The People’s Republik Of Mancunia

The Acid House Years

Revisiting the Manchester scene of two decades ago it’s impossible not to be reminded of “bliss that was to be alive but to be young was very heaven” yet even Wordsworth would have found it difficult to capture the all conquering, all comers style and panache of Manchester’s unique cross cultural explosion in the late 80’s and early 90’s which sprang from The Hacienda, Oldham Street’s early bohemian chic, an avid record shop culture, a good few older heads cum social misfits and a whole variety of circumstances and events.

Combining a multitude of influences and nuances, Manchester took on the influences of the small US scenes and early doors Ibiza, then breaking bands and new dj talent, plenty of narcotics and the odd conspiracy theory, namely that the army ran all the E’s, the whole scene was down to the kids of the Sixties getting into positions of power, and that it represented a whole new anti corporate, anti capitalist reaction to Thatcher and the scourge of Eighties yuppie-dom, to name but few.

Not that Manchester prior to 88 was always the cultural wasteland

Put this against the artistic background cultivated by the likes of Factory Records and The Royal Exchange Theatre and the rebellious traits of the city and the scene is classically set for a pivotal, revolutionary moment.

Not that Manchester prior to 88 was always the cultural wasteland which it has been far too lazily characterised by some, yet the shoe-gazing, wrist-slitting indie dominance of the local scene meant the Manc acid house phenomenon grew incrementally from what was a very small network. A part of The Hacienda’s sound-track from 86 onwards, house and acid culture slowly came to fit the sensibilities of the independently minded city which became internationally famous for not only the clubs, the music (and the football) but also for it’s buccaneering, wild, untamed spirit of adventure.

Yet whilst Manchester was cementing its world-wide reputation as one of the foremost musical cities around as acolytes and disciples spread the vibe, Manchester’s compact, village-y city centre made it an intimate, social culture where “in yer face” doesn’t describe half of it. The scene expanded from not only the Hacienda but from now mythically treated haunts like Afflecks Palace, Eastern Bloc and Dry 201 as Manchester began to lay claim to both the true working class art forms, music and football.

So The Acid House Years, which in Manc terms is more a generic term from 87 to 90, as FAC 51’s Citadel and Manchester’s politics of dancing rejuvenated and regenerated the city, the city’s fame and influence on the developing scene rippled across the north, the country and as Italian house records were latterly to remind us, to everybody all over the world.

With the Hacienda a central but not solitary hub of the scene, Manchester had taken in Detroit, Chicago and New York and spewed out its own sauntering, surly Mancunian most monster as records, fashion, clubs and town’s café culture coincided in an uncontrived blend of time, art, place and characters which I’ve often liked to compare as the closest thing to live theatre I’ve ever been immersed within. At 15 in Manchester in 1988 (and just about able to blag into the Hacienda, certainly Dry was never a problem), there was some luck in landing in a happening that even then felt like it rivalled Paris or San Fran 68, London 76 for an authentic, the rules do not apply, standing in the way of control, getting away with it youth revolution.

An authentic, the rules do not apply, standing in the way of control, getting away with it youth revolution

So here, pieced together as an extensive oral history, is a whole rogues gallery of DJ’s, club owning rock stars, artists, singers, and industry bods, listed below in “role call” which takes in many major Manc acid house faces riffing on the city, the clubs, the tunes, the parties and the cultural shift that was Manc Acidica in a “you’ll swear you were there” deconstruction.

Expect a not atypically Mancunian tale of establishment baiting, piss-taking, risk-taking, camaraderie and untold shenanigans, yet within all the devil may care, throw it to the all hedonism, I can’t escape the fact that there is and was a very special something about Manchester back then, something to fall in love with, something to believe in, something independently willed that made the world look to Manchester and something that at times made us feel like the coolest bastards on Earth

……You may call me a dreamer but I’m not the only one……

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