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Do you remember the first time…..you went to The Hacienda?

by Phil Thornton

Scanner collected glasses with me at The Cherry. He was a scouser and an indie kid. They called him Scanner on account of his massive FA Cup style ears and all his mates were indie kids too. They liked New Order and Echo & The Bunnymen and they liked weed also. I liked D-Train and Funkadelic and I liked speed. One night he asked me if I fancied joining him and his mates to visit the newly opened Hacienda club in Manchester. I said yes even though my previous visits to Manchester’s club land almost inevitably ended in chaos and disappointment, as even though I was 17, I looked about 12. Getting kb’d from such salubrious Manc hotspots as The Ritz and Tropicana was bad enough, but at least you weren’t missing out on any decent music. Now that the Hass had created a rep for cutting edge hip n’ happening tunes covering everything from electro to indie, I didn’t want to get knocked back in the middle of winter and spend 6 hours wandering around the cold, unforgiving streets of Manny on me todd.

Nevertheless, I met up with Scanner and his mates who were wearing their regulation early 80s indie kid uniforms of dull beige Harringtons, check shirts, skinny jeans and suede boots whereas I had on my early 80s scally uniform of needle cords, Adidas trainees and a crew neck sweater with suede patches on the elbows. They had Barney Sumner Blackpool evacuee haircuts, I had a mullet. One of the lads, Big Alex who, as his name implies, was big and named Alex looked me up and down suspiciously and told me I wouldn‘t get in ‘dressed like that.’ Big Alex was a scary looking fucker, who was about six foot six and built like a brick shithouse. He was also a Thai boxing enthusiast and even the local scals steered clear of him. He had an air of authority about him and if he said I wouldn’t get in, then I believed him, even though none of us had actually been to the Hacienda before. I seriously thought of jibbing it at this stage but was persuaded by Scanner to come along (probably so they could whack the minibus costs a bit more liberally).

We got on the minibus and straight away my nerves kicked in. This manifests itself in one of two ways; puking or shitting, sometimes both at the same time. On this occasion it was an arse based commotion a-brewing in my cords. All I could think about was getting kb’d by the bouncers, a regular and humiliating occurrence for Baby Faced Finlayson here. As the lads sparked up their first of many weeds that evening and relaxed in a fog of smoke and laughter, my bowels clenched and seized. I had to try really hard to keep em in check til we reached the mysterious lad of Manc 30 miles down the M62.

Once we were dropped off at Manchester town hall it suddenly occurred to us that no-one actually knew where the fucking Hacienda was. And so we slogged aimlessly about in the freezing cold, vaguely heading Haciendawards or so we thought. After about 20 minutes we reached an old railway bridge. It was here that my nerves really kicked in as I didn’t want to be walking around inner city Manchester with seven scousers for company, even if one of them was a martial arts expert. My bowel exploded just as I reached the sanctuary of one of the filthy Victorian arches and I dropped my tight corduroy kecks just in time to allow the slimy black liquid to escape from its anal prison. Oooooh the relief!

I pulled up my kecks and rejoined the group up the road, who were laughing at my plight and asked me what I had used to wipe my arse. On replying that I hadn’t infact wiped said arse, they all indicated their disgust in no uncertain terms and I was forced back to the oily arch and instructed to cleanse my posterior forthwith. However now I was faced with the prospect of finding something to wipe my arse on and unable to locate a suitable surface or implement, had to take off my trainees in order to take off my cords in order to take off my Bills in order to wipe my arse with said Bills and then reassemble my outfit minus the shit stinking undergarment. This I deposited under the arch for some unsuspecting derelict or Time Team excavation to discover at some point in the future.

How amusing the scouse indie kids found this episode and I must admit that, once relieved of my colonic mass, I was now feeling a little more high spirited myself. We wandered past some scary looking tenements that hilariously still had ’Wilson Out’ painted on the side and walked past a sign saying ’Welcome To Salford.’ Oh dear. Of all the places in Manchester you didn’t want to be with a gang of scousers, it was that hotbed of Man United forged scouse-hatred, Salford. My nerves returned fivefold and I explained my reservations about our journey into uncharted areas to the rest of the group but they appeared nonplussed (ie stoned off their scones) and my concerns were met with indifference. We therefore took refuge in the first pub we came to, which was entirely empty save for one old fellar warming himself next to a plugged in three ring heater in the corner and the old skool, no-nonsense barmaid.

We ordered our drinks and were instructed that the only ale they had on the premises were warm bottles of Guinness, as the place had been broken into so many times that they were closing the very next day. We all sat down in cheery mood next to the old timer who proceeded to sup up rather than share his corner of misery with us and engaged in light hearted banter with our hostess, who incidentally had never even heard of the Hacienda never mind instruct us as how to get there. My bowel suddenly made another spasm and desperate to empty myself once again, I asked the Betty Turpin where the toilet was. She pointed through a door and I walked out into a courtyard where there was a urinal and an old wooden door, which I took to be the shitter. The door had a massive old rusty bolt on it which took me ages to wrench open and desperate to unburden myself, I finally opened the huge creaking edifice, only to be met by low growling noises and several sets of shiny dots in the darkness. Before I could yell, ‘Fuck me!’ a huge beast knocked me to the floor and I found myself surrounded by three slavering Salford snarlers, or alsations as they’re called elsewhere. They circled me and sniffed and growled but didn’t actually attack and I gradually got to my feet and sheepishly opened the door back into the pub, whilst making ridiculous ‘good boy‘ type sounds.

Big mistake. The allies suddenly darted past me and ran around the alehouse barking like Cerberus and two of his mates. The scousers jumped onto their seats and the barmaid demanded to know what I was doing going into the store room. I explained that I had thought it was the shitter and after a few minutes she managed to round up the beasts and place them back inside their lair. After this I was shown where the shitter was actually located and I gratefully deposited some of my internal juices on a suitably encrusted receptacle.

Walking back towards Manchester city centre, the shit was now drying hard around my sphincter and cheeks causing not a little irritation and discomfort. With no undergarments with which to soak up any residue, the very act of walking with any sense of decorum or dignity became almost impossible. Luckily across a patch of wasteland we caught sight of the legendary Manc boozer, Tommy Ducks and this ludicrous watering hole gave me an opportunity to wipe myself clean as best I could under the circumstances . Tommy Ducks was a bafflingly successful alehouse that attracted punters from far and wide on account of its ceiling being decorated with ladies knickers (and indeed men’s knickers too although not mine, which would‘ve made a nice ‘statement’ methinks). Such was the dearth of entertainment in the early 80s that such a pathetic gimmick would guarantee weekend trade for months if not years. Thank God for house music eh kids?

Fresh from the Ducks we ambled cluelessly into a queue of some sort. A queue on a crossroads outside a non-descript building and, gauging by the dress code of this queue, we surmised that this was infact the temple to which we had crossed mountain, sea and plain in search of. OK, a few canals then. This was my moment of truth. Would I be able to drink from this well of decent music in a wilderness of chart shite or would the bouncers take one look at me and decide, as Big Alex had, that I was a typical scally dickhead with no right to entertain notions of enjoying great music in an atmosphere of downtown style decadence? Fortunately during those early days of the club, punters were few and very far between and I had no trouble getting in.

Once inside, I must admit to being somewhat under whelmed by both the décor and the musical programming. I had expected some kind of New York vibe, y’know a cross between the Funhouse and Danceteria, with b-boys battling and art crowd types posing to a soundtrack of the latest hip hop, electro, industrial funk n‘ boogie. What we got was a room full of people who obviously took i-D and The Face’s fashion pages far too seriously, mooching about looking bored rigid. In a massive space, there were perhaps 200 people in all and this was a weekend night. Some of them were dressed as hillbillies complete with bare feet, Hayzi Fantayzi style dungys and straw hats, some of them were trendy boho Velvet Underground wannabes, some of em were regulation indie kids and one of em was Mick Hucknall. The sparse crowd was unable to build an atmosphere in the already physically and emotionally cold environment. The NCP chic furnishings and the industrial architectural theming afforded a modernist take on club culture that was in keeping with American utilitarian dance spaces such as The Paradise Garage or the Warehouse, yet there was no Larry Levan or Frankie Knuckles here to forge a bridgehead between downtown and uptown or the art crowd and the estate kids as with places like Funhouse.

Musically it was all pretty predictable, lots of Factory product mixed with No Wave and electronic funk with the odd soul and funk classic thrown in for good measure. I danced only once all night to One Nation Under A Groove. When this came on at The Cherry back home, you literally couldn’t move on the dance floor as hundreds of scals jostled for a speck o the admittedly tiny dance space. At the Hacienda I had an immense amount of space around me, so much so that infact there was only about four people up on the (for the time) gigantic dance floor. Somehow George Clinton’s cosmic call to arms for a global coalition born of an allegiance to da funk seemed hopelessly dated and destined to failure. For here were all manner of tribes and sub-tribes each devoted to their own esoteric genres and sub-sub genres.

Ofcourse five years later the Hass became the focal point for the biggest coming together of youth tribes ever witnessed, when everyone got one on and we were indeed one nation under an acid house groove. I never saw anyone at all dressed like me in the Hacienda that night and wouldn’t for a good few years, until Mike Pickering and Graeme Park became the Levans and the Knuckles of their generation and council estate kids like me brought their own laissez fair attitudes and narcotic supplements to a clubbing world that had for years rejected their presence and overlooked their contribution to The Party. The Hacienda was such a place until, by accident rather than design, thousands of ordinary kids filed past that huge photo of Anthony H Wilson (no egotist he) to claim their own share of cultural immortality.

As for my undies, well I reckon future generations will one day discover them under decades worth of grime and muck and wonder exactly what kind of prehistoric monsters we were. 













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