At 16 I was already working. I left school at 15 and worked as a post boy. We did our short shifts then went to have a few pints and watch Bernard Manning and a few strippers at the daytime nightclubs that were still running then. It was great fun and decent money for a 16-year-old. Then I became a man at 18 and it became shit. I had to work proper hours, from half five in the morning till finishing time. It was really hard. I only lasted a couple more years before I got sacked.
By the time I was 19 I had left home and got married. I was paying the mortgage in my own gaff. Would I do that again if I could go back? Absolutely fucking not! It was stupid. I was a child having children. I totally fucked up there. I was building a career, I was never there and I probably said things which I’m not going to go into but put it this way, I don’t tell my kids it’s cool to smoke weed any more. I was too young to have kids but everyone did it then. That’s how it was for working class people – if you weren’t married with kids by 20 there was something wrong.
I didn’t learn my alphabet until I was 25. If I was at school now I’d have a label. In fact everyone in the band would have a label – learning difficulties, behavioural problems. I stopped going in to school when I was 14. But I was good with words – I was the class clown, I made up daft poems and songs. When we were putting the band together everyone had a go at trying to write lyrics and I was the best. So I got the job as the writer.
If you look at the Happy Mondays’ history, we did party but we really did work hard as well. I’d always grafted – I sold horseshit on the street when I was seven years old. We always looked at the band as a job. We were Margaret Thatcher’s first enterprise allowance. All the press that we got about all the drugs we took – we worked it. We weren’t just a bunch of dickheads, we knew how to manipulate the press, we knew what we wanted to do with rock ‘n’ roll. It was only when we started selling records – around the Pills ‘n’ Thrills album – we started to think, right, we’ve built it. Now we can play a bit.
I’d love to tell the teenage Shaun he’ll be on Top of the Pops one day. Doing Top of the Pops was a very big deal for me. I’d watched it every week since the ’60s. It meant much more to me than being on the cover of the NME or being in the news, anything you can think of. I remember saying to myself just before it – things will never be the same again after this. And they weren’t.
If I met the young Shaun now, I’d think he was alright. He had good manners. I wouldn’t give him any advice. I think you have to let kids go their own way. Though I do tell my girls – drugs are shit, don’t take them. Even though that’s not true. They’re only six and seven. We try to keep them as sweet and innocent as they can be. One day they’ll find out everything about me of course. But that doesn’t bother me. It’s part of who I am.