|He could look me in the eye, something he'd never been
able to do before. "Imagine the person you're talking to you think is straight
is actually gay, but is closeted, like, so deeply, it's his deepest, darkest...
this could lead to a person tucking falling apart if they came out - or so they
thought. Eye contact is something that you couldn't do. I couldn't do it before."
an extraordinary songwriting talent, striking, hard-faced good looks - half-brickie,
half-choirboy - and a totally surprising voice and round of influences, everything
about Lee knocks you off balance.
"People see me and they form
an opinion as to what I am gonna sound like, probably an Oasisy type or Indie
Hock thing. At first, people would hear my songs and say. 'That's not you singing'.
I used to be offended by it. But as I went on, I understood - it's a fucking
brilliant thing ... ...d go into a room and play it up to the max - a bit thick,
fucking, you know, northern knob, no real intellect, blah, blah, blah, swear
my knob off. I'd get to the point where they were just about pissed off with
me, then I'd pick up a guitar and sing something like You Can Close Your Eyes
or Sweet Baby James [by 70s' West Coast folkie James Taylor], or May You Never
by John Martyn. And it completely fucked them up every time. It worked a treat."
He sounds like Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Nick
Drake, John Martyn, Mc-fuck/ng-Fly (he may deck me for that, but I mean it in
the most Poptastic way). Crafting intelligent, sensitive, catchy and now self-aware
lyrics, Lee is a self-made man with little education but a bright intelligence.
Dragged up in a sink estate in Moston, Manchester, he had a car-crash of a childhood:
singleparent family, crushing poverty, alcoholic mother, lurching from disaster
|He was a compulsive
truant, troublemaker and virtually abandoned by school. "I got expelled
from school 'cause I belted the Deputy Head. I punched him in the face 'cause
he spoke derogatory about me Mam," he says. "She was a mess at the
time, but... when I think about it now I think, 'You cunt'. I was never in school;
I had about 18% attendance. I had real problems with authority."
But one teacher saw beyond the facade. "Lindsay Doherty; she was an amazing
lady. I was having a nervous breakdown. I was uncontrollable, I couldn't be kept
in classrooms and things like that. I was hysterical all the time. I had this
mad, anxious thing that I couldn't control - I was frightened my Mam was gonna
die. My teacher saw straight away that I had talent in music, and she nurtured
it," he says.
She called him to the front of the class one day, and rather
than delivering the usual bollocking, gave him instead a plastic bag containing
mint mono copies of every Beatles' album up to Rubber Soul, every single they'd
ever recorded through to I Feel Fine and all the fan club' flexidisks. "I've
still got them. What a beautiful lady." Lee says. His
much-loved mother made a 100% recovery shortly afterwards and Lee remains a Beatles'
obsessive to this day.
Ten years ago, when he signed a deal (with legendary A&R
man and journalist Paul Morley) with Trevor Horn's ZTT label, home to Frankie
Goes to Hollywood, among others, to make his first album - the Horn over-produced
catastrophe Northern Soul - he pushed a demo and thank-you card through Lindsay
Doherty's front door. "She
never prejudged me or anything like that; she just fucking nurtured me."