As we approach a year since the release of the excellent Donnelly Brothers biography ‘Still Breathing‘ Louder Than War hooked up with Chris, Anthony and Tracey Donnelly to find out what their personal all time favourite records are, and why.
If Gio Goi represented what the Donnelly’s were about around the late 80s and the dawn of acid house – a cool, loose fitting, club-based style exuding a slight whiff of danger, then the cut of ‘Your Own Clothing’ perhaps mirrors where they are today – confident, quality styling with real heritage and an eye for fresh detail.
But the one thing which has stayed constant throughout their careers has been their big love of music and its inspiration on just about everything they’ve done or achieved over the last 30yrs.
It’s like that comment the great Tony Wilson once made on why so many great bands come out of Manchester. That it was “down to them simply having the best record collections” is a line which very much what applies to a group of kids who were born in and around the city in the early to mid 60s and whose own broad record collections and eclectic taste went on to inspire not only Manchester’s music scene but a generation also. People like John Squire, Shaun Ryder and Johnny Marr, album artists and Factory muses Matt and Pat Carroll as well as acid house pioneers a guy called Gerald and 808 States Andy Barker
It’s also the same group of people and the same era that the Donnelly brothers come from. From a young age, Christopher and Anthony Donnelly were on it and were immersed in the cities exciting music culture …
With extracts taken from their critically acclaimed biography Still Breathing, here the Donnelly’s describe in their own words the impact music and music culture made on all their lives…
“At a Rock Against Racism show at Alexandra Park I saw two kids I knew from Ardwick, they were wearing straight leg jeans and plastic sandals, that’s when I wanted my plastic sandals.
“Next time I saw them was at a Buzzcocks gig at Belle Vue, I was 12 yrs old with all the gear on. I’d made a badge board from a piece of wood and some foam so I could sell badges to the punks, which one of the older lads gave me to sell. Even as kids we were making our own little moves in and around Manchester’s music scene.
“Later on we started working the concerts. If there was a concert on I’d drive the van and there’d be thirty of us Mancs all night outside the stadium in whatever country selling tickets and t-shirts. I used to drive everywhere, all over Europe. I loved it.”
…though it was through their sister, Tracey, through which the brothers were initially introduced to a whole line of groups, artists and movements, from the cities punk scene and early Manchester scene to the Hacienda. Tracey’s own mad passion for music would ultimately go on to inspire both Chris and Anthony to get involved in the cities music scene – and saw them on their way.
“We loved it that our mum was working at the ‘Golden Garter’ nightclub. All the big names of the day would play there, because she worked the evenings setting the tables up we were able to go in and watch them sound check.
“My dad also used to buy albums off the shop lifters each week for us. We’d get about 20 at a time which he’d divide up. There would be some rubbish ones, but you’d also get some real gems. There would be everything from the Top of the Pops album to Brook Benton and Iggy Pop, it was stuff we wouldn’t of necessarily have bought at that age. But a great introduction to all different types of music.
“Bands and magazines, that was my thing, I was massively into Wythenshawe band Slaughter and the Dogs. I also went to the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall (in 1976), not the famed first gig but the second one. I used to drag Anthony to gigs at Cavendish Hall, if there were any big acts on they’d stay at The Posthouse Hotel. I’d be 12 or 13 and Roxy Music were staying there, we hung about all night just to get in. We sat with the band and they put us on the guest list for the gig.
“Later on my best friend Cath Berry’s brother, Andrew, had got into Tony Wilson and was setting up a hairdressers in the basement of the Hacienda called ‘Swing’. I’d been going to the Hacienda since it first opened in 82, so Andrew offered me a job doing the reception for Swing, it was the start of a crazy period.”
Then the acid house movement arrived and gave the brothers the ideal opportunity to get involved and ‘do it’ themselves. The result was the beginning of ‘Madchester’ as they staged the cities very first acid house party. A scene which would spur them on to form the Gio Goi clothing empire.
“We loved the acid house scene from the off so we decided to do Manchester’s first illegal ‘warehouse’ party. It was all about seizing the day. The Hacienda closed at 2am but we wanted to party all night.
“We called it ‘Sweat It Out’ and had Mike Pickering and Jon DaSilva playing with 5 or 6 strobe lights which never stopped once, right through until ten in the morning. It was a great night which went off with a boom, though the police turned up in the morning they didn’t have a clue what was going on. They couldn’t get their head round us putting on a big party where there wasn’t any beer, they were confused. They didn’t know what to do.
“Tony Wilson really liked what we were doing. He was into the punk thing and this was the only other thing that moved him. Anything we did, a rave or warehouse party, Tony would be there.
“I’d already had the idea of clothing, when the acid house thing happened I knew I wanted to do something that didn’t involve a nine to five. Ideally I’d of gone into music, but the clothing thing seemed more achievable and I’d always loved clothes. I met a geezer called Billy who was using manufactures in different countries. Me Matt and Pat (central station design) went to him and said “this is what we want to do, we want to put art on peoples backs”. He seemed quite up for it but it never got off the ground. That’s when we got the idea of setting up and doing it our selves.”
And now today through ‘Your Own Clothing’ they continue to work on that link and inspiration between music and fashion. Y-O’s appeal to music fans right across the board has seen the label represented from The Wu-Tang Clan to Ed Shereen.
Though that’s as well as the pair have been busy, from producing music videos for the likes of Deadmau5, to working on films like ‘Hooligan Factory’ and ‘Ill Manors’. They also continue to stage live music events, featuring the Your Own club nights held at venues such as Cream / Ibiza – their passion for music and its influence on what they do feels as strong as ever.
So check out the timeline below for the songs which marked them for life. Whether that be through inspiration, childhood memories or just great times. A collection of songs which go from Marvin Gaye to The Sex Pistols, doo wop to reggae and Studio 54 to the Hacienda – Louder Than War present the Donnelly’s all time favourite tunes.
Released in 1962 … Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – Sherry
“This reminds me of a Sunday afternoon growing up in Benchill, me mam cooking Sunday dinner with Sherry on full blast singing like a strangled cat and all the windows steamed up from the pressure cooker. Great memory’s … great track.”
1968 … Marvin Gaye – Tear It On Down
“It’s so hard to choose a Motown track as I love them all, but I’ve chosen this one as it’s taken from the first album that I ever owned, ‘In The Groove’ by Marvin Gaye. I was around 10 years old and I nicked it off my aunty. I don’t know why, but back then, borrowing someone’s records or someone taking your records and not returning them, was pretty much the norm … or maybe that was just us! I use to write my name on every single & album so I could reclaim them if I saw them at a mate’s house.”
1968 … Toots & The Maytals – 54 46
“This seems to be our family anthem, guaranteed to get the whole family young, old on the dance floor, quite a strange thing to behold! My mum and dad use to play a lot of Trojan stuff when we were kids and this was always one of my favourites. I never ever get tired of hearing it.”
1971 … David Bowie – Oh You Pretty Things
“As soon as I hear the intro for this track I go all goose bumpy. I first started listening to Bowie as I was into a band called Slaughter & The Dogs.I started following them when I was about 12 and at that time they were doing, Bowie, New York Dolls etc. So they were my introduction to him and masses of other music. Hunky Dory was the first Bowie album I ever bought, maybe that’s why it’s still my favourite. There are very few albums where I love every track but Hunky Dory is one of them. Bowie was big in Wythenshawe where I grew up, all the football lads were especially into him. Hard to understand today, but he bridged a gap, it was ok for all these lads to be into a bloke who wore make-up and mad clothes. This track was played at all Wythy house parties, everyone doing a bit of Bowie mime dancing. It brings back a lot of happy memories as well as a few sad ones. I was the girl with the spiky hair and sovereign rings on. Bowie caused me an identity crisis … funny”!
1973 … Genesis – I Know What I Like
“At 15 years old I was a football hooligan and knocked about in a gang, one night we went to a party which was hosted by the daughter of a local detective who my mate was seeing at the time. This of course was unbeknown to detective Carter as he was for ever chasing us around the estate. So when he saw us in the party we were immediately thrown out, though not before we made off with the DJ’s records.
“Several days later me and my mates got involved in a fight with another local gang. The police turned up and dispersed us all but chased my mate who was dating Carters daughter, unfortunately he was hit an killed by a black cab. For me this made the records stolen from the party really poignant, and I listened in particular to this track for about a month which would have me in floods of tears over my mate Anthony Cox, aka Coxy R.I.P.”
1973 … Pink Floyd – Great Gig in the Sky
“Takes me back to my late teens with all my fresh faced friends sat in someone’s bedroom, usually after being in court and getting very very stoned. Amazing track.”
1974 … Terry Jacks – Seasons in the Sun
“This takes me back to when I was growing up in sunny Wythenshawe. Hot summers, the paddling pool in the park, ice cream and my dad in prison, it all reminds me of how I was feeling back then, these days it reminds me of friends that didn’t make it. Very much like that film ‘Stand By Me’ it’s full of mixed emotions of both happiness and extreme sadness.”
1977 … The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
“Pretty Vacant for all three of us was a big moment, it was bought by one of us but I can’t quite remember who. But I do remember the day it arrived in the house and being played on the old 45 stereo we had in the front room. It was always controlled by us kids when we got home from school as my dad was always somewhere else and my mum would be working at the Golden Garter nightclub in Wythenshawe civic centre and didn’t arrive home till 6, so the house was ours every school day for 2 hours. You can imagine want went on in that short space of time.
“I can still see us now back in the front room of our council house spitting and pogoing to this track, me at 12yrs old, Chris at 8-9yrs old and Tracey at 12-13yrs old and thinking we were apart of something and we were going to be something…and fuck everyone else. Its frightening to be thinking that at such an early age but felt like we were different, its always about the music with us all.”
1977 … The Commodores – Brick House
“They used to play this in Stuffed Olives around 1988 when it was full on acid house. Stuffed Olives was a little gaff in town on a Sunday night where only the people in the know would be, pure ecstasy.”
1977 … Donna Summer – I Feel Love
“I first heard this tune as a kid growing up, but back then I obviously didn’t realise the tracks significance with Studio 54 and that whole drug / club culture it came from. It was actually via the football on a Saturday and the booze-athons that followed into Sunday that I got a chance to check that scene out with an invite to go to a gay club called ‘Stuffed Olives’. I went along with Eric Barker (808 State) who gave me my first introduction to ecstasy and within fifteen minutes of arriving I was high as a rocket, dancing like a madman to this track. Surrounded by the fog from the smoke machine and the smell of poppers all inside a thunderstorm of strobe-lighting made me feel like I was in heaven all on my own. I’ll never forget the intensity of the smells, the noises and the rush I experienced that night, life changing.”
1980 … Rolling stones – Emotional Rescue
“There’s nothing I enjoyed more than getting in after a night out in Ibiza, put my headphones on and stand on the balcony with a beer and watch the people getting on with life, going to work etc. And it’s a top video too.”
1986 … Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It
“A Hacienda classic which was always played it seems as the night was about to begin and end, I used it as a gauge to see how in tune I was with the music. Meaning how high on ecstasy I was feeling at that time and did I need more? As the tune personally asks you … ‘Can You Feel It’. I would acknowledge this question by either agreeing I could feel it, or alternatively I’d take more E so I could feel it.”
1989 … Ten City – That’s the Way Love Is
“I wanted to choose a track from the Hacienda days, yet again too many to choose from. This just takes me right back, Mike Pickering on the decks and such a happy vibe. I think there’s a clip of me dancing to this on the infamous Hitman & Her at The Hacienda. It is, as they say, ‘With the right music you either forget everything or remember everything’.”
Also check out this video of the book launch of Still Breathing:
The full story of the Donnelly’s is all detailed in the brothers biography, Still Breathing. It’s
a thrilling and unique tale which takes you from Manchester’s underworld to the cities clubs, artists and events as the brothers talk you through both the Gio Goi and Your Own movements, and how they took it all the way.
It’s the very stuff that made 80s and 90s Manchester the music and culture capital of the UK. Fun, creative, dangerous and very exciting, it’s an amazing story.
To purchase a copy of Still Breathing go to Amazon.
For news and info on Your Own Clothing go to their website: yourownclothing.com.
All words by Carl Stanley. More writing by Carl on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.