|Acid: The Phuture - A Three Page Trip|
22 October 1988
"This is not Manchester - this is a trip"
Pah! Manchester has been tripping out for years, as the forthcoming compilation 'North' will prove. But as SARAH CHAMPION writes from the land of sensitive young men, it's only after the big L gives the seal of approval that a cult can be hip.
SO London has a monopoly on Acid House, huh? So they claim to have discovered it, breast-fed it and made it into a youth movement even bigger than Hip-hop, do they? Well, "Ha!" to that. Here in The North the people KNOW who got there first. Or at least they think they do.
"In magazines I read of the 'London House Explosion' and how they thought it up ... that's ludicrous! It's been played in Manchester for years," sneers Andy of the tacky Scouse House group Terrajacks across the cafe table.
In Affleck's Palace, the Kensington Market of Manchester, we're discussing the Acid revolution. We go downstairs for a photo-session before a window display of Acid jazz T-shirts and inflatable bananas. The latest cash-in from The South. Boys wander past in Smiley shirts so bright and new they could star in a Persil ad. "This is not Manchester... This is a Trip "their oh-so-hip chests read. The latest cash-in from The North.
We pass a clothes stall whose proprietor has clearly not taken heed of the News At Ten scare-stories. With eyes as big as duck eggs, he does an admirable Flowerpot Man impression and slots imaginary lightbulbs in and out of imaginary sockets to the sound of 'Can You Feel It'. Emotions are high, but takings will no doubt be low.
It's an 'ordinary' Saturday afternoon in Manchester, but what the hell does 'ordinary' mean any more?
This, as The Observer will patronisingly inform you, is all the 'evil' result of "a kind of rock music called Acid House" (The Manchester press have yet to catch up).
Timetabled as the second stop after London on the Acid underground ride, Manchester is awash with 'E' numbers. And we're not talking standard European food additives here either.
AT LAST THE northern Acid tracks are hitting vinyl, and TERRAJACKS are just one of a whole array of acts experimenting with the sound. Eighteen months ago this group was manufactured in Liverpool by the already-quoted dance-fanatic Andy. Apathy in their hometown forced them to record and base themselves at Square One Studios in North Manchester. Here they wrote 'House Plan', a tacky, commercial and decidedly unacidic track which, after release on white label, was picked up by WEA and became a huge Northern club-hit.
"Liverpool has always been something of a void as far as House was concerned," the well-built Liverpudlian Terrajack explains. "It's still a muso scene where people want nothing more than to be in a four piece band and play in the pub. Most of our musician friends won't talk to us anymore because they say we've sold out because we make dance music.
"When we first got into House the only place we could get to hear it was at the Playpen and the Hacienda in Manchester, where we ended up spending most of our time."
TERRAJACKS' 'House Plan' will soon be realised in Acid version, to be rapidly followed by newer material which Andy describes as "Techno meets Acid meets Funk." Yes, once more it's cash-in time.
But on the hipper side of town, Terrajacks find themselves condemned as "far too commercial", "gimmicky" or just plain "crap". Here we find the hardcore sound of REAL Acid House. This is where we discover A GUY CALLED GERALD, the most prolific of all Manchester's House producers.
There's a story going round that proves this guy's dedication. After jacking in his McDonalds job for a career in House, his dole-claim forms were caught up in postal strike. For six weeks he has been penniless. But despite tacking even enough money for a bus fare, he still made it to the studio last week ... by walking seven miles across town lugging his SIX 'Acid machines' in carrier bags!
An ex-ballet dancer and scratch-DJ, Gerald's finest moment to date is 'Voodoo Ray' - a weird 4-track Acid 12" on RHAM Records, the dance off-shoot of Liverpool's Indie label Skysaw.
"'Voodoo Ray' is based on the fusion House/Jazz dancing of the Manchester dance crew Foot Patrol," he explains. "It's like break-dancing where people make an arena to challenge each other."
808 STATE are yet another Manchester acid act with whom A Guy Called Gerald has worked. When John Peel played a track from their debut album 'New Build' recently, he was inundated with letters from House fans seeking out this mysterious release. The answer is simple: Creed Records, via Nine Mile.
To make this act a trio, Gerald is joined by Graham of Biting Tongues and Martin, an employee of Manchester's best indie and dance stockist Easter Block Records (the rivals being Spin Inn, the main soul retailers). The Germanic title and sleeve of 'New Build' hints at what lays inside. Acid House, sometimes a little too clinical, occasionally clumsy, but always with a few new moods.
Meanwhile, talking of novelty, remember that old fruitcake ED BARTON - the Captain Birdseye looka-like who appeared on The Tube squawking about having no chicken but five wooden chairs? Even he, ludicrous as it may seem, has sold out to the groove. Currently available as a dance version is his classic 'Slap My Belly', remixed by trendy Soul group Chapter & The Verse. This is to be followed by an Acid House cut with help from - yes, you've guessed it - A Guy Called Gerald. The duo have already arranged some live PAs...
A GUY CALLED GERALD is just one of the Manchester acts soon to be appearing on a compilation album entitled 'North'. A kind of 'Pump Up Manchester', eight tracks spread themselves over two 12"s on this DeConstruction/RCA LP. The sound is not strictly Acid. but the quality is high.
'North' is master-minded by Mike Pickering, occasionally know as MP2. As the guy who DJ'd the first major House night in Manchester, The Hacienda's 'Nude Night', this man has more roles than Tony Wilson and a million times more street-cred. Not only did he organise this album, but he was heavily involved in producing most of the tracks.
It's rare to hear T-Coy discussed in anything but the most reverent of terms these days. When the House game ends and the points are totalled up, their debut single 'Carino' from way-back in June '87 will be one of the British Top 10. From the trendy ligging in Manchester's Cornerhouse Bar to wine-drinking on the South Bank, 'Carino' pumps out the background sophistication of latin-rhythmed House: performed as opposed to sampled.
In just three singles, the T-Coy trio of Ritchie Close (member of the Latin rhythms act APITOS), Simon Topping (ex ACR percussion man) and Pickering himself, jacked themselves into the books of House history. 'North' also includes a re-mix of their most recent single, the soulful 'Night Train'.
ELSEWHERE current creators of the ACR groove Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson trip out under the mysterious pseudonym of ED 209, in the process of making a first in the history of the John Peel show. Mr Night-time Radio One himself was so impressed by their debut single 'Meter' that he offered them the unique opportunity to record their session in their own studio instead of the BBC's good old Maida Vale.
'Meter' comes to you courtesy of DJ Dave Rofe and his label DFM records, following up Soul tracks by hip local heroes Fifth Of Heaven and Inside Out. Listen out for plenty of totally original drop-ins and a truck sample recorded on a Walkman at the Cinema .. .
ALL IN ALL, the Tony Wilson Empire has a lot to answer for. Without The Hacienda, - Acid House as a club movement in Manchester could never have grown so big; without Factory and its musicians, the city's crop of home-grown Acid House would be rather sparse. After all, it's only natural that the label who brought us experimental synth and disco sounds from Cabaret Voltaire, ACR and New Order should be at the front of the next dance fad.
On most of the Manchester Acid vinyl available to date, the Factory influence is strong. Their musicians already have the studio experience and technology to make it work. Quango Quango, ACR and Biting Tongues now mean T-Coy, ED 209 and 808 State. Even the next NEW ORDER album is rumoured to have an Acid/Balearic feel after its recording in Ibiza.
As for HAPPY MONDAYS, in many people's eyes, it is they who best represent Manchester Acid. Not musically, but as individuals. They were the first Hacienda clientele to discover the Trance Dance and first to support the all-important Acid Scally look of baggy shirts, baggy trousers and trainers. One week there were two or three of them dancing like flower-pot men; the next week the entire club of eighteen hundred caught on. (Look out for the Happy Mondays Acid 12" soon, as mixed by hip-hopper Johnny J.)
Cynical old Paul Conns, Hacienda PR Man, proudly states the Fac 51 case. "The Hacienda has always been ahead of The South. In London Acid House is all a scam because they're just starting to re-release tracks that were played in The Hacienda two years ago and sell it as something totally new.
"The only reason that Acid has become so big in London is because somebody started selling Ecstasy there. In the North Acid House was born without drugs. The drugs are now part of the scene but they are not the cause of it."
All the same, facts have to be faced. Although Acid was played in Manchester (most notably at the Hacienda and Stu Allan's Playpen night) long, long before it was taken seriously by London's clubs (who were all too rapped up in their Rare Groove phase to notice), it was not until June that it really exploded.
The sad but true fact remains, that it still takes until the great Capital has granted approval for a scene to really take hold.
House has been the main ingredient of Mike Pickering's Nude Night on Fridays at the Hacienda ever since '86, but the Acid centre of attraction has become Wednesday nights. What began the start of '88 as the mid-week Zumbar cabaret night, was transformed as the "Acieeed" cult took off. The fashion Pa's were dropped; Fac 51 ice-pops, paper sunglasses, and bottles of bubble mixture were distributed; and a swimming pool was created to the side of the dancefloor. Immediately, one of the greatest Acid nights in Britain was born.
Manchester: out and proud once more.
POSTSCRIPT: In Mr Morrissey's hometown of Manchester, the last two years of House revolution and the past year of Acid mania has split the city's youth dramatically in two. One side are the straggle of 'sensitive young men' (invented by Joy Division and institutionalised by The Smiths) living out the words of "How Soon Is Now". On the other you have the fashion victims and disco-dancers, risen triumphant to hold up two fingers at the city's raincoat-wearers.
Morrissey once went to a club. He stood on his own, left on his own, went home, cried, wanted to die . . . and then wrote a song about it to make all the rest of us depressed as well. Maybe if he'd slipped that bony body into a big, baggy Smiley T-shirt, popped a few illicit pills under his tongue and moved to the centre of the dancefloor, things could have been different. Maybe.
Antagonised and fearful, the 'old school' of Manchester music answers back. "Rap and House music may have a big following, but then so did Hitler," sneers Tim Booth, vocalist with JAMES. "Sampling is not music and House is nice and regular for people who can't dance properly."
An absurd announcement spat out with the same paranoia and terror that once caused 'real musicians' to condemn the supposedly talentless and destructive fad of punk. Just like anybody who could shout and scream could theoretically have made 'Anarchy In The UK', anybody theoretically could have made Todd Terry's 'Black Riot'. The point being not that anybody could do it, but that somebody actually did.
Manager of Manchester's Soul/Acid label DFM has one answer to the Manchester cynics. "Let's hope Acid House will finally kill them and all guitar bands off for good."
For this week at least, it's the fashion victims and disco dancers who have the upper hand. What do the kids want with life, loneliness and Oscar Wilde when they have Todd Terry, luminous CND badges, The Hacienda and the false happiness of brain-damaging drugs? Eat your heart out Stephen.