Friday 14 August 2020

Tommy D Funk - Rob Gretton & Dry Bar 201 Competition.

The Haçienda, and in particular, a certain Tony Wilson or Anthony H Wilson as he liked to be known, the ever present - the Legendary Mr Manchester - with his pioneering 'we did it for the kids' upfront attitude - has been deep in the thoughts of BLOG51!  Certainly Mr Wilson had the gift of the gab, the connections and enjoyed a high profile platform from which he could make his point heard. Certainly Much is written about Tony Wilson's love of the Haçienda, for Manchester and for the music industry!   Certainly, without Tony the concept that 'the Haçienda must be built' would not have come to fruition!
Without taking anything away from Tony - not that anyone would want to - this blog post shall delve a little deeper,   perhaps if we take a look behind the public front of the Haçienda, there was someone who equally has to take credit. Peeking behind the glamour of the media world, it was perhaps Rob Gretton, a DJ from Withenshaw who was to become the glue that was to support both Factory records and the Haçienda through thick and thin - cementing their legendary status in music and clubland history! Legends that still facinate, mesmerise and influence music and youth culture today!  Yet, if you had said that to him he probably would have told you just where to go!

As mentioned in my last post, the relationship between New York and The Haçienda is interwoven, entwined in a disco haze, a hedonistic explosion of sex drugs and rock and roll that was to change the music scene forever!  Without the coulourful futuristic pleasures of the New York club scene there may never have been a Haçienda to begin with.  Certainly Rob Gretton, Manager of New Order and partner in Factory records was so captivated by the huge underground clubs such as the Paradise Garage, Danceteria and Fun House,  that he wanted to recreate his experiences in New York  and returned to Manchester to recreate his vision for the kids even thought they didnt realise they needed this yet!

I never was fortunate enough to have met Rob Gretton.  Of course I knew of him, we all did!  - his passion for music, his love of Reggae, Northern Soul, Punk and above all his belief in the City of Manchester, the kids and the Culture!   Rob certainly was an ideas man, a relentless note taker, recording his thoughts in his many note books, ideas for this, ideas for that!  He appears as someone to always seize an opportunity, a visionary of where that opportunity should go!  For example, when in New York, Rob seemed to get the importance of a warehouse sized club even before warehouse sized clubs were needed in the UK, let alone in a rain drenched, dank, dowdy, dismal Manchester with its rolling deserted warehouses.  I get the feeling that Rob didn't see it this way. Rob appeared to be a no-nonsense, straight talking guy, who was passionate and full of energy and I am positive he wouldnt have wasted his energy on a pipe dream!   It seems to me that Rob had a total sense of belief in people, he recognised the potential in them and let them get on with the things they were good at!  Rob was able to take New Order out of the ashes of Joy Division - facilitating the kind of confidence that enabled New Order to follow the path for a newly defined dance orientated sound.  Certainly when you listen to Arthur Baker's mix of Confusion, the pounding energy and rhythms with disco-tinged, vocoded lyrics on 'Ecstasy' released on their excellent album 'Power Corruption and Lies' and not forgetting the dance orientated 'Blue Monday' - the biggest selling 12" of all time - written in 1982/3. It is here that you can hear the influences from those New York disco club nights.    

 Rob Gretton - 1st Class Manager
I was reading about Rob in an artcle by the Guardian newspaper and how he trusted people to do the roles they were good at.  Rob hired Mike Pickering, DJ and A&R man for the Hacienda. Mike not only hosted the infamous NUDE nights a the Haçienda ( nude flyer) but booked dance acts like ESG and Madonna, incidently both from New York!   It was Rob who championed the move towards the house nights in the Haçienda, whereas Tony Wilson had more of an arts come indie / live acts plan for the club. I feel privileged to have experienced both!   It was during these hedonistic dance nights that Rob's earlier vision for the Haçienda would be fulfilled -  the futuristic warehouse church like space - New York to Manchester!    His finger certainly remained on the pulse during the rollarcoaster that was the Haçienda years and which also saw his influence with the direction of DRY201 the sister bar to the Hacienda!
Dry 201 - Floor Plan
Looking at Rob Gretton's music pedigree, you can see that, that pulse was not a gentle one.  It literally pounded as hard as the windows on the front of the Haçienda did on a Saturday house night!   DJ at Rafters Club, a leading figure on the Manchester Punk scene,  manager for Joy Division and New Order, owner of Factory records, the Haçienda and talent spotted the Happy Mondays - the list goes on and on.  Despite this, Rob never seemed to have sought acalade for himself as some managers do, he would have more likely told you to 'fuck off' than bleat about his successes!  Others before himself!

Which takes me to a night in 1994. A Competition held at Dry Bar 201, a night hosted by Rob Gretton.   Once again, Rob was to have his finger on the pulse... right when it counted! 
Dry 201 - Interior
At the time, the rave scene had exploded in the fields, abandoned warehouses, clubs and bars. Pounding four to the floor beats gripped British underground culture by the scruff of its indie shoegazing neck, flipped it over, spanked it and promised everyone a new vision of a promised land! House music was here to stay!  To be a DJ at that time in Manchester was the order of the day - it had over taken and kicked the desire to be a football star firmly into touch! ... One such Mancunian clubber describes his experience:
DJ Tommy D Funk
During the "Early 90s I was DJIng at some pub off Oldham Street in Manchester, I don't remember where!  Anyway the landlord used to let me play there on some shitty old beltdrive turntables which was a nightmare".   Anyway,  "so I played for a few weeks, eventually he comes over and says in a Manc accent,   'Tommy the music your playing is wank and the customers can't stand it - sorry lad - but I do know that Dry Bar is having a competition tonight?"
"So I packed up my records and rushed off as fast as I could to Dry Bar.  As soon as I got there, I was greeted by a man with glasses, grey hair, standing at the door way. Immediately he's asked me: 'what the fuck do you want?  And you have some huge big ears!'
I was gob-smacked!! So I replied:  "Who are you mate? And I'm here for the DJ Competition."
He replied:  "Ok! Then you better come in - and by the way I'm Rob Gretton"
I was in shock!! So I headed towards the Booth located on the left hand side, and as I looked over to the right, there's about 20 DJs all waiting to play!! I was like 'SHIT!!'    So, I waited for at least 15 mins, after which Rob comes up to me and says "Ok your on next mate!!"  The faces on the lads waiting was brutal!  If looks could kill!  "Haha!"  So I play for 20 mins then Rob comes over and says "Ok, everyone - fuck off."    
I stopped the music and packed up my records. Rob comes over to me and says, "Where the fuck are you going?"
"You said everyone leave" I replied.
Rob looks at me and says "You knob! You've won the Compition!!!  Well done mate! You Wanna pint?"
And that's how I got to play, meet Rob Gretton and DJ at Dry 201."
Tommy D Funk was now to enter into the legendary Haçienda hall of fame.

Rob Gretton had got it right once again, facilitating a bright future for one Manchester DJ! DJing under the name Thomas D, he was take his place behind the decks at DRY 201.  His blend of New York and Chicago House was a prerequisite to many a clubbers night out before they headed over to the Haçienda.  The story doesnt stop there.  Thanks to Haçienda influencer - Manager Ange Matthews soon a new residency was to take effect - Thomas D was to take his place at the Haçienda, playing to packed crowds every Saturday Night at the infamous ç nights alongside Graeme Park, Tom Wainwright and Danny "Buddah" Morales!

Hacienda Flyer - June 1995

In 1998, he headed for New York City and landed his first DJ gig at the then hot spot, Cheetah Club. He then brought his talent and tunes to Centro-Fly working with dance scene promoters, GBH (Greatest British House). At Centro-Fly he DJ’d with some of the greatest house DJs; DJ Marshall Jefferson, Kerri Chandler, Lenny Fontana, CJ Mackintosh, Robert Owens, Dennis Ferrera, Miguel Migs, DJ Disciple and Eric Kupper amongst others.
DJ Tommy D Funk has now been DJing in New York for over 15 years and has DJ’d at some of New York’s great dance music institutions; Cielo, Sapphire Lounge, Discoteque, National Underground, Centro-Fly, Cheetha Club, Barrio 47, Avalon, Le Souk, The Late Late Bar, The Bowery Ballroom, The White Room, Leopard Lounge, Sin Sin and Sullivan Club. He has enamoured NYC club-goers with his English charm and style and continues to Spin Deep, Funky, Underground House for his legendary nights 'Sounds Of The Dance Underground.' Tommy D Funk is a reviewer for DJ Times Magazine, Club World Magazine. Tommy D Funk was also involved with one of the HOTTEST Underground House labels - 'Good For You' as the main A&R Man.
To this day Manchester and the Haçienda remains true to Tommys heart!  The link between New York and Manchester is as strong now as it ever was. The Haçienda was famous for embracing American DJs, and this relationship is one Tommy has never forgotten. In return  Tommy has forged the relationship further, bringing to New York a taste of Manchester and a flavour of those heady hedonistic Haçienda nights!

Haçienda in NYC!

Tommy's links with his home town remains true to this day - Even though he now resides in New York, Manchester has never left his heart!  Tommy can be heard playing his blend of deep, soulful house on a bi-monthly residency with Manchester's own favourite - David Dunne on the 'Tripple Dee Radio Show' broadcasts.  Follow the link in blue to head over to Tommy D Funk's Mixcloud page to check out the shows for your self!
Not one to rest on his laurels, Tommy has a new show soon to broadcast - TOP BANANA!  As Tommy himself describes it, bringing "an eclectic mix from the streets of Manchester to the subways of New York!"   Keep an eye out for further updates on Tommy D Funk's Mixcloud pages! 

By now you should know that Blog51 likes to bring you that something a little bit special, especially to celebrate over 300K views to the blog!   Now you can hear one of those infamous ç nights for yourself.   Feel free to click the download link below for a mix that captures Tommy D Funk during his residency at Faç51-  The Haçienda!   
As always - Enjoy 😊

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