DADCHESTER 2012! MAD, BAD & SAD(chester)
A few years ago now I watched in horror as several long-deceased Pop acts from the 1980’s got back together suddenly (“for the fans”) & went out on the road again in a series of package tours. ABC; Culture Club; Adam Ant; Rik Astley; Level 42; Bananarama; Kajagoogoo; Tony Hadley; T’Pau & Kim Wilde. Cringing each time I saw them on the telly or in newspapers. Faded pop-stars, wearing girdles & hats to hide their paunches & baldness, clinging onto the fame train for all they were worth, for one last ride. Nostalgia was back in business
TV talking-head shows ‘I ‘heart’ the 80’s (60’s, 70’s & 90’s)’ soon appeared, D-list commentators providing sound-bites for a collection of well-worn archive clips. It was cheap programming both in terms of production & cultural currency; disappointing
A whole potent decade full of fashion, music & politics boiled down to mute impotent images, the '60’s: the Beatles, the mini-skirt & the Pill. The 1970’s: Beige & brown, Bay City Rollers, multi-coloured tank-tops, Spangles; Punk, with its safety-pins & spitting. 1980’s: Ozone-killer hairspray, ‘Frankie Says’ t-shirts, skinheads, yuppies & shoulder-pads. The 1990’s: Mancunian accents & haircuts, flared jeans & scared journalists; warehouse raves, Vicks Vapour Rub & glow-sticks; One long idiot-gurn until the turn of a new century
This is not ‘What Actually Happened’. This is a forgetful, sexless, legless, stereotyped, sanitised, blind version of events re-parcelled & repackaged (ultimately for retail) for repetition by these same faces, who weren’t there then but are here now to tell you about it
At the time (my local boozer) we remarked how we couldn’t possibly imagine our musical heroes from the hedonistic & ephemeral ‘Madchester’ period doing something similar. Imagine that? We laughed because we simply couldn’t
Fast-forward to 18 Oct 2011. Seminal indie band The Stone Roses announce the impossible come-back gig is on: they are getting back together for a series of lucrative summer festival dates beginning with 3 consecutive nights at Heaton Park. The original line-up of Happy Mondays soon follow suit
We’d already seen Bez (2005) surprisingly win ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ and amazingly Shaun Ryder almost-win ‘I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here’ (2010), but now all acid-tongued back-biting & old recriminations were being buried for promise of a bulging bank balance. We’d also seen (New Order / Joy Division) Peter Hook with his outfit The Light murder twin sacred pillars of his former bands recorded history (‘Unknown Pleasures’ & ‘Closer’) in his newly-opened club the Factory (FAC251), formerly Factory Records offices, as well as publication of his Hacienda book ‘How Not To Run A Nightclub’ (2009) and his misguided attempted re-invention as a Rave DJ. Oh dear
Check out the sleeve notes to excellent Virgin compilation ‘Hacienda Classics’ (2006) TRI-CD pack ‘mixed’ by Hooky but in truth compiled by a real unsung Manc hero Phil Beckett (‘2-For-Joy’, Rock’n’Roll Bar, Bop Local)
30-year anniversary of the opening of Factory Records flagship venue The Hacienda then spawned 3 separate club nights, one of which ‘actually takes place inside the Hacienda’, though this turned out to be a one-night-only rave in the underground car-park of the Hacienda Apartments. DJ Graeme Park and K-Klass, who’ve been booked consistently for Old Skool club nights since their 90’s heyday, alongside (-ahem-) DJ Peter Crook (copyright) now take a Hacienda tour up & down the country. And so the unstoppable, omnivorous & insatiable nostalgia behemoth thunders on
In the run-up to these much-anticipated returns I went out to see Clone Roses live. I watched a very professional tribute act run through a set of Roses tunes that half the audience can’t have heard first time around and, as was to be expected, there were plenty of 30-something fellahs in the beery throng reliving the summery soundtrack of their youth. Many even had their lovely wives in tow.
They most probably met, fell in love & got wed to these same Madchester anthems
About halfway through the gig the hairs on the back of my neck began to bristle (always a sign of something special): I had forgotten how strong the Roses song-writing was! ‘Sugar Spun Sister’, ‘Shoot You Down’. By the time of instantly-recognisable, bubbling-under bass-line beginning ‘I Am the Resurrection’ I was singing at the top of my lungs
I fled the boozy mess apparent once the house-lights came up & hotfooted across town instead to where Just Skank resident Compa was opening a new vinyl-only club-night with V.I.V.E.K. as guest DJ. The place was almost empty. New music & ideas are much harder to flog to the public it seems
A week later I went to see my former heroes Happy Mondays, supported by Inspiral Carpets (re-grouped around their original singer), ‘musical differences’ put aside for profit, a chance to revisit former gory glories. Lioness Rowetta prowls the stage. Bez comes on (& off) to huge cheers. The Mondays live are magnificent; but it’s an almost-safe celebration of their formerly chaotic creation
There were several after-parties in clubs which promised a steady diet of indie nostalgia. I couldn’t think of anything less interesting and headed down to Selective Hearing to hear the sound of (-Akkord, Reflec & Versa-) the future instead
So I won’t be going to see the Roses this time around. I didn’t go to Spike Island 20 years ago for the same reasons. A venue chosen with large numbers in mind, for capacity & merchandise, for quantity over quality. Tickets are too over-priced & the music will be too underwhelming. Bad weather or wind direction might ruin the day. Fake tickets or drunken muppets could easily do the same
More than that though, events are much easier to recall & retell, to reflect upon, than often-difficult, half-remembered youth as it was lived. These are the kind of events that people attend so that they can look back later & say ‘I Was There’. I bought the t-shirt, a programme, a gram of coke, a Reni hat. F**k that. I was there in a tightly-packed Hacienda audience when Ian Brown announced their majestic fourth single ‘Made Of Stone’, in 1989 still brand new.
I Was There then, so don’t feel (as Noel wrote & Liam sang) the need to ‘Be Here Now’. Especially since ‘now’ already looks much more like it did ‘then’ than ever before. Rave On my lovelies, xXx
(Respectfully, R.I.P. Chris Brahney).