2) IN THE BEGINNING (punk & post-punk)
Year Zero in our post-modern music mythology has to be June 4th 1976: the now-legendary Sex Pistols concert at the Lesser Free Trade Hall immediately inspired half the attendant audience to form a dozen new Manchester bands. The Buzzcocks, The Drones, Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds, Warsaw, The Fall, Frantic Elevators, punk-poet John Cooper Clarke, Wythenshawe’s Slaughter & the Dogs. The unspoken message of this as-yet-unnamed music: Punk. Do It Yourself. For yourself, and even bloody by yourself if you had to!
At first no-one takes any notice. Then a few do; then everyone else, all at once. Now everyone walks & talks in a new way. For a while it’s fun to watch people cotton-on to what the in-crowd already knew. Then it goes quiet. But in a bedroom or bedsit somewhere the next part of the story quietly creates, complains & plots their rightful ascension
In between this almost-mythical Genesis & their triumphant return to Manchester on July 20th Tony Wilson booked Sex Pistols onto his Granada TV show ‘So It Goes’, thereby ensuring the entire North-West had opportunity to witness for themselves the powerful, hateful glare of Johnny Rotten as he spat out his anarchist manifesto over their family viewing teatime telly:
Before this singular atomic event, derivative Manchester bands from the 60’s (Hermans’ Hermits; the Hollies) had looked to the Beatles, Liverpool & the Merseybeat sound for their lead. 1970’s Manchester bands didn’t even sound northern, (Barclay James Harvest; Bee Gees; Sad Cafe; 10cc) they all sang in harmony & looked to radio-friendly America for inspiration
In London punk floundered upon its’ own principles. The Clash sold-out, signed to Sony-CBS (Jan 25th 1977) their attempt to reach the masses & ‘break’ America. Mark Perry, the creator of punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, oft-quoted line is that “Punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS”. The group managed to redeem themselves to history (IMAO) by introducing reggae music to punk audiences
Sex Pistols went through 3 clueless London labels & farcical contracts (EMI, A&M, Virgin) in 8 months as they were banned from TV & radio, then barred from playing anywhere in the UK! Eventually imploding on-stage at San Francisco Winter Gardens: All over by January 1978
Howard Devoto (Magazine) Rafters Mcr 1978 copyright.Kevin Cummins
Meanwhile, in Manchester, January 1977 the Buzzcocks released their own 'Spiral Scratch’ EP; unwittingly helping to kick-start the whole 'indie' (independent from the major labels) music scene which lasted for over 20 years! Great record-labels like 4AD, Creation, Factory, Grand Central, Postcard & Ruf Beats collectively stuck two fingers up to London. We don't need you!
The Buzzcocks 'Boredom'
Post-punk Howard Devoto left Pete Shelley with the Buzzcocks and formed Magazine. Mark E. Smith screeched into life & began his amphetamine eternal with The Fall (-still awake, still going strong, Ed-). Factory hinted at possible futures promised by such records as those from A Certain Ratio; the Durutti Column; and Joy Division. These bands mapped out the unfamiliar ground left after the A-Bomb of punk had dropped. They were driven apres la deluge to create a cultural & (certainly influential) musical territory of their own. A different bombshell, Manchesters' own Nagasaki event, was only just around the corner
Joy Division 'Atmosphere'
The suicide of singer Ian Curtis on 18 May 1980, just days prior to going to America & the release of their 2nd album ‘Closer’ immortalised man, image, music & myth. Photographer Kevin Cummings & designer Peter Saville; music producer Martin Hannett; NME journalist Paul Morley respectively responisible
Those remaining band members carried on as New Order, making new music that bridged live instrumentation with electronic experimentation, a long way from punk now but not quite straight into the gay clubs they eventually visited in New York. So impressed were they by the hedonistic atmosphere of the Paradise Garage they decided Manchester needed its’ very own
The Hacienda opened its’ doors on May 21st 1982
Bernard Sumner (New Order) New York 1982 copyright.Kevin Cummins