Not everyone has heard of Richard Hawley – though it’s their loss for those who haven’t.
Not everyone has heard of Cole’s Corner – but everyone has probably got one – somewhere.
Here’s a catch-up on the former: Richard Willis Hawley – singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer – was born in a working class area of Sheffield in January 1967.
After his first band Treebound Story (formed while he was still at school) broke up, he found success as a member of Britpop band Longpigs in the 1990s releasing two albums, The Sun Is Often Out and Mobile Home.
After that ill fated group (check it out!) broke up in 2000, he went on to join Pulp (led by his friend Jarvis Cocker), for a short time as a touring guitarist while also working as a session musician.
As a solo musician, Hawley has so far released seven studio albums. He has been nominated for a Mercury prize twice and once for a Brit Award. He has collaborated with Lisa Marie Presley, Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow and Paul Weller. And yet he’s still very much a cult figure or a guilty pleasure. A writer’s writer, a singer’s singer – as likely to give Cowboy Junkies a run for their melancholic money as he is to revive the reverb of Santo & Johnny or pay tribute to the rockabilly of the equally cult status Riverside Trio.
And as for the latter – if he had hailed from Leeds it would have been called The Guinness Clock. Or if he’d been from Blackpool – Yates’s Wine Lodge. Think The Kinks and Waterloo Sunset or The Beatles with Penny Lane. Landmark songs.
COLE BROTHER’S DEPARTMENT STORE
As he explained on his grossly under-rated 2005 album of the same name: “In every city and every town there’s a place, a special place where people meet. Not a mythical place but somewhere real, a place that exists, not in the past, but now. In my city there’s a place just like that. You won’t see a street sign for it and you can’t find it on a map, but it’s there, right under everyone’s feet, thousands and thousands of feet have stood there, waiting in the warm morning sunshine or stamping bored and impatient in the freezing winter night annoyed at someone who’s late or will never come. Yeah it’s there alright. I know. I’ve stood there.
“The place in my town is called Cole’s Corner, in Sheffield, right in front of where the old Cole Brothers department store used to be… a long time ago. It got knocked down in the 60s to make way for the bright new vision of the future somebody planned. The new building’s old too now…….but not as old as Cole’s Corner.
“For years lovers, friends and families have met here on this spot. There must be so many people that are here in Sheffield and in this world who are alive because a love bloomed after meeting here…. on Cole’s Corner in Sheffield, the city where I live.”
It’s one of several songs over his career inspired by parts of his home town – “I know what it’s like to live here in Sheffield and therefore it seems perfectly logical to write about it.”
But it’s also one of the most atmospheric and poignant love songs around – partly about the place, partly about the memories it evokes and partly about love itself, lost and found.
The album cover shows the solitary Hawley in a doorway (which actually looks suspiciously more like Scarborough’s art deco Stephen Joseph Theatre than anywhere in Sheffield) clutching a bunch of flowers – and waiting.
LONELINESS HANGS IN THE AIR
As the ever optimistic yet realistic observer sings: “I’m going down town where there’s music, I’m going where voices fill the air. Maybe there’s someone waiting for me with a smile and a flower in her hair. I’m going down town where there’s people. The loneliness hangs in the air. With no one there real waiting for me. No smile, no flower nowhere.”
Coles Corner eventually gained a nomination for the Mercury Prize in 2006. Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, whose debut album won the prize, exclaimed “Someone call 999, Richard Hawley’s been robbed!”
All that plus a sugar lush string arrangement by Colin Elliot. Pass the tissues and “Hold back the night from us, cherish the light for us, don’t let the shadows hold back the dawn.”
|PRODUCER:||Richard Hawley, Colin Elliot, Mike Timm|
|GENRE:||Chamber Pop, Art Rock|
|RELEASED||31 October 2005|