'Tony Wilson Says', by Gerry Potter

Nineties nostalgia is either a scourge or a salient reminder depending on your point of view. The decade is certainly back in fashion, so we’re told. This poem by Gerry Potter casts the mind back to a moment in time some twenty years ago, at the very last Manchester Mardi Gras, before the event was reconceived first as Gayfest and then ultimately Pride. It might seem at first read a straightforward account. But buried in its references is a shopping list of barbed memories that can be seen to lacerate the present.  

It’s an uncompromising attack on the gentrification of the city’s soul

Back in the day, Potter’s infamous alter ego was Chloe Poems, doyenne of the gingham frock and the potty mouth. But one late summer afternoon, a teeming Village saw Chloe blot her copybook for all time - in the eyes of those who dreamed of cleaner, more corporate, things for the festival at least. 

This was a different age, of course. Canal Street was flourishing long before Tinder, before evolving attitudes and rampant commercialism combined to decimate a once-famous scene. The drugs were better (so we’re told). And for Chloe/Gerry, there were still the last vestiges of a counterculture to be found in the streets. So perhaps this day was an omen. For this was the day Chloe acted on an impulse to unleash her set piece showstopper The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock in front of a ‘family friendly’ eight-thousand-strong crowd.

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Gerry Potter isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo

Jaws dropped. There was booing from a minority. And the HM the Queen act who introduced her never forgave her. But the legend that the crowd united against her is apocryphal. “It fucked my career up,” recalls Potter now. “Chloe was doing incredibly well up to that point. I had lots of big things lined up, a residency at the Edinburgh festival and so on, but they all pulled out. There was a grapevine thing and it was literally overnight. I since found out there were forces saying they mustn’t employ me. All very council,” he confides. Holed, but by no means sunk, Chloe carried on for another ten years or so before Potter retired her in order to concentrate on writing books for the Flapjack Press.    

Tony Wilson Says can be found in his latest release, Manchester Isn’t The Greatest City In The World, a collection of poetry and essays that takes aim at the city we have subsequently inherited. Subtitled The Rise and Rise of the Bourgois Zeitgeist it’s an uncompromising attack on the gentrification of the city’s soul. From festival heart-fingers to sanctions suicides, secret eaters to cocaine capitalism, no blight of the modern world is left unchallenged.  

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Tony Wilson has come to symbolise Manchester’s musical apex

“Some poems are purposefully oblique, some poems are strictly autobiographical. This is a snapshot. It’s an essay, really, in poetry form. You want to tell a big story without doing a big piece of writing.

“When you create an alter ego there’s a power dynamic between the two of you. I let go of Chloe because I didn’t want her to age in people’s eyes. As I became more confident with language, the comedic voice began to leave me. You become more serious with age. People send me things now when Chloe features in high-falutin’ literary journals, and I have to say I couldn’t be more thrilled.” Danny Moran

Tony Wilson Says

by Gerry Potter

The ghost of Phyllis Pierce is a purple haired ancient matriarch

and I’m following someone in Her Majesty the Queen drag.

Poetry doesn’t get much weirder than this.

It’s in the stars and the sky’s about to fall.

I’ve already danced to Gwen Dickey,

she got me up to ‘Car Wash’.

Dropped my fifth E and about to go back on.

Risk taking’s easy when you’re off your head.

Tony Wilson introduces

and him saying my name is nostalgia fireworks.

Crowd cheer like they know me,

I certainly know them,

in so many ways,

had loads of ‘em:

they’re Manchester gays.


I say, “This is called ‘The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock’.”

Mouths drop, there’s some booing,

I win them,

over ‘n’ over ‘n’ over again,

Power of performance thunders

that with E I’m invincible.


A gingham blur, diva,

the boom-boom banging voice of treason,

a toxic intoxicated power-flounce of reason.

There’s magic to anarchy, a freaking shamanarchy,

people know when it’s been set free.

Tinder-boxing Canal Street,

it so loves sparking reverie.


I finish,

I flourish,

they’re their approval soaring,

some still booing.

The Ghost of Phyllis Pierce grabs my hand and gravels,

“Fabulous Chloe!”

On stage and applauding,

Tony Wilson says,

“Well that definitely wasn’t the third way was it?”

and I’m in heaven for a while.   


Enjoyed that? Why not check out the others in our occasional Poetry Corner series: BricksA Gift, Harpurhey and Fifteen Haiku For A Drinking Day. 

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