Peter Hooton is the lead singer from The Farm and driving force behind The Justice Collective, who have recorded ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ to raise funds for the Hillsborough families. The song includes Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight and Melanie C, among others, and is out this week.
We spoke to Peter about Liverpool, the single and the Hillsborough justice campaign…
Peter, you’re a big Liverpool fan – how do you think it’s going at the moment?
I quite like Rodgers’s philosophy and his football, but possession isn’t going to get you points. I’d stick by him – I think he’s just trying to play a system that’s difficult to play with the quality of players he’s got. Even on Saturday (the defeat to Aston Villa) we got beat 3-1 but it was a surprising result because with a poacher next to Luis Suarez we could’ve been two or three up, then out of the blue they hit us with a speculative shot.
The possession football is great – it’s what we were brought up on really – but you can’t have one recognised striker at the club. He can’t do it on his own.
Is that a view that is shared, do you think?
I think most Liverpool fans are patient. With managers like Benitez and Houllier there was a four or five-year plan that we could get behind, but when Hodgson came in people weren’t quite so patient because they didn’t agree with his appointment and they thought it was quite short-term, but with Rodgers you can see there’s a plan.
Some of the players look like they could do with a rest though…
Yeah, players like Suso or Sterling aren’t ready really. They need to be blooded properly, but the circumstances we’re in, they’ve had to play. I could see where the owners were coming from in keeping the wage bill down and they were older players with not much sell-on value, but if we’d been able to keep Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt we would’ve been much better off. We probably would’ve had ten more goals if those two were still around.
Suarez is a fantastic player, but he has that thing that Gerrard used to – he tries to do everything on his own, whereas if he had a poacher next to him he could just play a simple pass.
What would you regard as a successful season?
I thought at the start of the season we’d be about mid-table, so if we maybe finished there or up to seventh or eighth, that would be OK.
For anyone that doesn’t know, tell us about the single – ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’
Well, we initially thought of just re-releasing ‘The Fields Of Anfield Road’, which we did for the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough in 2009. However, after the latest Hillsborough report came out, Everton played ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ at their game, and they had two kids, one in blue and one in red, come out holding hands before the game. Everyone thought they were going to play ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, but I think it was Bill Kenwright’s idea, and it was incredibly moving.
So we thought of just re-releasing that, but Steve Rotherham’s (the Kirby MP heavily involved in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign) enthusiasm got the better of him, and he said “Let’s re-record it for Christmas.” I said you can’t plan for a Christmas song in October – X-Factor and all that lot plan their Christmas singles in May, but Steve Grimes (The Farm’s guitarist) had just been working with Guy Chambers, so he got him involved.
It’s a hell of a line-up – Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Holly Johnson…
Yeah, that’s all Guy – he basically opened his address book and got all these people involved. There were even a few people that wanted to do it but we couldn’t let them for ‘political reasons’ – but I can’t really go into that.
And it’s probably about keeping it in the public eye as well…
The thing we wanted people to remember is that the legacy of this is safe stadia – all the grounds these days are nothing like they were back then. All the reports said at the time that Hillsborough was safe, but in fact it had no safety certificate, and one thing people might not know is that the tunnel that most people were funnelled through sloped down into the terraces rather than away from it, because it was assumed that any crushes would take place with people going out of the ground. Slopes were only supposed to be on a one in ten gradient, but this was one in six.
And the proceeds will be going to the Hillsborough families and their legal costs…
Not so much the legal costs because all the lawyers are working for free, but because the new inquiry will probably be in Yorkshire, so there are various other costs that go with it, because people will want to attend and so on. But all the proceeds will go into a trust that all the 96 families will have access to – we’ve tried to be very neutral about that because there are a few different campaign groups, and there are a few families that aren’t associated with any of them too.
Football Stadiums across England, Wales & Scotland will be showing their support for the Hillsborough tribute release by playing the single at half time and asking fans to text JUSTICE to 80010 (cost £1 plus the cost of one standard message). The promotion will take place across all leagues and is a show of solidarity between football fans in the search for justice.
Please buy The Justice Collective ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, the Hillsborough Tribute single now, from iTunes here! All the proceeds will go towards helping the Hillsborough families.