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The Beach Club: inspiration for The Hacienda

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In April 1980, a collective of friends based around the offices of New Hormones records in Manchester launched a new club night in the city. The group included Richard Boon (New Hormones label chief and Buzzcocks manager), Eric Random (then a member of Pete Shelley’s side project, The Tiller Boys), Sue Cooper (accountant for Buzzcocks and New Hormones), Lindsay Wilson (Tony Wilson’s ex-wife – now Lindsay Reade) and Suzanne O’Hara (Martin Hannett’s girlfriend). Held each Tuesday (“there may have been some exceptions”, says Boon), The Beach Club would showcase “cult, weird films with cult, weird bands,” he explains.

“Although Lindsay Reade might dispute this, I think I found the venue for the Beach Club,” says Liz Naylor, who together with partner Cath Carroll, published City Fun fanzine, put together from a desk at the New Hormones HQ at 50 Newton Street. Oozits, formerly known as the Picador, “used to be a really disreputable, scuzzy gay club,” recalls Naylor. “It was completely horrid. It was a complete firetrap. And it had a sort of seedy ambience that was perfect.”

Oozits was situated on Newgate Street in Shudehill, close to Manchester Victoria railway station. “It was a very seedy area,” recalls Manchester music historian and ex-Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias frontman, CP Lee. “There were dreadful hardcore porn shops that had wooden windows because they were always being set on fire or kicked in.”

“At the Beach Club, you’d walk in, go up a really nasty, rickety flight of stairs, pass a really horrible toilet, go up some more stairs and there was the room where they showed the films. On the top floor, you had the bands,” recalls Naylor. “It could have out-seeded the club in Blue Velvet,” reckons Dislocation Dance drummer, Dick Harrison.

The club’s name was inspired both by the Situationist slogan, ‘under the pavement: the beach,’ and by a poster belonging to Richard Boon’s friend Jon Savage for a 1960s exploitation movie called Horror on Party Beach. “It was a kind of rock’n’roll/Annette Funicello film, but with atomic creatures coming out of the sea and ripping teenagers to shreds,” explains Ken Hollings of Biting Tongues, one of the groups who played the club.

Not everyone got or cared about the references, recounts Naylor. “At the time we just thought, ‘oh, The Beach Club: let’s go there.’ We were 20 years old or whatever – it’s just somewhere you go and get drunk.”

The club’s founders had much more ambitious and idealistic motives, however. “When I asked Richard why he set up the club, he talked quite a lot about really needing to carry on the impetus of the Factory, about creating a space,” says Naylor. “There was nowhere which had that sense which the Factory at the PSV did, of a community,” says Boon. [Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus’s Factory at the PSV (aka the Russell Club, Hulme) ran from May 1978 to September 1979].

For Eric Random, “One of the reasons for starting the Beach Club was to do things like Certain Random Cabaret [a joint performance with members of A Certain Ratio and Cabaret Voltaire] – entertaining with the films, but also mixing the groups together. Different combinations of people would play at certain times. They were all just little experiments really. Nothing was focused to anything in the future. They were one-off things.”

Sue Cooper’s father ran film distribution company, Contemporary Films, as well as London’s Phoenix Cinema. “Through her family connections she could track down which distributor had what and she knew what to say,” explains Boon. “Don’t know where we got the projector: probably from the Manchester Film and Video Workshop, which was basically a guy called Bob Jones.”

“We had to become a registered film club,” says Random. Members paid 25p to join. “It was such a small space that it was quite limited musically as to what we could put on. I enjoyed putting the films on more than anything,” he recalls.

Screenings included art house staples such as Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, Cocteau’s Orphee and Tod Browning’s Freaks. “In the days before video there wasn’t much of an outlet for this kind of film,” says Cath Carroll. “Admittedly, there was the Aaben in Hulme, which was excellent, but it tended to show much drier fare,” she adds.

Bands were allowed to pick the films that appeared the night they played. “Or I’d give them a choice of so many films,” says Random. “Eraserhead was our choice of movie,” recalls Ian Runacres of Dislocation Dance. “We had an argument about whether it should be Pepe le Moko or Orphee,” says Dick Witts of The Passage.

“It was like a sandwich – film, band, film, band – it just went on for hours,” says Fraser Reich (aka Fraser Diagram of The Diagram Brothers). “The Beach Club was fantastic: very original.”

CP Lee played the Beach Club with an Albertos offshoot, (“probably The George Sugden XI”). “I remember thinking, Richard’s doing what we used to do in the 1960s – put a band on with a film showing at the same time; dancers; just weird shit. It was great!”

“Watching the films there felt rather illicit and underground,” recollects Carroll. “There was a bit of a frisson when they showed A Clockwork Orange because it was still banned,” confirms Fraser Diagram. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Ai-No-Corrida also found their way to the Beach Club’s screen.

“People wanted to see them, you know. It seems ridiculous now you can watch them on TV,” says Random.

“All the Factory crew came down the Beach Club,” remembers Peter Wright, who managed Dislocation Dance and later helped Boon out with the running of New Hormones. “A lot of the bands that played at the Beach Club were Factory bands,” adds Random. New Order played their first ever gig at the club on July 29, 1980, disguised as The Names. They wanted a sympathetic crowd for their debut. “I think everyone in the audience knew them,” says Random.  “I just remember them being terrible and shambolic,” says Naylor. “They sounded like Popol Vuh,” reckons Boon.

The roll call of Beach Club veterans stretches from the Diagram Brothers and Kevin Hewick to the Mudhutters and Royal Family and the Poor. “I remember seeing Section 25 and having to walk out of the room because they were so loud,” says Naylor. One surprising and very well-known name also chalked up at a gig at the Beach Club, as Eric Random recalls: “I remember we tried to book Blurt and the agent said if you’re having Blurt will you have this other band that we’ve got. I said ‘alright, we’ll have them as support’. So we get there and there’s this huge artic – you couldn’t even get it in the same street. The band had endless equipment. Blurt saw this and left in the end. It was a complete disaster… So U2 ended up playing there, but I left, I didn’t watch them.”

The Beach Club didn’t last long. “It seemed to go on forever, but I think it only lasted six weeks or so,” says Carroll. “We were running out of music to put on,” recalls Random. The precise date of the final Beach Club is unclear, although a Melody Maker article from February 28, 1981, refers to the club as having closed down “when attendance began to drop.”

“The flyer for the last night was the last page of Horror on Party Beach, a detourned page from the comic of the film,” recalls Boon. “The last panel was a speech bubble saying ‘There’s nothing go on here but the recordings. Let’s Fuck. The End’.”

Eric Random says that, “Afterwards, somebody sneaked in and carried on the name for about a year.”

Despite its short lifespan, The Beach Club has left its mark.

“It was as important in changing clubbing in Manchester as the Hacienda,” reckons Graham Massey (Biting Tongues, 808 State). “It was the first time Manchester focused in that arts way, because it had cinema and everything as well. It had that feel.” For Biting Tongues drummer, Eddie Sherwood,  “It was more than just a club where you went and got drunk and watched a band.”

“Looking back it was probably the best club night in Manchester at the time,” says Andy Diagram. “[The Hacienda] took the idea of the Beach Club and made it bigger, “ believes Naylor. “We didn’t give it a catalogue number, possibly a mistake,” muses Boon.

The former site of the club was razed several years ago and a car park built over it. But the memories and influence live on. Under the pavement…

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:42 pm

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