Thursday, 23 August 2012

Blue Monday (1980-1984)


This is the second of five posts on the history of Manchester between 1976 and 1996. Each four year period will be covered by a song from the NME's top 10(/100) tracks of the last 60 years: 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' (1976-1980), 'Blue Monday' (1980-1984), 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' (1984-1988), 'She Bangs the Drums' (1988-1992) and 'Wonderwall' (1992-1996).

Members of the close-knit Manchester music scene, particularly those associated with Joy Division and Factory Records, were still in shock at the death of singer Ian Curtis in May 1980. The band's second album 'Closer' was released on 18th July and reached number 6 in the UK. Its cover, again designed by Peter Saville, drew criticism for featuring a picture of a tomb, with the suggestion that the record label were cashing in on the singer's death (although Saville claims that the cover artwork had already been chosen before Curtis killed himself). Directly after Curtis' funeral the rest of the band did what they knew best and went back into the rehearsal rooms to write and practise new material, including the track 'Dreams Never End.' On 29th July, they played at the Beach Club in Manchester with Bernard Sumner taking over lead vocal duties. Afterwards they settled on the name New Order and played in New York for the first time in September. Gillian Gilbert (the drummer's girlfriend) joined on keyboards in October.

On 10th October 1980 Margaret Thatcher, who had been prime minister for just over a year, delivered a speech to the Conservative Party conference in which she responded to claims that the government should turn back from such a strict adherence to monetarist economic policies: 'To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning!' On 10th November, left-winger Michael Foot became leader of the Labour Party at the relatively old age of 67. At around the same time, Manchester city council declared itself a 'nuclear-free' zone.

In December 1980, New Order played an important gig in Rotterdam, where Mike Pickering was responsible for booking bands. A friend of the band's manager Rob Gretton since the pair had met following Manchester City away in the mid-70s, Pickering was later invited back to Manchester to become the music policy director for a new nightclub, the Hacienda. In January 1981, with Labour being seen to have shifted to the left, the 'Gang of Four' (Bill Rodgers, David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams) issued the Limehouse Declaration, signalling their intention to create a  Social Democratic party. The new party would end up entering into an alliance with the Liberal Party before eventually merging with them to form the Liberal Democrats. New Order released their first single, Ceremony, on 6th March (which reached number 34 in the charts).

On 30th April 1981, Dave Sexton was sacked as manager of Manchester United after four seasons without a major trophy. The two Manchester clubs achieved mid-table finishes with United 8th and City 12th, as Aston Villa won the league. The top four clubs in terms of average home attendance were Manchester United (45,071); Liverpool (37,547); Aston Villa (34,117) and Manchester City (33,587). On 9th May, Manchester City played Tottenham Hotspur in the final of the FA Cup. After half an hour, Tommy Hutchinson scored with a flying header to put City 1-0 ahead. However with 10 minutes to go, the same player headed in a Glenn Hoddle free-kick to level the score. In the replay on 14th May, City again went ahead but conceded two late goals to Garth Crooks and Ricardo Villa as Spurs won 3-2. Liverpool won the European Cup for a third time two weeks later. On 9th June, Ron Atkinson was appointed as the new Manchester United manager.

On 8th July 1981, a crowd of over 1,000 youths besieged a police station in Moss Side. A formerly Irish district to the south of Manchester city centre, Moss Side had been settled by black Afro-Caribbean immigrants in the 1960s and 70s. Like many other inner-city areas it was suffering from high unemployment (thanks in part to the government's economic policies) and it was claimed that black youths were being victimised by the police. Other black inner-city areas had rioted previously, notably Brixton (London) in April and Toxteth (Liverpool) from 3rd July, and it was felt that it was only a matter of time before something would happen in Moss Side. After the police station had been besieged, the rioters looted shops along Princess Road. The police maintained a low-profile on the orders of Chief Constable James Anderton and the rioting subsided after 48 hours.

On 27th September 1981 a crucial election took place for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party, in which the moderate Denis Healey narrowly defeated Tony Benn, a hero of the hard-left, with 50.4% to Benn's 49.6% in the second round of voting. On 1st October, Manchester United broke the British transfer record to sign Bryan Robson from West Bromwich Albion for £1,500,000. On 15th October, Norman Tebbit was asked by a Young Conservative if he thought that rioting wasn't a natural response to unemployment. Tebbit replied that he had grown up in the 30s with an unemployed father, who hadn't rioted: 'He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking 'til he found it.' On 21st October, Remi Moses became the first black player to score for Manchester United.

On 13th November 1981, New Order released their debut album 'Movement' and returned to New York for a second time where they immersed themselves in the disco scene which would inspire the Hacienda. 'Movement' had been recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport and produced by Martin Hannett, who was now in a legal dispute with Factory Records (this was the last New Order material he would produce as the band were now learning how to produce themselves). In January 1982 it was revealed that the number of people out of work had risen to over 3,000,000 for the first time since the 1930s. On 2nd April, Argentine forces invaded the Falklands Islands and British troops were mobilised for war. On 24th April, a 16-year-old Norman Whiteside made his Manchester United debut against Brighton & Hove Albion. Irish defender Paul McGrath signed from St. Patrick's Athletic a week later for £30,000. On 10th May 1982 New Order released their fourth single 'Temptation,' which reached number 29 in the charts. Liverpool won a 13th league title, as Manchester United finished 3rd and Manchester City 10th. For a tenth successive season, Manchester United were the biggest club in English football in terms of average home attendance (44,571), followed by Spurs (35,100), Liverpool (35,061) and Manchester City (34,063).


On 21st May 1982, the Hacienda was opened by Factory Records in an old warehouse on Whitworth Street West. A mixture between a venue and a club, its interior (designed by Ben Kelly) seemed like a 3D-version of Peter Saville's record sleeves and gig posters. Its name came from a Situationist text on Urbanism which begins with the lines 'We are bored in the city. There is no longer any Temple of the Sun' and goes on to say that 'the Hacienda must be built.' It received a Factory catalogue number, Fac 51, to match the cedilla in its name. It had a stage, a dance area with a bar, a cafe, and a balcony which was later turned into a DJ balcony (creating the idea of a 'superstar DJ'). With its high ceilings, people compared it to a Cathedral and it soon gained a reputation for cold temperatures and terrible acoustics. People were also wondering why Factory had built a bright New York discoteque in the middle of grey postindustrial Manchester - it was as if a space ship had landed in the middle of town. It was well-located, on the south-side of the city centre, within walking distance of the Hulme Crescents, an area which was becoming home to a bohemian community of artists and students. The owners decided to keep the Hacienda open all the time, even when there was hardly anyone there, and it ran at a loss - subsidised by the profits of Joy Divison and New Order. The brainchild of band manager Rob Gretton, the idea of investing all this money into starting up a nightclub upset producer Martin Hannett who had been arguing that they should spend the money on the latest recording equipment.


Much has been written about the opening of the Hacienda but this wasn't the biggest thing to happen in Manchester at the time. On 30th May 1982, a crowd of over 200,000 gathered in Heaton Park to watch the ordination of 12 priests by Pope John Paul II. The Pope's rock star reception in Prestwich was the subject of a song by The Fall called 'Papal Visit,' with its talk of 'yellow-white umbrellas' and 'helicopters strip the land.' In August, the Frantic Elevators released 'Holding Back the Years,' which failed to chart. The band, who like many others rehearsed in the Hulme Crescents, soon broke up but its singer Mick Hucknall would go on to become one of the most successful of Manchester's musicians in the late 80s/early 90s as the man behind Simply Red. On 4th October, the Smiths (with Johnny Marr on guitar and Morrissey on vocals) played their first gig at the Ritz in Manchester.


New Order played at the Hacienda for a second time on 26th January 1983, debuting a new track 'Blue Monday' which had been written as a dance track to save the band from having to come back on stage to do an encore. Released on 7th March, the single went on to become the biggest-selling 12" ever (thought to have sold well over 1,000,000 copies). It also defined the band's move away from new wave towards a more modern electronic, dance-oriented sound. The money it made was ploughed back into the Hacienda, which was still seen as being ahead of its time. On 26th March, Manchester United suffered a low-point, losing to rivals Liverpool in the final of the Milk Cup. By the end of the 1982-83 season, Liverpool had 14 league titles and 3 European Cups to United's 7 league titles and 1 European Cup and the gap would continue to grow. On 11th April, Ben Kingsley (who had grown up in Salford and gone to Manchester Grammar School) won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the film 'Ghandi.'


On 2nd May 1983, New Order released their second album, the self-produced 'Power, Corruption and Lies' which reached number 4 in the UK. Its lead track 'Age of Consent' showed that the band hadn't strayed too far away from their guitar roots. On Friday 13th May, the Smiths released their debut single 'Hand in Glove' on Rough Trade, which sold well although failed to chart. The next day, Manchester City played their final league game of the season against fellow strugglers Luton Town. City only needed a draw to stay up whilst Luton needed a win. City dominated the game and were still staying up with five minutes left, when goalkeeper Alex Williams came out of his goal but failed to collect a cross, instead punching it away. The ball fell to Raddy Antic on the edge of the area, whose half-volleyed goal meant that City were relegated for the first time since 1963, despite having spent £5,000,000 on players in the previous four years.


Manchester United, who had finished third in the league and runners-up in the Milk Cup, remained the biggest club in terms of average home attendance (41,695), ahead of Liverpool (34,758), Spurs (30,581) and Manchester City (26,789). On 26th May, United won the FA Cup after a 4-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, with two goals from England captain Bryan Robson, and one each from 18-year-old Norman Whiteside and Arnold Muhren. It was only their second major trophy since the 1968 European Cup (the other was the 1977 FA Cup) and a welcome victory for the club commentator John Motson described as 'the most famous in the world.'


On 9th June 1983, Margaret Thatcher increased her majority in the House of Commons by 100 seats in a landslide general election victory, with an incredible 13,000,000 votes to Labour's 8,400,000 and the Liberal/SDP Alliance's 7,700,000. Her position had been strengthened by the fact that there was a war on (and the fact that Argentina's military dictatorship had given her a pretext to go to war), a divided opposition and a Labour manifesto which Gerald Kaufman later described as 'the longest suicide note in history.' Amongst the new arrivals on the Labour benches were Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. On 2nd October, Neil Kinnock was elected leader of the Labour Party, with the centrist Roy Hattersley as his deputy. Kinnock had been increasingly associated with 'soft left' since abstaining from the Benn vs. Healey deputy leadership election of September 1981.


On 26th October 1983, a 19-year-old Mark Hughes made his Manchester United debut against Port Vale in the Milk Cup. The Smiths released their second single 'This Charming Man' on 31 October, which reached number 25 in the UK. On New Year's Eve, the band played at Danceteria in New York, where Madonna had started put. A key figure in the Manchester-New York connection was Ruth Polsky, who booked bands for Danceteria. She had booked Joy Division to appear at the venue on the US tour that never happened and later booked New Order. On 16th January 1984 The Smiths released their third single, 'What Difference Does It Make?' which reached number 12 in the UK. On 27th January, Madonna made her second UK TV appearance on 'The Tube' on Channel 4, performing (i.e. dancing and miming along to) 'Burning Up' and 'Holiday' at the Hacienda.


On 20th February 1984, The Smiths released their self-titled debut album (which reached number 2 in the UK) with its lead track 'Reel Around the Fountain.' On 6th March, the government announced plans for the closure of 20 coal mines with a projected total of 20,000 job losses. It had been preparing for the threat of prolongued industrial action by stockpiling coal. On 12th March, Arthus Scargill, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), called for a national strike in protest at the government's plans. The mines were the focal point of local communities in mining areas and closures would lead to widespread unemployment - however the nationalised mines were economically unproductive. The Miners Strike of 84/85 would see the country torn apart, divided over the policies of a ruthless government intent on breaking the trade union movement. Amongst the Lancashire miners however, support for Scargill wasn't as high as it was in other areas such as Yorkshire, Wales and the North-East (which relied far more on the coal mining industry for jobs).


On Wednesday 21st March 1984, Manchester United enjoyed their biggest night in Europe since winning the European Cup in 1968 as they overturned Barcelona's 2-0 advantage in the second leg of the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup with a 3-0 win at Old Trafford. Bryan Robson is pictured on the left shaking hands with Barcelona's Diego Maradona before the match. In April, New Order released 'Thieves Like Us' which reached number 18. In May, Reni joined the Stone Roses after responding to an advert in A1 Music. The Smiths released their fourth single 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' which reached number 10 (the band's most successful chart position). Manchester United and Manchester City both finished fourth in the league, however United were in the First Division and City were in the Second (missing out on promotion). United were still the biggest club in England in terms of average home attendance (42,534), well ahead of Liverpool in second place (31,974) and City in sixth (25,604).

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