Madchester years – from someone who was actually there & lived it!!

The class of ’92 were gathered for the last time, our high school  leavers’ dinner. We sat down to a 3-course meal to celebrate finishing  our A-levels, looking forward to our impending results with feelings  varying between nervous excitement and sheer terror, ready at last to  spread our wings and speed off to various universities around the  British Isles, rushing with indecent haste towards adulthood.

“Oops upside your head” was played, we all sat on the dance floor;  long, swaying lines of teenagers dressed up in their finest. “Sit  down” by James followed, which I will forever remember as the anthem  of that night. My friend completely ruined the dress she’d hired – a  full-length, off- the-shoulder, blue ballgown. An expensive date indeed.

I didn’t know it then, but I should have taken that song as an omen. I  thought I was heading for Liverpool and English Literature, but  A-level results that fell short of my expectations meant that fate and  clearing conspired to send me to study Sociology in Manchester instead.

Last-minute nerves aside, freedom beckoned and I could not wait. The  Soup Dragons’ cover of “I’m Free” played on an endless loop inside my  head. I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I was about to be allowed to  come home as late as I liked; in fact I could stay out all night and  no-one could stop me. If I wanted to exist on nothing but toast,  ditto. No one could tell me my skirt was too short or my hair too  messy. As I got nearer and nearer to my new home, I was high on  trepidation and elation.

What a place to be. Manchester, smack-bang in the middle of where it  was all happening right then. “Madchester” was the genre of the  moment, and I landed right in the middle of where it was all going on,  the twin strands of the indie music scene and clubbing culture running  parallel and sometimes, almost completely intertwined.

In 1993, my second year as a student, I got a bar job at the  Boardwalk, one of Manchester’s most popular clubs at the time, a place  that very successfully capitalised on the popularity of both indie and  house music. James had played the venue, as had the Stone Roses, the  Happy Mondays, the Charlatans and the psychedelically-named Inspiral  Carpets. Oasis even made their live debut there. DJ Dave Haslam had a  weekly slot, hosting the club’s legendary “Yellow” night every Friday.  It wasn’t all about the Hacienda, although Haslam did DJ there too. He  clearly remembers the Boardwalk very fondly; “you get that kind of  club once in a generation”, he says on his website (

One of my classmates dabbled in DJ-ing, and spent many absorbed hours  in the city’s record shops, the infamous Affleck’s palace and the Corn  Exchange, rooting through racks of vinyl for rare 12 inch remixes.  Vinyl was at the time petering out in popularity among the masses,  making way for smaller, shinier, tougher CDs, but it was still the  medium of choice for those who manned the decks every weekend, drawing  huge crowds of clubbers in from across the North West and even further  afield.

They say youth is wasted on the young. I’m not sure if I agree with  that – I certainly enjoyed my younger years – but one thing I do know  is that I did not realise, or therefore appreciate, how much I was  immersed in music history as it was being made. I showed up for my  shifts, I pulled pint after pint, mopped floors and replenished the  toilet rolls, and, while I enjoyed it, the music was really just  something that was going on in the background while I toiled;  something that kept me awake after I got back to my student flat, my  ringing ears rendering me wide-eyed and alert, unable to unwind at 3am.

By the time I graduated in 1995, the sounds of Madchester were morphing into Britpop, with the explosion of Blur, Oasis, Pulp and  their like onto the scene, all still to this day some of my favourite  bands of all time. Though I may have been blissfully unaware of it at  the time, high as I was on freedom and making my own way in the world,  the Madchester scene must have seeped into my consciousness and  influenced my musical preferences – the word ‘eclectic’ probably sums  up my music collection very accurately.

In 1996, just a year after I left Manchester, the IRA bombed the city  centre, changing it irrevocably. The entire city centre was  remodelled; two medieval pubs in which I’d spent many a happy hour  were even moved, brick by brick, to a new location for the old  Shambles Square, 70 metres away from its original site. The people of  Manchester were shaken, but stirred into action. Today, the city  thrives – it is industrious, modern and upbeat. The Corn exchange is  now a restaurant complex and Affleck’s Palace, safely tucked away in  the Northern quarter, is still going strong.

The Hac (“hass”) – as it was known locally – closed its doors for good  in 1997, Dave Haslam joining Elliot Eastwick on the decks for the  final swansong. The club had been plagued by financial problems for  some time and was apparently subsidised by funds from Factory records  and New Order, the label’s biggest band. Ironically, New Order’s “Blue  Monday”, the biggest selling 12 inch single of all time, lost about 5  pence per copy sold due to the intricate die-cast sleeve costing so  much to produce.

The 2002 film “24 hour party people” documents the rise and fall of  the Hac, the latter allegedly largely down to ecstasy use and the  detrimental effect of this on drink sales. It also reportedly brought  gang-related violence to the already troubled club.

The Has is no more, the building was razed to the ground in 2002 and  there are now flats where it once stood, which were marketed with the  controversial slogan, “now the party’s over, you can come home.” The  Boardwalk closed in 1999 and the building still stands – converted,  predictably, into luxury apartments. A blue plaque marks the building;  “1984-1999. The Boardwalk. Madchester venue nightclub and rehearsal  rooms.” Underneath, the notorious yellow acid house smiley face.

Funkademia, started at the Boardwalk in 1995, has become Manchester’s  longest running club night – it is now held at the Mint Lounge in the  Northern Quarter, so something of those 1990s Manchester clubbing days  still lives on.

People now play out their everyday lives where clubbers and gig-goers  once had the time of theirs. Perhaps some have no idea that the likes  of the Happy Mondays, the Stone Roses and Oasis once played right  there, where they sleep, eat or wash – or even where they host their  own parties.

Recently, I saw photos of old school pals – the same ones from that  1992 leavers’ dinner – at Hacienda Classical in Newcastle, and I  really did get the feeling that things had come full circle. The same  feeling that I get when I see today’s teenagers, rifling through racks  of vinyl just as I did in the 80s and early 90s. On Saturday 25th  November, Hacienda Classical will return to Manchester once more,  following rave (ahem!) reviews of the summer events.

The teenagers and twenty-somethings of the 1990s might be all grown  and mortgaged up these days, but good music will always live on.  Hurrah for the likes of the “Madchester” bands that gave us something  to dance to, to sing along to, and the city and its clubs that gave  them venues in which to hone their talent, to blossom, before bursting  out into the wider world. They also gave a lot of happy, smiley people  nights out to live for – the time of their lives. A precious gift  indeed.

This article was written by Polly Taylor, our first Record Press guest blogger.

We welcome Polly aboard the Good Ship Record Press and her sister the Good Gift Shop….. “Making the Past the Present”

Check out Polly’s blog @……There are some very entertaining articles on a diverse range of subjects & topics


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