Michael Head on making his glorious comeback album Dear Scott: “Just keep fuckin’ going”

The return of England's greatest living songwriter: we visit the Wirral Peninsula to discover how the Shack man dispelled his demons and made the perfect comeback

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St George’s Hall’s stylish new eaterie celebrates the Liverpool that everybody knows. Pencil portraits line the exposed brickwork walls: Lennon, McCartney, Cilla and Doddy alongside honorary local Bill Shankly, the Scotsman who reversed Liverpool FC’s fortunes back in the ’60s. Michael Head is tucked into a quiet corner nook, directly beneath this gallery of fame. But you have to look deeper to find him in this great city.

Head has performed at St George’s Hall itself on numerous occasions, most recently with the Red Elastic Band. His manor, however, lies a mile or so east, a short hop down London Road and up into Kensington. This is where he spent his formative years during the ’70s. “It’s been an important route through town for centuries,” says Head, nursing a cappuccino and settling into the subject. “For me, personally, it’s a ley line of some kind.”

His creative life can be measured along this thoroughfare. It’s where he learned to become a singer and musician. As a shy 17-year-old, Head rehearsed with his first band in Kensington’s Prospect Vale. He’s written songs on the No 10 bus – first as leader of The Pale Fountains, then journeying through Shack, The Strands and onward into the Red Elastic Band.

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The latest example is “The Ten”, a droll, expertly drawn slice of youthful nostalgia that recounts regular trips to Kensington market, where Head’s dad worked. Younger brother John (who joined Head in The Pale Fountains, Shack and The Strands) is along for the ride, as is troublesome mate Badger, eliciting a precious lyric: “Badger threw a peach and it all went pear-shaped”. “He did start throwing fruit!” Head chuckles. “So from then on, my dad would only let one of us go with him to the market.”

It’s one of a dozen songs on Dear Scott, Head’s first album in five years and debut for new label Modern Sky UK. Produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, formerly of The Coral, Dear Scott carries all the hallmarks of Head’s greatest moments: unfaltering melodies, a beautiful sense of forward motion, lyrics that conjure entire worlds.

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