The Stone Roses were one of the best and most beloved Britpop bands of the early ’90s, helping the dance-influenced Madchester sound of the late ’80s and early ’90s take the British charts by storm with their classic self-titled debut album. In the U.S. their immediate impact was smaller, yet their influence stretched from predecessors like Oasis to more recent bands including Jagwar Ma and Diiv. Their sound, a blend of jangly guitars not unlike those employed by Johnny Marr in The Smiths with dancier beats and psychedelic effects, helped make them NME cover stars at the time, as did the presence of cocky, charismatic frontman Ian Brown, who once declared the band would become “the biggest band ever.” The band's second album failed to take off, and the band broke up in 1996. They reunited in 2012, after 16 years, to headline the Coachella Music and Arts Festival and have even garnered the Twitter ire of one Azealia Banks, as sure a sign as any that the band’s relevance continues today.
As the above excerpt from the the Rock Family Trees series about the history of the Manchester music scene (see Pt 2 and Pt 3) nicely outlines, and as most of us Smiths/Joy Division etc. fans already well know, Manchester, England has an incredibly rich musical legacy. It spans several decades with a seemingly never ending stream of talented bands and artists including (to name but a handful) New Order, The Stone Roses, James, 808 State, The Durutti Column, The Happy Monday, The Inspiral Carpets, The Fall, Autechre, The Ting Tings, and Herman's Hermits.
Also well aware of this are the music loving folks who throw the ongoing Bay Area electro/80's/indie/goth themed Temptation party. So for tonight's (sure to be hella fun) Temptation party at Cat Club, the theme is Manchester and that's what the DJs will be spinning all night long. I caught up with Temptation DJ/promoter DJ Damon, who co-produces the Bay Area club night with Dangerous Dan and Skip, and who holds a special place in his heart for Manchester's rich musical history to ask him about tonight's party and Manchester music in general.
The Second Summer of Love
It was 20 years ago today (well, this coming summer, which is just around the corner) that what was known as The Second Summer of Love occurred. England's youth fell in love with Ecstasy, which they combined with a taste for Chicago House Music and the results made history. As is often the case, the fashions of 20 years ago (in this case, the 1960s) became fashionable again. Tye dye and peace symbols abounded on teens around the world. Thousands of people started attending massive Acid House raves. A feeling of pacifistic and environmental optimism swept much of the planet (or maybe that was just my teenage outlook). The Factory label's Hacienda nightclub featured DJs and bands which mixed disco, house, hip-hop, electro and indie rock. Soon, other northern clubs followed their lead, such as Boardwalk, Devilles, Isadora's, Konspiracy, House, Soundgardens, Man Alive, The International, Bugsy's and The Osbourne Club. And the hooliganish Casuals tuned in and begat Acid Casuals.
Madchester, So Much to Answer For
Half a world away in Columbia MO, I used to listen to KCOU, which would play lots of Acid House and Belgian New Beat. It was the first contemporary music that I was into as it was happening. My parents only played soul, bluegrass, jazz and classical records. Then I discovered the Doors, T Rex and the Beatles through the radio. And after discovering College Radio, a new world opened up. I would dance (in private) on the hearth in the living room to these strange, new sounds and hope that my mother wouldn't ask what the hell that stuff was all about because I couldn't really explain its hold on me, although it's debt to my beloved Kraftwerk was evident. Our exchange student, Alexis Poul, found an Acid House button at JFK which was, of course, a smiley face with the words "acid" and "house" printed on them. Alexis told me that all anyone listened to in France was house music. And when I went there, in '89, it was true. Even the buses played house.
One recent afternoon, while ambling through the rock vinyl aisles of Amoeba Berkeley, my eye caught that great Joy Division album cover Unknown Pleasures. Wow, I thought, just how perfect is that cover artwork that was actually taken from an edition of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy? And how even more perfect is that whole album -- originally released on June 15th, 1979? I could listen to it and everything by Joy Division a million times over and never get tired of hearing it. Even the over-played and over-covered "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (released a month after Curtis' suicide) never ages in my head. Perhaps part of the greatness of all this music is that it is frozen in time, never having to be matched by later releases from a band that came to an abrupt early end after the tragically troubled lead-singer Ian Curtis had literally kicked the bucket -- instantly making him and Joy Division stuff of music legend, to be forever admired and romanticized in pop culture from afar.
But what (let's just imagine) if Ian Kevin Curtis hadn't hung himself back on May 18th, 1980, at the young age of 23? What if instead, he had kept on living and making music with Joy Division (meaning, of course, that there would have been no New Order), cranking out (increasingly weaker and weaker) albums throughout the eighties and up until an ugly break-up in 1997, followed by Ian Curtis completely disappearing for many years up until, let's again pretend, in 2004 when the producers of VH1's Band Reunited track him down. What if they find him old, fat, bald, bitter and living in a bedsit in Birmingham? Then, encouraged by VH1's intervention, he officially pulls himself together, temporarily kicks his age old habit, and tours small clubs with a new Joy Division lineup doing at best average covers of his old songs. Not pretty, eh? Not compared to the perfectly preserved, romantically tragic Ian Curtis that is the pop culture icon today.