In 1986 Manchester United appointed a new manager.
In the near three decades since then the club was totally transferred from a place of ghosts and shadows into a winning machine- a bit like the surrounding city itself.
The same happened with the music scene as well. It was an unrecognisable place to what it is now…we take a trip back in time to the pre Fergie Manchester- before flares, before baggy, before E, before everything…
1. The city centre was a desolate and unloved place. There were places called pubs where people would hang out- the Britons Protection, the Peveril, the Royal Exchange bar and Corbierres dotted around town. There were also boarded up warehouses, the northern quarter was derelict and coffee was something you got in a polystyrene cup at a greasy Joe café.
2. The club scene was patchy with The Ritz, the Berlin, the Banshee, Rotters, Tommy Ducks, the Conti, The Venue, the Gallery, the PSV,the Boardwalk, Deville’s and the Playpen and the odd night at the Hacienda being the best clubs in town playing a smattering of psych, indie, funk and a touch of electro.
3. In 1986 the Stone Roses had been a flash in the pan local band who had burst onto the scene with their warehouse parties and swagger in 1985 and now had gone to ground again.
In 1986 they were a 4 piece after losing guitar player Andy Couzens and going from the Creation Records classic leather and paisley look to a more modish angular style. They already had classic songs but no audience for them yet…
4. The Happy Mondays had already signed to Factory and released their debut Delightful EP to a confused indie public, well when I say public we have to remember that indie music was an underground scene for people huddled around the radiogram listening to John Peel. The Happy Mondays certainly did not fit into this world or any world until everyone started taking lots of drugs two years later and the whole of the UK went as wonky as the band.
5. Indie music was noisy, angular and underground- the bands that were getting all the press were like Big Flame- excellent groups but head scratchingly obscure outside the avid John Peel listener with their knife and fork hair and angular sawn off wardrobes.
6. The Hacienda was a big white elephant plonked into the middle of town that put on great bands to a freezing cold audience sanding in its muffled echoey hall with water dripping from the roof, despite this people were still talking about Einsterzende Neubaten and Birthday Party gigs from a couple of years before. It would be another year until Mike Pickering started playing acid house in the club and started a youth quake on his own.
7. XTC was a genius pop band from the post punk years that had a smattering of hits and not a mind altering party drug. No one really knew of the chemical daze that was about to envelop the city and the music scene and change everything.
8. Going out was either to gigs or discos. Gigs were in the two International clubs run by a wild eyed man called Gareth Evans who would usher you into his back office and give you a new Stone Roses single. There were also gigs at the Boardwalk and the Solem bar at the university- it was not the 40 venue rollercoaster ride that it is nowadays.
9. New Order and the Smiths were the biggest bands in the town and were about as big as indie bands got. They even had proper hits- well hits where you went into the top 40 one week and dropped right out the next. Big gigs were a sold out Boardwalk to 300 people, downstairs in the Boardwalk the whole nascent Manchester scene was rehearing away from the Happy Mondays getting stoned to the Membranes foul racket to A Certain Ratio and Laugh inventing indie dance music.
10. Hulme was still Europe’s biggest squatted area – an urban sprawl of endless concrete and broken into flats- it was also the cultural powerhouse of the city- a no go zone of muggers and hipsters.