The Haçienda


Haçienda Ads Featuring Greg Wilson’s Funk Nights (Click image to enlarge)

I remember once taking someone from Detroit along to The Haçienda in the early 90’s. I hadn’t been for a while and the club had had to close in the meantime due to all the trouble with the gangs. She was really looking forward to the Haçienda experience, having heard so much about it, but when we arrived the place was flat. The Ecstasy crowd were no longer there and had been replaced by drunken students. Things had gone full-circle and it was back to the pre-dance days of a half-empty club devoid of any atmosphere. The DJ was playing Indie-Dance oldies, harking back to better times, but only adding to the whole depressive impression. We didn’t stay long and I tried to assure her that this was once a great venue, for now it was little more than a tourist attraction for club kids who wanted to tick it off their ‘I’ve been to’ list. Way back in 1983, when I’d been brought into the club in order to introduce their audience (then very much regarded as ‘alternative’) to the kind of music I was playing to a predominantly black crowd across town at Legend, nobody would have foreseen that The Haçienda would eventually be revered, on a global scale, as something of a Temple of Dance. The initial reaction to the music I was playing, mainly on import from New York, was hardly encouraging, with numerous regulars berating me for playing this ‘dance shit’ when bands like Bauhaus and Siouxsie & The Banshees were much more to their taste. The club’s biggest dancefloor tune of ’83, ‘Native Boy’ by Animal Nightlife, wasn’t the type of record I was carrying in my box back then.

Haçienda Interior

Although The Haçienda reacted to, rather than instigated, the Manchester dance era, it was much to the club’s credit that they’d noted what was happening at Legend and decided that this was a direction they wished to pursue. Broken Glass, the Manchester breakdance crew, played a big part in helping acclimatise their clientele to the Electro sounds I was playing (especially during my hour long Saturday night spots, when they took to the Haçienda stage). At this point breakdancing was regarded as extremely cutting-edge (still some months before the media overkill destroyed its cool) and even if a sizable section of the club’s regular punters weren’t yet prepared to dance to Electro, they were more than happy to stand back and admire the energy and athleticism of Broken Glass (including a young Kermit, who, a decade on, would hook up with Shaun Ryder to form the band Black Grape).

When I stopped deejaying at the end of ’83, Mike Pickering, then the clubs promotions manager, continued the dance direction, taking to the decks himself and eventually achieving the breakthrough with his ‘Nude’ night, which, like my own specialist dance night at the club, took place on a Friday. As both Mike Pickering and Laurent Garnier (another pre-rave Haçienda resident) have pointed out, the original House crowd in Manchester were mainly black kids, but somehow this fact has never been properly acknowledged, with many young people (as the manager of a well known record shop recently pointed out to me) under the illusion that a group of DJ’s went to Ibiza and discovered dance music!

By the end of the decade the underground club scene had become a nationwide phenomenon and things would never be the same again as legions of white boys, aided by a little pill, finally lost their inhibitions and learnt how to dance! Before we knew it Manchester was Madchester and The Haçienda was destined to become (with the exception of Liverpool’s Cavern Club of the 60’s) arguably the best-known British nightspot of all.

My abiding memory of the Haçienda in those ‘rave on’ days was the overwhelming response to the track ‘Rich In Paradise’ by the FPI Project (an instrumental version of the classic ‘Going Back To My Roots’), which I witnessed during a visit from London, where I lived at the time. I was stood chatting to Kermit (then of the Ruthless Rap Assassins) in one of the alcoves when, while continuing the conversation, he raised his hand in the air as the track’s piano breakdown filled the room. In my heightened state I then noticed that all the people stood near us were giving the same type of salute. As I looked around it became apparent that everyone in the club was sharing this outpouring of togetherness, hands held high in the air! It was the most unifying moment I’ve ever experienced in a club and, although I witnessed similar sights subsequently, everything that followed seemed to be just chasing shadows, trying to re-capture something that was no longer there, at least not in its purest form.

To have truly ‘been to’ a club like The Haçienda, or Legend, you would have had to have been there at a certain point in time, when they were pushing back the musical boundaries and providing a unique experience for those who attended. Only a rare breed of clubs fall into this category, and only at a time of change, for it’s the changes that deepen the experience, the knowing that you’re part of something that is only happening in this building, now. Real changes only come along once in a while and many people never get the chance to be there at the cusp of a youth revolution.

Hacienda Package feat. Quando Quango & Greg Wilson

It’s now over 15 years since Acid-House’s ‘Summer Of Love’ and club kids worldwide are still trying to catch a hold of its vibe all this time on, dancing religiously to a four-to-the-floor mantra that endlessly regurgitates itself. This hedonistic scene of Superstar DJ’s and King-Size club events bears little resemblance to the underground that spawned it. It became big business, and when there’s money to be made and a lifestyle to be paid for, nobody with a vested financial interest wants change. For these people, the dance era, as we’ve come to know it, has already reached its natural conclusion, and it’s now simply a matter of milking the sacred cow it for all it’s worth.

But, as they say, nothing stays the same forever, and maybe someone, somewhere, is about to bring forth a totally fresh idea that will eventually lead to the necessary upheaval for the now old new school to become the old, as the new new school subsequently changes everything all over again.
It’s time to move on.

Haçienda Family Tree 2008 (Click image to enlarge)


Greg Wilson at Cerysmatic Factory:

Electronic Beats interview:

‘Hooky’s Book’ at Greg Wilson’s blog:

Greg Wilson – Haçienda Playlist:

Friday / Saturday: Aug – Dec 1983

• Arkade Funk – search and destroy
• Art Of Noise – beat box
• B Boys – cuttin’ herbie / rock the house
• B Boys – two, three, break
• Brian & Zan – pump your body
• Candido – jingo breakdown
• Captain Rapp – bad times (I can’t stand it)
• Captain Rock – the return of captain rock
• Chilltown – rock the beat
• Curtis Hairston – I want you
• Cybotron – clear
• Dimples D – sucker djs (I will survive)
• DJ Divine – get into the mix
• G.L.O.B.E & Whiz Kid – play that beat mr dj
• Gary’s Gang – makin’ music
• Grandmaster & Melle Mel – white lines (don’t don’t do it)
• Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – wheels of steel (oldie)
• Hashim – al-naafiysh (the soul)
• Herbie Hancock – rockit
• Hot Streak – body work
• Instant Funk – (just because) you’ll be mine
• K-9 Corp – dog talk
• Lafleur – boogie nights
• Leroy Burgess – heartbreaker
• Liquid Liquid – cavern
• Major Harris – all my life
• Malcolm X / Keith LeBlanc – no sell out
• Newcleus – jam on revenge (the wikki wikki song)
• New Order – confused beats
• Planet Patrol – cheap thrills
• Project Future – ray-gun-omics
• Quando Quango – love tempo (us remix)
• Radiance – you’re my number 1
• Russell Brothers – the party scene
• Shannon – let the music play
• Sharon Redd – love how you feel
• S.O.S Band – just be good to me
• Stockingcap – wave craze
• The Packman – I’m the packman (eat everything I can)
• The Rake – street justice
• Time Zone – the wildstyle
• Tom Browne – rockin’ radio
• Twilight 22 – electric kingdom
• Two Sisters – b boys beware
• Two Sisters – high noon
• Unique – what I got is what you need
• West Street Mob – break dancin’ – electric boogie
• Wuf Ticket – the key
• Xena – on the upside
• X-Ray Connection – replay

First published by Perfect Sound Forever:


Greg Wilson at the Haçienda exhibition – Urbis 2007

© Greg Wilson, originally written in 2002, re-edited in 2003

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