Friday, July 21, 2023

More to Manchester than the Hacienda


Speaking as a couple of old blokes with fading memories, there was actually so much more to Manchester clubs in the 80s and 90s than popular legend has it, writes Michael Taylor, with help from Neil Summers. 
On hearing the news last week that The Hacienda will return to Manchester this winter with an "epic homecoming show" at Mayfield Depot on Saturday 2 December with DJ’s, Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown headlining a 10,000 capacity venue alongside Techno legends Leftfield.
It's as far away from the actual experience of going there in the 80s as it's possible to imagine.
But in talking to mates about my Manchester memories, so many of the club nights that really stick in the memory didn't involve the Hac.

I remember some actual warehouse parties years before they were called raves, that had such an incredible vibe, merging different scenes from around the city.

Our go-to club was Man Alive on the corner of Grosvenor and Upper Brook Street, while later club devotees speak in hushed tones of the magic nights at Spice, where DJ Justin Robertson filled the room with musical joy.

My earliest memory of the Hac is of a student night that hardly anyone went to. It then had an elitist and slightly po-faced phase in 1986 and 1987, which we endured, rather than enjoyed; because I always thought the music sounded poor.

By the time we left University in 1988 it all changed again and the rest is musical history.

For his part Neil remembers that era at the Hacienda and how door policy moved the scene on to other places in the city.

Towards the end of 89 young bugged eyed scallies from Stockport had become persona non grata at the Hacienda. 

“Fortunately around this time a number of smaller clubs popped up in Manchester specifically to cater to those ravers who weren’t mates with New Order or didn’t wear Paul Smith suits. Alongside the Thunderdome, NRG House, Man Alive & the Sound Garden was my favourite haunt ’Konspiracy’.”

“A cross between the Star Wars cantina and the ghost train at Blackpool this subterranean shebeen was one mad Saturday night out. I saw some truly insane things in there throughout the Summer of 1990 before things came to a head one night in October when someone (stood a couple of feet away from me) got a bit ‘trigger happy’. 

“Not the kind of thing you want to see in any state of mind, but it probably ruined my night less than the guy being shot at. Even the golden rule of ‘don’t stop the music’ was broken albeit it temporarily as the house lights went on & DJ Pig C hit the stop button on his 1210s & we all tentatively headed towards the exit. 

“A few weeks later someone got stabbed and Konspiracy was no more. Great while it lasted though.”

For all the house music legends and for all the pretending to look cool, my best night there remains an indie night in the summer of 1988, when I went with friends from Lancaster, where the DJ was Dave Haslam who I’ve since got to know.

Dave’s a great writer and touched on this selective nostalgia in challenging essay he wrote in 2015.

He said: "The city authorities habitually give a nod to Factory Records, but I’m not sure they quite get important parts of the Factory story. The Hacienda wasn’t a disco version of the Trafford Centre. 

“The Factory label, the club, those around and involved – from musicians to video makers – produced culture. It wasn’t an exercise in consuming but creating. In addition, like Shelagh Delaney, not only were they forced into action by despair at the cultural provision of the time, Factory operated outside the margins. One of the richest chapters of Manchester’s cultural history began when the lads who went on to form Joy Division began to meet up in a makeshift rehearsal room above the Black Swan Pub, near Weaste Bus Depot.

"This self-organised, independent activity still happens of course; actors, crews, artists, printmakers, musicians, freelancers hiring pub functions rooms, meeting wherever and whenever, trying to bring ideas to life. Isn’t it time these people were celebrated and encouraged?"

Since then I feel the city has become even more of a shallow memorial to the misunderstood past of Madchester. But there we go, adding to the legend.

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