Today marks International Women’s Day and we would like to celebrate the female music fans across the U.K who uploaded their memories to the People’s History of Pop.
Here are a few highlights from the collection..
My first gig, January 1978
The first gig you ever go to is something of a rite of passage. Perhaps you were, as I was, under-age and with tender ear-drums. Getting through the doors past the bouncer, in spite of being nearly four years under eighteen (and him being the size of a house), wasn’t a problem (perhaps because I was a girl…?) Even the process of buying a pint of cider at the bar was painless. Coping with the volume was something that got easier as the night wore on. But concealing my excitement at seeing a band I really admired up there on the stage, in all their real, raw glory, playing songs I’d only previously heard in session on John Peel’s radio show, was impossible. My first, proper gig was Siouxsie & the Banshees at a club called Triad in Bishop’s Stortford, January 1978. Cee
Ready, Steady Goer!
This goes way back to the 1960s when I was about 16 or 17 and regularly attended recordings of Ready, Steady Go. I was on the list of dancers for the programme and clearly remember dancing with The Hollies – great stuff. I used to go with my school friend, Stella and we just loved to dance and see all the pop stars. Once a floor manager grabbed a boy who was standing near us when we were dancing like crazy and he yelled at the poor guy, ‘dance with them, dance with them.’ Great memories’. Frankee
Spice Girls birthday party
The classic birthday party of the 90’s… get four of your best friends together and each dress up as one of the spice girls! You were bound to be chosen to be a member in at least one birthday party a year! Hanna Benjamin.
It’s hard to remember the meteoric rise of the Beatles without envisioning their grey suits; or picture Marc Bolan’s Ride a White Swan without still being dazzled by the glitter under his eyes.
As the People’s History of Pop is discovering, pop is as much about display, expression and liberation in fashion as it is in music. From psychedelia’s flares to heavy metal’s denim jackets, teenagers trying to find an identity in their formative years looked to music for wardrobe inspiration. Many years later, style trends have come and gone, waistlines may have acquired a few inches but some wardrobes still house those treasured get ups.
PHOP contributor Steve Dymond has shared some of his treasured items from festivals of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Hippyish embroidered clothing was all the rage in the late 60’s to mid 70’s. From 1972, typical hippy style garment at festival stalls and Carnaby St type shops was the “granddad vest”.”
For Punk fan Celia Biscoe, it was all about using egg whites to spike up her hair and getting creative with her sister’s hand-me-downs.
“Great fun was to be had too in making my trousers. They were just plain black straights which I laid in the bath and splattered with emulsion paint… just what was left in the bottom of any old tins I could find. I tried to make them a bit arty, with thicker paint around the hems where the colour intensified. I was really pleased with how they turned out, although they were a bit crusty-feeling.”
Fans of our music heroes, from The Beatles to Bowie, shared their stories with radio listeners across the country last week, as 39 local radio stations celebrated ‘People’s History of Pop: The Local Story’, culminating in a day of programmes on Sunday February 7.
It’s 2am on a gloomy Sunday night. Across the UK the streets are quiet, save for one town where teenagers, sporting a uniform of Fred Perrys, baggy trousers and brogues, march to a local nightclub for it’s first all-nighter. The town is Wigan, the year 1973 and the club is soon to become known as the home of Northern Soul.
Deriving its name from the location of thumping dance floors in Wigan, Stoke and Blackpool where the scene first erupted, Northern Soul offered young people an escape from the strikes and power cuts of the 1970s in the form of black American music.
PHOP contributor, Barry May, tells how growing up dancing to Northern Soul has led to a lifetime of collecting classic records.
I remember I was generally very much a ‘bus home’ type kid after Wigan. It was cheaper, dropped me off virtually outside my house and didn’t involve dealing with too many people the morning after. The bonuses of leaving for the early bus were liberating a pint of milk and a paper from the knotted packages left outside the newsagents in the Arcade.
The older we get the more authentic and original we want our precious vinyl records to be. Although I collect original vinyl, I still have a place in my heart for the bootlegged record as it is a part and parcel of our chequered scene – unscrupulous Soulies have the in vogue and most expensive tracks being played at the time bootlegged…they then sell them at a much cheaper price.
Nowadays people all over the world collect Northern Soul classics….it’s not just restricted to the UK shores anymore.
Steel Pulse – Handsworth Revolution uploaded by DJ Empress Licensed under CC-BY-SA.
Steel Pulse burst onto the scene in 1975 and were one of the reggae bands closely associated with the Rock Against Racism campaign. They played alongside punk bands the Buzzcocks at the Northern Carnival and the Clash in Victoria park.
DJ Empress shares her memory of seeing Steel Pulse perform and their music on the People’s History of Pop.
“The first time I saw Steel Pulse perform was in the 1970s in a Birmingham City Centre nightclub called Rebecca’s, I was about 10 feet away from them, there wasn’t even a stage, but the music was incredible, and I became a fan from that night. Handsworth Revolution was the first album I ever bought back in 1978; and I still have that album today.
I never really heard music by Steele Pulse being played on the sound systems in the dancehalls, and although back then, the reggae music scene was predominately about black culture, Rasta, Marcus Garvey and going back to Africa, with deep lyrics, the more popular tunes were by Dennis Brown, Culture and Burning Spear amongst many others out of Jamaica. Then when it came to UK reggae you predominately heard London Lovers Rock on the sound systems.” DJ Empress
In an article about the Manchester gay club scene from NSM magazine in 1986, a photo depicts two women posing as they drink Breaker beers in a club. In the background, two others are slumped asleep on the sofa, done in by the night of partying. “I love that photo. I think it captures the scene at that time,” says Abigail Ward. “It wasn’t until the 1990s that Manchester was dubbed ‘Gaychester’, house music took over and LGBT music culture in the city went boom.”
The clipping is just one of thousands of pieces uploaded to the online archive Abigail runs to celebrate Manchester’s long and varied music history – the Manchester District Music Archive.
The idea for the archive came from two filmmakers – Matthew Norman and Alison Surtees. Inspired by historian C.P Lee’s book about Manchester music, ‘Shake, Rattle and Rain’, they started a campaign, with the help of C.P Lee and band manger Dave Rofe, to set up a physical museum in the city. Abigail got involved to develop the website soon after and found that people were sending her stuff from their personal collections, which she would upload onto the site herself. “One day I thought ‘God, I really wish people could do this for themselves!’ It was before Facebook had really taken off so I set about creating a site that would allow people to upload their own images. As the online presence took hold we let go of the idea of doing a museum. Instead of it being a large dreary institution, we took a more of a guerrilla approach.”
The online archive grew quickly as word spread and has allowed Abigail and her colleagues to create pop-up events and exhibitions giving a voice to untold stories. ‘Queer Noise’, for instance, explored the hidden history of Manchester’s LGBT music culture and club life, while ‘Moss Side Stories’ told the history of clubs in the area and ‘City Fun’ collected together memorabilia of the post-punk fanzine collective.
“For a long time, the mainstream perception of Manchester was a very laddish one. It was about celebrating a very white, male culture. We felt that there were other stories that needed to be told and the way to destabilise the dominant historical narrative was to give people a platform to talk about what’s important to them.”
For Abigail, the stories about Manchester’s music scene reveal it as a “radical, pioneering and political city”. That’s her personal experience too. “I am from Preston in Lancashire, which is about 40 minutes away, but it might as well have been 40 million miles away in terms of my ability to get to Manchester. I grew up obsessing about bands like Magazine and The Smiths. Listening to Morrissey in particular made me feel less lonely as a person who was confused about my sexuality. I would pound the streets with my Walkman listening to what he was saying and, when I was very young, Manchester seemed like a romantic place to be. It also seemed like a safer city to come out in.
“With my focus on LGBT club culture I have tried to tell a story about how lots of people only a few years older than me protested on the streets against things like Section 28 in the 80s and 90s. These demos helped to make Manchester a safer space for gay people, so that when someone like me came along, there were good clubs to go to. I’d never even met another gay person before I came here.”
It was in the 1990s, when Abigail arrived in Manchester, that Manto club was launched on Canal Street, flouting the secrecy of gay venues by installing full-height plate glass windows. DJ Tim Lennox had been building the house and dance music scene at the gay-friendly Number 1 Club and that led to the birth of Flesh, a popular house night at the Haçienda billed as ‘Serious Pleasure for Dykes and Queers’.
“As a curator, I would say the thread in my work is celebrating and exploring when communities come together through their music and club life to protest oppression. It doesn’t have to be under a specifically political banner. It’s the coming together and being visible that’s a political act. That’s when the best parties happen.”
You can explore the Manchester District Music Archive here and their collections on Historypin are here.
Abigail’s favourite pieces change all the time, but here are her current top three:
1. The article from NSM magazine in 1986 about lesbian nightlife in Manchester (pages 1, 2 and 3) – with photos by Michelle Smith.
2. A reggae poster for when the reggae artist Johnney Osbourne came to play at the PSV club. “When he came on stage it turned out he was an imposter who was performing under Johnny Osbourne’s name. It obviously kicked off massively in the club.”
3. A photo of Jonny Cash at the Astoria Plymouth Grove: “This is a beautiful shot by a guy called Brian Smith, who was just a fan in the audience. The venue is on the street that I first moved to in Manchester. It’s a fantastic picture of Jonny. It’s his first ever gig in the UK. It’s an Irish social club. And in the background you can see the clock and it’s just past midnight. It just really does it for me.”
Anyone listening to Muse’s Muscle Museum would be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the lyric “I have played in every toilet”. Rather than a reference to the extremes a band might go to for exposure, the words are an affectionate nod to the string of independent music venues in the UK, known as the “toilet circuit”.
Named after latrine-turned-venue, the Tunbridge Wells Forum, grassroots places like these have played a crucial role in the development of British music, providing a platform for live performance experience. From Richmond’s Crawdaddy Club, where the Rolling Stones got their first residency in 1963, King Tut’s in Glasgow, where Oasis were first signed in 1993, to more contemporary artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran, the network of small venues has been the bedrock from which the next stadium-filler might emerge.
The People’s History of Pop continues to unearth incredible stories of first gigs, spontaneous backstage trips and sweaty all nighters. More often than not the scene for these memories is set in the shuddering basements of independent venues.
Lindsay Gregory remembers her favourite hangout as a 15-year-old punk in 1973.
“Our local town Retford in Nottinghamshire had this tiny music venue called Retford Porterhouse where pretty much every punk band that ever existed played, from The Damned, Buzzcocks, The Slits… A bunch of us went every week without fail, drank cider and blackcurrant and pogoed until the band finished and then carried on dancing on the stage until we were thrown out.”
“Nottingham Rock City is the greatest music venue in the world,” says Britpop fan Alan Holland. “I spent my formative years there seeing all the greats – Oasis, Shed Seven, Supergrass, The Charlatans, The Bluetones. Everyone played there, and have continued to do so since.”
Since 2007, London has lost 35% of its grassroots music venues and this is a trend being seen across the country. In places where there is just one alternative music venue, they are of huge importance in that area, whilst also providing the first step on the ladder for many aspiring musicians.
Independent Venue Week, which launches this Monday, will celebrate the places that made those memories and raise awareness of grassroots venues by hosting a weeklong series of gigs. BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq will tour five cities around the UK, shining a light on the alternative music scene in each area and getting the latest on the best new local bands coming through the ranks.
This year they are collaborating with PHOP to re-discover some of our most memorable gigs on the alternative circuit. Explore what people have uploaded so far here.
To share memories of your favourite venue, visit www.phop.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrating Bowie fan memories on the People’s History of Pop. Ziggy Stardust tour ticket stub uploaded by Rosie2603. Licensed under CC BY-SA
“This was my first David Bowie concert, I was so excited to be going to see such a great and iconic performer. It was also the first date with my boyfriend, John who was and still is, a huge David Bowie fan. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this year. We have seen David Bowie several times since, but that concert will always be the most magical.” Rosie
David Bowie ticket stub uploaded by Gary Jordan. Licensed under CC-BY-SA
“My first Bowie concert. I’d been an avid Bowie fan since 1972 but had to wait 4 years before seeing him live. He did not disappoint. Instead of a support group they showed Bunuel and Dali’s classic surrealist film Un Chien Andalous.” Gary Jordan
Bowie Jacket uploaded by Laughing Gnome. Licensed under CC-BY-SA.
“Embroidered by my mum and worn the first time I saw Bowie at Stafford Bingley in 1978” Laughing Gnome
Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou featured the Brazilian musician Seu Jorge performing a collection of David Bowie songs
Seu Jorge – The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
“Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.”
David Bowie. Source: Musician Guide
The PHOP team visited Newton Dunbar, former owner of Four Aces, London to discuss how he came about opening Hackney’s first nightclub in 1967.
“There were hardly any nightclubs. The few clubs that were in existence were structured clubs, that more or less did ballroom type dances. We used to go to basement parties in Brixton and Ladbroke Grove. They were basic places where they would sell a few beers and ask for a small admission fee.
There was a space we started going into a basement in Highbury Grove. My friends and I started going two or three times a week and after a few months the owner asked us if we wanted to run it. We decided to call it the Four Aces. In Jamaica there was a brand of cigarette that was popular called Four Aces and there was four of us so it seemed appropriate.
After a while the the others moved on and I continued to run the club but it got to the stage where the Highbury venue became too small. We started to get around 60-70 people and that’s when I started looking for a bigger premises.” Newton Dunbar
Dunbar secured the lease on a larger venue in Dalston, London with a stage which enable him to booked bands to perform including soon to be chart topping rude boy..
“We had booked Demond Dekker to perform at the club and during the waiting period he went to No.1 in the U.K charts with ‘Israelites’. The night came and we had a phenomenal turnout. The queue went right up to the junction and he performed magnificently. The crowd that turned up were not just West Indians, there was a mixture of people. It was that night that was really instrumental in putting us on the map.” Newton Dunbar
We want to hear about your favourite music venues from across the U.K. Share your story at PHOP.CO.UK