1985 was a water-shed year for The Haçienda. Not because of major changes in musical style, or seismic shifts in popular culture – those were to come later on – but down to conflicting circumstances which would see the club emerge from the year with a sense that it had to get its act together professionally; a decision which would see The Haç in strong shape for the oncoming impact of acid house.
There were many positives, in truth. The founders’ ideals of a functioning club / live venue was coming to fruition with Nude bedding itself in as Manchester’s scally Friday night out as well as new nights starting up. These new nights meant new promoters and some of these were to soon become staff members and contribute to The Haçienda’s success over the coming years. The gig line ups were still impressive, yet the financial quagmire was to come to a head at the end of the year, as New Order suddenly realised where all their bloody money had been going!
Nude – the two M’s (Pickering and Prendergast)’s Friday night – was well on the way to becoming the stuff of legend and establishing itself as the main draw at the club, doing well over a thousand every week. Saturdays had long been a bone of contention for the management who clashed with resident DJ, Hewan Clarke – over his musical style and tastes – who sought to establish a new Saturday, “When Will Saturday Be?” However, when this failed to meet expectations, Hewan was asked to return with DMC’s Chad Jackson, also taking on Saturday duties.
There was an open-mindedness to new promotions and events. “The Summer of Love” saw M ‘2’ (Prendergast) play a midweek night of Sixties psychedelia and two events brought future management personnel into the club. Ang Matthews promoted a joint event in March for the Polytechnic and The Boardwalk (where she was then based) and a Gay and Lesbian Miners benefit. Also in the same month promoter, Paul Cons started at the club. Paul was brought swiftly into the firm and soon began promoting Gay Monday which featured many of the best gay bands, cabaret acts and drag performers and was a forerunner of Flesh which Paul was to promote later at The Haç. Paul’s belief in the theatricality of the venue led to an upping of standards for event decor and also mid-year the Swivel crew came in to take control of the lighting, establishing a mood and experience for Haç goers, which would also last for many years.
The Haçienda’s gig and booking policy more than punched its weight throughout ‘85 as well – two legendary gigs displaying slightly more edge and violence than the other. In a February gig that has passed into legend, Einsturzende Neubauten used a pneumatic drill in their set and took it to one of the central pillars on the dancefloor before Terry Mason weighed in and wrestled it off them. Once the crowd and club owners had recovered from the shock and sense of rock and roll abandon,Einsturzende Neubauten were banned for life.
Less crowd-pleasing was the Jesus And Mary Chain appearance on their appropriately billed ‘17 Minutes Of Feedback’ tour. Doing precisely that, it became a 17 minute set of ear splitting, nightmarish feedback, designed to wind up the crowd, which resulted in a hail of pint glasses being launched at the band from the balcony and crowd. Security were pulled off the band, who packed up their gear amidst much hostility and left the venue in haste. Thankfully drummer Bobby Gillespie – later a great friend of New Order and frontman with Primal Scream – was not to bear any ill-will for the ill-fated appearance.
Yet, beyond these two rock and roll debacles, a spectacular assembly of bands lined up at The Haçienda in 1985 including James; Run DMC; The Pogues; Nic Cave’s almost annual visit, this time with Sonic Youth in support ; Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers; Gil Scott Heron; George Clinton; Husker Du; The Fall; The Communards; Everything But The Girl; and the debut of a new beat combo, The Stone Roses – supporting Playne Jayne on 15th August 1985.
The year also saw the annual New Order gigs; the first in July; then the matinee/evening concert double header in December, which saw the afternoon audience refusing to leave for the night audience. Yet New Order’s influence on The Haçienda’s development that year was to have a much greater impact. New Order’s stock was high with the success of Low-Life; a deal with Quincy Jones’ Qwest label; and the inclusion on John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink Soundtrack. Things were good….
…..until, on returning from a successful US tour, the band were told to sign over all their earnings from the tour to continue funding The Haçienda. Having adopted something of a laissez-faire attitude to the running of the club prior to this, the band were forced to take a more hands-on approach and discovered that they had been underwriting the club to the tune of £2 million!! Finding out that the overnight money was not being stored in a safe and the staff were voting their own pay rises, a new more professional direction was needed for FAC51’s development. Realising there was no hope of seeing the money again and that the guarantees precluded any outside investment, New Order wrote off the club’s debts in the hope of safeguarding its future.
This moment of clarity, as The Haçienda confronted its mismanagement, was to usher in some control to the madness as 1986 would show. Thi coming just in time for the years that were to come.