Tuesday 12th June 2012. Myself and fellow Maxonian, Comrade Foster have substituted our annual Amsterdam weekender for a rare midweek appearance in the city of sin.
After 24 hours spent in the capable hands of our regular envoy, Remco Vineyard-Pancake (rough translation), we’re on a train from Centraal Station to The Heineken Music Hall.
The Stone Roses are in town.
And, so are a good splattering of Mancs, a handful of Scousers and various other Roses aficionados.
And a couple of Geordies. One, a very fuckin’ loud Geordie with (it transpires) an obsession of late 80s/ early 90s music emanating from the North West of England.
That’s how I met Steve Aston, co-promoter of this inaugural Shiiine shindig, and how I’ve ended up writing this piece.
When I was dancing at the Haçienda Steve was moving up into long trousers and feeling the pain of the Tory milk snatchers. Born in the wrong decade, too young to join in, he’s done the next best thing and brought the era back to him.
I’ve always been an obsessive. Whether it was Manchester United, Subbuteo, breakdancing or BMXing that was my thing and little else got a look in.
The addiction that was to envelop me in my late teens revolved around Manchester, it’s bars and clubs and more specifically, its music.
Luckily, licencing laws in the 80s dictated that as long as you had 3 strands of bumfluff protruding from your top lip, you’d gain entry to clubs and be fed ale. Lots of ale. This meant that by 1987 we’d already been heading to Manchester from Macclesfield for a few years to watch little-known indie bands at gaffs like The Boardwalk (RIP) & The International (RIP2). It was good fun watching The Brilliant Corners, The Chesterfields, Cardiacs and others of their ilk but it couldn’t even be classed as a taster of what was to come.
The catalyst for my new obsession was hearing ‘Sally Cinnamon’ on a compilation tape that a mate did for me and a quick gander at Piccadilly Records saw they were soon playing the International in Longsight.
That night changed a lot of things. Short term, the width of my jeans. Longer term, an obsession that would rarely dim.
Arriving at the International that night, you could tell something was different. I’d seen many bands play there but this wasn’t the usual Morrissey-inspired indie crowd – this was a football crowd on a party vibe. Me and my mates bloody loved it.
Here was a band I’d only just heard of, filling a club with thousands of kids who already seemed to know every song. How had we missed out on this? Outside of a 30 mile radius of Manchester venues were struggling to make their money back on Roses gigs.
The next hour or so was spent bouncing to the greatest album of all time. Hearing songs for the first time that I would listen to at least once a week for the next 25 years. Songs where not only the lyrics, but the guitar, bass and drums would be sung along to. Lyrics that would later be engraved on my wedding ring. Songs about girls that my cat would later be named after.
And so followed an extraordinary, hedonistic 2 years in which we saw the city explode into being the most exciting place on the planet. If we weren’t drinking at Archies, we were at Dry. If we weren’t watching bands at The Boardwalk we were at The International. If we weren’t dancing to Acid House at The Haçienda, we were jumping to The Mondays at Devilles. If we weren’t at Old Trafford, we were, well we stayed at home.
Throughout this time, we were in town watching as many of the other local bands as possible. Behind the Premier League bands of The Roses, The Mondays, 808 and The Inspirals were a whole host of other local bands who represented the spirit of the moment and resonated with the time and vibe. With Northside and The Milltown Brothers, there’s a few of them on show this weekend but bands such as Paris Angels (Perfume – one of the best songs ever), New FADS and King of the Slums deserved much more than their Jr Madchester billings.
Dave Haslam’s Temperance night at The Haçienda was the must-go night every week with Devilles the favourite at weekends. The monthly Monday club at The Haçienda had us taking a trip with Northside (& the mighty Paris Angels) and standing next to Ian Brown’s dad when The Roses played. It was during one of these nights when our mate passed out in the bogs and had to be collected by Haç manager Paul Mason, when she woke up at 4am and set the alarms off.
The timeline of the whole Madchester/ Baggy scene (both shit, lazy labels) can pretty much be measured by the ground breaking gigs that The Roses were playing:
Blackpool Empress Ballroom Aug ‘88 – I missed this due to pre-booked holiday to Tenerife with 10 mates. This gig encapsulated a scene that was swiftly growing in momentum, still full of excitement yet very localised. Not cancelling the holiday for this is still one of my greatest regrets (Blackpool > Tenerife)
Alexandra Palace – Nov ‘89 – a few Intercitys of Mancs arrived in North London having watched the first showing of the ‘Fools Gold’ video on The Chart Show that morning. Later that week would see The Roses kicking off on The Late Show and sharing a stage with The Mondays on Top of The Pops. Madchester was hitting the mainstream.
Spike Island – May ‘90, especially in retrospect, was a final party at the tail end of the movement. But what a bloody party it was. Delivered with a heavy sidewind and a side plate of black snot. This particular summer of love ended with my picture in the Spike Island edition of The Face. “Don’t ask me anything, I’m bombed out” was the quote. Which could just as easily been delivered by anyone there that day.
Despite some great bands still to come (World of Twist and Intastella to name just two), the Madchester days were numbered. The Roses were to disappear for 5 years, The Mondays were to self-destruct and Gunchester was taking hold.
I moved on too. I swapped Macc for Leicester, then London. As The Roses sank, United rose and other addictions came and went (denim jeans, Adidas holdalls, dwergen porn & rare Italian cheeses).
But in the summer of 2012, that early obsession which had been bubbling under, led me to Amsterdam, Manchester and Belgium to watch a band that has been with me since that first listen to ‘Sally Cinnamon’.
And so onto this weekend.
North Country Boys have pulled together a great line-up of bands from that era and beyond. In fucking Butlins – what’s not to like? I’m expecting to bang into a few faces from back in the day and our crew will certainly be reliving that youth (not that we ever really stopped.)
And this weekend will include a gobby Geordie 10 years my junior who I only wish had experienced what we did in the late 80s/ early 90s.
Just don’t fall asleep in the bogs kid.
Devilles First XI