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Cath Carroll: Words & Music

Bruce Wilkinson writes:

Helping research the Mark Warner photographic archive at The John Rylands Library, I was delighted to find images of the musician and journalist Cath Carroll and thought that it would be worthwhile blogging about her Manchester exploits with Liz Naylor. A lecturer in photography, Warner’s work combines evocative images of Manchester street-life with portraits of the city’s artists and musicians often captured in their studios. Friends with Tony Wilson, Mark Warner’s Vini Reilly photograph was used for the cover of his 1989 eponymously titled solo album and pictures taken at the ‘Factory Day’ of the 1991 Cities in the Park festival form a major part of the collection.

See more about the Mark Warner archive here.

I first became aware of Cath Carroll writing as the acerbic Myrna Minkoff in the 1980s NME, admiring her style of attack, always prepared to prick bubbles of pretension even when those same bands were feted elsewhere in the paper. What I didn’t realise then was that she’d developed her approach writing and editing zines fearlessly critiquing the Manchester music scene alongside playing in a couple of the area’s post-punk bands. Part of the Manchester Musicians’ Collective, Carroll was the guitarist with Property Of? and then The Glass Animals (later briefly The Gay Animals) with her partner Liz Naylor. The couple also satirised the local scene through articles in City Fun magazine, a collectively run experimental small-press publication printing submissions completely unedited. According to Bob Dickinson’s excellent Imprinting the Sticks (Arena, 1997), in January 1980 Carroll and Naylor produced 925, a one-off zine:

“…colour-photocopied [it] made great use of graphics and illustrations cannibalized from comic books, science manuals and old advertising artwork. It was self-consciously kitsch, and eagerly found humour in most Manchester bands of the period including Buzzcocks…Joy Division [and] The Fall.”

Attempting to find a copy of 925 I made contact with Liz Naylor who remembers it rather differently: “We somehow persuaded Tony Wilson to stump up a couple of hundred quid to print it since we used colour Xerox (then wildly expensive). What we actually produced was evil tittle-tattle slagging-off anyone we hated. I can’t remember selling any copies – I think they sat in the airing cupboard of the flat we shared in Harpurhey. I don’t know a living soul who owns a copy. Tony Wilson bore a grudge about it for many years.”

The photographer Michael Pollard recalls meeting Cath Carroll at the New Hormones record label office where she often hung-out with Liz Naylor. The pair co-managed Ludus, featuring the artist Linder Sterling who designed some of the classic Buzzcocks single sleeves for the label. Naylor and Carroll later joined City Fun often discussing sexuality and covering Manchester’s gay scene long before it featured in the mainstream media. The couple’s different approach to the magazine caused a schism with the other collective members, Andy Zero (Andrew Wade) and Martin X, the women carrying out what Naylor describes as a ‘putsch’, effectively taking over the publication and editing it from their flat. Eventually running out of steam (or possibly people to attack), the pair moved to London where Carroll became a journalist, worked for record labels and began her own band Miaow which had a track included on the NME’s influential C86 tape, kick-starting the jangly guitar pop of the period.

Despite their previous fall-out over 925 Tony Wilson released Miaow singles through Factory, When it All Comes Down becoming an indie hit often played at alternative nights at that time while the anti-Thatcher Grocer’s Evil Daughter gained widespread music press coverage.


Tony Wilson & Cath Carroll at Cities in the Park Festival; © Estate of Mark Warner.

A planned Miaow album for the label failed to materialise but her solo release England Made Me appeared in 1990 complete with a cover picture from a Robert Mapplethorpe photographic session which reputedly contributed to the label’s bankruptcy. An image from the same session appeared on the sleeve of Perfect Teeth, an album by wonderful US band Unrest featuring the song Cath Carroll, a tribute also namechecking Liz Naylor:

Carroll worked at Blast First Records (Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr) where she met Big Black singer Steve Albini and guitarist Santiago Durango, marrying the latter and moving to Chicago – explaining the Cubs sweatshirt in this Cities in the Park photograph:


© Estate of Mark Warner.

Carroll released the albums True Crime Motel through Mark (Unrest) Robinson’s Teenbeat records in 1995, an eponymously titled LP and The Gondoliers of Ghost Lake on LTM in 2003 while participating in Julian Henry’s long-running music project The Hit Parade. She writes for a variety of publications, produced a music podcast ‘The Pad’ and contributed Les Grey’s Erection to Girls!, Girls!, Girls!: Critical essays on women and music (Bloomsbury, 1995) edited by Sarah Cooper. Liz Naylor managed Cat Call records along with Riot Grrrl acts Huggy Bear and Sister George and is now Director of Learning at the Foundation for Change charity, seeking a new approach to managing alcohol and drug addiction. Find out more about the Foundation for Change here.


3 comments on “Cath Carroll: Words & Music

  1. stellahalkyardoutlookcom

    Fascinating blog!

  2. Great blog Bruce!

  3. I have a copy of 925……it’s rather good!

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