Tim Vigon hails from Manchester and lives in LA. He knows very little about Aussie Rules, but that’s just a quirk of geography. What’s important is his love of music, sport and the fact that he is one of nature’s gentlemen. Having started a Stone Roses fanzine at a tender age, he went on to manage The Streets, The Music, The Zutons and several other great British acts. Here he talks about his own life experience at the mercy of those twin sirens, music and sport.
I love Facebook and Twitter. Bear with me here, I’m going somewhere. I like the way I can feel in touch with friends from a certain distance without exerting very much effort. I like the way sometimes you can discuss the latest Luis Suarez abomination or the new Daft Punk record as if you’re in an online pub with nearly everyone you know, and also, (finally I’m getting to the point) I like the way, again, with minimal effort I can keep a diary of what I’m up to on any given day for the first time in my life, with pictures and everything.
So recently a good friend of mine (and yours if you’re reading this) sent me a message saying something like “it seems like your life is one long string of major Sporting Events” which, upon reflection has more than a small degree of truth about it. I’ll get off the social media thing in a moment, but a couple of my unwritten rules for online activity are:
1) That I don’t talk about anything too serious or inflict my work upon people (don’t you hate those annoying Facebook gig invitations and work announcements on peoples’ personal feeds? I do.)
2) I assume that no one is listening. I’m talking to a huge empty digital space. If anyone responds, it’s because they’re interested and that’s lovely.
So yes, particularly in the past few months since I’ve had a fair amount of leisure time on my hands, my social media ‘content’ would pretty much look like that of some sort of sports fan shaped space hopper.
For the past 15 years or so I’ve been working in the music business. When I was a kid I had a few major passions – soccer (that’s the last time I use that phrase…it’s football, I’m a Brit, cut me some slack), music and politics, in no particular order. I was always a raging enthusiast; I had my first Manchester United Season Ticket when I was 14 years old (we weren’t very good back then by the way, and yes, I’m from the area), I was writing a fanzine and following New Order and The Stone Roses around when I was 16 and treading the streets for the Labour Party since the age of 12. I never did anything by halves. With the benefit of hindsight, it was inevitable that I’d end up making a career out of one of these passions, and through a series of completely chance events, it ended up being music.
I had two different careers in music, as a publicist and as a “manager”. In both cases, I was incredibly fortunate to end up fluking my way into working pretty much exclusively (with a few forgettable exceptions) with musicians that I loved and believed in. Without sounding ridiculously spoilt, this was both a blessing and a curse. I loved my work, if you can call it that, but it was pretty much all consuming. It was difficult to have a normal life, I was barely home enough to have any sort of stability and my whole existence became intertwined with the successes and failures of my clients and compadres. (Bring out the worlds smallest violin now if you like). This is going to sound incredibly worthy and martyr like, but that job was never really about money for me – my drive came from a completely different place.
Growing up around Manchester at the end of the 80′s meant that I was perfectly placed to witness one of the last great musical and culturally significant periods in the UK. House Music arrived and exploded and “alternative” bands, most particularly The Stone Roses, ‘crossed over’ and infected the mainstream and by accident of location I was privileged to witness some pretty historic stuff at first hand. The thing is, at the time, we had no idea we were witnessing something unique and the ramifications of the things we were seeing, we had no context for it – it was normal to us, we didn’t know anything else. Seeing a band go from playing to 100 people to their own outdoor festival for 30,000 adoring acolytes was just what happened. Or so we thought. What I didn’t realise was, that feeling, of seeing genius in action and history being made, was going to prove to be an addiction that I’d never be able to shake, I’d be chasing that rush for as long as I’m around, in both my career and my private life.
Throughout my career in music, which is thankfully now at an end (I’m past my sell by date by far), without realising it, I had a template for success. I craved working with people that truly connected with masses, I loved seeing that manifest, watching an audience respond to a new band for the first time, seeing crowds grow gig by gig, and most of all – the high spots of my career, the strongest memories – were of hearing a festival crowd sing back all the words to songs that I’d heard in their formative state, when they passed over from being these things that we all worked on and believed in, to becoming public property and dare I say it, part of history, in however minor a fashion.
Outside of work, I didn’t have very many vices. I was never a big drinker, didn’t drive, don’t wear jewellery and have the ability to make a $1000 shirt look like a charity shop purchase (I don’t have any $1000 shirts, I’m just saying…). But one thing that I couldn’t get away from was an utter NEED to be at as many sporting events as I possibly could. Despite by now living in London, I travelled to virtually every Manchester United game – every weekend and often midweeks. People knew that if MUFC were playing, they were wasting their time trying to contact me. I was there. Home matches, away matches, European matches that took in places from Istanbul to Moscow, Milan to Madrid, Bucharest to Munich and dozens of other places in-between – over the years, I reckon I’ve been to see United play well over 1000 times. But that wasn’t enough..
In 1996, the European Championships were held in England. Held every four years in a different country, the “Euros” bring together the best European National teams in football. Especially in England, where we have a ridiculously inflated perspective of our National team, a fever sweeps the nation; this time of course it was even more fervent as football was “coming home”. Although already a regular watching England play, the intensity of this month (England gloriously failed in the semi final, losing, as usual, to Germany, on penalties) of non-stop major activity was literally enabling another level to my habit.
Two years later came my next chance to feed it – the World Cup in France. Still a young man, I bought a train pass and travelled around on the brilliant French rail system, often sleeping overnight on cross country journeys seeing any game I could, consumed, for those few weeks, not by my work, but by where I might be the next day, where to watch the next game, how to get tickets, where to stay, how to get there. It was an unforgettable adventure, and one that I’d be able to repeat every two years – alternating European Championships and World Cups in countries as far and wide including Portugal, Japan, Germany, Holland and South Africa. Each time I took 3 or 4 weeks away from my life in the pursuit of another type of history.
And finally I get to the heart of the matter. Whilst there was no doubt that my love of sport was completely escapist, it was, again with the benefit of hindsight, completely consistent with everything else in my life and an illustration of the ‘separated at birth’ nature of sport and music. In both worlds there’s a wonderful unpredictability, and sense of POSSIBILITY that is, for me at least, impossible to resist. You never know if that gig you’re at could perhaps be a ‘Nirvana at the Reading Festival’ moment, if you might be about to see a goal that will be replayed for the rest of time, if that new band you’re popping to see in a small bar in New York is going to turn out to be The Strokes, if the boxing match you’re at could be this decades’ Hagler vs Hearns. The majority of the time of course, they aren’t, and without historical context, often at the time, even some of those ‘legendary’ moments seem pedestrian, but you know – they just MIGHT be, and that possibility is rare, but with sport and music, it’s always there. There’s something finite about a performance, of the atmosphere in an arena, a venue, a bar or a stadium, a chemistry you can’t bottle, predict or repeat.
My habit isn’t restricted to football. I was a regular at boxing fights throughout the UK, and at least a couple of big Vegas/NYC occasions per year. I took in a whole host of things at the London Olympics, and since I recently moved to Los Angeles, I’ve become addicted to basketball, and have spent many an evening at the Staples Center watching literally any NBA game I can grab a cheap ticket to. Like I said, I don’t do things by halves.
Over the years, because of my work in music, I’ve ended up sometimes peeking ‘behind the curtain’ in the sporting world. I’m fortunate to count amongst my friends footballers, journalists, boxers, trainers and promoters. The reason for this certainly isn’t anything to do with me. It’s really very simple. Most people in sport want to be in music, and equally, the majority of people in music want to be in one sport or another. I’ve found that people in the ‘business’ of sport understand the challenges that people in the business of music go through, and that sports men and women, understand the drives and pressures facing their musical counterparts. So the attraction is strong and mutual -as different as they are, sport and music are about the same things and I feel like I’m a walking, jabbering example of that…
So with a bit of reflection, I can see now that for most of my adult life, through work and leisure, I’ve chased, that precious teenage revelatory feeling that I first felt in Manchester in 1988. I’m not someone who has any great effect on history, but if something’s happening I’ve wanted to be there to see it, and feel involved, even if from stands, the audience or the side of the stage. When I heard about the concept for Presentation Night, it resonated completely with me, despite my lack of Aussie Rules Footy knowledge (although that would all change if I spent more than a few weeks in Melbourne). And I guess I wanted to explain why in a self indulgent way. So consider this a lengthy Facebook status update, or one of those tweets that goes over 140 characters.
Neatly tying this up, during the Olympics, Adidas held a small but memorable event in East London. It was a night to celebrate the athletes, (at that moment, literally the most famous people in the country) many of whom strode around the venue, drinks in hand, glad rags on, still sporting their medals, whilst mingling with people from the world of pro sports and entertainment. And how did they choose to celebrate? With a live set from a great British band. So for that evening, the twin worlds collided and embraced openly, and I managed to find a way to witness it in its purest form… Who played?
Oh yeah. The Stone Roses.