Contrary to what many younger people might nowadays believe, Ibiza ’87 didn’t mark the beginning of dance culture in this country. From a Manchester perspective, the foundations were laid in clubs like The Gallery, The Playpen, Berlin and Legend, which catered to the black audience, not just from Manchester, but also places like Birmingham, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, Stoke, Wolverhampton, Derby, even as far away as London.
Manchester was always a magnet for those into the most cutting-edge black music. These nights, in turn, linked back to earlier nights at venues including Placemate 7, Rufus and Rafters. Manchester has a rich dance music heritage dating all the way back to the 60’s, when clubs like the Twisted Wheel and The Reno first opened their doors.
Whilst we hope to focus on the wider picture at a later event, taking in all aspects of the local black music scene throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, ‘Electrospective’ as the name suggests, takes its starting point as 1982, when tracks like ‘Planet Rock’ heralded a whole new epoch of electronic dance music. We will explore the legacy of the specialist black music nights, and how they influenced the city’s most famous venue, The Haçienda; what happened when Electro and Indie collided; how Manchester interconnected with other key cities like Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield; how Electro contributed to the House explosion of the late ‘80s; and where it went when dance culture became a whiter concern.
As the missing link between the old (Northern Soul, Disco, Jazz-Funk) and the then new (Hip Hop, House, Techno), it’s only during recent times that UK dance historians have begun to acknowledge the true significance of the Electro-Funk period. This important story will be told by some of those directly involved.
The event is particularly timely because 2008 marks the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the pioneering Manchester breakdance crew Broken Glass, and, in August, it will be 25 years since the then manager of Broken Glass, DJ Greg Wilson, took his Electro-Funk sound, so successful across town at Legends (also Wigan Pier), to The Haçienda, a club associated with students and indie kids rather than the black crowd that attended his other nights. Broken Glass would dance at the club on a weekly basis during Greg’s tenure, and appear as part of the Haçienda Review tour in Dec ’83, billed as ‘The Haçienda Break Dancers’.
The event was inspired by Tim ‘Bones’ Forde’s documentary film, ‘The Birth Of British B-Boys’, which will be shown in full as a main feature of the event. Tim, a member of Broken Glass, tells the story of how breakdancing made a massive impact in Manchester a quarter of a century ago, changing the lives of so many people in the process. It’s a heartfelt account, which really captures the essence of the era. In addition to the screening, Tim will also talk about what inspired him to make the documentary and other aspects of his B-Boy past.
Hosted by Greg Wilson, ‘Electrospective’ welcomes some of the great DJ’s of Pre-Rave Manchester – Hewan Clarke, Colin Curtis, Chad Jackson and Mike Shaft, all titans of the turntables with truly legendary status in Manchester and beyond: ( http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk)
Hewan Clarke is perhaps the quintessential Manchester DJ. He’s been playing quality tunes in the city for 3 decades, be it at Moss Side’s hallowed Reno, to The Haçienda, where he became the first resident in May ’82. A black music selector par excellence, Hewan has seen them all come and go down the years.
Colin Curtis is one of the most respected UK DJ’s of all. He played a key role in the development of not just one, but three major dance movements here in Britain – Northern Soul, Jazz-Funk and House, playing at a whole spectrum of influential venues in the North and Midlands, including Blackpool Mecca, The Ritz, Rafters, Cassinellis, The Powerhouse, Rock City, The Locarno, Berlin, The Playpen and Legends.
Having followed Greg Wilson into Wigan Pier and Legends, as well as taking over his Piccadilly mix slot in 1984, Chad was one of the first British DJ’s to fully master the Hip Hop styles of cutting and scratching, Jackson would later go on to become the DMC World Mixing Champion in 1987, and in 1990 scored a Top 3 hit with ‘Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)’
Between 1978 and 1986, Mike Shaft’s Piccadilly Radio Soul Show, ‘Takin’ Care Of Business’ was something of a Manchester institution. Along with Greg Edwards and Robbie Vincent in London, Mike completed the trio of most influential black music presenters in the UK. Also a major force in clubland, Mike would move on to BBC Radio Manchester, before launching specialist black / dance music station, Sunset, in 1989. All these years on, he can still be heard, in his inimitable style, on Radio Manchester.
Following his retirement as a professional DJ, at the end of 1983, Greg Wilson left it 2 decades before making a highly successful comeback (choosing the Music Is Better night in Manchester for his return), and is now known to a new generation of clubbers literally throughout the globe, and including here in Manchester via appearances at club nights such as the Electric Chair, El Diablos, Funkademia, Aficionado, Nish Nash Nosh and Stylus, to name but a few.
Conspicuous by his absence is Stu Allan, who played a major role in championing House and Hip Hop on the Manchester airwaves from 1986, when he took over Mike Shaft’s old slot on Piccadilly. Stu had already booked a holiday on the date of the event and is ‘gutted’ that he has to miss it. His memories of the period can be found here:
Gerald Simpson (A Guy Called Gerald) is another person disappointed that he’s not going to be in Manchester (he’s touring in Japan) although, on the positive side, the event will include exclusive interview footage. Gerald was a Legends regular throughout the early 80’s who went on to make the classic Acid House anthem, ‘Voodoo Ray’, 20 years ago. You can read Gerald’s recollections of Legends and the Electro days on his website here:
Over the last few years, MDMArchive has hosted a number of sell-out music events to help fund the organization and raise awareness of its function. These have included a high-profile launch at Urbis; a punk film premiere at The Kings Arms, Salford; and a showing of a Johnny Hamp’s ‘Blues and Gospel Train’ film in Chorlton. It is a not-for-profit virtual archive designed to celebrate Greater Manchester music, protect its heritage and promote awareness of its cultural importance.
‘Electrospective’ is split into 2 sections, with talks, screenings and dance from 4pm (free admission) and a club night to follow, from 10pm – 3am (admission by ticket only). Tickets cost £6 on a first come first served basis, the venue capacity being less than 300. We expect the night to sell out well ahead of the event, so people are advised to buy their tickets as soon as possible to avoid missing out on what promises to be a unique insight into a pivotal period of Manchester dance and music history.
By Greg Wilson.
See the unofficial Electrospective photo album here
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