuable resource in the late ’70s.
Over the next few years, whenever there was a cool new venue or a new scene, Bernie was there, a constant face on the scene, talking to all and joining in with what was going on. His finely tuned cultural radar would tell him when a scene was worthwhile and when it was getting time to leave and head for something new.
He has also been a DJ for a good many years, with a slot on Crash FM that has since passed into legend and a host of Internet radio shows that come strongly recommended. He can still be found spinning his favourite records in the clubs and bars of Liverpool, still part of the city’s scene and still having an influence on it all.
Sun 13 are lucky enough to have a catch up with Bernie and subject him to one of our 13 Questions features. Read on to discover more about avoiding arguments, rejecting punk and taking acid over 100 times.
1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?
Bernie Connor: “I’m at home navel gazing. I’m often not my own best company, I get bored really easily and lose my thread. But I’m getting better as I get older.
“I’ve had the captain in earlier, he’s an elderly, lonely ferret whose companion died a couple of months back. Since then, Alison and I decided we should smother with love and attention to compensate. Not that we didn’t before, we just realise how much he misses his little sister, they did literally everything together.
“Also, just made some mushroom soup and now I’m sitting here watching the cricket. The IPL is on.”
2. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
BC: “Pretty much all the time. I have to challenge my inner lazybones to do anything. I have a difficult time doing the things I really enjoy. It doesn’t take much to convince me not to do something.”
3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?
BC: “Don’t really know the answer to that. I don’t think I’ve actually met very many. Noddy Holder and John Cooper Clarke spring to mind. Noddy because I was quite young and was mesmerised by how un-starlike he was. John Cooper Clarke because he was ace and dead funny. Having said that, Mick Jones out of The Clash takes some beating in the loveliness stakes.”
4. When did you last get into an argument?
BC: “I don’t know, I tend to avoid argumentative situations these days. I’ve passed the point where I feel I can change people’s minds. When I was younger, though I argued with everyone. It’s one of the good things about being young.”
5. What’s your favourite food?
BC: “I’m diabetic, so subsequently all the food I’ve ever loved is now verboten. If I’m honest, mature cheddar and 3 rosemary crackers are my favourite. And fruit and yoghurt.”
6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
BC: “I don’t think I ever have. I tend not to get too involved, it can a pointless and torturous task. Like I said about arguing, I don’t really care what people have to say, similarly I think they’d be bored rigid if they knew what I thought.
“I disagree with a lot of what I read on the socials but I can’t be arsed trying to change minds, it’s not my thing. Some people love it, the thrill of a scrap but I can always find something else to do. The socials are a blank canvas, they are whatever you choose to make them. It’s all about lifestyle choices.”
7. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
BC: “I have no idea, there was so many. The best gig I ever went to, hands down, was Happy Mondays at CBGB’s in new York, august 1989. It was just one of those magical moments when everything clicked. A heavenly mixture of psychedelic disco drugs, northern belligerence and all the right people in the right place. Absolutely astonishing.”
8. Vinyl, CD, MP3 or Streaming?
BC: “I’m not a format nazi, I couldn’t care less. I like the music contained therein. That’s the important thing for me.
“I gave my enormous record collection to my children some years ago, just moments before everybody else decreed their ‘vinyls’ the most important commodity in their lives. I felt at the time that the kids needed them more than I did and it’s served them well.
“I’ve now got thousands and thousands of cds, which according to some 19 year old on the internet are worthless junk and I should throw them away. Yeah, right.”
9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?
BC: “Once you’ve taken LSD more than a hundred times, why would you need to take it again. But I really enjoyed taking acid when I was younger, according to some people I know, I may have like it a little too much.
“However, if I was 17, I do it all over again, I’m that sort of curious person.”
10. When were you last told off?
BC: “A few weeks ago, our joe, my eldest son and Alison my partner, rounded on me for drinking too much coffee. But, like all children, it just enforced my resolve to carry on.”
11. What has been your favourite decade for music?
BC: “I grew up in the seventies, and despite my following the punk narrative, it transpired that the music and culture before I crossed the line in the sand wasn’t inferior or worthless, it was in fact a purple patch of cultural creativity.
“Punk was, of course, fantastic and if you view the top 40 of any week in 1975, say it’s self explanatory why punk had to happen. The Stalinist revisionism that took place to enable it was very counter productive. The seventies are awash with astonishing sounds, man and most of that doesn’t involve punk at all.
“I learned decades ago that although Strummer and Rotten enabled this fantastic moment in my teenage years, they don’t represent me in area in any area of life. It was a long, long time ago and unfortunately what they said and did then still determines what some people still think and listen to this day. So I dispensed with their doctrine. Fuck ‘em, I love 10cc and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“Life didn’t end the night Eric’s closed down.”
12. Tell us a secret
BC: “Somewhere in the world there’s a street named after my dad.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
BC: “I’m out playing tunes on a Friday in Bookbinder on Lark Lane, Saturday in The Merchant and I have a blog at happening-things.com.
The Rajasthan Royals are 77-2 off 10 overs.”