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.
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!
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."