Let All The Children Boogie
Nightlife is dying. We need to save it.
In 1976 Ian Curtis was 20 years old. The turn of his third decade couldn’t have been timed better. It’s funny how, looking back, the people and moments and places that changed everything always seem to come together at just the right time in just the right place.
He saw a gig in Manchester once. A spotty prophet called Johnny Rotten screamed at him and it changed his life. Ian went on to change music as well, before taking his own life aged 23. His Joy Division became New Order and they would bridge the gap between 70s disco and electronic beats of the 80s to create the first stirrings of what would later become acid house, housed and celebrated by the famous Hacienda in Manchester.
The Hacienda, in its heyday, was the centre of the world. It breathed culture. A couple of young Gallagher brothers were there often. You can see it in their clothes, in their attitudes. It was all about having a good time at the Hacienda, but more than that, it was about everyone having a good time.
“For people who went there, it was their church” — Liam Gallagher on the Hacienda
I mention Ian Curtis to show the interconnectedness of it all. Without Ian seeing Johnny Rotten that night, he might not have been inspired to start a band. If Johnny Rotten hadn’t have been just sick and bloody tired of all the glamour of disco, he might not have played his pivotal role in England’s punk scene. Disco, in turn, might not have imprinted itself on British culture as it did without the help it got from the psychedelic scene at the end of the 60s in Britain’s basements.
What is absolutely true is that none of these fundamental shifts in music, clothes, attitudes, and culture could have ever happened without the four walls of each venue that allowed them to breathe.
But clubs are more than their four walls.
They are a voice to the unheard. They are safe havens for the marginalised. They find allies in times of trouble. They nurture creativity. They break down social norms. They inspire the next generation.
This is not a call to arms. This is no time to be rash. But this is not a time to be complacent. We need to recognise the weight of the definite, real consequences sweeping in as a result of brutish apathy by the hand of government towards the industry responsible for creating life-changing experiences and encouraging generations of pioneering artistry, musical and otherwise.
Think back. You’re 20, just like Ian was. Maybe you didn’t see the likes of Johnny Rotten, but I can guarantee there were some nights to remember in there. Nights you’d turn to your friends, maybe you’re stood apart from them slightly, just so that you could see them all in one frame, and just smile to yourself. You smiled because this was it. This was absolute joy. Their faces would be lit, not lit, lit by the flashing of the club’s lights swaying over their faces, lips still glowing as they wiped away the last cheers.
Let’s not underestimate the effect these nights and venues have on us.
These are the nights, the people, the places that will have an enormous influence on our moral compass. Some people feel more at home in these venues than they ever did growing up. The Hacienda, the Rum Runner, The Roxy. All of them gave people a release, an escape, or a home.
The legacy of the Cavern, the Club a Go Go, The Roxy, The Twisted Wheel, Eric’s, The Leadmill, Cream, The Hacienda, and countless others will live on. They have had their time. They have given us more than is quantifiable.
Dave Haslam, tenured Hacienda DJ and author of the book that inspired this article — Life After Dark, expertly rationalises the need for our clubs and venues in these unprecedently unprecedented times by explaining our
“tendency to judge cultural significance only by scale, numbers, size or income generated, but this misses one of the lessons of the story of life after dark — how powerful a small and under-capitalised venture can be. It isn’t just about clubs and venues. Cultural change starts away from the establishment and the big art institutions; it starts at the margins, unheralded.”
Cheers to that.