A bit of news from my side of the pond now. This weekend a brand new club opened in Manchester, England; but this isn’t just any old nightclub and some may be surprised it ever opened at all!
The story goes back to 1978 when a Manchester journalist & TV presenter Tony Wilson set up a record label called Factory Records, shortly afterwards this record label gave us Joy Division and later Happy Mondays but a series of bad business decisions, a reluctance to draw up proper contracts for the bands and a general ideology of doing things for the ‘right’ reasons eventually took it’s toll. Tony Wilson never denied this and famously said “We made history, not money” and that they did. The story of Factory records is a historic one in British music, one of trial and tribulation, not one I can do justice on a short blog, well worth checking out!
So in 1982, out of this label came a nightclub which changed the face of music in Manchester, and of the UK in fact, the club was called The Hacienda, like everything Factory released, or in fact owned, the club was given it’s own catalogue number, FAC51 (other FAC numbers were given not just to releases but to objects, a roll of selotape (FAC 136), a bucket on a restored watermill (FAC 148) even the club’s cat (FAC 191)!) The club was financed by the struggling label Factory Records, it’s owner Tony Wilson and the band New Order, which were formed by the remaining members of Joy Division following singer Ian Curtis’ suicide…not a lot of real outside investment then. As usual with Factory projects, they wanted it to look revolutionary but also be accessible to everyone, their bar prices were cheaper than surrounding pubs and as long as you paid membership of £5 you got cheap drinks and half price entry to see all the best bands around at the time (who weren’t particularly cheap to book!)
The club was at the centre of the newly created Madchester scene and as soon as the clientele cottoned on to the rave and acid house scene of the 80s it’s fate was sealed, growing drug use amongst the clubs patrons meant even less money was being spent at the bar and the club rarely broke even. Heavy debts and increasing violence in and around the club led to it closing it’s doors forever in 1997.
Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook, bass player of New Order and Joy Division had lost a lot of money both through his involvement with Factory and the Hacienda and last year wrote a book, The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club. So you’d think this experience would put him off wouldn’t you? Not so…. A bit older and hopefully a lot wiser , Hooky has got together with original designer Ben Kelly to open a brand new club in the building which once housed Factory Records, FAC251 in Manchester complete with the original (expensive) flooring and with a large photo of the late Tony Wilson who died in 2007. That club opened this weekend with Peter Hook playing songs from his career including Joy Divison’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Transmission and New Order’s Blue Monday in a band made up of Mani (Stone Roses, Primal Scream), Howard Marks and Rowtta of Happy Mondays.
As Manchester’s music scene moves away from the guitar-led Britpop days of the 1990s and looks back to the 80s with bands such as Delphic and Hurts, the time is probably right for a new music venue in the city. Providing the right decisions are made this time the club’s heritage could make it one of the most exciting venues in the UK and if it helps give us another band who’ll become as influential as this lot then it can’t be a bad thing: