“I can’t stick musicians. I’ve thought about this. I can’t stand them, and being stuck in a studio with them I think that’s my strength I can hear what they can’t.” —Mark E. Smith
On a Monday morning in 1996 a figure resembling Columbo appears at the entrance to a dilapidated building in Back Hill, London, England. His clothes are crumpled and he has the same nervous air about him. He climbs the stairs and disappears into an office. He has not noticed the egg stain on his tie. In the evening he leaves, now bearing more than a passing resemblance to Bela Lugosi. This pattern continues for several days. On Friday he still hasn’t noticed the egg stain.
Christopher Horrie was born in Manchester in 1956 to working class parents. His father was a welder and his mother a school cleaner. He grew up in Gorsehill, Stretford, a stone’s throw away from Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground. As a boy Horrie had always wanted to play for United and was good enough to be called to a number of try-outs for Berry Boys Youth Football Club. Unfortunately he broke both his shoulder bones during a game when he was 15 and that was the end of that.
Horrie first had to come to terms with defeat when he failed the eleven plus exam. He felt totally humiliated. “It remains one of the most vivid things in my life,” he says. The whole experience made him very competitive and insecure.
Later on Horrie joined the Manchester Musician’s Collective which produced bands such as the Buzzcocks and Joy Division. There he met Mark E. Smith and subsequently joined the Fall. “There was no sign we would ever be taken seriously,” he says. “The idea was to destroy rock‘n’roll and the music industry which is an evil thing.”
The main influence on The Fall was Iggy Pop. “It was a disaster for me because I’d spent years perfecting a Jimi Hendrix style,” says Horrie. Smith wanted more of a riotous noise. “I used to say things like ‘Why don’t we play a few Bob Dylan numbers’ and they’d look at me as if I was mad,” says Horrie. He left the band to go to college.
Horrie went to university to get away from home. He studied politics and economics at Warwick University because in 1975, when he was applying, there was a student protest and it was the first university protest in the UK where riot police were sent in. He was also under the misguided belief that Warwick was about as far away from Manchester as you could get.
Graduating in 1978 with a 2:1 Horrie began working as a freelance sub on a variety of publications including Offshore Engineer and Carpet Review Monthly. He once served as editor of CND’s Sanity magazine. In that role he doubled as public relations officer. He wanted to boil down the arguments for disarmament, such as ‘bases make targets’ but he fell out with CND over the Greenham Common protest. Originally there was no plan to set up a permanent camp and Horrie tried to persuade CND to disassociate itself from those ‘nutters’ who did. Joan Ruddock was in favour of the encampment and Horrie was allegedly finally sacked for calling her a ‘stupid cunt.’
Horrie has since written for every British national daily and Sunday newspaper, even the Guardian which he once described as “a hopelessly disorganised newspaper.” He has also worked extensively in television including a year on World in Action. He has written 14 books including Disaster! the Rise and Fall of News on Sunday, Stick It Up Your Punter! the Rise and Fall of the Sun, What is Islam?, Sick as a Parrot: the Inside Story of the Spurs Fiasco, and Fuzzy Monsters: Fear and Loathing at the BBC.