There’s a piece of wood in the Cunard Building which can claim to be part of the foundations for the careers of a wide selection of hugely successful bands all over the planet. LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, The Horrors, to myriad others would not have found their sound without the music which was conceived on this and other pieces of wood like it.
Other items in the cabinet, and there are not many more than 15, also helped shape a scene which spanned little over a decade and a geographical area of 20 miles but influenced a plethora of music to the present day in all corners of the world. As well as the wood, there is a 12” vinyl sleeve which also represents the zeitgeist of graphic design for many years to come and still casts a shadow on visual identities to this day. And then there are the instruments.
The British Music Experience (BME) is full of cabinets, which, with only a few items, represent music created on these shores which changed popular culture for good. The Madchester cabinet is striking for representing a scene which can be captured by just a handful of artists who had a such a wide-ranging effect. The piece of wood is from the dancefloor of the Haçienda, a space which changed the way people consume music. There is the bass guitar of Peter Hook whose bands Joy Division and New Order are cited and heard as influences clear as a bell on albums still being made today. The backdrop of the display is covered with the unmistakable album and single artwork of The Smiths, chosen by Morrissey, whose lyrics inspired artists from Rusholme to Redondo Beach.
The LP next to Stone Roses’ Mani’s paint-splattered Rickenbacker bass guitar is Pills ’N’ Thrills and Bellyaches by Happy Mondays. Produced by DJ Paul Oakenfold, the album could only be made in that musical epoch of 1982-1992 when FAC51, the Hacienda, loomed large and bands like Happy Mondays were at the peak of their powers. The album is 27 years old this month and the film which faithfully recreates the city, club and scene it was born out of is to have a timely screening at the BME.
Michael Winterbottom’s film 24 Hour Party People stars Steve Coogan as head of Mondays’ label Factory Records and founder of the Hacienda Tony Wilson. It tells the story of a time not too long ago, that happened just down the road and features the likes of Ian Curtis, Peter Saville (Factory’s graphic designer) and the man Coogan’s character calls the only ‘other bona fide genius in this film’ producer Martin Hannett.
Another face from the scene which gave birth to ‘baggy’ and Acid House, Dave Haslam, who himself soundtracked evenings in the Hacienda, will also be In Conversation after the screening. Like the items in the BME’s Madchester cabinet which could tell a thousand stories, Haslam has anecdotes about Tony Wilson threatening to shoot him, attending Joy Division’s last ever show and myriad others which owe a lot to that piece of wood.
24 Hour Party People With Dave Haslam is on 29th November at the British Music Experience. Tickets are £10 and available here.