I went to my first live sporting event for two months yesterday. It was a thrill to be back watching Brighton & Hove Albion. Watching sport on TV is good but doesn’t bear comparison to actually seeing 22 elite footballers displaying their skills. Well, in yesterday’s case, 11 of them displayed their skills very well, and they were all Burnley players who came to the game having won just one of their previous 21 matches. Burnley were, by far, the better team and Brighton were useless, suffering their worst defeat of the season 0-3. It wouldn’t be fair to say that the result had no effect on my disposition; of course, I was disappointed but I do love watching live sport. The excitement, anticipation but, above all, the thrill of watching athletes perform at a level that I couldn’t even dream of is gripping.
Due to my current (and hopefully, temporary) disability, I arranged to swap seats and Dave and I sat in the South Stand, right behind the goal. It was a great view and was in an area normally reserved for away supporters. Burnley is nearly 300 miles from Brighton and there were very few away supporters there. The seats that Dave and I had were very close to the small number of away fans. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Manchester United and Liverpool in the away end and I understand the attraction of following a team away. Being vastly outnumbered, there’s a compulsion to try and out do the home fans by making a huge amount of noise and trying to assert some sort of superiority. Sitting right next to about 500 Burnley fans yesterday was a real experience. They were very loud and passionate and, understandably, delighted at the excellence of their team’s performance. What was fascinating was that every time they scored, most of the Burnley fans didn’t look happy, pleased or excited. They looked angry. They turned towards the area where Dave and I were sitting and shouted obscenities at us, gesticulating wildly. How they knew that we were all wankers was a bit of a mystery. In fact, there were plenty of times during the game when these fans weren’t looking at the game, but were pointing, shouting and waving at us. And not in a friendly way.
I do get it. Part of the satisfaction of travelling a huge distance with your mates to support your team is to feel part of something. When Princess Diana died, Polly Toynbee wrote an article in The Guardian about the huge number of flowers that were left by Buckingham Palace and the headline was “This isn’t grief. This is wanting to belong”. I think it is the same thing with the Burnley fans yesterday. They weren’t at the game to appreciate the skill levels of elite sportsmen, they were there to belong to a travelling group of “Away Burnley Fans”. Which is fair enough. As always, when I go to watch live sport, the reasons I go are not shared by every single person there. And nor should they be. I can watch “my” team get a 0-3 drubbing and still enjoy going to the game.
I’ve only been going to Brighton since 2016 so it might be that I can suffer a loss more readily than someone who has been supporting them all their life. I got a taxi to the ground and the driver was an Arsenal supporter. I asked him if he had supported Arsenal all his life because I was going to tell him that the first game I went to was Arsenal v Leicester in 1962. However, his reply stopped me. He said “One life, one club.” This sounds like a cliché that I’d not heard before. I can respect that but I thought I’d better not let on that, for me, it’s one life, many clubs. My comparison to a lifelong passionate support is watching Kent play cricket. When I see them lose on TV, I’m plunged into despair that doesn’t alleviate for a few days. However, going to watch them play at Canterbury is different. When I see them lose, “live”, I’m disappointed but I can still take pleasure in the experience of watching live sport. It doesn’t turn me into an angry man. For the purposes of continuity here, I should add that many years ago, watching Kent lose never turned me into an angry young man.
“Angry Young Man” is the fourth track on Side One of Steve Earle’s second album, “Exit 0”. The song is written from the standpoint of an armed robber who is sorry that he has let his mother down. He understands that he had to leave home and lead a life of crime but he doesn’t really understand why. All he knows is that “there ain’t no peace for an angry young man“.
The recording of “Exit 0” was complex and conflicted. The president of MCA, Steve Earle’s record label, was Jimmy Bowen who was largely responsible for transforming the Nashville recording industry. Whereas, before his involvement, music in Nashville had integrity, he increased record sales by treating artists as vehicles for producing commodities. In the case of Steve Earle, he insisted that he improve his enunciation, wash his hair more frequently and get his teeth fixed. None of which are particularly contentious, I guess. As it happens, Steve Earle was happy to have dental work, if the record company paid.
Emory Gordy Jr. was one of three producers of “Exit 0”; he had worked with Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley, and was a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. When “Exit 0” was being recorded, Emory Gordy Jr would mix the track that had just been recorded only for Steve Earle to listen to it and argue for the sound to be more rock and less country. There were several such disagreements until one day, Steve Earle got a gun out and laid it on the recording console before arguing his point.
A year before the album was recorded, Steve Earle travelled from Austin to San Diego and chose to use the I-10 rather than the more practical I-40. Having ingested some magic mushrooms, he suddenly barked at the driver to pull over. He got out of the tour van and stared at the road sign: “Exit 0” which meant that they were very close to the Arizona state border. The sign took on a deep significance to Steve Earle and he started at the sign for three or four hours, determining there and then that his next album would be named after this sign.
Another extraordinary song on the album is “No. 29” which refers to the number on the jersey of a former high school footballer. He looks back to the days when he was a local star until a serious injury put paid to his dreams and hopes. He went to work in a local factory but “ever since the glass plant closed down, things round here ain’t never been the same.”
My favourite song on the album is “The Rain Came Down”. Steve Earle describes the problems farmers have with a poor harvest.
In 1988, Steve Earle played a series of gigs in Europe including one at The Town And Country Club, supporting Green On Red, which I was lucky enough to see. Exactly who was a pernicious influence on who, would be difficult to ascertain. After one gig on the tour, Steve Earle returned to his hotel at 6:00 a.m., only to be flagged down by the receptionist who passed on a message that his wife in the USA needed to talk to him. After listening to the huge row that ensued, Dan Stuart decided to keep everyone on the same wavelength so he phoned his wife in the USA and picked a huge fight with her.
In yesterday’s post on “The Killer Inside Me“, I asked the hypothetical question, Was there ever a better rock singer than Dan Stuart? If you ask me to choose between Steve Earle and Dan Stuart, I don’t think I could. I’m not sure either of them would be great house guests or attentive listeners but their maniacal approach to life permeates through their extraordinarily emotional vocal performances.