The Haçienda – 30 Years On

One of the world’s most celebrated clubs, The Haçienda in Manchester, opened 30 years ago today, on Friday May 21st 1982. In June 2007, a little after the 25th anniversary, the inimitable Manchester-based writer / musician, John Robb, author of books including ‘The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996’ (2009), ‘The Stone Roses And The Resurrection Of British Pop’ (1996) and ‘Punk Rock: An Oral History’ (2006), did a short interview with me about the club’s legacy:


The fact that this was never a club in the conventional sense, somewhere underpinned by sound business logic, but more about the passion of the individuals behind it, people like Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and Mike Pickering, who had a vision that they could cultivate a club in Manchester that compared with their favourite New York venues, most notably Danceteria and the Paradise Garage. Had it not been for New Order bankrolling it, the club would have gone belly up in its first 12 months and we certainly wouldn’t be talking about it now, but The Haçienda was an idea that won through, in many ways against the odds, eventually bringing Manchester world status at the vanguard of dance culture.


In the summer of ’83, I was approached by Mike Pickering (not a DJ at this point, but the club’s promotions manager) to host a specialist dance night there on a Friday. My weekly Wednesdays, across town at Legend, catering mainly to a black audience, were widely regarded as the most cutting-edge dance music nights in the UK during the early ’80s Electro-Funk era. Mike, Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson, who’d all been along on the Wednesdays at various points, were blown away with what was happening at Legend, where most of the music I was playing was fresh out of New York on import. I was obviously someone they felt could attract a more dance based audience across to The Haçienda, the club at that time being attended mainly by students into Indie music. I suppose I was the obvious choice for the Friday, given my status on the underground dance scene, but The Haçienda wasn’t Legend and it was a struggle, for a variety of reasons, to get the black crowd in there on a regular basis. With hindsight, the club just wasn’t right at that point, and it wouldn’t be until ’84, after I’d retired from deejaying, that they moved the DJ box onto the balcony, which would certainly provide a statement of intent – the DJ previously being hidden away in a room down some stairs by the side of the stage. However, we had some brilliant one-off nights and the seeds were undoubtedly planted for what happened later down the line when Mike Pickering, continuing the Friday dance experiment, via his now legendary Nude night, built a great scene, led by the black crowd in Manchester, that would place the club in prime position when the Acid House movement exploded and the white audience wholeheartedly embraced dance music en masse.


I’d moved to London in the mid-’80s, but kept strong ties via the Ruthless Rap Assassins, who I managed and produced – they got their deal with EMI following a gig at The Haçienda’s Zumbar night (which directly preceded Hot on the Wednesday). My abiding memory of the Haçienda in those ‘rave on’ days was the overwhelming response to the track “Rich In Paradise” by the FPI Project (an instrumental version of the classic “Going Back To My Roots”), which I witnessed during a visit from London. I stood chatting to Kermit (then of the Rap Assassins) in one of the alcoves when, while continuing the conversation, he raised his hand in the air as the track’s piano breakdown filled the room. In my heightened state I then noticed that all the people standing near us were giving the same type of salute. As I looked around it became apparent that everyone in the club was sharing this outpouring of togetherness, hands held high in the air! It was the most unifying moment I’ve ever experienced in a club and, although I witnessed similar sights subsequently, everything that followed seemed to be just chasing shadows, trying to re-capture something that was no longer there, at least not in its purest form.


One of Manchester’s major attributes in the early ’80s was that it was a very cosmopolitan city, certainly in relation to other parts of the UK. There was a crossover between the black community and the student population, especially in Hulme, so there was an open-mindedness with regards to music, which, by the end of the ’80s, had given Manchester its unique flavour, illustrated by the fact that Indie bands like the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses were inspired by dance music, pushing at the boundaries in the process and pioneering a new mutant genre, Indie-Dance (with Dave Haslam’s Temperance nights at the club every Thursday crucial to its evolution).

The Haçienda provided the focal point for this cultural pow wow, initially taking its lead from the underground black scene in the city, before House became the music of choice with the white audience (many of whom had previously been Indie kids with little affinity to dance culture) and the whole thing exploded on a mainstream level.

People will always look back on that late ’80s period, especially what happened in Manchester, with special affection. Its place in the history popular culture is assured, with The Haçienda pivotal to this. However, to view The Haçienda on its own obscures the foundations it was built on – a proud tradition of black music clubs in the city going back to the Twisted Wheel in the ’60s, and on through the ’70s and ’80s with venues like Rafters, Rufus, Legend, Berlin, The Gallery and The Playpen. These are the rocks on which The Haçienda was built.


No. It was a poor reflection of its former self by that point. After 1990 the vibe had turned sour. Madchester became Gunchester and, as I said at the time in Sarah Champion’s book, ‘And God Created Manchester’ (1990), you no longer had ‘just love and peace, but ultra-violence’. The gangs had moved in to control the drug trade, so what was once positive soon turned negative. I suppose that after such an extreme high, there had to be a massive comedown. I could see the writing on the wall at the time – even at the peak of it all I knew this couldn’t sustain itself and the arse-end was an inevitability. There was change in the air, and it certainly wasn’t for the better. After 1990 it was the same building, but a very different club.

The previous year I was asked to list ‘Five Early Haçienda Classics’, although, for the life of me, I can’t remember who this was for. Anyhow, this was my selection:


A seminal Larry Levan recording, which inspired a new dub-based approach to dance music. Huge on the specialist black music scene and featured by original Haçienda resident, Hewan Clarke, when the club opened in May ’82. Levan was, of course, the DJ at New York’s Paradise Garage, one of the clubs that inspired The Haçienda.


A track that I first started playing as an Italian import on my nights at Legend in Manchester and Wigan Pier. This was the groove around which New Order based their classic ‘Blue Monday’ – Hewan, being aware of what was going on across town at Legend, had picked up on the track and would loan his copy to the band after they’d heard him play it at The Haçienda one night, taking it into the studio with them whilst they worked on what would become a seminal recording.


Brilliant downtempo groove, which was already huge for me when I started deejaying at The Haçienda in August ’83. Would eventually be a UK hit, but not until the following April. Norman Cook, who we met in Brighton during the Haçienda Review in Dec ’83 and, again, when The Tube was broadcast live from the Haç in Feb ’84 (the programme on which Madonna made her debut), would later cover it with Beats International in 1990 as ‘Dub Be Good To Me’, taking it all the way to number 1!


Although an instant hit on the underground scene, ‘White Lines’ would be a slow grower with the general club populace, many DJs finding it initially hard to get their heads around this unique record. Entered the lower region of the charts in Nov ’83, but dropped out after just 3 weeks. However, the momentum continued to build over the coming months and it re-entered in Feb ’84, this time going all the way into the top 10, whilst spending a mammoth 38 consecutive weeks on the chart! A truly groundbreaking record, which is nowadays regarded as something of a dance standard.


Relentless Electro cut, which came in on import towards the end of ’83 and immediately went massive on the specialist scene. A big favourite with the Manchester breakdance crew, Broken Glass, who were pretty much the clubs resident dancers at the time. Would still be getting regular plays, as a classic oldie, at the end of the decade.

Finally, I thought it’d be the perfect day to upload my ‘Walking On Confusion’ mash-up onto SoundCloud, which combines 2 Arthur Baker productions from New Order and Rockers Revenge – it’s origin was outlined by Peter Hook in his 2009 book ‘The Haçienda – How Not To Run A Club’, where the New Order bassist recalled the time I asked him if I could remix ‘Blue Monday’ back in 1983, when I was the club’s Friday night resident DJ:

“I remember him coming up to me, asking if he could remix ‘Blue Monday’. I told him to fuck off, thinking it was the most disgusting thing anyone had ever suggested – why should we let someone tamper with our work? How times change. Nowadays the remixes are often better than the originals. I don’t remember much of Greg beyond that episode, although I know he mixed ‘Walking On Sunshine’ by Rockers Revenge into New Order’s ‘Confusion’, which was ingenious. The first mash-up.”

A more comprehensive piece about ‘Walking On Confusion’ (via Nuphonic / Tirk Records in 2005), called ‘Confused Beats For Electro Freaks’, can be read here:

I’ll be heading over to Manchester tonight for the 30th anniversary celebrations, joining other DJ’s from the club’s history (including Graeme Park, Jon Dasilva, Dave Haslam and Hewan Clarke) to play a few tunes at a ticket only event (proceeds to charity) in the car park where the club once stood. The Manchester Photographic Gallery is also hosting a related exhibition, ‘Haçienda 30 XXX’ – details here:

Other recent Haçienda related blog posts:

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8 Responses to The Haçienda – 30 Years On

  1. Irfan Rainy May 22, 2012 at 2:49 am #


    Hi Greg, apologies for not connecting enough but the minds of artists can be like dogs chasing their tails ! Salutations as always for the concise and thorough representation of Mancunian music culture – very honest and a succinct lowdown of the racial dynamic oft passed by writers who are far too brittle and cliched when touching on a ‘real’ representation of an incredibly fertile period in the UK’s dance music scene.

    As a Mancunian ( who was lived his whole life within a mile of the city centre ) dj / collector and Black Music connoisseur – I too developed through the above-mentioned scene and witnessed the Hacienda from 87 onwards, a la Nude, Hot, Flesh, Zumbar, Wide, the gang takeover and closure, the tentative 90s to it’s final demise in 1997. I look back with great happiness at this whole culture that has dominated my own life and existence to this day. Your period is earlier than mine although I did witness the major explosion in street music culture through the breakdance and electro-funk explosion as a teenager. I remember Hashim – ‘ Al-Naafysh’, Newcleus – ‘Computer Age’, Whodini – Five Minutes of Funk and Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – ‘Planet Rock’ as the five songs I would hear on ghetto blasters and at the ‘breaking battles’ of the day. At my own youth in club I used to take much joy in cranking these tracks on a saturday afternoon. We must give thanks to Morgan Khan and the Streetsounds series for helping cultivate the major drive in this music too.

    My thoughts on the Hacienda after thirty years are both positive and downbeat on this day. The link of inner city music to that delicate subject of ‘multiculturalism’ ( which is still a grenade tossed from Parliament by conniving politicians, a fascist leaning tabloid media, deferential voters who still know their place and a Labour party much aligned with rightwing dogma ) – is still NOT understood by the establishment, nor is the power of music in creating harmony with one another. Manchester in my dance floor experience was always a pretty tolerant place back then although you could witness racism and the odd ‘knuckle scraper’ at the Hacienda ( although lysergic acid and MDMA usually chilled them out ). The numbers of non-white people were still very small during the summer of love as most of the Black music heads had returned to Street Soul etc. Although it was dance music scene that really did make inroads in getting the tribes to unite and the Hacienda played it’s part by seeing the potential in the Electro-Funk scene during the early 80s. Even though that Electro-Funk scene did not cement a culture on a wider music following in Manchester – it certainly opened the doors for inner city Black kids from South Side Chicago to create a new music phenomena that would do so.

    It was strange how the Acid House madness took over suddenly at The Hacienda as the club went through a learn period prior to it. The champion record store of the day ‘Spin-Inn’ was always on the money with new black music and looking back at a store that basically was a mecca for ‘Street Soul’- I am still pleasantly surprised by their initial zeal for this abstract dance music. The alternative music store Eastern Bloc that also championed Acid House took to it quite naturally with it’s selection of alternative rock, thrash metal and grunge etc. I wasn’t that surprised looking back that a white audience, that could handle bleak rock guitar distortion as it’s daily music diet could then find affinity with a stripped down 808 drum beat and a squelchy Roland TB303 baseline machine ( being used by kids in Chicago, in a very different way to how Roland intended ) rather than the typically dulcet Afro-american tones of an artist like Fonda Rae.

    When people occasionally talk to me about the Hacienda or ‘Madchester’ I generally make the same points about that special period- considering that I still predominantly play Black House Music by many of the artists from the 80s in Chicago, Detroit and New York and the music of the next generation from the same Black American neighbourhoods still propagating the original sound, hence my unique perspective regards this music. I make the point that The Hacienda as a space for a party in Manchester is still unsurpassed in my opinion. Many huge parties have since developed in Manchester but none come close to the warehouse structure with it’s many alcoves, balconies, bars, dance floors and general architecture. When you entered the club you had about six different choices to hang out in from the downstairs Gay Traitor bar to the balcony overlooking the main dancefloor. Very few promoters seem to understand the basics about the true uniqueness of a space, location, the music policy, attracting a cool audience and cultivating a hip music scene – it’s always about the cash these days. The Hac attracted a mixed crowd of Mancs, hipsters, Soul Heads, dealers, pill poppers, fashionistas, students, scallies, artists, dancers and music lovers. It played cutting edge Black dance music that was very soulful in nature yet very electronic, again something that is missing from generic big clubs existing today.

    On the downside The Hac had it’s many faults too and my major gripe was the sound system and the 2am finish. Having started to regularly visit the newly opened Ministry Of Sound in Elephant & Castle in London in 1991, I suddenly gained incredible perspective on sound. The Ministry had then and what I still regard as the best sound system that has existed in England to this date. It was a fully analogue Phazon system, set up by Gary Stewart Audio in NYC and it was based on Richard Long’s legendary set up at the Paradise Garage. All I know Is that I’d never anything as sweet, balanced and warm in any nightclub in the UK. The Hac system had a limiter on it that would cut out when the dj cranked it too loud and the crowd would boo waiting for the track to kick back in again.

    My final thoughts are that we can always be nostalgic about a scene or music from back in the day but we have to evolve and bring some of the special dynamic from the glory days to a new generation if possible to do so. The Hac really helped cement my love of soulful Deep House Music and also helped develop a burgeoning dance music scene in Manchester, that developed further once the Hacienda closed down. You didn’t have too much choice in the 80s which in hindsight seems like a good thing compared to the zillion parties out there now. I always say to folks that you have go to a great party in NYC to really understand the magic of a party because the Hac was massively influenced by New York. We had our own bit of the Big Apple in the Rainy City at The Hacienda but with a down to earth northern English mentality and this is what the made the club a very special place.

    I have just listed thirty great tracks on my fb wall and it’s an interesting take on Hacienda classics from my own ten year perspective that I enjoyed at the club.

    Irfan Rainy.

  2. Irfan Rainy May 22, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Oops I guess there will b a few typos . I just noticed one … a lean period….

  3. Black Amex May 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Wow. What a brilliant read. Thanks Greg.

  4. Tim May 28, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Thanks for another great read. Did you happen to see this? http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/lost-rave-tribe-found-beneath-hacienda-2012052328294

  5. andrew May 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Thanks for this blog Greg – it was great!


  1. New Order + Rockers Revenge ‘Walking On Confusion’ (greg wilson mash-up) « ACID TED - July 4, 2012

    […] To mark the occasion I’m put some related stuff up on the blog later today, under the heading ‘The Haçienda – 30 Years On’: https://blog.gregwilson.co.uk/2012/05/the-hacienda-30-years-on/ […]

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