I often say I was born at least 5 years too late and in the wrong damn country.
If I ever get access to a time machine (or if The Doctor lands the TARDIS on my front lawn) the first thing I’m going to do is go back to the mid-80s/early 90s music scene in Manchester, England. I think it’s safe to say that probably 15 of my top 20 favorite bands are British, and at least half of that 15 are either influces of or a direct result of the Madchester scene that sprouted in the late 1980s. The fictionalized “docudrama” 24 Hour Party People tells the story of the rise and fall of Madchester.
TV Personality Tony Wilson and erstwhile actor Alan Erasmus started Factory Records in Alan’s Manchester apartment in 1978. They originally hosted a dance club with that name, showcasing bands such as Joy Division and the Durutti Column. Eventually, they decided to put out a compilation of the bands playing the club and a record label was born. After a bumpy start (various band breakups and the death of Ian Curtis caused Joy Division to morph into New Order, among other things), a partnership was formed between Wilson and members of New Order and together they opened the Hacienda. The name was taken from a slogan from the radical group Situationist International, which Greil Marcus discusses in his book Lipstick Traces. Even though Situationist International had been long-dead by the time the Hacienda opened, the echoes of their philosophy continued to inform and instruct art and artists around the world.
Peter Hook (founding Joy Division/New Order bassist) wrote a book about his experiences as an owner of the club, called “The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club” which details the rise and fall of a club with seemingly few rules. It was known for its very low cover charges and for charging far less at the bar than other nearby pubs. However, by the mid-1980s, the Hacienda crowd had largely abandoned alcohol and discovered the drug Ecstasy (also known as MDMA). DJ Dave Haslam writes:
The surge in Ecstasy use in the late 1980s is wholly attributable to the associations the drug gained with the dance music scene. A new wave of dance music was emerging, with its roots in various twisted, dancefloor-friendly digitally-produced records made in New York, Chicago and Detroit. Techno house and MDMA would both have survived without each other, but their marriage was mutually beneficial; together they gave birth to rave culture.
The Hacienda became Manchester’s home for blissed out ravers, which gave rise to the “baggy” scene-within-a-scene. “Baggy” was a combination of psychedelic trip-rock and acid house music, featuring dance beats with rock guitars over top. The look of the mini-scene emphasized baggy jeans (hence the name) and colorful tie-dyed tops. Although “baggy” started in Manchester, popularizing bands such as Inspiral Carpets, the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, and James, it spread throughout the UK and that’s how we ended up with EMF. I’m not at all ashamed to say that I saw EMF in concert three times and danced my ass off every time.
On the other hand, James is the only band I’ve ever crossed an ocean for.
Eventually, mismanagement and rising violence caused The Hacienda to close. The final live performance there was Spiritualized in June of 1997. The building where this legendary club stood is now a block of apartments called, fittingly: The Hacienda. When I visited there in 2013, I dragged What’s-His-Name down to Whitworth street on a bright and busy sunny day and as I stood there, hand pressed to the wall, I could almost hear the music, still.