Top Ten Dancefloor-fillers at Manhattans (Southamptons ‘Alternative Disco’ 1981-84). Dedicated to Cliff Ebrey. RIP.

Compiling this collection of songs was prompted by the death of my friend Cliif Ebrey, bass-player, loverman, dancer, wit and raconteur. RIP. (Scroll to the bottom for a longer obituary).

These songs are a rough guide as to what some of us were dancing to After Punk and Before Indie; The Smiths, Mary Chain, Wedding Present etc. A curious mix of electronic, gothic, jazz-pop and other post-punk flavas.

I imagine that every city, back in the early 1980s had a place like Manhattans.

A late-night watering-hole where at least once a week the post-punk tribes could gather, drink and dance, without fear of a kicking from Trendies, townies or straights.

Southampton had Manhattans (which had closed by the time I moved here from the sticks in ’85).   By all accounts it was a dodgy back-street nightclub, with a nicotine yellow colour scheme and plush leatherette seating (judging by the old photos). It’s easy to find a club nowadays without dress restrictions and where you can hear non-mainstream music, but it wasn’t back then….

Manhattans had various DJs including Hammy (who still DJs to this day, including his Supersonic nights at the Shooting Star), the late, legendary Jon Weafer  (blond, tattoo-ed arm in photo) and Lucien De-Lalio.

Lucien says:

“I was a DJ in Manhattans for a year, these were some of the tunes I would play; Heaven 17, (Fascist Groove thing), Bauhaus, (Bela Lugosi’s Dead), Blue Zoo, ( I’m Your Man), Killing Joke, (Follow The Leader), Bow Wow Wow, (I Want Candy), Hayzee Fantayzee (John Wayne Is Big Leggy), Public Image, (Public Image), The Clash , (Radio Clash), The Slits (Heard It Through The Grapevine), The Stargazers (Red Light, Green Light) … Also a lot of dub reggae, rock ‘n’ roll etc. It was a great club and it was the first of its type which I loved for the mixture of many cults under one roof “

Stuart McGregor remembers other songs being popular:

“Hip Shake baby; Slim Harpo – Circus Games; The Skids – Right Now; The Creatures – Flowers of Romance; PIL – The American;  Simple Minds, and … Bad boys by Wham … which is quite ironic, as the two most enthusiastic participants in throwing some shapes to said disc, both would end up in B.A.D II …”

(…and one is now in the Rotten Hill Gang! Various other Manhattan-ites went on to join The Men They Couldn’t Hang and Sigue Sigue Sputnik.)

Carl Davis:

“I can remember another, “Come on, it’s 2:00am, get the hell out of here!” track though … Bonnie Tyler, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ – I’ve never seen such a mad panic for the stairs – I thought the place was on fire!”

Lucien De-Laloi:

“The final song that HAD to be played via the request of the owners, was “Manhattan Skyline” John Miles , I didn’t like it all. The big guy on the door was Martin, The pool hustling manager was John who would say in his Scottish accent, “Do you wanna game of pool?”, to the innocent player who would later have his pockets robbed of cash”.

The Clash, the Banshees and Bauhaus were hugely popular in Southampton; The Skids and 999 too. Bowie was a staple in the playlist with Queen Bitch being a particular favourite according to my old schoolmate Chive. The chart hits of the day from the indie sector did tend to be popular floor fillers, so I’ve tried not to include the more obvious ones which were no doubt popular nationwide in the top ten; Blue Monday, A Forest, Public Image and so on. I’ve tried to list the ones which were loved and which were perhaps unique to Manhattans (but possibly not … let us know in the comments!)

PIGBAG – Papas Got A Brand New Pigbag

A chart hit, representing the Bristol scene that brought us the Pop Group, Rip Rig and Panic and Neneh Cherry. Utterly danceable to this day.

 

BAUHAUS – Bela Lugosi’s Dead.

Absolute classic. An epic. A Dub-gothic masterpiece.

 

THE CLASH – This is Radio Clash

Magnificent 7 and Rock the Casbah equally popular.

 

JOY DIVISION – Transmission

…could have been any of Joy Divisions tracks as DJ Hammy was a huge fan,

 

THEATRE OF HATE – Do You Believe in the Westworld

A classic, the band that should’ve followed The Clash into the history books.

 

D A F – Der Mussolini

Inexplicably popular to my mind but helped by Peel plays and coverage in the Face etc

 

KILLING JOKE  – Follow The Leaders

Wardance and Psyche were played regularly, Land of Milk and Honey got an honourable mention, but for some reason Follow The Leaders stands out in many peoples mind as being THE ‘Joke track that reminds them of Manhattans.

 

BLUE RONDO A LA TURK – Mr Sanchez 

Zoot-suit wearing jazz-niks favoured by the NME Cocktail set I seem to remember.

 

THE CREATURES – Right Now

The Banshees were always massively popular with Southampton punks and post-punks and Hong Kong Garden was possibly one of the most-played ‘oldies’ at Manhattans, but this is a classy choice

 

CABARET VOLTAIRE – Nag Nag Nag

Futuristic madness, electronic punk? Separated the arty from the streetpunks initially but liked by many with a nagsome partner.

 

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Sound of the Crowd

Before they became naff with Don’t You Want Me, the League were cool in a Dr Who Vision of the Future kinda way. This track kinda bridges the two.

 

Shit that’s eleven… well here’s another Nine  to make it a Top Twenty (find the Youtubes yerself…)

THE ASSOCIATES – Party Fears Two.

SIMPLE MINDS – I Travel

 THE CURE – A Forest.

BOW WOW WOW – I Want Candy.

DAVID BOWIE – Queen Bitch.

TRIO – Da Da Da.

THE HIGSONS – I Don’t wanna Live With Monkeys

THE POLECATS – John, I’m Only Dancing.

NEW ORDER – Blue Monday.

Cliff Ebrey (1964 -2013) was bassist with The Bloodsisters, singer with the Party Faithful, keyboard-player with The Profile  and so on. Before that he was King of the Dancefloor at Southamptons only Alternative Nightclub in the early 80s, Manhattans. Later, he was best man at my wedding. Cliff was a character, a lad, a drinker and a funny man to be around. Sadly, Cliff, like a lot of us, needed alcohol to give him confidence enough to be the larger than life character he was. Cliff died of liver-related problems last week. He didn’t reach 50. This Top Ten is dedicated to him.

RIP  Cliff,  and sorry for not being a better friend over the last 17 years or so.

Thanks to Liz O’Donovan for Manhattans photo and to everyone who contributed to this piece.

All words by Ged Babey. More writing by Ged on Louder Than War can be found here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Brilliant. every one takes me back to my “Yoof” That’s the way by DOA, What difference does it make?, Empire State Human, Nero & Never Understand along with your choices at were played at Rotters in Stockport. Ahhh, happy days…

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