The man, the myth, the legend.
There’s a lot to be said for simply being yourself. Just ask Bez AKA Mark Berry, who’s forged a route to the heart of the nation simply by being himself, an Energizer Bunny indie icon who’s endured from the Happy Mondays heyday to winning Celebrity Big Brother. And let’s be honest, anyone who can survive – no strive – during the Happy Mondays heyday and is here to tell the story, boggle-eyed dancing and all, deserves our respect.
Let’s start with the facts. Born in the 60s to a police detective father and raised in Salford, Bez was literally dragged on stage by school-friend Shaun Ryder to become part of the Happy Mondays for their debut live show at The Hacienda in 1980. Tripping on microdots (obviously), the pair immediately created a riot on and off stage, with Bez leaving quite the impression: not only did he shake his maraca so hard it left a wound on his hand, he impressed watching Factory Records’ boss Tony Wilson. “Tony Wilson said to Shaun, ‘Who’s that kid on stage with you? You’ve got to have him again,’ recalls Bez.” From that moment on, I’ve always been a Happy Monday.”
The band were at the forefront of the Madchester scene, combining the blissful energy of the emerging dance music and acid house scene with an indie ethos. Signed to Factory Records, Happy Mondays encapsulated everything great about Madchester from the jangly pop of The Smiths to the pioneering electronic vibes of New Order. And with ring-leader Shaun Ryder creating a low-slung sleazy dance-floor sound and Bez leading the party from the front, all rubber-limbed moves and boggle-eyed stares, their man-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and everyman-approach won them fans around the world.
Bez has been a virtual ever-present: there through the band reforms, there in Happy Mondays offshoot act Black Grape while he – somewhat improbably – added to his TV portfolio spanning BBC Two science shows, Pimp My Ride, the Crystal Maze, Dave comedy show Judge Romesh, Celebrity Juice and, erm, antiques. As well as his notorious CBB win in 2005, Bez recently starred on Bargain Hunt alongside Jarvis Cocker where, Bez being Bez, he became the first ever participant to get thrown off for bending the rules.
But that’s the immutable magic of Bez. The sheer unlikeliness of his career, the unpredictable way nature, the universe and Bez have intersected and unfolded to let Bez be his best Bez, allowing him to roam free across the decades, unfettered by conventions and trad ideas of growing up and the drudgery of 21st Century living, of having 2.4 children and knowing what a standard variable rate mortgage is. He’s Bez, the man who put the Mad into Madchester, an ever-green indie icon, a law unto himself.
And that’s still the case. Bez’s latest, and he might say greatest love, is bees. And juicing. And foraging, creating an off-grid, self-sufficient lifestyle right down to brewing his own beer and growing his own food. And reading – gosh, the man can read with everything from history to politics to the economy fair game. But life for Bez now is mainly bees, giving rise to the title of his autobiography should he write it: Bez - From E’s to bees.
Yet, he’s still the indie icon, the dancing loon, the friendly Peter Pan of indie, the fresh-faced (that’ll be the juicing) star of indie and Hacienda nights across the country, the genial host of UK-wide club night And On The Sixth Day God Created Manchester and regular globe-trotting DJ dates and TV appearances. And, while his hip might be a bit wonky from years of pogoing and freaky dancin’, he’s still the Happy Mondays indie metronome, touring the world with his partners in loose 4/4 time, once again proving he’s the bee’s knees, an undimmed, full voltage light still shining bright 40 years into his career: Bez just being Bez.