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 😊

Monday, 10 August 2020

Tony Wilson 1950 - 2007 - çultural çatalyst


 💙💙💙💙💙     💛

A limited run of 100 prints by Nick Rhodes - an artist working in illustration, design and print. Nick has also produced work for the National and Fleet Foxes.  The aspect that makes this print so special, is, that - on the image of the map, The Haçienda is located where Tony's heart is - Poignant to say the least!.   I love this print.  I feel honoured to own it and be able to see him everyday!  It reminds me of the photograph of Tony that was located in the entrance to the Haçienda.  I walked past that photograph countless times and in my own little world continue to do so!


Friday, 22 May 2020

1992.04.25 Graeme Park @ Haçienda Mançhester

 Unmistakably Haçienda!

Happy 38th Birthday Hacienda!
Thanks to Trevor Johnson for the use of the image.

 This post should have been made yesterday! However, in the 'best tradition of the Haçienda' it was slightly delayed! 😁 Still, it has now been posted!

Long has it been documented of the link between the  Haçienda, New York and disco music!  The legend begins back in the early 1980's after Rob Gretton, Tony Wilson and New Order's many visits to the Big Apple, at a time when NYC was a mystical and magical place for us Brits.   The hedonistic, drug fueled nights spent experiencing 'Italio Disco, Hiphop and Electro' in New York's underground clubs - such as 'Hurrah, Paradise Garage and Danceteria!' must have been life changing compared to the rain-soaked drowdy atmosphere reported at the time in Mançhester's clubs. Punk had opened the city up to new experiences, a do it yourself culture, which perhaps had at that time begun to settle,  so the heady atmosphere of New York's nightlife must have been addictive!   Tony Wilson was so enamoured with his New York experiences, that he set out to recreate them and 'give something back to the kids of Mançhester'. Perhaps, little did he realise at that time, the scale of the impact he was to make on the city of Mançhester!  The hedonism of New York's disco clubs was about to give birth to the Haçienda.

  Fun House & Danceteria - both nightclubs were hugely influential for the Hacienda. 

The relationship between New York and the  Haçienda / Mançhester was strong, Arthur Baker, DJ/Producer at  The Fun House' produced New Order's electro influenced Confusion, ESG a band from the club Hurrah were to open for ACR and record on Factory, plus the iceing on the cake occurred in 1984  when the infamous 'Danceteria' was invited to visit the Haçienda, gracing Mançhester with a taste of New York's finest DJ Mark Kamins!  This could only have happened due to the music policy being inspired by Dj's such as Greg Wilson, Hewan Clarke and Mike Pickering who championed the sounds coming out of New York's underground clubs and those first disco experiences of those visiting New York!  Greg Wilson in a heart-felt, personal tribute to Mark Kamins, explains that Mark was 'the first international DJ to be booked to play at the Haçienda'.  Plus we all know that Parky loves to mix into his sets a little disco here and there!

Fast forward to April 1992.  A superb month at the  Haçienda.  At last we were shaking off the cold, bitter grip of Mançhester's winter, the spring nights were starting to turn and we were looking forward to another summer of  Haçienda clubbing.  Inside the  Haçienda, the energy was building, the floors were full and the expectation high!   Graeme Park and Tom Wainwright were on top form, life felt good, the music felt good, exciting and the house scene was flourishing, emerging away from it's 'rave' label to becoming more refined!  US dubs and vocals were pouring into the country but it was one particular track that caught my ear that month.  Parky and Pickering, had been dropping an accapella of this track for some months.  One set from 1991 saw it played repeatedly during the night. Howevert it was a remix that was to take the Haçienda by storm. The buzz on it was immense and it proved to be a tune that was to become difficult to get hold of, trading for huge sums!  Indeed it took me months to own one. 

 Vinylmania logo

Originally released in 1987 on Vinylmania, a Garage House label based in New York, this track had already been a disco/garage hit in the underground clubs.  However it was a remix that, for me, took the Hacienda by storm - it was perfect for the design of the club, its high roof and long dancefloor and it blew the place apart!  

Imagine my joy when I found out the artist. Feverishly I set out to get a copy but alas it appeared to be as rare as hens teeth!  Was it a Morales mix? Did Tony Humphries produce it? It certainly was worthy of either of these two great New York Djs and it sure sounded like an American release to me.   A stripped down, deep house sound; with an uplifting piano and the most beautiful commanding vocals that filled the church of  Haçienda!   It may sound silly now,  but back then it was not possible to do a quick google search or ask Siri to name that tune, it definately wasn't so easy to get those elusive records. I do recall enjoying the sun one morning after a weeknd clubbing at the  Haçienda. It was approaching Easter, Parky had played the track a couple of nights ago and the urgency to find it was high. There I was lay on a flat roof on top of a bay window from the flat below me and nearly fell off as I flicked through a mail order catalogue from Hard to Find records.  I loved scanning these monthlly catalogues seeing what they had, the value of each tune and was always amazed that they would pay your train fare to go there - if you spent a certain amount that is! At last I thought this is it - found it! A quick phone call and I was in seventh heaven - and no,  that was not the name of the record!.  At last my copy was on the way!  Excited was no where near how I felt.  

  Hard To Find Records Cover Letter

 At last, one week later the elusive, most precious sought after record had arrived, I felt like I was rushing when I placed it on the decks! However it wasnt the mix that I was after! Noooo! However I wasnt disappointed!  Even though it wasnt the one I wanted - it was good - real good.  So good infact that it was to take my collection in a new direction, one that has stayed with me until this day......  Now, although I was still looking for the elusive mix, and I still didn't know who had mixed and released it, this version was played constantly.  That accapella was worn down.....  Anyone who went to the  Haçienda in 1992 and beyond will instantly recognise it!

 Eleanore Mills - Mr Right - Original Release

Enter a rolling tambourine intro, teasing bongos, kick drum with a spoken vocal introduction, catchy, melodical keyboards dance along until a phat baseline and piano lift us providing a platform to the most beautiful, sultry, and seductive vocals leaving you with no choice but to sing along.  Just when you thought it could get no better, a huge, awesome synth break down grips you, takes you higher and higher until a sax loop gently leads you into the next track... pure disco house heaven! - what more can you ask for..... catchy lyrics perhaps?

Now I'm looking for a good man
But not just any man
He's got to be someone special
Someone who can light my fire tonight
Mr Right 

The Beautiful Eleanore Mills

 It was some months before I finally found my copy paying £30 for it second hand. I was ecstatic.  Eleanore Mills had provided us with the perfect disco garage song to which Graeme Park produced the perfect garage house remix!  Released on DMC records - April 1992 - Parky's mix was distributed to DJ's only.  The Superb Parkside Mix had captured that perfect Haçienda sound bringing the dancefloor to life!  it is a record that still played and enjoyed in my house to this day.


Mr Right has been given a few dance remixes since 1992, but none have ever touched the original or the Parkside DMC remix....  Below is a link for a Graeme Park set recorded on the night on April 28th 1992.  You can now hear for yourself an unmistakable Haçienda Classic. 😘 I hope you love it as much as I have - Enjoy x