Histories of UK club culture often tell the following story. Before the summer of 1987, rare groove ruled, beats-per-minute were slow and dance floor energy was low. Then a gaggle of London lads went to Ibiza, tasted the Ecstasy-dance cocktail, and carried on the party when they came back home. The “Summers of Love” of 1988 and 1989 that followed didn’t so much mark a new twist in the evolution of Clubland as its year zero. As for the subterranean scenes that were already locked into black electronic dance music — such as London’s gay clubs or the intertwining dance networks of the north — these were antiquarian sideshows that might be of passing historical interest, but had no impact on the main event: Ibiza and its euphoric, dry-ice aftermath.
The Balearic sun continues shine over UK dance even though, when looked at directly, it triggers in blurred vision. Narratives that cite Ibiza as year zero for UK dance should carry the following health warning: If you look towards Ibiza for too long, you are at risk of believing the much-repeated historical scam that white straight men discovered the world while on a colonial adventure. No doubt the bucket-and-spades tourists who travelled to Ibiza in the summer of 1987 were inspired by the drug-dance experience and wanted to spread the word. But UK dance didn’t in this way. Some sun block is in order.
Discotheque: The Haçienda allows us to begin a history of eighties dance at an earlier point in time. Instead of placing the Manchester venue as a subplot to the Ibiza-London narrative — which is exactly how the venue has been positioned up until now — it can be considered as the principal actor. And instead of asserting that black electronic dance music found its first foothold in the UK in the late 1980s — which, again, is how the story has been told to date — it can be seen to have perforated UK dance floors across an entire decade. The Haçienda might not have been the singular hub through which dance music was channelled in the 1980s, but it is difficult to think of a venue that can rival its influence.
The Haçienda grew out of a night (dubbed “Factory”) that was launched in May 1978 by Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Peter Saville in the Russell Club, later the PSV. Joy Division — a local Manchester band managed by Rob Gretton that included Ian Curtis (vocals), Peter Hook (bass), Bernard Summer (guitar) and Stephen Morris (drums) — appeared at Factory’s fourth night, and soon after Wilson and Erasmus founded Factory Records. Joy Division appeared on the label’s first release and rose to fame soon after. When Curtis committed suicide in May 1980, Summer, Hook and Morris regrouped as New Order, kept Gretton on as their manager and left for a muted tour of the States in September. During the trip they visited Danceteria, Hurrah’s and the Paradise Garage. They returned with the dream of opening a New York-style club in Manchester.
Gretton became the key proponent of the idea and, whooshing like a transatlantic turbojet, told Wilson that Factory should loosen its ties with the Russell Club and invest in a venue of their own — a space where New Order and other groups on Factory could perform and hang out. The hunt for a venue began in the second half of 1980 and, having considered the Tatler Cinema Club, the Factory team settled on an ex-yachting warehouse/showroom on Whitworth Street, just around the corner from the Russell Club. Deserted except for a handful of garages that operated out of the nearby railway arches, the location’s air of Indie desolation now took on the hue of New York’s downtown post-industrial nightscape. New Order and Factory became joint investors, with Whitbread Breweries persuaded to invest £140,00 to cover the outstanding costs.
As refurbishment began in October 1981, Gretton fell back on his live-gig instincts and argued for the bar to be positioned in the middle of the room so that the stage could oversee and dominate the space from the far end. Supported by designer Ben Kelly, who had been employed to manage the conversion, Wilson resisted the idea and Kelly went on to accentuate the building’s industrial identity, introducing an iconography of the factory workplace through the highlighting of the building’s structural columns, which were marked with hazard signs, warning stripes and luminous colours. Cat’s eyes were dotted across the floor. When it was dark, they winked in the direction of New York.
As opening night approached, Mike Pickering was recruited to join the team. An old friend of Gretton’s, the two reconnected when Pickering started to go to the Factory night at the Russell Club. Pickering moved to Rotterdam in 1979, shacked up with Gonnie Rietveld, formed an electronic dance band, Quando Quango, and put on an occasional night, “Rotterdam Must Dance” at HAL 4 in Utopia, a permanently squatted water cleaning facility. A series of Factory bands — A Certain Ratio (alternatively known as ACR), Durutti Column and Section 25 — were invited to appear at HAL 4 and at some point Gretton told Pickering about his venture. “He said, ‘I’m opening this club in Manchester,'” remembers Pickering. “‘You’ve got to come and help me!'” Pickering travelled to Manchester in mid-March with the mandate of booking groups and DJs.
It seems as though Tony Wilson came up with the “Haçienda” name. The etymological origins of the word can be traced to colonial Spain: “hacienda” is the now archaic term for a large house or farm where wealthy families live, with their servants employed on the land (in Latin America “haçienda”, with a cedilla under the “c”, has the same meaning). For Wilson, however, the name evoked Ivan Chtcheglov’s 1953 Situationist manifesto on urban space, “Formulatory for a New Urbanism”, where he developed the idea that space should be conceived as a mutable grey canvas that can be filled with anything. “You’ll never see the Haçienda,” wrote Chtcheglov. “It does not exist. The Haçienda must be built.” According to Pickering, neither he nor Gretton — who was lent the book by Wilson — were particularly sold on the idea. Wilson ground them down with his motor mouth, boyish enthusiasm.
That enthusiasm was a little harder to maintain after the opening night on 21 May 1982. As the paint was still drying, punters wobbled along planks of wood and sheets of cardboard, wondering what the new venue was supposed to be about. The unlikely line-up of the quintessentially ethnic ESG and the unapologetically racist and sexist stand-up comedian Bernard Manning hardly helped clarify the matter. As light flooded through the building’s skylights, it wasn’t obviously a club space, and the venue’s lamentable sound, which cost forty thousand pounds but had been botched by a series of inept consultants, added to the uncertainty. DJ Hewan Clarke’s selections — “the latest American imports” — confirmed that the Haçienda was meant to be something other than Mancunian.
Clarke came from the black jazz scene, having played at the Reno before moving to Fevers, where he met Martin Moscrop and Simon Topping from ACR. Moscrop and Topping, “two white kids in a black club”, invited the spinner to work for them as a warm-up DJ on their forthcoming tour, Clarke agreed, and while they were on the road the DJ started to chat with Wilson. They discovered a mutual admiration for Frankie Crocker, the groundbreaking DJ at WBLS in New York, and that exchange seems to have prompted Wilson to ask Clarke if he would be interested in spinning at a venue he was planning to open. “I think the Frankie Crocker conversation was crucial because my remit at the Haçienda was to play black music,” says Clarke. “Tony Wilson said they had seen the Paradise Garage and they wanted that concept in the Haçienda.”
The business of grafting a slice of black gay New York onto white straight Manchester proved to be tricky operation, however. “The club they had before the Haçienda, the Factory at the PSV, was an Indie-Goth sort of place,” says Clarke. “When they closed that down and opened the Haçienda, their entire clientele came across hoping there was going to be a continuation of the same music.” The position of the DJ booth, which had been etched into the floor to the side of the stage, added to Clarke’s difficulties, as did the club’s sound system. “I wrote several notes to them saying we need new bass bins, a new amp, we need to pump the system,” he says. “The notes were put in the archive and turned up years later.”
Clarke got on with it, six nights a week. On the black soul tip, he played tracks like Sharon Redd “Can You Handle It”, Q “The Voice of Q”, D Train “You’re the One for Me” and the Peech Boys “Don’t Make Me Wait”. When he wanted to get strange, he would pick out something like ImpLOG “Holland Tunnel Drive”. Responding to the emergent sound of electro-funk, he span Malcolm McLaren “Buffalo Girls” and Rockers Revenge “Walking on Sunshine”. And when he wanted to get the Factory crowd dancing he turned to electro pop by Yazoo, Heaven 17, Culture Club, the Thompson Twins and ABC. “I’d get them on the floor and try to keep them there. The black people who knew me from the black clubs couldn’t handle the sort of music I had to play at the Haçienda.”
At least Clarke knew that “Blue Monday” by New Order was guaranteed to fill the floor. Recorded in October 1982 and released exclusively on twelve-inch in March 1983, the record, which featured a terse dance beat overlaid with wavering vocals, symbolised the band’s full immersion in electronica. Thanks to New Order’s roots in the Indie scene and part-ownership of the venue, “Blue Monday” also became a reassuring platform from which the white straight misérables of Manchester could shrug off their trench coats and take to the floor. “That was the track that made the house tempo trendy amongst the contemporary white audience,” says Clarke. “They got used to it and then the whole house phenomenon took off.”
Live gigs offered a seemingly safer way for the Haçienda to fill its floor and the roll call of acts, booked by Pickering, was impressive. Yet although New Order, Culture Club and the Smiths packed out the club, more often than not the floor was half-full. The week after opening, some seventy-five people showed up to Cabaret Voltaire. According to eyewitness accounts, as few as half that number turned out for Liaisons Dangereuses. As Wilson later told MixMag, the opening year “was a disaster”.
Pickering was struck by the wave of crackling negativity that seemed to flow towards the Haçienda. “People thought it was too trendy,” he says. “The Haçienda was something different and the old school was opposed to any change, even though the old school existed in dingy clubs which had carpets that stuck to your feet.” When the club started to accumulate significant losses, New Order and Factory Records fed money to fan the financial flames, which were fuelled even higher by the inexplicable decision to open a largely empty venue six or seven nights a week. “The Haçienda was like a playpen, an experimental laboratory to see what was possible with a club space,” says Rietveld. “It didn’t start out as a purely commercial venture. That was the beauty of it.”
Two developments revitalised the club’s initial commitment to recreate a piece of downtown Manhattan in down-and-out Hulme. First, New Order travelled to New York in early 1983 to record “Confusion” with Arthur Baker, the cutting-edge producer of “Planet Rock” and “Walking on Sunshine”. Then, at the beginning of the summer, New Order went on tour to the States and Quando Quango, who started recording with Factory in the summer of 1982, performed as their warm-up act in New York. When Pickering and Rietveld’s band returned to the States in the autumn they were invited to play a live PA at New York’s leading venue. “We didn’t do very well here [in the UK], but Mark Kamins did a dance mix of ‘Love Tempo’ and it was an underground hit in New York,” says Pickering. “Larry Levan loved it and we ended up doing a PA at the Paradise Garage.”
The experience of hanging out in Manhattan had a profound effect on Pickering and Rietveld, who went to the Roxy, Danceteria, the Funhouse and the Loft, as well as the Garage. “It was mind-blowing for someone like me,” says Pickering, who had never been to a club that didn’t serve alcohol, and had never heard a DJ who didn’t talk over the mic. “At the Garage I used to stand in the middle of the floor and think it was heaven.” Pickering remembers Gretton turning to him in the King Street venue and saying, “This is it. This is what we’ve got to do. This is what our club should be like.” Danceteria was every bit as influential on Pickering, who made a mental note of DJ Mark Kamins’s talent for segueing from a Man Parrish track to a Rough Trade release. “Kamins could play everything,” he says.
Pickering returned to the Haçienda with a refined vision of where the club should go in terms of its music policy. The goal was to shift towards the flexible feast of Danceteria, as well as find a DJ who would attract the black crowd that was so integral to the Garage. In the process, Pickering clashed with Clarke and a Saturday night appearance by Kamins became a flashpoint. “Mark played a bland New York sound,” recalls Clarke. “There was no emotion in the music and I remember the dance floor being empty for the whole time he was on… I had to tell Mark to get off the decks.” Pickering felt that Clarke wasn’t offering him the right blend of music, however, and he also wanted to introduce a roster of revolving DJs rather than lean so heavily on just one. “Hewan played funk and soul,” he says. “He was a great DJ, but I really wanted this mix.”
In search of a slice of Manchester-made Manhattan, Pickering and the Haçienda team turned to Greg Wilson, the cutting-edge DJ who had broken the sound of avant-garde electro at his black, Wednesday-night slot at Legend. “I loved that place,” says Pickering. “At the time it was the nearest thing to New York.” Pickering invited Wilson to play on Funk Night, the Friday night launched by Hewan Clarke and Colin Curtis on 8 July 1983, and the Legend DJ agreed, even though, in terms of design, “Legend was so spot on and the Haçienda so flawed”.
Retaining the Funk Night name, Wilson debuted on Friday 19 August 1983 and delivered his trademark blend of electro-funk: a mix of electro, hip hop and disco (or what would come to be known as Boogie), plus some soul and funk. Grandmaster and Melle Mel “White Lines”, which he received on import in September 1983, became a staple. So, too, did the SOS Band “Just Be Good to Me”. And Wilson also wore out the groove of the B Boys “Two, Three, Break”, Captain Rapp “Bad Times (I Can’t Stand It) ”, Cybotron “Clear ”, Hashim “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul) ”, Hot Streak “Body Work”, Shannon “Let the Music Play”, Time Zone “The Wildstyle ”, Two Sisters “High Noon ”, Unique “What I Got Is What You Need ” and West Street Mob “Break Dancin’ — Electric Boogie ”. All were played as American imports. Many tracks — such as the instrumental of New Order’s “Confusion” and the a cappella of “Walking on Sunshine” by Rockers Revenge — were played together as a live “mash-ups”.
Wilson recalls just three memorable nights at the Haçienda: one when Newtrament played live on 2 September (and the breakdance outfit Broken Glass “stole the show”); another when the New York group Whodini performed in the venue (Run DMC, who were less well known than Whodini at the time, were supposed to perform the same night but had to pull out); and a third when the Haçienda staged the final of the Breakdancing and Body Popping Championship of the North (“the first major breakdancing competition held in this country”). For the rest of the time, the spinner struggled to persuade his black crowd to come to the Haçienda. “The profile of the club was wrong,” he says, “and when they did turn up they couldn’t get in because of the membership system.” Wilson’s night was further disrupted by the management’s unwillingness to let go of its gigs. “We’d do a night like Newtrament, which would be good, and the next week they’d have a band already booked in, which meant we couldn’t run the night. The continuity wasn’t there.”
Clarke was also asked by Pickering to give up his Saturday night slot to John Tracey, who, as John McCready noted in the Face, played “a schizophrenic mix of Simple Minds and Willie Hutch, Iggy Pop and Sharon Redd.” On 30 August Tracey also started to play Tuesday nights — “The End: A No Funk Night” — and this became the busiest night at the venue through to 1985. As if to demonstrate that the “No Funk” name wasn’t personal, the DJ invited Wilson to play a one-hour spot on Saturdays in order to acclimatise the crowd to the sound of Funk Night, and Wilson brought in Broken Glass to dance to his selections on the Haçienda stage. “The people who didn’t like the music still loved the visual aspect of watching Broken Glass,” he says. “Everyone loved breakdancing at the time. Broken Glass gave the Haçienda street credibility for the first time.”
The Observer ran a piece on Broken Glass’s impact at the Haçienda in November 1983, but just in case any of the Haçienda’s regular clientele were thinking about spinning on their heads or, more realistically, giving themselves up to the rhythms of black music, Tracey would break the spell with an end-of-night flourish that revolved around records such as the theme song from Thunderbirds, Lulu’s “Shout” and Frank Sinatra’s ode to New York. “It was very difficult to change the way the club was working at the time,” says Wilson. “Looking back on it now, I was there sowing some seeds. How does a club that is alternative become a temple of dance? Something has to happen and in the Haçienda it was the black audience that made the transition possible.”
In an end-of-year review of Manchester’s club scene, City Life commented, “Greg Wilson’s faith in New York’s mind-hammering electro-beat was confirmed with both growing crowds and colour supplement coverage” before adding that “interestingly, the sound flopped in the vast chasms of The Hacienda.” By the time the article was printed in January, Wilson had left the venue. In part, the spinner was motivated by the realization that the electro scene had started to alienate female dancers, who were disinclined to take part in the macho displays of athleticism that underpinned breakdancing culture. Yet Wilson also wanted to spend more time managing Broken Glass, and he liked the idea of trying his hand in production. It was time to move on, so he handed in his notice at Legend, too.
Clarke returned to play Fridays with a rush of vindication. “You had a situation where it was just the boys dancing to electro, challenging each other, and the girls stood around bored to death,” he says. “We realized if we carried on doing this it would fragment the whole soul movement.” Pickering also created some aesthetic distance between himself and Wilson. “I said the same thing to Greg as I said to Hewan,” he comments. “I said that I wanted this across-the-board mixture of music I’d heard in New York. I wanted electro as part of a night, but I didn’t want electro on its own, or any music on its own.” Wilson maintains that he didn’t just play electro, and adds that it was impossible to recreate the Danceteria in Manchester, at least at the time. “In 1983, generally speaking, the black kids wouldn’t go to a night where ‘alternative’ music was featured, whilst most Indie kids dismissed dance as ‘crap’,” he says. “Although the idea of bringing these two separate audiences together was commendable, it was also somewhat naïve and unworkable.”
Clarke’s return to the Friday slot hardly moved the night away from its black-oriented direction, even if he played less electro and more soul than Wilson. “Friday nights were a lot more black, yet much more to my taste in the jazzy area,” says Graham Massey, then a member of Biting Tongues, a post-rock industrial act signed to Factory, who was working as a sound technician at the Boardwalk, just around the corner from the Haçienda. Massey remembers there being a lot of “people that took dancing seriously in that jazz dancing kind of way”, including Foot Patrol and the Jazz Defektors. “They always had spats on.”
Gerald Simpson, a young dancer who had cut his teeth at Wilson’s night at Legend, also started to hang out at the Haçienda around this time, having been invited to the venue by one of a number of black dancers who were handed a free membership card by Tony Wilson. Faking his ID, he “swaggered” through the door and spent the rest of the evening trying to prevent his jaw dropping to the floor. “There were these gigantic screens showing these videos and the music was really loud,” Simpson remembers. “It was like a music factory. The sound system was really cool and the atmosphere was amazing. I said, ‘I’m coming back here again. Definitely.’ I was in the dance world, and from where I was coming from the Haçienda was the best place.”
In October 1984, Clarke regained his Saturday night slot, but the following month Pickering edged him out of the DJ booth on Fridays when he re-launched the night as Nude and started to play records alongside Marc Berry, a local hairdresser and music fanatic. In May 1985, Clarke lost his Saturday night gig as well. “Maybe the management felt they weren’t getting their Loft or Paradise Garage, so I had to go,” says Clarke. “I was shocked. I wandered around in a daze for a couple of months.” A DJ team called the Happy Hooligans took over and, according to Clarke, the night died. Clarke was invited back, only to be sacked a second time after a month or so. “Hewan wasn’t playing what we wanted him to play,” says Pickering, matter-of-factly.
Pickering played across the board at Nude, mixing soul, hip hop, electro, Motown, electronic pop and Indie, and he also invited ACR’s Simon Topping to play a Salsa and Latin set each week at midnight. Clarke claims that, along with Tracey, he was putting together the same musical menu, but Pickering insists his selections were broader. “Simon played straight-out-of-New-York Salsa,” he says. “The floor used to clear and the Jazz Defektors came on and danced, which was brilliant. It was an unbelievable thing to do in those days — to break up a night when you’ve got a packed club and put on Tito Puente.”
Pickering didn’t spin with any notable degree of technical proficiency — few UK DJs did at the time — but he drew on a vast record collection and programmed his music with a burning intensity. “The wonderful thing about Mike was he really knew how to string these records together,” says Rietveld. “Hewan’s selection of sounds was a bit more refined, whereas Mike wasn’t afraid to insert some bold tunes. Hewan had a very beautiful, jazz-funk musicality to him, whereas Mike was more about big, iconic sounds — anthemic statements.”
According to Pickering, Nude took off immediately. “Within two or three weeks I had one thousand six hundred people in a one thousand two hundred capacity club,” he says. “The fire brigade had put a low capacity on us, but it was still amazing.” The numbers might be a little askew, but there’s no doubt that the crowd, which had started to shift with Wilson, became even more mixed. “It was fifty percent black, fifty percent white,” adds Pickering. “We had lots of little dance troops from Hulme and Moss Side coming along. It was the first place where people like us could get in wearing trainers.” The original trendy crowd was no longer visible. Black kids and Scallies dominated the floor.
Modifications to the interior of the club helped the dance floor become more focused. Additional bass bins had been fitted soon after opening; in 1984 the DJ booth was moved to the balcony; and in November 1985 the club was closed for four days while the walls were treated acoustically. The changes coincided with a shift in the music. Mantronix started to produce danceable hip hop (including “Bassline”) and, around the same time, house music from Chicago started to blast out of the sound system. “‘Music Is the Key’, records that Arthur Baker was making, Dhar Braxton,” says Pickering, who was joined by Martin Prendergast in the DJ booth in May 1986 (they called themselves MP2). “We played all of that.”
Along with the likes of Stu Allan, Colin Curtis and Hewan Clarke (who were playing at the Gallery, the Playpen, Berlin and Legend), Graeme Park (the Garage in Nottingham) and Winston Hazel (Jive Turkey in Sheffield), Pickering pioneered the sound of house in the north of England. A “young kid from Moss Side” handed him his first Chicago house record, “No Way Back” by Adonis, and “the club went crazy” when he played it. After that, Pickering started to develop as many fast-speed supply lines of American house as he could, with Kamins one of his most important sources. “Stu Allan [who also broke house on his essential-listening Piccadilly Radio show] was central in terms of radio exposure,” says Rietveld. “Meanwhile Mike got test pressings of the early house music recordings via New York, often before they hit Manchester.”
The Haçienda was still heavily indebted to its Indie alter ego. In May 1986 Temperance night was launched, with DJ Hedd (Dave Haslam) mixing alternative, rap and funk music for a student crowd, and the success of the night persuaded the management to ask Haslam to join Dean Johnson, who played Northern Soul, for a new Saturday slot, “Wide”, so-called because of the night’s wide musical agenda. Yet as powerful as Indie remained, house was becoming more prominent, and this shift was consecrated symbolically when DJ International, which had scored a number one hit on the UK charts with “Jack Your Body” in January 1987, took Marshall Jefferson, Adonis, Frankie Knuckles, Kevin Irving and Fingers Inc on a tour of the UK. Arriving at the Haçienda on Monday 9 March, the line-up was historic, the turnout less so. “I remember it was a very cold Monday,” says Rietveld, “and when it was cold inside it meant there were not many people there.”
The Haçienda soon had a slice of house that it could call its own: “Carino” by T-Coy. Recorded by Pickering and Topping, “Carino” was probably the first UK house record to cause a stir, and its sonic blend reflected the Haçienda’s fixation with the States. “It was a mix of Tito Puente and Adonis,” says Pickering. “We put ‘Carino’ together one morning in a little studio we borrowed in Didsbury. We recorded it on cassette and gave it to Stu Allan. He kept playing it and it went to number one on his chart. Then Coldcut Crew heard it and told Kiss, which was still a pirate station, about it. It was only then that it went national.”
Gerald Simpson, inspired by the electronic dance music he was buying from Spin Inn, the best-stocked supplier of US imports in the north, laid down “Voodoo Ray” soon after. “I had bought an 808 drum machine and a 303 bass line machine and was making electro and hip hop in the style of Ice-T ‘Dog ‘n the Wax’,” he says. “I’d have reverb on the snare and this really heavy sound on the 303 bass. Then I heard these guys from Chicago using the same instrument, but they were tweaking it. I did a load of this stuff and gave it to Stu Allan and he was, ‘What the fuck! How did someone from around the corner do this?'” Lost for a name when he played the material on Piccadilly, Allan introduced the producer as “a guy called Gerald”, and a listener from Ram Records liked the music enough to put out the record — “Voodoo Ray” by A Guy Called Gerald. Simpson took a white label of the track to Jon Da Silva, who was spinning at a new Wednesday night slot at the Haçienda called Zumbar. Simpson returned to the venue a couple of weeks later. “Either Jon Da Silva or Mike Pickering put the tune on and people were going fucking mental. I was like, ‘Shit!'”
The northern house scene had generated enough momentum by the beginning of 1988 to persuade Pickering (who had started to work as an A&R rep for Deconstruction) to stage a Northern House Revue at Nude on 26 February 1988. The night featured T-Cut-F and T-Coy, as well as Groove, a pseudonym for Graeme Park, who had released “Submit to the Beat” on his own label, Submission. In between the acts, Park and Pickering span records together for the first time, and Park created a favourable impression. Like Pickering, Park had been influenced by New York, but in contrast to the Nude resident he hadn’t been to the East Coast city; he had just heard it via Tony Humphreys and Marley Marl mix tapes. “Graeme could really mix,” says Rietveld. “He was an inspiration to future DJs.” Pickering liked Park enough to ask him to guest at Nude when he went on holiday in July 1988 and on his return Pickering invited Park to stay. The two went on to form a tight partnership.
There was a tangible sense of momentum at the Haçienda, and that momentum reached a climax that summer with Hot. Following a trip to Shoom and Hedonism in London, Paul Cons (who had been employed to develop new nights at the Haçienda) launched the new night on Wednesday 13 July. Evoking the Ibizan motif, the manager installed a mini-swimming pool and seaside-style lights, and made sure that ice pops and large inflatable beach balls were passed around during the course of the night. Dancers — minus the sometimes dreaded “student” element, which had left the city for the summer — turned up in their Bermuda shorts, swimming trunks, skimpy tops, straw hats and sunglasses. By the end of the night a good number of them had gone for a dive in the pool.
Everything that had been awkward about the Haçienda when it opened now appeared to be pre-ordained. The large, raw, cold space that had seemed to be impossible to fill was teeming with a swarm of dancers, and the stage, once a cumbersome hunk that disrupted the contours of the room, provided the partygoers with a heightened tier on which they could groove. Copying the example of the London-based Trip, additional podiums were introduced to accentuate the visual effect of the revellers, their hands aloft, rising out of a cauldron of dry ice mist. Future DJ names such as Laurent Garnier, Justin Robertson and Sasha were part of the frenzy. With Da Silva and Pickering behind the wheels of steel, Wednesdays became the busiest night of the week.
Ecstasy, which started to flow into the Haçienda in the spring of 1988, accentuated the atmosphere. Dancers began to move to a different dynamic, with their arms thrust upwards while their bodies jacked backwards and forwards from the hips, as if they were wired up to a power supply. “Ecstasy at the Haçienda had a lot to do with Bez and the Happy Mondays in a certain corner of the club, and it spread out in a matter of weeks,” says Massey. “It caught on like petrol on fire. You couldn’t help but notice an atmosphere change, and that almost dictated what the DJs played.”
Yet the summer of 1988 wasn’t the best summer for the black dancers who had done so much to build Friday nights and house culture at the venue. “I think the drugs put them off, because they didn’t take them in those days,” says Pickering. “I likened it to the Mexican wave coming across the club. Everyone was doing the same dance and there was no room. The black dancers didn’t dig that.” Whereas black social dance created space for individual expression within collective movement, the “Summer of Love” generated a wave of bliss in which the euphoria of the crowd all but drowned out the individual. “The black kids had a culture of dancing,” says Greg Wilson. “It goes back through the generations. When the scene became dominated by legions of ‘ravers’, with their hands in the air, the black kids realised it was time to move on and create something new.”
Dubbed the “Second Summer of Love”, the summer of 1989 was as intense and celebratory as the first, and the release of “Pacific State” by the 808 State — Gerald Simpson, Graham Massey and Martin Price, who were so fond of the Roland TR808 drum machine they named themselves after it — provided the Haçienda with a memorable anthem. Simpson, Massey and Price had met in Eastern Bloc, an Indie-leaning record store where Price was doing his best to push house, and they produced a batch of acid grooves that were cutting-edge enough to prompt John Peel to invite them to record a session for his show. Scheduled for 19-20 November 1988, the session never took place, but the group continued to work on the material they were preparing — including “Pacific State”.
Simpson laid down the synth line, bass and drum pattern for “Pacific State”, yet parted ways with 808 State soon after. He maintains that that his track was intended for play on the Peel programme only, but Massey and Price either didn’t register or take him seriously and, drawing on Massey’s collection of “exotic jazz”, added a distinctive saxophone solo to “Pacific State” at the beginning of February 1989. “We were trying to do something in the vein of Marshall Jefferson ‘Open Your Eyes’,” says Massey. “That track was happening everywhere.” “Pacific” was pressed up as a white label in May and came out on the mini-album Quadrastate at the end of July, just as the second “Summer of Love” was hitting its groove. “We definitely took the white label to Mike Pickering, Graeme Park and also Jon Da Silva,” says Massey. “It rose through the ranks to become the last tune of the night.”
Yet Pickering, for one, was beginning to have his doubts about the direction of dance at the Haçienda. “I regretted the fact that once you’d come down off the E everything was pure house,” he says. “I could tell even in 1989 that that wasn’t a good thing and that what we were doing before was much more precious, because we were playing a wider range of music. By 1989 we were slaves to the beat.” He maintains that “there were some amazing house records” — including Sueno Latino “Sueno Latino”, Rob Base & EZ Rock “Get on the Dance Floor”, Kid N’ Play “2 Hype”, 128th Street Crew “I Need a Rhythm”, Rhythm Is Rhythm “Nude Photo” and Deee-Lite “Wild Times” — but adds that he “would have liked to mix it up a bit more.”
As the summer of 1989 unfolded, there were other signs that the peak would be impossible to sustain. When Clare Leighton died in July — it appears she took a significant quantity of Ecstasy and suffered an extremely rare allergic reaction — clubbers must have begun to wonder if the eternal high might one day come to an end, and the incident also brought unwanted attention to the Haçienda. Leighton’s death was the first Ecstasy death to be reported by the national media, and the high-profile passing of a young clubber persuaded the police, who were already asking difficult questions of the venue, to come down hard on drug consumption. “I believe that was the final straw,” Paul Mason, who had been brought in to manage (and professionalize) the club in 1986, told Jon Savage, editor of The Haçienda Must Be Built. “[T]he police took a decision to go for revocation [of the club’s licence]”.
For a while the hype that surrounded the international success of the “Madchester scene” masked the way in which the smile was beginning to drop in some sections of the Haçienda. Bands such as the Happy Mondays, the Stone Roses, the Inspiral Carpets and the Charlatans blended Indie aesthetics with dance and even hung out on the floor (or an adjacent alcove) of the venue. But the overwhelming whiteness and parochialism of the Madchester groups had the inadvertent effect of bleaching dance music’s roots. The initial agenda of bringing black New York to Manchester, a city that was now spending more time looking inwards than outwards, seemed to have been abandoned.
By 1990 the atmosphere in the Whitworth Street club had shifted markedly. In May, police threatened to revoke its licence due to the ongoing drug problem, and in October the straight-talking, no-messing Mason introduced a dress code of no trainers or shellsuits that was aimed formally at keeping out gangs of any colour, but inevitably had the effect of keeping out black dancers. Thanks to its strategically high-profile efforts to enforce a string of anti-drug measures, the Haçienda was given a six-month reprieve at its hearing in January 1991, but Paul Mason and Tony Wilson decided to close voluntarily when a series of violent incidents culminated in the head doorman being threatened with a gun at a Nude party on 26 January. The root problem, according to many, wasn’t so much the dealers as the gangs who thought they could control the dealers. Either way, the weapons culture was conducive to neither dance floor bliss nor health and safety regulations.
The Haçienda reopened (with an airport-style metal detector) in May 1991 and continued to do business until 1997. During this period it celebrated its tenth birthday party in May 1992 with guest DJs Frankie Knuckles and David Morales; survived Factory records going into receivership in November of the same year; and bid farewell to Pickering the following May. “For the eleventh birthday party we invited eleven DJs from different places, and I remember David Morales and I both got threatened,” says Pickering. “I walked out and never came back.” Pickering left behind a club that still enjoyed strong moments — Salt City Orchestra’s “The Book”, produced in 1994 by Miles Holloway and Elliot Eastwick, who worked behind the bar, provided one — but it was clearly entering its endgame. Following a series of annual losses that were exacerbated by bottomless pit security measures, the venue went into liquidation in June 1997.
The Haçienda will be remembered, primarily, for its first seven years. During that period, and some way ahead of the Ministry of Sound and Renaissance, it became the UK’s first superclub, except that the term hadn’t yet been invented and the venue didn’t function like a superclub. Attention focuses inevitably on the iconic summers of 1988 and 1989, as well as the simultaneous rise of Madchester. However, the lead-up period of 1982 to 1988, when groups such as New Order and ACR lay at the fulcrum of a white-black, Manchester-New York, Indie-dance engagement, is more compelling and perhaps more important. This legacy is reflected in the musical selections on this compilation, which plot the transition from American electro to Manchester house.
Thanks: Hewan Clarke, Graham Massey, Mike Pickering, Hillegonda “Gonnie” Rietveld, Gerald Simpson (A Guy Called Gerald) and Greg Wilson for the interviews, Lee White for the clips and conversations, Ian Dewhirst for the infectious enthusiasm.