More Recollections Of An Early Stone Roses Gig by Vivienne Wilson

The Stone Roses,
Manchester University
10th May 1986

Last weeks blog by Vivienne Wilson recounting a Stone Roses gig in 1985 proved to be very popular so we’re now following it up with another blog by Vivienne, this time from a Stone Roses gig in 1986 – one that includes the added bonus of a That Petrol Emotion gig.

Did Vivienne Wilson really see the Stone Roses at Manchester University on 10th May 1986, or did she make this up? Sounds like a fun night anyway. Once again, the names have been changed to protect the grown ups.

We all met up in the uni bar. It was Katie’s 20th birthday and everyone had turned up. I’d gone along straight from the studio and hadn’t eaten anything all day, so I ordered myself a vegetable pie from the food counter. The pies were made with curried peas, beans and sweetcorn – tasty, but lethal later on when mixed with lots of beer.

We stood in the bar, which was crowded with a mixture of Roses fans and students. Everyone who was there that night was prepared to see a band that was rapidly gaining respect and momentum. There was no bad feeling at all between the students and non-students.

At the last Stone Roses gig I’d been to, a lot of people had come up from Cheshire and Derbyshire for it. The same thing had happened again, but this time T’Chala Grid was supporting and had brought a sizeable crowd with them from Oldham. Both Clint Boon and Mani were involved with T’Chala Grid and both of them had been playing in different bands around Manchester for several years.

Alan and Steve went into the main hall to look for some of Alan’s friends. This left me with Ellie, Katie, Gavin and Duncan. James had come with us, but he and Ellie didn’t seem comfortable with each other, so he went off to talk to some other people he knew from Sale. Ellie told me that she hadn’t been looking forward to the gig at all. She said she’d only come, because it was Katie’s birthday and that she’d probably stay in the bar even when the Roses were on. Duncan told her that if that was her attitude, she should have got a taxi home there and then.

Ellie was still sporting the full on Goth look, whereas Katie, Angie and I had, by that time, progressed to wearing vintage floral dresses with black leggings and Chinese dolly shoes. We used to buy the dresses mainly from jumble sales. Because Katie and I both came from Sussex, this could usually be done on our visits down south and an average dress would cost us about 15 pence. These dresses were much more in demand in the north. Dealers would go to jumble sales and pay the organisers, so that they could get in before the punters and pick out the best items. This meant that most people who lived in northern cities and wanted a vintage dress had to go to second hand clothes shops and pay about £7 or £8 for a similar dress. The big disadvantage of buying these clothes at jumble sales was that they were frequently in very large sizes and would have to be worn with a belt. We often looked like children wearing oversized hand-me-downs. Katie and I used to buy extra dresses down south, wear them out and about in Manchester a couple of times and then sell them in Afflecks Palace – usually, the money would be spent on records before we’d even left the building.

Leggings were also an awkward fashion item. Leggings tend to go baggy round the knees once you’ve been wearing them for a couple of hours. This also means that you can only realistically wear them once before having to wash them. You need to be careful about how long your leggings are. The optimum length is about three-quarters of the way down your shins. If they only go down to just below your knees, they make your legs look very fat. If there is any chance that you will find yourself in a passionate situation later in the evening, the best thing to do is to remove your leggings in advance. Nobody looks sexy in leggings and underwear.

Chinese dolly shoes are quite practical. They are cheap and easy to replace. The disadvantages of Chinese dolly shoes are:

1. If someone stands on your foot, it hurts

2. If it rains, your feet get all soggy

3. In very cold weather, they get wet and then freeze onto your feet.

Katie, Gavin and Duncan had been having quite an intense conversation. When my conversation with Ellie came to an end, I heard Katie say:

“For fuck’s sake, just speak to her.”

Then Katie and Gavin smiled at me crookedly; Duncan glared at me for the umpteenth time and walked off. I didn’t think anything of it, because I could see Paddy and Paz on the other side of the bar and I knew Pauline was there.

Just then, Alan and Steve came rushing in to tell us that T’Chala Grid were on stage and that they were brilliant. Steve took hold of Katie’s hand and pulled her into the auditorium. I followed Alan in, but a heaving mass of people swallowed him up as we got nearer to the front and I was left on my own.

I found a place to stand and was impressed by what I could see and hear. The songs were well constructed. They had a 1960’s psychedelic influence, but did not sound at all wimpy. I suppose it’s obvious that if you get a couple of people who are natural musicians and they spend years and years listening to Love and Hendrix with a bit of punk thrown in, that is what they are going to come up with. I did also notice that the bass player looked very tasty.

Duncan appeared next to me.

“My sister’s looking for me. I’d better go and find my sister to see what she wants.” He smiled and led the way.

We went back to the bar. T’Chala Grid had just finished their set and Alan and Steve enthusiastically told us how good they thought it was. Pauline came over. She handed us all tickets for the International. The Roses were throwing an aftershow party there. She told us that if we were quick, we would catch the end of the That Petrol Emotion set as they were playing that night too and were going on stage slightly later than the Roses.

The Roses were immense that night. It was a real hometown triumph. They were very tight and all looked as if they were enjoying themselves. Pete Garner normally had a habit of standing posing and sucking his cheeks in, but even he was smiling right through the set. They had built up the set they had played at the Flower Show a few months before and played new songs. Some of their older songs sounded stronger.

Their fan base was growing too. There must have been at least 400 people at that gig – no mean achievement with the remains of the Undertones playing across town. Everyone at that gig felt the same earth-stopping epiphanic jolt of knowing that this band was going to be massive.

Ian Brown radiated self-belief and some of that rubbed of on us in the audience. When the show was over, we met up at the back of the hall and rushed out to the van. Paz, Paddy and a few of Pauline’s friends piled into the van with us.

Ellie and Gavin got left behind, but followed on in a taxi.

Duncan did not wait for everyone to be sitting comfortably before setting off. He drove away while Alan and Paz were still trying to shut the doors and the rest of us had to grab hold of them to stop them from falling out of the back of the van. He drove us from the University Union Building to the International pretty much as the crow flies, straight through the pedestrianised area around the Royal Infirmary.

Those of us in the back of the van were all in a higgledy piggledy heap, but I clearly heard the sirens on the police cars that were chasing us. We skidded into the private parking area behind the International at the same time as Pauline, Jones and the Roses. They had had a head start on us, because they had set off immediately after coming off stage.

We swiftly got out of the van and headed into the club through the back exit leaving Jones to work his special brand of diplomacy with the cops. Jones had the appearance and demeanor of a 1970’s second hand car salesman. He usually wore a sheepskin jacket with a pastel coloured Pringle jumper underneath and wore large gold rings. He smoked cigars and drank gin and tonics. For someone who was a hairdresser, he had a terrible haircut. He had slightly reddish, thinning hair. He looked more like someone who would try to flog you a cheap TV than an owner of a cool club.

That Petrol Emotion and their fans were not impressed when we emerged right in front of the stage half way through their set. At first they tried to take it in their stride and carried on playing, shrugging off the disturbance. We, however, were not at all impressed with their set. High on the excitement of the previous gig and rather a lot of lager and other stuff, in some people’s cases, we were not about to spoil our night by watching a bunch of old has-beens going through the motions.

We’d clearly missed Big Decision and although we all loved the Undertones, their later songs were dire compared to stuff like Teenage Kicks and My Perfect Cousin.

A couple of songs in, someone, more than likely one of the Roses themselves, started singing Tell Me and soon we were all singing along – Roses and fans together. In a matter of seconds, we managed to drown That Petrol Emotion out. They were completely horrified. Because they were all swearing at us at the same time and it was very noisy at that particular moment, it was not possible to make out specifically, what any individual member of the band was saying, but whatever it was it wasn’t good.

You had to feel a bit sorry for Jones that night. No sooner had he finished persuading the police to leave, than he was out of the frying pan and into the fire, trying to pacify some of the most respected post-punk musicians in Britain who had just been massively insulted by his enfant terribles – both the band and the scenesters.

Several people who had come to see That Petrol Emotion left in disgust. Some people actually stayed for the party.

Dave Haslam got on the decks and immediately put on So Young. We had a fantastic party that went on for several more hours. Jones was in no hurry to close the bar. That night was the anniversary of the Parisian student riots of 1968. None of us realised it at the time, but there was a tangible stench of revolution in the air.

Jones, who, if he had wanted to, could easily have carved out a career for himself in public relations, span the events of that evening by declaring to the music press that what had happened that night showed the rest of the UK that Manchester meant business. You could no longer turn up to play with your band in Manchester and play any old crap on the strength of your previous reputation. If you wanted to play in Manchester, you had to really play and play well. The Roses had thrown down the gauntlet.


All words by Vivienne Wilson. More by Vivienne can be read here.


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  1. i’m sure this review is cut and paste job from a Just 17 cartoon strip

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