I want to talk. Want to ask Ian many questions. But the lyrics of the song are going round and round in my head. They make sense; then they don’t make sense. Hell, this whole day doesn’t make sense.
The crowds slow the taxi as we get closer to the ground. I’m suddenly reminded why I am looking forward to this trip. A chance to see the famous Anfield. To feel and experience one of the true monuments of football. Like Celtic Park. One where we wear our history as proudly as our present. Ian tells the driver to stop and we get out.
I’m trying to take in my first sight of the famous Kop when Ian floats up onto a garden wall and signals me to get up with him. He nods towards the ground and smiles.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” and then he starts to sing. “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high.”
The voice of a thousand summers stops everybody on the road. They know that this isn’t some drunk trying to get a song going. They all turn and look towards the wall. Once they take in what is going on, they start to join in.
“And don’t be afraid of the dark.”Listen to COSMIC ROUGH RIDERS’ JAMES CLIFFORD with A Celtic State of Mind here:
The song rises heavenwards like the hymn it is with both sets of fans joining in. Ian grabs my arm and raises it high and I start to join in as well. After a few minutes, he tugs me off the wall and we move through the crowd towards the main door. A nod to the doorman and I find myself standing in the tunnel area of Anfield looking at the famous sign.
The players are going past us onto the pitch for their warm-up. 1994 Charlie Nicholas walks past me. He’s filled out from the one I spent the afternoon with. I try to catch his eye, to see if there is a connection if he remembers me. He just walks straight past but gives Ian a knowing nod. Then Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush stop and speak to Ian. Two idols of my childhood, standing in front of me. I go to speak as Kenny says to me, “It’s nearly time to get your answer.” and runs out onto the pitch to thunderous acclaim from both sets of fans.
We watch the first half from the mouth of the tunnel. Celtic are in a terrible black away kit and Liverpool are a class above and toy with us like a cat with its prey. The ball fits their players like a glove. Our players look as if they are playing in wet clothes and wondering what a football is. Even when I’m bloody dreaming we are rubbish, Mark McNally scores an own goal to make it 3-0 just before half-time.
“Can you do anything about that?” I ask Ian.
“I’m the greatest songwriter and singer in the world,” he laughs. “Not a miracle worker.”
“Just thought I would ask.”
The Farm walk past us and wait for the half-time whistle. They are going on to lip-sync a couple of songs. They are buzzing at the thought of going on the pitch. Possibly quite high with the pressure being off. They are pushing and shoving each other, laughing and joking, taking the field of their childhood dreams to perform their second dream job. Ian takes off his sunglasses for the first time all day. He looks me straight in the eye and says: “It’s time for you to give yourself to fate. You can either go out on the pitch with those lads or out that front door back to your old life. The Killing Moon has all the answers. It’s time to choose using all that you have learned and seen today.”
He cuts me off before I can continue “It will all make sense whatever your choice. You have to decide what fate to give yourself to.”
He starts to sing and time stops once more. “Fate, up against your will, through the thick and thin, he will wait until you give yourself to him.”
The half-time whistle has blown and the players are walking past me. Members of The Farm are patting Liverpool players on the back and getting high fives in return. The Celtic players look shattered. I feel myself being absolutely livid with them for being so rubbish. For me spending my money going all over the country for them to continually let me down. On the other hand I feel utterly sorry for them and try to muster up some positivity about the performance. I want to hug them and punch them both at the same time. That bond is too strong to throw away for guys like Graham. Celtic are my fate and will always be my fate but everything else is up for grabs and I can’t make the same mistakes that Charlie Nicholas did. I have to follow my soul.
“You sorted, lad?” asks Ian.
“I think so.”
“The answer is always in The Killing Moon, la,” he says as I run past him, touching the ‘This is Anfield’ sign, onto the pitch after The Farm. Keith Mullin gets me in a headlock before they start playing All Together Now in front of the Celtic support. I’m dancing, I’m spinning round and round, I’m grabbing the microphone singing the chorus and then I’m running up the length of the pitch to knee-slide in front of The Kop. It’s the most perfect moment of my life. It feels like I’m being re-born and a new day, that a higher spiritual power has taken hold of me and telling me to follow it. The band laugh and joke with me as we leave the pitch and they invite me to watch the second half with them. I decline.
“I have the rest of my life to sort,” I tell them.
I’m awoken by something bumping and jerking me nearly out of my seat. I bang my head on the window-pane as I try to focus my eyes. My forehead is wet from the condensation my head has been resting on. My chin and top of my shirt is wet with dribbling. My mouth feels like I have eaten the contents of an ashtray. My focus is well out and I’m struggling to make out who is sitting next to me, or even where I am.
Mick shakes me as he gets out his seat. “Wake up, sleeping beauty. What a hero! Man, on the pitch, with that band.”
His words jolt me.
On the pitch. With that band? It did happen? I thought it was a dream. Some of it has to be a dream. I just haven’t spent the day with Ian McCulloch. That is too far-fetched. One thing is for sure, though. I’ve been well and truly awakened from the dead-end I was heading down. My plan now is to leave my job and go and do something that feels right for me. Not just something that I do for money. I don’t need guys like Graham, but his lesson has done me a favour.
This has been some trip but not one that I fancy repeating. I have to keep my mouth shut about the day as I can’t explain it and hope no one will ask me how I got on the pitch or where I’ve been. For one thing, I couldn’t tell them and for two it doesn’t make sense and I don’t want it to make sense. It has to be forever a mystery.
The fate of The Killing Moon.
The bus is now pulling up outside the same shops that we left almost twenty hours ago. I pick up my jacket and bag and attempt to shuffle off the bus and into the night unnoticed. The damp air hits me as I step onto the pavement and I turn left to walk home without acknowledging the crowd of lads to my right. I just can’t be bothered to explain and I will have the rest of my life to explain the decisions I’m about to make. I feel surprisingly good but hungry and the only disappointment I have is that there are no takeaways open at this time.
It’s then I notice the police car at the back of the bus and that they are asking us to all gather round. I’m thinking that they would have had a complaint about the noise or the drink on the bus but none of us expected them to tell us Graham had been found dead in the River Mersey.
My feet feel wet again all of a sudden.
Kevin GrahamWatch A Celtic State of Mind at the Stevie Chalmers Auction here: