Dale Hibbert has lived an extraordinarily varied life going from being a millionaire in a mansion to living in a car. His personality is equally contradictory; he appears to be a lonely and distant man but is addicted to the thrill of love, has been married four times and has eight children. He dislikes people (“they annoy the fuck out of me”) but owns a successful café in Todmorden where he’s surrounded by them.
The book takes a chronological path through his life. His Mum died when he was eight days old and his Dad, an emotionally distant man, eventually passed the care of the young lad onto his parents. Dale’s grandfather was even less sociable and warm; in fact he was so resentful of having to share his house with a child again that Dale was forbidden to even enter the same room as him. He became vegetarian as a child and fell in love with The Velvet Underground but neither of these facts impressed the equally shy and self-absorbed young Steven Morrissey in the nascent days of The Smiths when Johnny Marr invited him to join his new band.
Dale was in the band for around six months and played bass at their first gig before being asked to leave by Johnny. A sizeable part of the book is devoted to the band and there are naturally some mixed feelings about his early involvement. Whilst not seeming bitter, he recounts times when other people have angered him by discussing it as he’s never defined himself by this brief episode. Yet he also admits it would be fun to be in a Smiths tribute band and is happy to mention his past at times when it might be advantageous, such as applying for a post at an Australian radio station. Mainly he wants to set the record straight and give his account of those early days; he doesn’t overstate the small part he played but is obviously frustrated by the revisionist history that has virtually written him out of the picture.
Like Morrissey in his autobiography, there are times when he uses the opportunity to settle a few old scores with a family member or ex-colleague. He’s also brutally honest about his own failings as a father and the challenges faced living with Asperger Syndrome, depression and suicidal thoughts. Dale seems an intense and difficult person to get to know and although some of his sentences made me wince (“I always like it when a woman can work as hard as a man.”), the reader’s left with the impression that he’s constantly struggling to understand himself and others better. Although many of the wrong turns in life he makes are of his own volition, his honesty and the fact that he makes amazing vegan soup at his café earn my admiration. Not that I think he’d care.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Simon Wolstencroft’s “You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide” or Steve Hanley’s “The Big Midweek”. Both deal with a similar period of Mancunian musical history.
One thing you’ve learned
Morrissey was a nervous motorcycle pillion passenger, clinging tightly to Dale as he rode from Stretford to Johnny Marr’s house in Bowdon.