or, “How the Tories Taught Us to Dance by Taking Away Our Jobs…” Well, maybe not. Anyway, Hannah is back with another corker of a blog that she researched by talking to her Mum. Your Mum must be pretty cool Hannah. I hate to think what I would have to write about if I based it on conversations with my Mum. Best not to think about it. Over to you Hannah…
So here goes the next instalment of my Mancunian musings:
This week, as I’m sure you’re all aware, Morrissey (the King of Mancs!), was described as ‘storming off stage’ after a bottle was thrown at him during a concert at the Liverpool Echo Arena. It made me think, this would never happen in his hometown. As a result, I’m dedicating this blog to all the Mancunians that have made us proud, and why the lyrics of Joy Division, The Stone Roses, The Inspiral Carpets, The Smiths; the list could go on, still resonate with me today, as a twenty year old who didn’t live through this era.
As I meandered down Oxford Road today, I popped into the Portland Bookshop. Admittedly, it was Peter Hook’s new book, ‘The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club’, which stood proudly in the window that lured me in. The Hacienda was not just another swanky city centre club to blow your week’s earnings on during the drunken debauchery of a Friday night, it represented a lot more than this; it represented a new era for Manchester.
Manchester’s reputation as the industrial capital of the North was ruined by Thatcherite policies, and Manchester in the late seventies and eighties was bleak and miserable. The Smiths’ ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, ‘Please Let Me Get What I Want’ and ‘This is How it Feels’ by The Inspiral Carpets encapsulate these feeling perfectly for me.
The Manchester music scene largely seemed to avoid overt politics and certainly did not compare to bands like The Clash or Gang of Four. The one exception possibly being Easterhouse, from Stretford; a band that supported The Smiths and were aligned to the far left.
In spite of this, there is little doubt that there were huge amounts of political, economic and social unrest in the North of England during Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister. It is because of this that the Hacienda came to represent a new age of hedonism, hope and overwhelming optimism for the people of Manchester.
Walking through today’s regenerated and gentrified Manchester, it’s almost impossible to recall how dark and depressing the city was in the late 70s. The home of the industrial revolution was at a low ebb and the only people who believed any kind of revolution was now possible were the romantic idealists behind Factory Records.
As Luke Bainbridge, a journalist for The Guardian observed: “emboldened by the spirit of punk and an excess of civic pride, Factory’s founders, in particular Tony Wilson and Robert Gretton, believed in Manchester more than they believed in themselves.”
The Hacienda club, launched in 1982, was the physical realisation of their vision; and a vision for the people of Manchester. During numerous conversations with my mum (one of the very first members of the Hacienda) about this period, I have come to realise that the hype and excitement surrounding the Hacienda in NME; a magazine which she read religiously, was phenomenal. Perhaps because it captured the spirit that was needed for Manchester to turn itself around.
Unfortunately as Peter Hook explains in his book, Manchester in 1982, wasn’t quite ready for a New York discotheque. In spite of this, the book recognizes that the Hacienda was an iconic piece of Mancunian history. It’s conversational, colloquial tone traces the club’s history from the early years when it opened every night, despite the fact that it was often empty, through the euphoric years when it brought acid house to the UK, to its demise, dogged by gang violence.
What else came to symbolise Thatcherite Manchester then? Well, the de-industrialisation of the city did seem to create a flurry of working class creativity. The one good thing about there being so many empty industrial buildings was that it gave the bands formed after the famous Sex Pistols concert in 1976 somewhere to practice and later provided space for venues.
Dave Haslam, in his book ‘Manchester, England: the story of a pop cult city’, cites the hedonism and creativity of the infamous ‘Madchester’ music scene as a response to deindustrialisation and rapid decline of Northern cities during Thatcher’s time as prime minister. This creativity and sense of bohemian values seemed to be attack on the Thatcherite mentality and celebrated Mancunian pride and dignity.
In spite of the chaos that pervaded Manchester in the 1970s and 1980s, Ian Curtis echoed the feeling that The Hacienda subtly represented in his haunting rendition of ‘Atmosphere’, in the lines “Life rebuilding, Don’t walk away”.
This isn’t to say that the ‘Madchester’ music scene was wholly an attack on the destruction of industry and songs like ’24 Hour Party People’, ‘Step On’ and ‘Waterfall’ are merely classic anthems that will undoubtedly live in the hearts of Mancunians forvever; not because they chart a specific period of history, but because they will continue to fill the dancefloors for years to come!
This has been a great blog to write, and one last thought: Get Well Soon Mozza!
Brilliant! Rather than a last word, here’s a picture that I pinched from somewhere taken in the Northern Quarter, where else.