Mick McCann – Coming Out as a Bowie Fan

Coming Out As a Bowie Fan in Leeds, Yorkshire, England 
By John Wheelhouse, Autumn 2009


The first thing I liked about this book was the fact it’s everything a major publisher would hate. No plot, no compact narrative, an unknown writer having the gall to write his memoirs without first having half a dozen books published. The second thing I liked about it was that it’s based in East Leeds, taking you on swings at Temple Newsam, stopping off at St.Mary’s Youth Club, before wandering off down Hollyshaw Lane, calling in the Arndale Centre for make-up advice in Boots before winding up at the Staging Post. It also smells of the 70’s, he’s captured the feel, fashion, atmosphere and attitudes of the decade. It’s full of East Leeds ‘characters’ and funny situations but mostly he got inside the head of a cocky teenager and let him run wild, without apology or excuse.


I spent a fascinating few hours with Mick Mc.Cann, the author of the book, intending to do a question and answer type feature. However Mick proved to be as good at talking as he is at writing so the questions went in the bin with the tea bags after the kettle had boiled and I just sat and listened, only interrupted by him slurping his cuppa and sorting his three sons out one by one as they came home from school. Occasionally he paused for breath allowing me to sneak a question in.


“It originally started out life as Coming Out As A Bowie Fan In Bennett’s Backyard, as I was interested in the open mindedness of pensioners that I encountered and saw comic possibilities within that relationship. I then toyed with the title Coming Out As A Heterosexual Gayboy In Leeds, Yorkshire, England simply because it made me smile and I liked peoples response to it but I couldn’t lose the Bowie bit in the title, that would have been dishonest.
The sub-title The Memoirs Of A Punk Romantic came about because sections of the book deal with the relationship between Punks and what was the first wave of ‘Romantics’/Bowie fans. I want to question the perceptions of the youth movement later called New Romantic. I also like the idea of creating a new ‘term’ (Punk Romantic) that asks questions to anyone who thinks about it.” (Mick clocked my blank expression) “that’ll be just me then, I felt very close to Punk, Punks were asking questions and breaking down barriers.


mick-mc.cann_coming-outAlso, if I’m brutally honest the title contains a lot of keywords, Bowie – Leeds – Yorkshire – England – Punk – Romantic. These may come up on internet searches and I was always aware that, due to my lack of marketing budget, the internet would be key. The critical thing about the book was that I didn’t lose money and I broke even within a fortnight. After that, it doesn’t really matter if the book sells, every sale is a bonus – I didn’t do it to make money but to prove to myself that I could and to show to other people that you don’t need a major publisher. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to sell shed-loads and make wheel-barrows full of cash but because, no matter what anyone says, money gives you freedom and a lack of money gives you a tension that sits deep in your bones. With money I could fully explore my teenage side. I’m not some young, gifted artist with my head in the creative clouds, I’ve got a cold business head. I get it out when I realise things like Amazon’s standard discount appears to be 55%, I simply couldn’t accept a discount like that even if it meant that I didn’t sell any books. As a matter of principal, I’d rather eat a brick than give someone who does very little 55% of my cover price. Amazon got a fair discount and their shop window/distribution is crucial to self publishing, it makes it possible.


I don’t expect to retire on the book sales – it’s a love, it’s a passion, vocational. I’d love to sell enough to write more and work less, writing isn’t hard, it’s not a struggle and authors who say it is are either talking rubbish or in the wrong profession. Although I can understand the deadline flap and hot-head that comes with it, working is harder, dragging yourself out of bed while it’s still dark outside to go and do something that you either hate or have no real feelings about, now that’s hard, very, very hard.”


In What Ways has Bowie inspired you to write?
“I wish I could answer this question but it’s something I’ll never be able to fully comprehend. It’s like trying to answer the question, ‘How did your relationship with your mother affect you?’ without professional help. It’s also difficult to explain without it sounding like self serving rubbish.


I started writing lyrics for songs around the age of twelve, completely, fully inspired by Bowie, no one or nothing else. The first couple were obviously crap – I wasn’t and have never tried to write in his style but without that particular passion I may not have started those first pubescent ramblings. Since then I have always written. Lots of different things, lots of styles.


I don’t like reverence – as you can tell from the book – I love David like a brother, like a friend but I don’t revere him, he’s just one of a list of important people in my life. If it was a choice between going round to David’s for tea or say attending my best mate Dosher’s wedding, I’d like to think I’d be true and loyal and very subtly say, ‘Come on Dosh, it’s Bowie..er…any chance you can move the wedding?’


Any plans for the future?
‘I’d like to travel the world and spread peace, love and understanding, work with sick animals, failing that I’d like to get my guttering fixed.

Published by Armley press etc



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