Stoke-on-Trent, a city known for its bottle kilns, oatcakes and rich dialect, where the people are friendly, the opportunities are aplenty and a City Of Culture crowning is well within reach.
For locals, the above is merely a given, something we never think to celebrate or take the time to recognise. It’s only when someone like Merrym’n reminds us of why we’ll always have a piece of this place in our hearts, that we truly appreciate the city that surrounds us.
Known for his open love of his hometown through previous releases ‘I Was Born In Stoke-on-Trent’ and ‘I Want Oatcakes For My Christmas Dinner’, Merrym’n (also known as Bob Moston) has managed to define the recent shortlisting of Stoke-on-Trent in the City Of Culture bid, with his brand new song appropriately titled ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’.
The track stands alone as an incredible piece of writing, with Merrym’n’s unique and detailed storytelling style being the main point of attraction. But how did ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’ ever come to be? “The song? I don’t know really, the Catchem’s Corner line started it all off with the lyrical content,” says Moston. “The truth of it all is that I wanted to write a song like Chas n’ Dave, so I though up a little hook that could be repeated in the chorus.”
That little hook, the innocent fusion of those exact chords and specific lyrics (featuring references you’ll only get if you’re local), is the thing that really pulls you in. It’s simple, it’s beautiful and it’s the sort of thing you’d expect to hear being chanted at the next Stoke City FC home game.
On its own, ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’ would have been enough to have caught your attention, but Bob Moston being Merrym’n meant he wouldn’t stop there. Accompanying the two minutes and thirty three seconds of local celebration, is quite possibly the best music video I’ve ever seen. Putting out an appeal on Facebook, Twitter and the like, Moston called out to local folk of all shapes, sizes, ages and social classes, to come forward and be part of the party. “The video was something I’d toyed with doing for a while, and the City Of Culture stuff just gave me a bit of a push to go ahead and do it. It was a massive risk… what if nobody came? I was genuinely worried about being utterly embarrassed by it all!”.
Thankfully there was no embarrassment to be had and after 4 hours of filming in a room at the back of a cafe, within The Potteries Museum in Hanley, Merrym’n had his video. “There’s roughly 30 different faces; some I knew already and some I didn’t” Moston tells me, with noticeable local music appearances from Nixon Tate, James Biddulph Jnr and The King’s Pistol.
What’s blindingly obvious through all of Merrym’n’s releases to date, is his genuine adoration for a city that has long struggled with bad press. “Stoke-on-Trent is an endless source of inspiration for me. The people, the geography, the history, the decline, the art. There’s so much for a songwriter to go with.” He’s not wrong. There’s not many musicians around locally (or indeed nationally) who’d take inspiration from the A500, but that’s exactly what Merrym’n did when he wrote previous single ‘A500 Everyday’. “I’m not someone who writes about heartbreak or wild nights, I needed something different and SOT gives me that. It’s unique.”
The City Of Culture bid is just another one of those influences and the creation of ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’ is proof of that. “As the COC bid goes, we have a unique package when it comes to heritage and history, but we also have a genuinely growing and strengthening art, music and local business community,” Moston accurately observes. “As you know, I like writing about people and then build the city around them most of the time,” and that’s the reason why Bob Moston is an unsung and underappreciated local legend and cultural advocate. If anyone can give you faith in this city, it’s going to be Moston.
The combination of a well produced and perfectly executed music video and a catchy song, written from the heart, can’t help but make you feel proud. It makes you want to stand up in a crowded room, arm raised, phone in hand, with ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’ blairing all around, as you proudly proclaim “I’m from Stoke-on-Trent!”.
There’s been many a wonderful quote about Stoke-on-Trent, but by far, my most favourite quote of all comes from Merrym’n himself: “Stoke-on-Trent is a city of character, full of characters”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
E Major is proud to be backing the #SOT2021 City Of Culture bid. Click here to see how you can get involved.