Fascinating insight into the pre-OMD years
If there’s one character from OMD’s past that’s taken on mythic status, it’s Julia Kneale. This is partially due to the fact that she disappeared from the OMD world in the early days – a deliberate move on Julia’s part to create a clean separation from both Andy McCluskey and her association with OMD.
In Moods, Memories And Other Manoeuvres, Julia paints an evocative story of childhood, teen years and her subsequent relationship with Andy McCluskey – as well as being part of pre-OMD outfit The Id. A self-confessed eccentric (she readily flags up a description of herself as ‘bloody bonkers’ in the book), Julia emerges as a colourful character well suited to the mercurial times in which she was growing up.
The book is peppered with amusing anecdotes and Julia also has a particular knack for lyrical twists that add to the fun. Many of the stories revolve around her father who, according to Julia, “appeared to grow more overblown, grandiose and eccentric by the minute”. With her parents afforded the title of “God and his wife” by the local library staff, Julia recalls an occasion when one character remarked to her: “Was that your dad I saw hoovering the front lawn?”.
In fact her father’s background as an accomplished author and poet clearly provided the foundations for Julia’s own interest in creativity and writing. This initially led to the 1976 publication of her own collection of poetry titled The Shellfish That Weren’t. Making the transition to a band seems to have been a fairly logical step – particularly growing up in a scene that saw Liverpool and The Wirral developing their own idiosyncratic form of music culture.
Here are previously unseen snapshots of many of the bands that were springing up at the time, such as Pegasus, Mr Grumbold and Hitlerz Underpantz. But it’s The Id which proved to be the forge from which much of OMD’s classic songs would be cast and Julia details the creation of her own contribution to that particular catalogue in several passages, including writing the lyrics to ‘Julia’s Song’ while upstairs at Greasby Library.
The book also details a lot of the young Andy McCluskey’s character. Whether it’s singing Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ loudly together in her room or Andy’s college art projects (notably a dead seagull in a makeshift display case), we get to see a previously unseen side of Mr George Andrew McCluskey that will surprise people.
To expand on the details of The Id and other local bands, Julia also includes memoirs by both Neill Shenton (guitarist for The Id Mk I) and Jimmy Rae (formerly of The Reverb Brothers).
As the book moves into the 1980s, Julia herself moves out of the Wirral and into a career in nursing and psychiatry. Although by this point both Julia and Andy had gone their separate ways, Andy returns to her life during a period of sadness and tragedy that shifts the book into much darker territory.
For OMD fans this book provides an invaluable insight into that crucial period right before the formation of the band (and includes an introduction by Andy McCluskey). But it’s purely one story of many in Julia Kneale’s compelling and intriguing life and a casual reader will take away just as much from this publication as any die-hard fan. Illustrated with rare photos and with a bonus section of Julia’s poetry (including ‘Julia’s Song’) this book provides a very touching story of one very unique life.
Moods, Memories And Other Manoeuvres is now out on Acorn Independent Press and is available via Amazon: Moods, Memories and other Manoeuvres
Further reading: Julia Kneale Interview
Review by Paul Browne
23rd February 2014
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and The Electricity Club.