Caught by the River

Caught by the Reaper – Andrew Midgley

4th November 2010

Bob Stanley pays tribute to his friend Andrew Midgley, who passed away last week.

It’s very hard to believe that Andrew Midgley, the pop art terrorist also known as Boy Naughty, is no longer about. He died last Tuesday after he’d been at the gym. The gym! It’s safe to say he’d have thought that was the daftest way he could have gone.

I met him when I was working at Virgin Records in Peterborough in 1985. Customers’ tastes ranged from number one in the chart to number two in the chart, it was a pretty uninspiring job. So when this skinny kid walked in looking like a brylcreemed Kenneth Williams and asked for the Primal Scream single (their first one) it was quite a shock, and I pounced on him. It turned out he lived up the road from me so we went for a pint and I met his gang of mates – Andrew, Bobby and Chris – who would help to make my life a lot more interesting and a lot more fun.

He got me into a ton of new music, the coalescing C86 scene, at a time when I was listening to Roy Orbison, John Barry, and almost nothing new. He even changed my name; because there was already a Bobby in the Peterborough gang I became Stan. We’d go to gigs in Bedford and Lincoln, and Naughty would heap cheeky abuse on ratty indie support acts and below par soundmen. But he was more excited at the prospect of Frankie Howerd or Norman Wisdom coming to town (I saw the former but skipped the latter, to my shame). He laughed like Syd James, and he laughed a lot.

When I met them Andrew and his friend Andrew Rainey – soon rechristened Boy Naughty and Brian Orchard – were about to do a fanzine called Pop Avalanche, and they asked if I wanted to do a ‘colour supplement’ (it was printed in red ink). Soon immersed in mid 80s fanzine culture, me and Pete started one called Caff after Pop Avalanche, while Naughty and Brian did The Horn, a filthy rag full of smutty jokes about The Soup Dragons.

I moved to London and ended up at NME and Melody Maker off the back of our fanzine work. Naughty kept working at the DHSS for years but gave it up when he helped us out by fronting Cola Boy in 1991; he acted as if it was the most normal thing in the world to suddenly be doing Top Of The Pops and PA’s in Greenock and Burnley. When that ran its natural course he started writing syndicated columns for local papers – astrology, gardening, cookery, agony aunt advice. He did the lot under ridiculous pseudonyms (I wish I could remember some of them) with the help of a few books he’d picked up in charity shops. I dread to think where the agony aunt advice came from – Carry On Loving, probably.

Naughty always saw through bullshit and had a black sense of humour and abruptness that healthily messed with my middle class Surrey upbringing. Just after we’d met I called him up at about 7.40 on a Tuesday. “Don’t EVER call me during Eastenders!” he said and slammed the phone down. He’d always point out, with unceremonious Naughtiness, if you were doing something foolish or getting over-serious. I played him our version of the TV Personalities’ How I Learned To Love The Bomb (he got me into the TVPs as well) and asked what he thought. He looked solemn for a while, and then said “It sounds like Beverley Craven.”

It’s impossible to explain how great it was to pick up the phone and hear his voice shout “STAN!!”. Whenever we did meet up I’d be pissing myself laughing and, as is always the way at bleak times like this, I really wish I’d seen more of him in the last few years. He was a fucking brilliant bloke, I owe him so much and I will miss him enormously.

Click to read Andrew’s blog, ‘The Filthy Pen’.

Bob Stanley is a member of the group Saint Etienne.