Thursday 21 February 2019

1989.07 Mike Pickering & Graeme Park @ Haçienda Manchester

"The Greatest Night Ever!"

I had to sample that line from one of the finest fanzines that I have ever been lucky enough to read!  Mr postman was extremely kind to me and this dropped in my letter box a few days ago!   

Wow, I am blown away - I love it!   Freaky Dancing is an anarchic, humorous, heartfelt, warm and personal insight into that first moment when the world changed for us all!    If you were there you know what I mean!! It was a moment that we all wanted to share with our friends, our enemies - well with just about everyone except ya mum and dad!  It needed to be dropped, added to the water supply, given away free and it was the start to each and every 'Greatest Night in the World!.   Read the first few pages and you will understand exactly what I mean!  Simply put - this is a superb read and one you can't afford to miss out on!   Tony Wilson's Kickers! (well we all wore them!), Mr Smiley's 'How Does It Feel' Russian Fridays and Adam Pain on a mission will have you creased up - so bad it's good!

Freaky Dancing - the complete collection does what it says on the tin!   As previously mentioned in my last BLOG51 post, Freaky Dancing was a fanzine that was given away free to clubbers as they waited to get into the Haçienda on a Friday night.  For the first time ever, it is now available to buy as a complete collection, lovingly illustrated  and as thoughtfully provoking as it is funny!  Freaky Dancing captures exactly those clubbing experiences and moments that we all went through, how we all thought and how we felt felt during those mad years of 1989 and 1990 when the Haçienda exploded onto the world stage and became the place to go to.... It was not a place to go to to be seen, it was the place to go to lose it like you had never done before - Freaky Dancing encapsulates this so succinctly that the memories will flood back so sweetly that you will think you are having flash backs and living it all one more time!  What more can you ask for - and cheaper than that first New Yorker!  However, for me, this book is priceless!

As I settled down to read my newly acquired book, an idea struck me!   I thought it would be good put on a tape to replicate the time, moment and sound that clubbers had when they were first given a copy of the fanzine, waiting in the queue, to recreate that original experience!  Haçienda tunes, a good read and a bottle or too!

With this in mind, a mix tape on in the background, Graeme Park & Mike Pickering from the month the fanzine was first given away, I soon completed Volume One!  Now I faced a dilemma!   Do I change mixes and read Volume Two?  I couldn't bring myself to do it though!  Instead, I thought it would be a nice gesture to Paul Gill and Ste Pickford, who had lovingly put the collection together; to share with you all a mix recorded at the Haçienda from each of the months in which the fanzine was published.  

Haçienda Queue!

As the first edition was 'excitedly' given away free during the hot, heady, hedonistic, Haçienda month of July 1989, 😍 what better way than to enjoy it with a free Park n Pickering Haçienda mix from that month too!   So, sit back, grab your book, pour a glass and head back to the messy month that was July 1989 at the Haçienda, Manchester!  


Look out for monthly Freaky Dancing Updates and an accompanying mix! Oh yes, go buy the book too!

Tuesday 12 February 2019


BLOG51 is so excited, oh so very excited!  Every now and then a rare slice of Haçienda history comes along and lets us sample the unique culture of the club and dance scene as we experienced when it was at it's height, dominating clubland and leading the way - a superclub even before the term was invented!   This is special!  It is special in that it captures the true zeitgeist of the times, the queue, the music, the extreems, the hedonism and the madness of it all!

Freaky dancing was a fanzine, mostly given away free to clubbers in the queue of the Haçienda.  I recall seeing copies here and there but sadly never got one for myself!   However, soon that will change - all will become clearer in an exciting new book, available on February 21st - check out this teaser!   

I will let the words of Anthony H Wilson introduce this one! 

"The most important piece of journalism I've read in the last twenty years." Tony Wilson   

The Hacienda's legendary unofficial acid house fanzine, Freaky Dancing, Has been compiled into a complete anthology by The Quietus (TQLC) with a foreword written by A Guy Called Gerald and will be published physically & digitally on Thursday February 21. 
 Launch party featuring Classical Uproar live and Suddi Raval DJ set will be held at Soup Kitchen, Manchester on Saturday March 2.

Freaky Dancing was the unofficial Haçienda acid house fanzine. It ran for 11 issues between July 1989 and August 1990. The first eight issues were given out free to people in the queue to the club on a Friday night. Later issues were sold around Manchester and reached a peak circulation of 750. The fanzine was put together by Paul ‘Fish Kid’ Gill and Ste Pickford with help from their friends and Haçienda regulars. It was written and drawn during the week then printed out using the photocopier in Ste’s office after work on a Friday. The photocopier didn’t survive. During the fanzine’s lifespan the Haçienda became the most famous - and infamous - nightclub on earth. It was a year of incredible highs and dark lows. Ultimately the scene imploded in paranoia, shootings and way too many drugs. Freaky Dancing documented this journey from blissful optimism to inevitable self-destruction. Famous fans included Peter Hook of New Order, DJ Mike Pickering and Tony Wilson, who described it as, “The most important piece of journalism I’ve read in the last twenty years.”

The new 276 page anthology published by the Quietus on Thursday February 21 contains a foreword by Northern techno legend A Guy Called Gerald, all 11 volumes of the fanzine, The Highs Of Freaky Dancing, never seen before strips plus a scrapbook of sketches, reviews, fliers and photographs. It’s a potent capsule of a special time and place in all of its ragged psychedelic glory - essential for rave scholars and fans of DIY culture alike.

The anthology will be launched at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on Saturday March 2 with a performance by the stunning Classical Uproar ensemble, playing acoustic versions of rave classics and a full DJ set by acid house master Suddi Raval of Hardcore Uproar. Anthology editors Paul Gill and Ste Pickford will be in conversation with John Doran of the Quietus and there will be a book signing.

 Information and tickets are available here: Freaky Dancing - Book Launch @ Soup Kitchen

Saturday 9 February 2019

1988.12.15 Mike Pickering @ Haçienda Nude, Manchester

Every now and then we hear a tune that becomes synonymous with a certain time, place or event from which we first heard it.  Music can spark memories and emotions that become deep seated and when listened to whether it be days or years later, we are instantly taken back to the moment we first heard it.    

Throughout 1987 to 1988, the Haçienda was dominated by a wealth of underground American dance records that were fresh out of Detroit, Chicago and New York.  Record labels such as Transmat, DJ International, Traxx and Big Beat to name a few would provide the soundtrack to our party nights and we loved it, we couldn't get enough.   As the first summer of love progressed we partied to this new house sound however from late 1988, we began to see a change to this US dominance. Now it was the turn of Manchester to create a stir.  Something was in the air, something very special!   Picture if you will, a heaving dance floor, picture wide eyed, smiling ravers moving in unison, losing it to each breakdown, each build up, to each peak of each record then out of the blue, Pickering dropped a track for the first time!   It was unmistakable; you can never un-hear it - why would you even want to!   

 Hey-ya ah ha-hey-hey-hey-yah
Hey-yah ah-ha ooh
(Hey-ya ah-ha)
Ooh-oo-hoo ah-ha ha yeah
He-hey-ya hey-yah ah-ha ooh hey-yah ah-ha ooh
(La-la-la-la l-later later later later)
Ooh-oo-hoo (voodoo ray ray ray ray) ah-ha ha yeah

The name of the record was Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald.   When you hear it for the first time you could be forgiven for wondering if it had been purposely written for the Haçienda. As for me, from that first listen, I feel it was destined to be a defining Haçienda moment.  Whenever I listen to it, it feels like the song is part of the essence of what the Haçienda was about if you know what I mean?   The Haçienda would provide the perfect setting to unleash what is one huge track! With it's trance-like, tribal, acid baseline and haunting vocal hooks, Voodoo Ray pounds, pulsates and permeates, rattling that huge warehouse space, flowing into every corner, every nook, even seeping into the brick work!  The crowd knew it too!  We went mental - talk about right place right time!   It was so uplifting being on the dance floor as Nicola Collier's beautiful vocal chant would emerge from behind the preceding track. Our hands would lift automatically in unison, reaching high as if in exaltation to the addictive acid melody, our body's jacking to the thumping beat and our spines tingled joyously as we grooved in time to the tribal, almost hypnotic, steel drum carnival undertones and beat!  Smiles fill the soul and you are hooked!   'Hey-ya ah ha-hey-hey-hey-yah' - the floor erupts, it goes wild, and the chant lasts forever..... as we sang 'Voodoo Ray, Voodoo, Voodoo, Voodoo Ray' echoing around that church of acid house!  Just typing the name 'Voodoo Ray' makes me think of the Haçienda, and that first time I heard it.   

Written and produced by a talented Mancunian - Gerald Simpson who we know and love as 'A Guy Called Gerald!'  At the time Gerald was in another seminal group from that time - 808 State.  During the summer of 88, Gerald was dividing his time between working in the studio with 808 State, spending evenings in the Haçienda and trying to make ends meet at McDonald's, but he also had aspirations to cut his own track, the way he wanted to!   Taking his influences from Jazz Funk, Soul, Dub, Electro, and early Detroit house tracks, he took inspiration from dancers such as Foot Patrol and Jazz Defektors who were active in the black club scene,  It was with these in mind that Gerald would sneak off recording sessions to put his own tracks together.   Gerald found a sample on a vocal record by Peter Cook & Dudley Moore (British comedians).  Initially, the intention was to sample this phrase, 'Voodoo Rage' but the sampler didn't have enough memory and the resulting track was born.... 'Voodoo Ray'.  It just rolls off the tongue. 

Voodoo Ray was recorded over two days in June 1988, after which Gerald set out to press five hundred white label copies on Rham!  These were reported to have sold out in a day despite initially being hailed as 'being too British' by some critics.  Nonetheless, eager to promote his record, Gerald took a test tape along to Stu Allan, a DJ on Piccadilly Radio in Manchester.  Stu Allan played the track on his show, announcing it as 'being from 'A Guy Called Gerald' a kid from Hulme.' Stu Allan had inadvertently given Gerald his name - the rest is history!  

I read an interview, where it was reported that Gerald  dropped a copy of Voodoo Ray off  at the flat of Jon DaSilva (Haçienda DJ) to see if he would play it.  Jon who lived in the same Hulme flats as Gerald said he would. As Gerald was leaving the flats, he heard it being played, echoing around the concrete corridors - I can only imagine the excitement that he must have felt at that moment!  Such was the impact, Voodoo Ray was soon getting peak airing at the Haçienda with Graeme Park, Mike Pickering and Jon DaSilva championing it. Gerald recalls hearing Voodoo ray at the Haçienda for the first time and it 'blew him away.... there was nothing else like it'.

Over the next few months, Voodoo Ray was to become a huge clubland success. It filled dance floors all over the UK. Copies flew out of independent record shops and soon It was to become a chart hit born out of this dance floor success.   Warlock a prominent record label in the United States went on to release Voodoo Ray with a remix by Frankie Knuckles himself.  However it was the homegrown original that was to reach number 12 in the British charts in July 1989, argueably perhaps the UK's first great house anthem!

In my mind, 'Voodoo ray' was one of those moments that defined what was going on in clubland and with underground music at that time.  It represented the get up and do it yourself attitude of young clubbers in the UK.  Just as the house pioneeers had done with disco in the states, kids in the UK now took the great elements of US House Music and delivered it full force back to clubland.  The result was to take the scene in a total new direction and they blew the minds of US Dj's!  Tracks like A Guy Called Gerald's - Voodoo Ray and 808 State's - Pacific State could have so easily been mistaken for US House records but the beauty is, they were homegrown, written by kids who took their inspiration from the dance-floor and what is more - they  inspired others to do the same! The scene was to soon explode - all very reminiscent of the punk scene just over a decade earlier!    It is also great to dance to, too! 😊

Once again picture it!  It could have been the Autumn of 1988, it may have been the Summer of 1989, or maybe a field or nightclub in any town, in any country or in any year! The time or location is not what is important. What is important though, is that first time. That first moment where you are dancing, lost in the groove and all of a sudden you hear the chant, the beats and that acid baseline..... Ooh (ooh ooh ooh ooh) - Hey-ya ah ha-hey-hey-hey-yah.... Voodoo Ray.   It grabs you, holds you and becomes emblazoned on your soul.  It makes you want to sing, it makes you want to dance and it makes you wish you were there once again, reliving the moment when you first heard it, on a dance floor at the Haçienda!

To capture the moment and experience 'A Guy Called Gerald's - Voodoo Ray' as we once did - here is another set for you to enjoy.   Turn up those headphones, crank your speakers up loud. Where ever you are, what ever you are currently doing - stop, close your eyes and picture yourself at the Haçienda..... Voodoo, Voodoo Voodoo Ray!   Enjoy!   

A Guy Called Gerald, DJ - Musician - Record Producer - Pioneer 

Today, 'A Guy Called Gerald' continues to be a key figure and highly influential both in the UK and Internationally, recording and producing music as well as DJing.   To find out more click the link and visit the website of one of UK first house music producers!

Sunday 3 February 2019

1992.09 Buckley, Russ, Davoli & Pickering @ Haçienda, Deconstruction Records Party

Think 'Haçienda', think music and we think about 'Factory' a record label so closely entwined with the history of the club and the vibrant music scene from which they emerged, that they are synonymous with each other!  Much is written about how Factory Records, Joy Division and New Order financed the Haçienda's design, build and constant cash injections that were to keep it afloat during the club's turbulant early years.  For me though, there was another record label that was just as equally important and influential in the clubs history - especially during the Haçienda's house music years.  That label is - Deconstruction! 

The beauty about being a DJ in the UK's most influential nightclub is that you are perfectly placed to see how the floor reacts when you play a track for the first time. Instantly the DJ will know what is going to be a hit, what works, what flops, what will burn slowly and what influences dance floor madness!  To this extent,  the logical next step for a DJ, producer and A&R promoter would be set up and own a record label and go on to form your own band!   One such DJ was Mike Pickering.

'Deconstruction' was originally started in 1986 by Mike Pickering, Pete Hadfield and Keith Blackhurst to release records that they were involved in.  The first releases were from Hothouse and T-Coy and both groups were to make their mark in different ways. Hothouse were a critically acclaimed soul act who introduced us to the wonderful Heather Small on vocals and were quickly sign to a major label; whilst  Mike Pickering's own act, T-Coy's was to release 'Carino', a Latin influenced dance record that was immediately placed number one in Stu Allan's chart on Piccadilly Radio and was huge at the Haçienda's Nude nights.  It was an instant underground hit, popular with New York and Chicago DJ's and arguably one of the first homegrown records to come out of the Haçienda!   


Over the next few years, Deconstruction Records would influence dance floors and the music scene in a major way - perhaps more than you could imagine!   Take a listen to Haçienda mix tapes from '88 to '89 and you will hear the huge pounding, melodic baseline, rolling acidic sound and dreamy vocals of Annette's - Dream 17, a track that even now continues to make such an impact in any set.  Such is the quality of the early releases on Deconstruction, that you would be mistaken if you thought Dream 17 was an import direct from Chicago, it sounded so deep, fresh and perfect!  I recall playing Dream 17 a few years ago at a boat party off Falmouth Docks and the reaction was mental - "wow what is this?  How much for it?"  It sounded that fresh, a sure sign that it has stood the test of time!

 Annette - Dream 17 (Original & Remix)

However, It was during 1989 that Deconstruction was to really make it's mark on clubland,  moreover it had a role in taking house music to the general population and on to peak time radio!.  Mike Pickering himself tells the story in an interview which can be read in full on the Deconstruction label's website!  Mike details how he was given a white label by an Italian guy whilst DJing one night in the Haçienda.  Upon playing it he found the reaction was so huge, that it caused such a sweet sensation!  Mike and Pete Hadfield urgently tracked it down and ended up releasing it on Deconstruction, re-recording the vocals to get around publishing issues!. The record that caused such excitement that summer was based on a disco record - we love and know it as 'Black Box - Ride On Time'.  It was huge, it was uplifting, it had energy and of course that piano. Such was the buzz and controversy that it ended up charting and going to number one in the UK charts.   Take a read of Mike's interview to find out more about the label and the truth behind the hit, it is a great read!   To this day, it is one of my guilty pleasures, hearing it on the radio instantly transports me back to the summer of '89 and those hedonistic nights in the Haçienda.

Deconstruction was to release more huge club records over the next few years. Another one of my guilty pleasures was 'Infinity (1990's...Time For The Guru) by Guru Josh', 'Casonova's Revenge - Let's Work'; the beautiful vocal piano track by 'Shalor - I'm in love', all huge tracks that dominated the Haçienda floor.  Deconstruction were to release a few early compilations, championing stateside releases and introduced us to a European sound!  Euphoric clubbers were hungry for this piano driven, 'hands in the air' sound and soon a new genre was to take it's place alongside the staple diet of dance from Chicago and Detroit.  Italian House had arrived and the Haçienda went wild.  British acts were quickly signed.  K-Klass, Bassheads and N-Joi all had huge clubland hits.  Never had clubland been so vibrant and diverse, it was hedonistic paradise!  'Rhythm is a Mystery', 'Is There Anybody Out There?' and 'Anthem' were all clubland hits and are still highly sought after 30 years later! - such was the influence of this pioneering dance label.  Deconstruction continued to release influential records over the next few years taking a more 'progressive' feel to the labels sound, capturing the changing tastes in the UK scene.  Deconstruction has re-emerged over the past few years have continued to release new material, such is the influence on clubland.

It Is As It Says!

Then another act emerged that took the music scene by storm. In 1991, the award winning M People was formed.  Mike Pickering, Heather Small and Paul Heard were to have hits such as 'How Can I Love You More?', 'Someday' and 'Colour My Life',  that had huge crossover appeal between clubland and chart success. This appeal soon saw them awarded the 'Mercury Music Prize for 'Best New Act' and a Brit Award for 'Best British Dance Act'.   Heather Small's beautiful, powerful, gospel influenced voice gave us club hits to sing along to and prominent Djs and producers such as Sasha and David Morales performed remix duties aimed at clubland!   The wonderful thing about all of this is that the roots were laid down in the Haçienda!   

M People

September 1992 bore witness to a Deconstruction party at the Haçienda.  Listening to the DJ sets that night demonstrated just how influential Deconstruction was, not only in the Haçienda, but throughout the North West, the UK and also Internationally!   Once again, Blog51 brings you an exclusive tape to enjoy.   Gracing the decks that night was a line up to make you wet!  Buckley, Pickering, Russ and Davoli take us on progressive house influenced Deconstructed journey!  Please feel free to click the link and download tape 2 from the night.  Sadly, I missed out on tape 1 but it is out there somewhere.  If you do have it and would like to share - it would be much appreciated!  For now, here is Tape 2!  


Monday 21 January 2019

1990.04.03 Graeme Park @ Haçienda Manchester

Can you believe that it is now over twenty one years since the Haçienda shut it's doors? Twenty one years! Yet the place still holds fascination for clubbers of all ages and nationalities.  Haçienda regulars, employees, DJ's musicians, innovators, designers and artists continue to keep the legacy alive with Facebook pages, websites, blogs, clothing, records, orchestrated dance nights, posters, badges devoted to the club - I could go on and on.  Perhaps this dedication is a bid to keep that party going, keeping that shared experience alive, rebuilding the Haçienda!

A couple of years ago I came across something a little special that took the biscuit.  I can still recall the restlessness that I felt at that moment.  I had to experience this!  I was captivated, intrigued and curious.  A friend had called to let me know about an exhibition in Manchester where the "Haçienda has been rebuilt!"  Excited is not the word.... Once again, I was like a cat on a hot tin roof! "What? Where? When?  My first thoughts were that the club was being recreated - perhaps similar to the rebuild for the film 24 hour party people! Sadly I was wrong, however not disappointed. The Haçienda was being rebuilt in a different way! Manchester here I come!

In life, there are devotees and there are devotees!  This was something else.  2012 was witness to Manchester and the Haçienda celebrating it's 30th Birthday - XXX.   As part of the celebrations Nick Hardy, a Haçienda regular, Model Maker, 3D Installation Artist constructed a model that was a focal point to many celebratory events throughout the city.  It just blew me away!   Taking several years to research, develop and build, Nick produced an incredibly realistic 1:50 scale model of the Haçienda!   Just looking at it not only brought back experiences,but also memories, it evoked feelings and emotions of those heady times where we were lost in the party!

The 1:50 scale model faithfully replicates the dance floor, the DJ booth, bar, alcoves, loading bay doors and projector screens.  It doesn't stop there either; tables, chairs, the Kim Philby bar stacked with beers, luminous fire exits and even glass apex roof are faithfully reproduced.  Once again I could picture myself buying a tray of chips and can of Fanta in the cafe or a bottle of Purdys or grabbing a free pint of cold water from the main bar just as I once had so many times before and so many moons ago!   I could see myself standing at the stable door behind the DJ booth pestering Jon DaSilva for the name of a tune he was playing (sorry Jon!).  I could see myself there sat on the stage as I had experienced so many times before.  Chatting, people watching, foot tapping as we watched the last of the daylight shining through the glass roof wane and the tide of beats flow over us. Looking up drops of condensation would spray  us from above, dripping through an array of pulsating colours and sound splashes, finally drowning out the harsh daylight and replacing it with soft blurry dry ice smouldering as the ecstatic, pulsating BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of four to the floor beats grabbed us and carried us forth into the excesses of the night - 'house music all night long, on and on; on and on!'    At that moment, standing looking at the model in Manchester Library,  I was there once more, in the Haçienda, albeit for a brief moment.  It was magical.   Nick Hardy, I celebrate your enthusiasm, your passion, the amazing talent and skill that you have in recreating the Haçienda - Thank you!... I told you it was fascinating.  

Haçienda postcard set.

 One of the most wonderful things about the model though, is, that it faithfully replicated the original design by Ben Kelly (Haçienda designer) himself! The colours, attention to detail and scale were perfect and accentuated by apertures that enabled you to view the interior from so many different angles!  It draws you in, holds you and lets the past envelop the present as you imagine you are actually there in the model experiencing it as you did all those years ago! You find yourself blending into the model.  All this without the frisking and disco sludge too!

Images of the model have been captured and reproduced in a high quality postcard box.  The images show different aspects from inside the model and in my opinion capture the moments that were part of our lives.  I find myself losing all reality of time when I look at them, I am lost in the moments from all those years ago and have to tear myself away to rejoin reality!   See for yourself in the images below.   My favourite has to be the first card below.  Take a cheeky peek into the kiosk and see who is looking back at you!  

On the back of each postcard the onlooker is provided with real-life quotes, antidotes, memories, and glimpses of how the hacienda has had an impact on the people who worked and clubbed there.  They provide us with a snapshot into a world that existed, albeit for the briefest of moments , yet demonstate the scale of the impact the Haçienda had on us.  They show just how fascinated we have become with the coolest club in history.... 'the Haçienda Has Been Rebuilt'.

Just by looking at these two card, I can see myself dancing, walking, talking, sharing water, flirting, loving life and living for the night  I can hear the cheers, the hand claps, the music, the laughter.... as I said earlier I am blown away and no-one can take that away from me. 💓

To enjoy the cards, take a gaze into the history of the club and read more for yourself  take a moment to visit Nick's website and make a cheeky purchase and to quote Nick himself:


I thought it quite apt to end this post on a quote from one of the postcards.  This is what the Hacienda meant to Fran from Northampton, Haçienda regular from 1988 - 1991
 "For me it was pure dance music indulgence.  I loved it.  I miss it; but so glad I have the memories"
I sincerely hope Fran somehow reads this and I thank her for her words.  I know exactly what she means.    This download is for Fran x 😊 

Friday 11 January 2019

1992.06.24 Tim Lennox @ Flesh Night, Haçienda, Manchester

What can you say about a night called FLESH!  The name itself provokes, intrigues and tantalises the imagination  to say the least!  The actual night went far beyond the images conjured up by the name though!  Hedonism, Excess, Debauchery, Sex, Queer as...... you kind of get the message!  Just say the name out loud, "FLESH" and you will understand where I'm going with this!

Early on in it's history, the Haçienda had put on a Gay night.  However these were not successful, and were reportedly to have been small affairs that attracting around 100 people..  The low attendance was probably not helped by it being held on a Monday!  Early flyer's such as the one below promoted 'G.A.Y Monday' but perhaps made it appear to be more of an indie night. It seemed far too low key compared to the imagery and approach that was to come eight years later! 

FLESH was the idea of Paul Cons.  Paul, who was Entertainment and Promotions Manager at the Haçienda felt that the time was right for a Gay and Lesbian night in Manchester.  The summer of 1991 had been witness to a highly successful event called the 'Lesbian Summer of Love' attracting 800 people.  Manchester was still high after the Acid House Summers of Love in the late 1980's and Manchester was still getting on one from the baggy grip of 'Madchester' in 1990 albeit the jeans a little faded and fraying round their blurry edges! The scene was now set for something a little different. 😍

FLESH was to change the clubbing scene in Manchester out of all recognition! Established in October 1991, it seemed surprising that Paul should chose the Haçienda over any other venue but what a decision it was.  An 'In Your Face' advertising campaign left you in no uncertain terms as to what the night was to deliver, with the phrase 'Queer Up North' leaving no second guesses as to who the nights were aimed at!    


'Queer Up North' was definitely a very clever play on words!  To many (and in my opinion - falsely!) Manchester at that time was viewed as a drab, dreary, dingy place, with it's cold rainy streets, run down buildings and dark, shady avenues that existed comfortably with the term its 'Grim Up North'.  The emerging Gay and Lesbian scene seemed to rip this outdated stereotypical image of Manchester and the North apart and was to send it screaming on a wave of hedonistic energy that was to change the scene and Manchester forever. Binning the clogs, it was now on with the disco shoes!  Pure marketing brilliance and I would love to know if it was a deliberate strategy or just chance...  but it definitely worked.

FLESH was to rapidly gain a reputation as one of the nights that you had to go to and it certainly wasn't easy to get into either. Open on the last Wednesday of each month, a strict door policy was in place to deter trouble and create the right vibe for the night. It was one that probably prevented many an individual from getting in or even attempting to get in too!  Aimed at Gay and Lesbian clubbers, who travelled from far and wide to experience the nights delights, FLESH was soon was to attract straight clubbers too.  Boundaries were beginning to be broken down!  Clubbers who wanted to party at the best nights found themselves being rigorously vetted and many people found themselves not getting in!  It was not only straight people who stuggled to get in too!

Throughout 1990 and 1991, Manchester had quickly become a focus for clubbers and this had now spilled over into an emerging Gay and Lesbian scene which now blossomed.    It was here that we would often start our Saturday nights drinking at a vibrant and colourful place called Manto Bar or Mantos as it was known to us!   Located just off the City Centre, we would find ourselves in the heart of the pulsating Gay Village along the aptly named Canal Street.  Here we would spend our early evenings drinking outside, enjoying the warm evening nights listening to House beats and taking in the atmosphere in anticipation of the night ahead.   The village was vibrant, it was alive and it added the colour and energy to what was once a vast drab wasteland of warehouses, buildings and polluted waterways that stamped on us memories of Manchester's Industrial past. Now there was a new dawn, a new feel to the City, a new Cultural revolution was replacing it's faded Industrial heritage.   Change was afoot.   

The Gay Village is a cluster of bars restaurants and clubs that for me felt more European than the traditional drinking holes of Manchester. For me, it had a holiday kind of feel to it. Modern looking facades where full length windows opened fully enabling revellers to spill onto the streets,  where people could socialise, sit amongst the trees that lined the cobbled street along the canal and it meant we could enjoy relaxed and good times.  Images of Amsterdam, Paris and Liege come to mind where people now approached life in a more leisurely manner which juxtaposed the fast paced aggression of city life that went on a few blocks away, it felt safe and refreshing!      For me it was the colourful hedonistic space that enabled clubbers to get on with the party.  A new, fresh energy was emerging that perhaps only Manchester could provide and we didn't give a damn, it was there and we were going to enjoy it!   Walking up Canal Street, heaving bars provided us with pumping pounding house music, exhibitionism and a private almost exclusive space away from the monotony of traditional City nightlife. It was little wonder that Canal Street  soon began to attract clubbers who wanted a safe start to the night, one where we were away from the beer boys and larger louts who wanted to fight.  We mingled and enjoyed the party atmosphere that was quickly being to establish a fresh scene. The added bonus was that, it was a stones throw from the Haçienda too - ideal!

 Manto on Canal Street!

What has this got to do with the Haçienda I ask of myself as I type?   Out of the emerging party scene, Manchester soon acquired a new label that was to replace the tiring Madchester image. Typical of the overground press, always seeking to categorise everything, label anything, perhaps in a bid to understand what was going on and perhaps to a degree, to control the things they don't understand! The term 'Gaychester', was coined.    It would be fair to say that, as this new Gay and Lesbian scene began to flourish; spreading it's rainbow wings, there was a new level of acceptance and confidence coming through. Diversity began to be celebrated, something we even now we need far more of!  Paul Cons recognised this and believed that the time was right for a new Cultural space in the City and soon a night began, that, was simply to become.... Legendary!   Indeed people travelled from all over the county if not the world to attend and experience it's delights!  FLESH was certainly not going to compromise anything either.... FLESH was a night billed as 'Serious pleasure for Dykes and Queers' you either got on for the ride or did one!  FLESH was in your face for sure,  and fortunately for Manchester the City went for the ride! What a roller coaster it was going to be....

I went only once. I wish it had been more!  I recall the wild, eye-opening, extreme, decadent, sexy, fun, beautiful, funny, ecstatic, outlandish, hedonistic, debauched, indulgent, pleasure-loving orgy of clubbers and partying; the gold, silver, lace, leather and oh yes! FLESH!  These are still images I visit when I think back to that wondrous hot night.  Believe me though, my list does not do the night justice and there are people who are far more qualified to pass comment than me!  All I know is we went, we danced we had fun and we experienced one of the best nights we had ever had. What more can you ask for!  To hear one of those nights again perhaps? Relive the atmosphere, the memories?

FLESH DJ's included Tim Lennox, DJ Paulette and Kath McDermott who literally rocked the floor and their skill and reputations easily matched those of Park and Pickering    Both Tim and Paulette gained their reputations at the infamous Number 1 Club amongst other venues. Soon they both were to  DJ on radio stations in Manchester and London.  Tim produced the excellent 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning' club hit under the guise of T-empo and Paulette was to take a residency at Heaven in London!  Kath cut her DJ teeth at FLESH, which led afterwards to a career in radio as a producer!   For me they were Cultural icons. They were instrumental in creating a new space where all clubbers could go to party.  It put the Gay and Lesbian scene in Manchester firmly on the map and enabled a generation to flourish to come out and own the party!   For me, it seemed that for the first time gay and Lesbian clubbers shared the same dance floor, and it appeared that there was a cultural revolution was happening, a fresh energy taking over and  Diversity was flourishing. And it started at the Haçienda.    I do like boundaries being broken down.  Manchester had now shed its 'Grim Up North' shackles and embraced a Diverse New Order!

Flesh DJ sets are as rare as hens teeth!  Until now!   I hope you take the time to download the set using the link below.  Turn your speakers up, don your disco socks and experience 90 minutes from one hot, hedonistic House night that happened deep in the heart of Manchester, at the Haçienda. A night called FLESH that changed lives! 💓   

To download - click the link and Enjoy!

The flyer from the final FLESH night

Friday 4 January 2019

1991.05.11 Graeme Park @ Haçienda Manchester

 There was a point in time when the floor was literally ripped from beneath our feet! No, this is not about 1997, but about an event that happened in January 1991.  Imagine it, the floor being taken from under us!  It didn't seem feasible at the time! It happened though! 

 January is always a hard month.  The cold Manchester winter, the come down from the Christmas and New Year excesses, having to dig in pocket wise; most of us skint but still living for the night!  Then it happened!

 Granada News announced it one tea time. Tony Wilson was no stranger to reading the news but suddenly he was now making news!

 "It is with the greatest reluctance that for the moment we are turning the lights out on what is, for us a most important place.  
We are forced into taking this drastic action in order to protect our employees, our members and all our clients. We are quite simply sick and tired of dealing with instances of personal violence.
We hope and we must believe we can reopen the Hacienda in a better climate. but until we are able to run a club in a safe manner, and in a way that the owners believe will guarantee the role of the Haçienda at the heart of the city's youth community, it is with great sadness that we will shut our club." 
(Taken from How Not To Run A Club by Peter Hook - well worth a read too!)

 'What the $!&%!' Nooo!"   Post January blues somehow went a little darker. I'm not gonna lie but all I remember is the last line - "Shut our club!"  Gutted is not the word. I mean we had just been given a red and black enamel FAC51 badge and membership card applications a couple of weeks earlier the latter a bid to control the doors and appease the Magistrates! 

 Plus there had been repeated attempts by the Haçiendas' management to publicly project an image that action was being taken to control things inside the club as the statement below shows.  James Anderton Chief Constable in Manchester's Police Force was certainly rumoured to be making things difficult for the Haçienda and for ravers too come to think about it! All we wanted to do was be left alone to party!

 Questions, questions -  How? What? Why? When will it re-open?  Where will we go? So many questions not enough answers! All we knew was Saturdays will not be the same.   It is well documented as to why it shut the doors that cold January, gangland fighting, drug wars, apparently it had become too dangerous.  Certainly there were parts you didn't venture to, darker corners so to speak, an alcove or behind the DJ box - but this certainly hadn't been my experience. Yes, rumours were aplenty and if you happened to make eye contact you just smiled, looked busy and turned the other way and got on with your night.  Personally I had so many great nights and I didn't want them to stop!  However, we did understand their decisions and brave ones they were too.  Fingers were crossed that it would reopen. If memory serves me right, it was meant to be shut for a few weeks, a month max!  We waited and waited..... it didn't feel good at all.  Rumours were abound, and hopes were raised when someone mentioned it was getting an uplift!  All we could do was get on with our partying!

 The next few months were spent going to Ku in Huddersfield, we had some great all nighters there with Sasha.  Wakefield, Leeds and Warrington Legends became frequent haunts to with new friends, new experiences and broadening music tastes..... the good times continued!   Alas, without disrespecting any of the above, it wasn't the Haçienda!  It just wasn't the Haçienda!

 Then all of a sudden - OMG! YES...... I recall a phone call from my friend in Manchester with the sweetest news to tell. Noooo! it just can not be true!  After a frosty Spring of weekends spent venturing up and down the North West's motorways and across the Pennines the announcement came.    The moment we had waited for.

Bring it on!  The Haçienda was re-opening and in time for the Birthday too!  If I recall correctly, our hallowed nightclub had been given a lick of paint, a bit of a revamp, it looked vibrant and in a bid to tighten security had added an airport type metal detector.   Certainly body checks were the order going in and from then on! Some of the changes are described below in a newspaper article from the 10th May highlighting the opening night billed as the 'Healing'.  

However it was the 11th May, a Saturday, the night we had been waiting for and gracing the decks was Parky. Good times! I cannot describe the buzz of that warm Spring night.  The queue was alive with the expectation of what was to come and excitement was high - we were back in business and on our way in to the Haçienda.   Naturally it was truly a great night and it was great to feel that raised sprung maple wood dance floor under our feet once again and dance the night away we did!   If you fancy hearing the set for yourself feel free to download!  Enjoy. 😋

I would like to thank the original owners for taking the time to share some of the images capturing this unique slice of clubbing history.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

John McCready 1992.11.28 @ Haçienda FM, Sunset 102 FM Radio Show

 The Mançhester music scene has always led from the underground.  Bands, clubs, DJ's Labels, record shops and radio all fed off each other to produce an edge and an energy that, for me, no other city can replicate or comes close to replicating!  

 We lived for Wednesday night to come around when the weekend could begin with the midweek visit to hear Jon DaSilva grace the decks of the Haçienda riding high for the weekend ahead when we could bounce through those hanging industrial plastic sheets that resembled a factory entrance that met us directly after walking through those infamous '51' emblazoned doors.  

 I digress, but those hanging factory, almost slaughterhouse style ceiling to floor plastic strips served to dampen the relentless thump of the four to the floor house beats which sounds strange to experience when walking into a nightclub!  Yet, somehow, those imposing slaughterhouse style factory sheets served only to enhance the excitement of the clubbing experience! They added yet another layer of mystery to the night as we entered our hedonistic church! They masked what was happening on the other side. They imposed dampening the sound, cloaking the atmosphere and further hiding from the world a space that changed us for ever! Picture the delight as we pushed aside the industrial plastic,  the full force of heat and sweat swamping us, wrapping our physical beings in a heady, damp, hedonistic cloud of energy as the loudness of the beats lifted us, carrying us forward towards the cheers, the whistles and the excitement as we bounced towards the dance floor.  We grinned from ear to ear knowing what delights lay ahead for the next few hours at least!  Bring it on! How we longed for this to go on past its 2:00 am curfew! Still despite this we lived every moment to it's full!

 Somehow it could!  Manchester had a way of keeping this energy going, keeping the relentless beat alive, serving to make Manchester a true 24 hour party city serving its hedonistic 24 hour party people to the max!   Radio stations emerged out of this underground sound, replicating our weekend, yet without compromising or losing the edge that can traditionally happen as an underground sound becomes more popular!  Such was the talent of Mançhester's DJ's.

 One such radio station was Sunset 102. First airing as the embers of the Second Summer of Love' flickered away in October 1989.  Shows such as those from the 808 State DJ's, Mike Shaft and Colin Curtis continued to fuel our weekend experience by meeting the audiences' thirst for new music and the continuation of the previous nights party delights!   

 Of course pivotal to this was a show that aired for a few hours each saturday night.   Haçienda FM served us with a soundtrack to warm us up for our Saturday night clubbing experience.  Haçienda and Dry bar DJ's Dave Rofe and Pete Robinson took to the air building the night with tracks that delighted us, introduced forthcoming vinyl delights and aired a set from the previous weeks Haçienda DJ's taken direct from the club! The night was set...

 Blog51 is pleased to be able to share one such moment with you.  Enjoy as Dave and Pete take to the air and cap it off with a set from Mr McCready himself recorded live from the Gay Traitor in the Haçienda's basement  .... Happy New Year !

The document demonstrates how Sunset 102 FM shows were on the cutting edge representing the music scene of the day.... Priceless - how I long for radio like this now! x