I have a friend, as big a music nut as I am, who was in school in Manchester while the Haçienda was still open, and he never went. I love the guy—he’s basically family—but that one fact about him makes me wonder how I understand him AT ALL.
The Haçienda was an epochally important nightclub opened by Factory Records and New Order in 1982, and it quickly became an important hub for Manchester’s already important music scene—the Smiths’ and Happy Mondays’ earliest gigs occurred there, as did Madonna’s UK debut. But within a few years, the importance of live concerts was eclipsed by the club’s global importance to the emergence of DJ culture. The Haçienda was a crucial incubator for the Rave scene, which led to packed houses just for DJs. This was both blessing and curse—the club had a huge audience, but that audience preferred ecstasy and LSD over alcohol as party-fuel, so while the bar went broke, the drug dealers cleaned up. With dealers come turf disputes, and with those come violence, and so security was as big a factor in the club’s 1997 closure as was financial failure.
Blog51 has amassed a huge collection of Haçienda DJ sets, all downloadable in MP3 format. I’m not sure how these all came to be preserved, or how the blogger (a frequent patron named Andrew Mckim) managed to collect them all, but it’s a pretty amazing document of a scene over time. Between November of 2012 and May of 2014, Mckim posted dozens of DJ sets spanning from ’83 to ’97. The majority of the sets are understandably from the club’s in-house guys Graeme Park and Mike Pickering, but there’s plenty more to find in there—as I write this I’m listening to a 1994 set from Chicago House Godhead Frankie Knuckles.
This short documentary on the Haçienda is hosted by Factory Records honcho Tony Wilson’s son Oliver, who as a small child had a front row seat for some of the most amazing developments in late 20th Century pop music. Enjoy.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Original DJ playlists from Manchester’s Haçienda glory days
The night The Smiths stole the show at The Hacienda and changed music
Divine takes the UK: Two Hacienda shows and ‘Top of the Pops’