One person who played a major role in bringing House music to the attention of people in the North-West was Stu Allan, yet, with regards to much of the documentation on this subject, he might as well have not existed!Stu is definitely the forgotten DJ when it comes to the evolution of the UK House scene. It’s difficult to understand why he’s constantly overlooked when he was so influential, especially with regards to the whole Manchester thing. I know that some people might be critical of the direction he took in the 90’s, when he became known to a new audience, playing Hardcore, as well as co-producing a string of commercial hits with Pete Pritchard, via their project, Clock, but that shouldn’t mean that his pioneering role during the previous decade is somehow devalued. Credit where credit’s due.
Before the The Haçienda really took off as a dance venue, the underground black scene in Manchester was paving the way. Legend, along with a trio of highly notable clubs – The Gallery, Berlin and The Playpen – were the places to go if you were into cutting-edge dance music. The Gallery, famed for its All-Nighters, is best remembered by some as the venue where the Manchester Hip Hop scene came into its own, but what mustn’t be forgotten is that Hip Hop wasn’t played exclusively back then, but alongside the other styles of black music, including House. Berlin placed the emphasis on Jazz and Soul, but DJ Colin Curtis, who’d launched the night with Hewan Clarke as an alternative to the Electro dominated scene in the North would also embrace House when it came along. The Playpen, owned by the same company that ran Legend and Wigan Pier, would have nights with DJ’s such as Colin, Hewan, Mike Shaft and Stu.
The early Chicago House tunes naturally slotted into place in the black clubs, with many people viewing them at the time as a 4/4 mutation of the Electro style – just like Electro-Funk in 82-84, this was regarded as a new direction, and welcomed by the black audience. I can’t speak for London, where the Rare Groove scene was really taking off and dance culture was forging a different path, but in places like Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and Leeds, the same process took place as in Manchester.
Both Mike Pickering and Laurent Garnier have acknowledged that, at first, the House crowd at The Hacienda were mainly black (Graeme Park says the same thing with regards to Nottingham). It was only when the Rave scene exploded on a mainstream level that the majority of the black kids moved on, with new underground scenes like Jungle and Drum & Bass emerging as a consequence.
Stu, via his specialist Sunday night show on the biggest ILR station outside London, Piccadilly Radio (later re-named Key 103), had a massive amount of influence in Manchester and the surrounding areas during the mid-80’s to early 90’s. Following on from Mike Shaft’s Piccadilly Soul show, ‘T.C.O.B’, Stu featured the best of upfront black / dance styles (mostly US imports). Everyone who was into dance music listened to Stu’s shows – it was almost compulsory.
Alongside the other black music flavours of the time, many of the groundbreaking early Trax and DJ International releases were first aired by Stu, who would later champion local acts like A Guy Called Gerald, 808 State and T Coy. Even the name A Guy Called Gerald (accidentally) resulted from Stu – when playing a cassette of one of Gerald’s tunes, before he even had a record deal, Stu introduced the track as ‘by a guy called Gerald from Hulme’!
The following conversation between Stu and I took place in 2004.
GW: Where are you from?
GW: Right, when were you born?
GW: So right you’re a couple of years younger than me then.
SA: Oh well that’s something.
GW: How did you get into black music?
SA: I don’t know, I just liked it.
GW: Well, where did you hear it?
SA: On Anglesey there were no clubs, obviously, but kind of like function rooms, and a couple of people that I knew were DJ’s, but the obvious kinds, you know 21sts and whatever.
SA: I still went along and watched how they did that, and occasionally they would just do their own night. Nothing like putting on a night these days, but it was just, ‘I’ll put on a night’ and the word got round. With it being Anglesey, the word just sort of gets round rather than advertising it everywhere and there’d be about 200 people turn up. They played a lot of…this is sort of 1979, 1980 and they’d be playing what was the new romanticy things coming in at the time really, but at the same time they would play loads of stuff that I liked, like Mystic Merlin or something. Just something that a lot of people knew, Positive Force and these sort of tunes, and I thought they just stuck out much better than Soft Cell or something. I thought, well this is me, this is what I like, although I like all kinds of music, so that’s where I got to hear it, but to keep yourself up to date was obviously extremely difficult, you know, unless you went somewhere else, like Manchester or somewhere, which wasn’t feasible at the time, you know, with no money.
GW: I mean did you have access to any radio shows?
SA: My absolute saviour, although he wasn’t playing much of it as you can imagine, was John Peel. On Tuesday nights at 10 o’clock, and it was so brilliant because that was where I first heard Grandmaster Flash and ‘Wheels of Steel’. I heard that and I think it’s, well for us DJ’s who have been DJing for so long, the turning point. At the time I was thinking ‘how is he doing this and what are those sort of funny noises?’. You know what I mean, scratching.
GW: Well that was the thing with it; it was like a delayed reaction with that track because we didn’t know what was going on so it was a very bizarre track initially.
SA: Yeah, totally.
GW: And it had like Chic and Good Times. I mean the funny thing is that I was recently explaining why this track was never played at the time on the black music scene and, I mean, it’s quite obvious really when you think of it. It’s because it had Blondie and Queen in it. It would never have been played on the Jazz-Funk scene at that point in time, because there was a pop element to it.
SA: Yeah, like you say, because it was poppy, you would never, as a DJ in them days, just play Blondie, whereas over there somebody like Grandmaster Flash would pick out the break bit, because it has got a great bassline and a great beat, you know what I mean, and they would obviously just extend that themselves. We didn’t know how to do that.
GW: Exactly, they were right, we were wrong at the time. Eventually this became a big Legend track, in 83 on the back of all the scratching that was appearing on some of the tracks I was playing when it all started to open up and we realised what Hip Hop was, with its different elements. Then, all of a sudden, it was sound to play it and everybody went for it, but it’s just funny that it’s a really good marker on where the scene was at – the fact that it was originally viewed as an oddity of the track. I remember first hearing it, when I got a promo copy sent to me and, you know, it was a really intriguing track and, as with yourself, it was ‘what’s going on here’? But, although I was into it on a personal level, I could never have gone and played it on a Jazz-Funk night.
SA: What I do remember, with it being played in Anglesey at the time and things, because it was hit.
GW: But it wasn’t a hit you know!
SA: No, ‘Rapture’ I mean.
GW: Oh yeah, sorry.
SA: And you would hear that track and before you really knew what it was, you were tapping your foot anyway and then Debbie Harry started singing and you’d think, ‘oh shit’, you know, ‘it’s that record’. It’s weird, you didn’t sort of instantly hate the track, it was just like ‘oh fucking hell, they’ve ruined it by putting her vocal on’ or something. But you know, you look back and you mature a little bit and you can put up with these things.
GW: And I mean now, you know, to me it’s like one of the all time classic records that’s ever been made. When you realise what went into what he was doing, it’s just mindblowing what he brought into it. The fact that those tracks like Queen and Blondie were included in it is such a plus.
SA: Yeah, they were good breaks and that was what it was all about, wasn’t it? Whereas we obviously didn’t have the mentality back in, when was it, 80, 81, well I certainly didn’t anyway, to break out chunks of records and only play those bits, you know, you just played the record.
SA: That’s what they were doing over there and obviously had been for a while. We just hadn’t the facility for hearing what they were doing until that, which you know was so brilliant. It’s a piece of history you know, and all on one 12 inch record. I was just so glad because I used to tape a lot of John Peel and things and think ‘fucking hell, this is a good tune’ or, you know, because he’d play obviously other things that I would just never have listened to, but what a great show for me stuck in Anglesey. You know, specialist radio didn’t exist in them days anyway and he would play something like a track from Was (Not Was) and these sort of things, Bill Laswell things. So there was that kind of crossover of Funk and white people sort of doing things, and it was so brilliant, and that was my source of hearing newer things really. But that Grandmaster Flash tune was the thing that stuck out, and I was so glad that I recorded it and had it on my cassette and played it in the car on me way to work the next day. Working in a factory and everyone’s going ‘what the fuck’s this’? It was just unreal; I hadn’t a clue, especially at the time. You sort of think, how’s he doing this thing, you know. So brilliant, so brilliant.
GW: So you moved to Manchester, when was that?
SA: That was March 1982 – well that was when I moved in properly.
GW: So you went to Manchester to study, was it?
SA: No, no, no, gosh no. No, I was made redundant. Lots of factories closing down or making huge redundancies, and that’s was what happened to me. I was an engineering apprentice back in Anglesey, doing bits of DJing and trying to be in a band.
GW: Right. Sorry, just backtrack a bit. So you actually started DJing in Anglesey?
SA: Well I was doing bits. Certainly I would never consider anything serious at that point. I was doing bits and pieces, wanting to be a DJ, but never thinking, you know, this is my life. Just anything with music, that’s all I wanted to do.
GW: Was it like clubs or where you just helping out with the mobile, or something like that?
SA: Yeah, everything like that, yeah and then just sort of ‘give me a go, give me a go’, as we all did I suppose, ‘just let me use 2 turntables’, even though they were sprung and certainly weren’t direct drive. Lots of lovely belt drive turntables, but, you know, it’s good practice I’m sure.
GW: What made you decide to go to Manchester?
SA: Well I just needed to get out of Anglesey, there was nothing, it was just a dead end and I needed to move. As it goes, I had a mate who was a student in Manchester, so at least I’d visited Manchester a few times and I wasn’t daunted by moving, as such, to Manchester, so I tried it and that was it. I just moved over there, I lived in West Didsbury for a while, as a lot do, and became a barman in a pub in West Didsbury. At the back of that pub there was a little club, and it was a proper club you know, which would only hold about 200 people, but it was a proper club. It was open 6 nights a week, so straight away I just went into the back of there and watched the DJ there, although he was dreadful, but at least he was playing things like D Train and Patrice Rushen and tunes that, you know, were right at the time.
GW: What club was that?
SA: It was actually called Bilko’s. Now no-one would remember it unless they lived round there. The pub’s still there and it’s called The Midland, but it was one of these done up type places with lots of sewing machine tables, and they changed their name to Buddy’s, and things like that. It was just down the road from where I used to live and it used to have a little club in the back. So I just went in there and got chatting to the DJ and messing around in there as well.
GW: Right, so you actually got to spin a few tunes there yourself?
SA: Yeah, well it wasn’t my job, I just did it you know, I wanted to do it.
GW: So how did you come to venture into town to Legend?
SA: Just by meeting people, you know, the people that I met in that pub. Obviously I didn’t know anybody so you just got chatting to various people and eventually found a couple of people who were into Funk and stuff and they said ‘we’re going in to town, do you want to come’ and I said ‘yes’ and I was thinking ‘but it’s Wednesday’. You know what I mean?
SA: I’m thinking ‘fucking hell, what’s going on, you go out on a Wednesday!’. I mean, obviously, me being from Anglesey, nothing happens even on a Saturday, let alone a Wednesday. So I just ended up in Legend and that’s where you were.
GW: Were these black kids?
SA: Black, yeah , a couple of black kids, plus a white girl who was with one of the black guys.
GW: Can you remember how long you’d been in Manchester at this point?
SA: Probably only a couple of weeks.
GW: So I this was just before Legend really exploded. I’d imagine it was about half full at the time.
SA: Yeah, it wasn’t rammed. I do remember going quite early in the night and it still being fairly quiet, I just remember turning up, being pretty gobsmacked by the lights, you know what I mean. Legend, for it’s time, let alone the music, the sound quality of the system was incredible. Any place you went to back then, you just sort of put up with this screaming distorted whatever, and then you go to Legends and you actually hear things, you know. That was main thing I noticed, it was just fantastic to be in there.
GW: What was it like being in an environment where you were very much in the minority being a white guy?
SA: It never really bothered me, I noticed it because I ‘m from Anglesey and I think I only knew one black person in Anglesey at that point, over 20 years ago. So only for that reason I noticed it, but I never felt threatened or anything, it was just different.
GW: Well that was it, it was fine if you were into the music and there for the right reasons, there was no problem at all. I remember having a similar experience in a club called The Timepiece in Liverpool when I was younger, which was a predominantly black club. It was the first time that I had been in an environment where I was one of the few white people in there. Of course, there is a sense of ‘am I ok here?’, but, at the same time as that, what I felt was totally overridden by the great music that I was hearing.
SA: That’s right.
GW: And feeling a part of it, and then realising that I belong here, but, you know, the point being with Legend was that the Wednesday night was very much seen as being a black night.
SA: Oh totally and, as you say, once you were in there, any kind of doubts you might have had… I mean I’m sure a lot of people turned up and thought ‘fucking hell, I’m not used to this’, you know, or ‘this isn’t like your typical Saturday night disco’, you know what I mean! It was a proper night, it was underground and people were there just for the music, and that’s what relaxed you really. You just sat there looking around, everyone’s nodding their head, they’re smiling, they’re dancing, you know what I mean. It was just exactly how it should be, exactly. I thought ‘yes, this is it, this is my scene’, without realising it was a scene really. I was just so happy to be there, it was absolutely brilliant and the next day I was boring the arse off people telling them about it, you know, and they’re going ‘really how fucking interesting’, but for me it was just like ‘but yeah, honestly, and then these tunes, and he mixed them together’, and they’re going ‘really’! Once I realised it was a weekly event I thought ‘oh fantastic!’ and just hoped that someone could give me a lift in again and I could save up a pound to get in. Oh no, it was 50 pence I think, 50p.
GW: Yeah it was, if you got there early enough.
SA: It was loads of money, loads of money in them days. Them were the days, being completely skint, especially with it being a Wednesday, because it was the next day that I got my dole.
GW: It’s funny you mentioned that, because I always remember Kermit used to call every second Wednesday ‘Giro Eve’, cos it was the Thursday he’d pick up his dole, it was ‘yeah, it’s Giro Eve today’.
SA: That’s it, and you think ‘oh God’, but the nightmare about that is you go to Legend on the Wednesday and you get your giro the next day, so that means you’ve got your 46p to get into Manchester and then buy bleeding imports, you know.
GW: Right, so you were really getting into it, these records obviously weren’t cheap.
SA: Yeah, yeah I was, yeah.
GW: So you were going out and buying them from Spin Inn?
SA: That’s right.
GW: Can you remember what the first record that you bought from a Legend perspective was?
SA: Oh God, I don’t remember really, but I remember certain tunes did stick out as, ‘I must have it’! The nightmare was I Level ‘Give Me’.
GW: Right, the US mix.
SA: Because that was only available on import and that was a real twat. I bought it at a nice British price and then, of course, it’s just the boring original! You just had to have that, ‘dud du dud du dud du dud du du’, you know what I mean. That was like a mixers dream to have that at the beginning, so I remember that, and thinking ‘bastard, I’ll have to shell out a fiver for that’, which was loads of money then. Also Visual, ‘The Music Got Me’, which to this day sticks out as one of the best, best dance tunes ever. Anything like that just really stuck out, you know before the electroey things. Then it started getting really silly trying to find money to buy imports cos there wasn’t many of those available on British release. So, it was quite hard work and hard on the pocket, you know, just living on bread and beans, you know, while your record collection just got bigger.
GW: Right, right. Were you listening to the Mike Shaft show as well?
SA: Oh yeah, yeah, that was another revelation actually. I remember just moving into this little flat in West Didsbury and setting up me hi-fi, you know, like you do, getting everything just moved in right. Plug that in, get the wires on the speakers, pissing about on the dial. It was a Sunday afternoon and something like Sinnamon, ‘Thanks to You’, came on with these incredible stereo rotor toms just blasting, and I’m like, ‘fucking hell, that is unbelievable to hear that on the radio’. In Anglesey there were national radio stations, that’s all you could ever get, so to hear something like that blaring out, I just sat there thinking ‘I don’t believe this’. I didn’t know what station I was on or anything until he came on and said ‘Piccadilly’ and I was like oh, so this is Piccadilly. It was just fantastic to hear just proper music on the radio, which was an incredible new thing for me. So that’s another thing that I’ll always remember as well, setting up my hi-fi and hearing that and just finding this radio show. Yeah, definitely.
GW: From what you’re saying, you would have probably come to Legend round about March, maybe April of 82.
SA: Yeah. Of what I can remember yeah, it was early days.
GW: How I know this is because, looking back through my archives, I’ve realised that May of 82 was the really the pivotal month in the whole thing, as quite a lot of things happened that month, including, for example, when I started doing the mixes on Piccadilly. It was also the month where Legend went through the roof. I’d been there since the previous August and built it up bit by bit. It was like a really slow process initially.
SA: Yeah, well all good nights are.
GW: I mean literally 10 people at a time, building it up like that, but what was weird about it was that when it got to about 250 people it just seemed to explode! The big night in Manchester, in fact the big night in this part of the country back then was The Main Event, on a Tuesday night at Placemate 7, where the old Twisted Wheel was. Did you ever go to that?
SA: No, not to that night, no.
GW: Right. Well that was a huge night at the time. I obviously did the Tuesday at Wigan Pier as well, and The Main Event affected the Pier too. You know, it had Mike Shaft and Colin Curtis; it had Blues and Soul promotion, Piccadilly Radio promotion. It was a really high profile night, but once Legend got to around about 250 people it was almost like everyone made the decision to change nights. I mean, like you’ve been saying, there wasn’t much money going around, a lot of people were on the dole and stuff, so to go out midweek you know, 2 nights in the same city, there was a decision in that to be made. So, when it got to about 250 people at Legend people switched, and it seemed almost like an overnight thing, with the night doubling its attendance, hitting full capacity. It was really odd from our point of view, building it up so slowly, so slowly, and then, when that switch came, what happened was so swift, with the Main Event literally dying off within a matter of weeks. Legend just took all the Main Event’s audience, and it was queues around the block every Wednesday from that point onwards. That’s how it remained for the whole time that I continued to be there, until I stopped at the end of 1983, a constant ‘lock-out’, as they’d say nowadays.
GW: Another major thing that happened in May ’82 was the release of ‘Planet Rock’. Also, interestingly, it was the month The Haçienda opened. So you’ve got a lot of things that seemingly conspired to take place at that particular moment in time, resulting in Legend becoming the prime venue on the scene
SA: Yeah, yeah.
GW: I mean my night at Wigan Pier won the Blues and Soul awards, but I always saw that as a political vote, because Wigan Pier was almost like neutral territory. We had people coming in from all over the Midlands and the North. Major crowds coming in from Birmingham, Huddersfield, places like Leeds and Nottingham, Bradford, Sheffield, Stoke, Preston, Liverpool, Wolverhampton etc. So Legend, even though, like the Pier, we had a lot of people travelling in for the Wednesday from outside Manchester, was still seen as Manchester’s club, whereas Wigan Pier was seen as belonging to everyone. So I think when the Blues and Soul voting came, because it was done by vote, I think that if you were from Manchester you’d vote for Legend, but if you were from Liverpool or Birmingham, for example, you’d be voting for Wigan Pier, because it was like a home from home type thing. But I think ultimately, at the end of the day, Legend was the hub of it, you know what I mean? Certainly the greatest club that I’ve ever had the good fortune of being involved with.
SA: Yeah, and not just that, I think it is the one that everybody remembers, more than Wigan Pier, you know, much more. Wigan Pier was harder work for us because we struggled without transport. Even though there was a coach, you still had to get to Manchester and then get home again. It was harder work obviously, but everybody, anybody who was there, will still talk about Legend you know, because you started the main thing and then it was Chad (Jackson) wasn’t it, after that?
SA: And stuff like that and then I ended up with a Saturday night, which shows you how times had changed then and that was about 87 I think. It was 87 into 88, I did a couple of years and, again, it was just fantastic, but it all started back with you.
GW: It’s funny that the black kids always called it Legends.
SA: That’s right, they always added an s to it and I didn’t realise that, because you never look at signs do you, you just go into Legends
GW: Obviously, around this period of time, you were trying to make ends meet. You were still doing your bar work I presume?
SA: I did that for a bit, but jacked it in by the end of 82, I don’t know what I was, I was trying to sell double glazing and all kinds of shite, but at the same time trying to still meet people. It was all about networking, trying to find anyone who is into what you’re doing and then just helping out and doing mobile type stuff really – you know doing weddings and 21st’s. It’s quite good that I had to play, obviously, to the crowd, as it gives you that really good apprenticeship, where you don’t play for yourself. It got to the point where I was just working the decks and someone else would give it all the bollocks on the microphone, which suited me. I’d also do various little clubs, when their DJ would go on holiday, like for 2 weeks in the summer, and I’d say ‘well give me half of what you’re paying him and I’ll do it for when he’s away’. They’d say ‘oh fucking great, OK’, so that was another way in. I’d be doing that throughout the end of 82, 83 and into 84 really, you know, just messing about. Yeah, just getting experience and trying to make a few quid.
GW: Did you ever talk to me at all in Legend?
SA: I used to try and request tunes over at the front instead of going round the side, you know, like a dickhead. You’d be there, sort of going ‘go round there’, and I’d go ‘alright, OK’, trying to climb up the front to say ‘can you play me that whatchacallit’. So I was just being a typical punter. I’d be thinking, I still haven’t heard Visual or something like that for a while, you know what I mean, or a certain tune you’d played in your radio mix the previous Sunday, but it was very rare that I would actually request a record. You know, I’m not being funny, but I didn’t need to, you played top tunes all night.
GW: But it wasn’t so much the request side, I mean what people used to do was… there was a big dilemma with me, with the mixing, because I come from an older school it was like, well how do I reconcile the fact that I want to let everybody know what I’m playing here. I was a great believer in announcing and back announcing what I was playing. Now I was mixing, how did I do that? So this is where the record list on the What’s Going On sheet really came into its own.
SA: Right. It was so brilliant, you’d just pick one, as soon as you walked in. We’d always turn up quite early, maybe because of the 50 pence incentive, and it was quite nice to hear some of the newer tunes being played early in the night anyway, at not so loud volume. We’d be just kind of settling in and then, all of a sudden, you’d turn it right up and you’d think, right, the nights got going now, you know, starting. I remember that happening to great effect with The Webboes.
GW: ‘Under the Wear’
SA: Yeah, you started when the volume was turned right up and I thought, ‘yeah, that’s exciting, that’s a great track’, and that was it from there on. But we always used to go in and grab one of those sheets before they all disappeared or got covered with coca-cola or something, because beer was non-existent really. I’d just get one of them and think ‘fucking great’, it’s nice to see a list of tunes and, like you say, it does tell you what you’re playing and you think, ‘oh that’s what that record is’, because you obviously hear the little hooks, but you never know what they’re called, or who they’re by or whether it’s an import or an album track or whatever, and all the info is there. It was like a little Bible each week.
GW: All in my own hand-writing!
SA: Absolutely, but it was fantastic, and it was so appreciated you know, that it was there, that somebody had written these things down.
GW: It became established that people didn’t even have to ask me what a record was, all they had to do was pass me a copy of the list and I just ticked it off. They could then take that into Spin Inn and say ‘this is the record I want’, so, you know, practically it worked really well on that level. It solved my problem, which was a problem, I mean it sounds mad now, because everyone just mixes and plays the tunes and whatever and that’s the way it is, but you know I really did, when I’d made that decision that I was going to place the emphasis on mixing, toy with the problem of how I was now going to inform people of what I was playing. I know that some DJ’s like to keep it almost kind of exclusive, but that wasn’t my way.
SA: Oh, there’s loads of that, I mean right up to now, they would just cover the label, you know, put an old label on top or whatever. I never really saw the point of that. In the Legend days, you’d want to know what they were, you know, and I would say a good 80% wanted to know, because so many people went out and bought records in them days on that scene. You know girls would go out and go to Spin Inn, even if it was only to buy the one 12 inch.
SA: And now, they don’t give a shit what’s being played, you know what I mean, they really don’t. You could be playing and playing and playing all night long, and it’s only one or two who’re interested in finding out what you’re playing. Even then, they don’t want to come running over and say ‘what’s that’? A couple of other DJ’s will, you know, but they just sort of ask ‘what’s this?’, and I’ll just say ‘oh it’s such and such a mix’ or whatever, but the punters don’t care. They just really don’t care, they just dance now.
GW: Nowadays, if you want to find out what’s being played, you’ve got to literally hang over the DJ’s shoulder!
SA: Yeah, but no-one’s like that, the punters who go out to the clubs now, they don’t know what the tunes are and they don’t really care. They get to know the tunes, because you see them singing along with the chorus, whether it’s some mental hardcore thing or just whatever, a trancey thing or whatever. So they know the tune, they know how it goes, but they don’t know who it’s by or what it’s called or anything and they just really don’t care. I think the problem is the culture’s changed so much because too many tapes over the years have gone round and people just buy a tape, a DJ tape.
GW: It’s only relatively recently that I realised you used to actually be a regular at Legend. It was the same with Gerald Simpson, A Guy Called Gerald, who I’d presumed had only listened to my radio mixes, when in reality he’d been attending Legend throughout most of my time there. When I read in an interview with you that you’d cited me as an influence, I actually thought that you were still living in North Wales at the time, but able to tune into the mixes on Piccadilly. It was a surprise when I spoke to you and you told me that you were there at Legend pretty much every week.
SA: Oh, I see.
GW: It was only when you filled me in about your move to Manchester that it became clear. It was a similar thing with Gerald. I mean I hooked-up with Gerald recently for his own project and he was interviewing me to get more of his own background, and I’m saying ‘well you would’ve been a bit too young for when I was at Legend’ and he was like, ‘no I was there from 82’, he was only 15 or something, but he managed to get in.
SA: Yeah, yeah.
GW: Can you remember me leaving Legend and the period where Chad came in?
SA: All of a sudden you weren’t there and it was a bit weird really. When Chad was there, there was a scene, but it wasn’t the same and it wasn’t Chad’s fault. You know, there were still loads of people going, but it’s just the way the music in 84 was changing. He was playing electroey things, but there was more kind of scratching going on and Chad really loved to do that, but it was becoming a little too scratchy and probably a little too anoraky. It was like there was about 96 other people in the DJ box watching him, going ‘yes’ and snapping their fingers at him, and I was thinking ‘we’re on the dance floor and we want to be entertained now please’. You know, he was brilliant at what he did and it was quite impressive to hear it, but it was just different, it was kind of a different scene coming along you know. It was just that 82/83 were two brilliant years for music and by the time 84 came along, although there was still some great records and there have always been great records every year, it was less exciting because we’d kind of heard it all before. You know what I mean, although there was still always something that would creep out and you’d think ‘oh that’s good and that’s good’, by the time 85 comes along you know, the Soul thing was getting a bit too… wanting to have very crashy drums, you know this horrible American sort of thing, and you’d think ‘oh God this isn’t how it was anymore’. The Electro thing as we knew it was getting a bit more Miami Bass, and it’s like, ‘fucking hell, it’s not like it was anymore’, but then you kind of realise that it can’t be really, and by then the House thing had just started to creep in a little bit there you know, Colonel Abrams and people like that, as a style of singing and a stripped down style of production and things like that, so you could see that things were changing but what we really enjoyed when you were there was sort of going really.
GW: How did you get to be involved with Piccadilly Radio?
SA: I always wanted to know what it was like inside and a guy called Tim Grundy was doing a night time show during the week, 11 ‘til 2, and he had a competition called Stop The Clock where you wrote to him and, if he chose you, you went into the studio. Somebody would be on the phone, somewhere in the world, and you had to guess where it was from the clues, and at the end of it you’d won some money. I couldn’t be arsed with all that, I just wanted to go in and see what it was like. So I just wrote a mad letter, obviously got chosen, basically because it was such a weird letter and stuff, and just sat there and thought ‘fucking hell this is really weird this, I’m actually here’. Did the competition and all the rest of it, but got on with him really well and I explained my situation – I’m pretty skint, I do bits of DJing here and there, but nothing great, and he said ‘well, if you ever want to come in and help out, you can, anytime you like’. So I thought ‘fantastic, that is exactly what the plan was’, it absolutely worked!
GW: This is 84 is it?
SA: It would have been, it might have been late 84 or possibly early 85, I can’t really remember. It was probably late 84 because I seem to remember Chad. Yes it would have been 84 because I remember Chad towards the end of the year, being in the place all night long doing his mix. You know, having to come in and use their tape machines and stuff
SA: So yeah, that was then, I used to come in, do all me bits and occasionally Tim would finish his show at 2 o’clock and say ‘if you want use the off air studio and piss about’, so that’s what I used to do. So I used to practice editing on quarter inch tape. I had 2 decks that I could mix a little bit on, although they weren’t vari-speed, but at least you could get two tunes going together. You know, all this sort of thing, and it was just learning that craft of edits and mixing, cutting, scratching and whatever. When it got to sort of morning I got the bus home and went to sleep all day, and then I’d do it again the next night. Eventually there were little jobs going where you were called a broadcast assistant and got paid for being there. I must have done that for over a year, and then I had the chance to do the Sunday night Soul show.
GW: Who was the presenter before you?
SA: His name was Lee Brown
GW: That’s right, because Mike Shaft had left by this point
SA: Yeah, he went to Radio Manchester, as it was called then, and Lee Brown was doing the show, and very badly I must say. Nice bloke and all that, but he didn’t know the music, and for only that reason it wasn’t done very well. You know, choosing the wrong album tracks, things like that. I used to help out and do a few little mixes and he’d play them and all that sort of thing, get my name known a little bit. Then he had a chance of compering a Motown tour, with Edwin Starr and all that sort of thing, and he got the job. It was only supposed to be for 6 weeks, but the programme controller sort of panicked, thinking ‘fucking hell’, you know, ‘who’s gonna do this’? I was probably the only person in the entire station who liked black music and he said ‘do you fancy having a go’ and I said ‘yeah, okay’. I remember the time coming near to the Sunday of my first show; I was shitting myself, thinking ‘why did I say yes? I could easily have said no and have an easy life’. But, you know, it was such a life changing thing that I just went ahead and did it anyway. Because I was into the music, and he wasn’t, the tunes were right throughout the show. I was fucking unbelievably bad at talking on the radio, you know, just having to write my lines, write things down, what to say and all this kind of thing, and absolutely crapping it all the way through, but I did mix and I did a bit of cutting and scratching, and this and that. I’d play some House records as well as Soul and some electroey things that were knocking about and Rap, you know what I mean? It was a big mixture of things that I knew were just good tunes
GW: Had Chad stopped doing the mixes at this point?
SA: Yeah, as soon as Mike left that was it. It was July 86 when I did my first show. So anything for that year, at the end, if there was going to be a megamix it was going to be down to me. So that’s basically it, it’s because I’d done this massive mixture of things; it must have sounded very, very different to what had gone on before. The bosses pulled me into the offices the next week and said ‘what the fuck was all that you were playing’? And I was going ‘black music, you know, there’s lots of different types’, because there are lots of different types. And they were going ‘no, no, you should be playing things like Al Jarreau and George Benson’ and I said ‘well, if they bring a good tune out, you can rest assured I’ll play it, but in the mean time I’m going to be playing this’. And there was a massive argument and in the end they said ‘right, we’ll give you 6 months and if the ratings are all right in that time, then we’ll do it your way, but otherwise you’ll have to do it our way’. Within 6 months, actually before even the 6 weeks of Lee Brown not being there were up, the amount of mail that came in to say ‘please, please, please, don’t bring him back’, you know, that sort of attitude, ‘these are proper tunes, we’ve not heard things like it’. So I just thought, right, lets show the bosses that this is the reaction I’m getting and they said ‘well if you want to stay you can’! Cos I don’t think they wanted him around or something, so that was that. Within 6 months they had their highest ratings for that type of show ever. It was just immense it was just a huge, huge listening audience, and that just secured me there for years on end.
GW: What day was the show?
SA: It was a Sunday night, 11 ’til 2, and even to this day, it’s so funny that I’ll still get people coming up to me going ‘you were the bastard that made me late for work every Monday’ and all this, cos they were all bleary eyed having to stay tuned. And I know what that’s like because we’ve all done it, haven’t we? There’s something on the radio and you’ve got to keep listening to it, you know, late on or whatever, under the pillow, but yeah, its so funny to hear people still say that after all this time. That was it and then it was the end of 86, so I thought ‘right, there’s been a megamix every year, I’d better have a go at it’. I did a Best Of 86 mix, and then an 87, and it went on. So, in the end, because I was playing everything, it just became extremely hard not to do a Best of Hip Hop, Best of Soul and then it became Best of House. Do you know what I mean? Oh God, it was unbelievably hard work, but I did it, and I think I should have done and I’m glad I did, but then it became ridiculously hard work to do a Best Of and the music got more, just out and out dance. It got to the point where you didn’t really need to do one; it just wasn’t that kind of thing anymore. In the end, I just got all the punters to vote for their favourite tunes or something and did it that way.
GW: Right it’s 86; you’re now established within the Radio Station, are you doing club work at the same time?
SA: I was doing little bits and then became like a guest at The Gallery All-Nighters, which was fantastic!
GW: Well that had taken over from Legend by then. That was the big black club, wasn’t it?
SA: Yeah, it was a seriously underground black club, The Gallery, you know it was a proper, proper place. No mainstream people ever knew it existed, even though it was a big pub on the corner of Deansgate. To do their All-Nighters was brilliant, cos the only All-Nighters we used to get back then were starting at midnight on Sunday nights into the Bank Holiday Monday. They were the only ones. Now they are everywhere, aren’t they? But it was unheard of in them days. I’d do my show ’til 2am, then go down to The Gallery. You couldn’t move in the place and there was a million people outside as well hoping, hoping and hoping. But I’d turn up and the only way they could get me in was through the draymans trap door!
GW: (Laughs) fantastic!
SA: They would say ‘you’re gonna have to go down here, Stu’. I thought ‘alright’. So they opened up a big trap door. Went down into the cellar where all the beer barrels were, and bottles of Thunderbird and whatever, you know, and go through the cellar. They’d say, ‘right, go through the cellar until you get to that door, then go up them steps and open the trap door’. So I did and I ended up behind the bar with me box of records thinking ‘fucking hell where am I?’, all my bearings lost and the bar staff saying ‘fuckin’ ‘ell, what are you doing here? Who are you’? So I’d be going ‘right, where’s the DJ box?’ and they’d point right over there, literally opposite, it wasn’t a massive place but it was hard work when no-one could move! It was one of them places where as soon as you walk in your jeans where soaking wet and, you know, you’d only been there 5 seconds. So I just had to plough through to get to the DJ box and once you were there, there was no escape. That was it; you had to stay in there, so you were praying you didn’t need a piss when you were DJing!
GW: So what other deejays were doing the All-Nighters there?
SA: I always remember Hewan, he was a veteran at these sort of things. He was one of those guys who didn’t give a shit, he just got on with it. He was so brilliant with the tunes he played and he took me under his wing a little bit knowing that I was new to this, you know. He was great.
GW: Hewan has always got a lot of flak about The Haçienda, but, you know, I think he had an absolutely thankless task there. He was the early resident there and they had the DJ box downstairs to the side of the stage. I worked in the same environment myself and it was a nightmare. Obviously, the people there weren’t a dance audience and I think Hewan was trying to be everything to everyone, and he was stuck within that. I think he was a fish out of water in a sense, but The Gallery was much more his type of environment.
SA: Yeah, he was totally at home in The Gallery, totally. He just didn’t care, he got on with it. He was just such a good DJ for that reason, you know, he just didn’t take any shit from anybody. Dead calm and stuff. A really, really good bloke.
GW: So who else was there? Were people like Leaky Fresh on the scene at this point or Owen D and the Jam MC’s.
SA: I think Leaky might have been knocking about as a punter but as a DJ it would have been late 87 into 88 really. Much later Manchester scene.
GW: What was being played in The Gallery?
SA: The Gallery was very, very black, you know. There was some good Soul tunes, kind of mid-tempo that sort of thing, plus Hip Hop. But there was House, I went in and played very early House and very dubby, you know, what was out-and-out black music, there was no whiteness about it at all. I thought I’d just play this as a change. I played some dubby House thing from Chicago and the place went fuckin’ apeshit! I’m going ‘Oh my God’, you know how you get those cheers for a bassline or something. I just put it on not expecting that at all and I was going ‘bloody hell, this is good’ and you know they’re just….raving. So long as it was black music, you know, they were into it.
GW: How do you remember “House” music starting? What are your memories of what was then a totally new form?
SA: I always remember that the production of it was so basic and that we were so into it. If you’re talking about uptempo music, so well produced and great musicians, like, D-Train and the Visual track we were talking about, all of that sort of thing, all the good beefy uptempo stuff, then the House thing was the same kind of tempo, 118-120bpm or something, but there was no real musicians at all. It was a drum machine and a bassline, and some were only that throughout, but you could still feel it, it was still black music. The production was right and it was just for dancing to, and that’s the end of it, but it still had that soulfulness to it.
GW: What were some of the big tracks back then?
SA: Raze “Jack The Groove”, which you’re talking about old basslines revamped really, aren’t you? That would be 86. Then you’ve got Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk, “Love Can’t Turn Around” and Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, “Jack Your Body”.
GW: So, you where buying all these from Spin Inn on import?
SA: Yeah, they’d just put them aside, what had come in that week. I’d pick out what I felt was right and give the others back. Another great thing about being so upfront and having, you know, the only tunes, was that London, at this point was so into their Rare Grooves. They were just revamping their old 70’s 7” stuff and whatever, and kind of dismissing House. Obviously you had people like Jazzy M and all them. but on the whole, they certainly weren’t into it as much as us Northerners and, because of that, the distributors who brought all these tracks from America, who just had one-off copies just for shops, would go to Spin Inn and say London don’t want these, do you want them? So they use to put them all in a bag, without listening to them ready for when you wanna go in, you know, and pick them up. I’d pick ‘em up on a Saturday morning and these were hot off the press tracks, DJ International and whatever, and I was playing them the next night on the radio. It was fantastic and no-one was hearing these things unless I’m playing them at that time. You knew something really good was happening here.
GW: Can you remember what the situation was with The Haçienda then?
SA: I don’t really cos I didn’t have very much to do with it. I used to do the odd guest thing if a PA was on, but only from a Hip Hop thing. If you play something different, I mean, you played Electro, you get known for that, even though you do other things. I’ve always played Soul and House and whatever, but I got known at that time for playing Hip Hop. It doesn’t bother me, but I was doing other things, so I would only get asked as a guest to do that. You know if Mantronix or Run-DMC were doing a PA down there or a small concert, then I would be on the flyer as the DJ for the night. That was the only time I did it really. Apart from much, much, much later. Years later when the Housey scene was going, you know, I would do a bit more but it didn’t bother me, I got along fine without being a regular DJ there.
GW: Yeah, because The Haçienda became so big ultimately I think a lot of people kind of think ‘Wow, you worked at The Haçienda’ and I often get mentioned as ‘ex-Hacienda DJ’, but for me it was so much secondary to what was happening on the black side.
SA: Absolutely, it became just a tourist place really. I found it was the only club the magazines ever bloody wrote about. Of course, Legend got its mentions, but when The Haçienda came, you know, it’s just such a shame that the focus was on that. Of course, people read these things and travel from all over, but suddenly it was the only club in Manchester.
GW: Obviously, Manchester’s place is quite an important place within the whole history of House music, certainly Acid House. How did you feel about the fact that you were left out of this history, even though you were playing these tracks? A lot of these now classic tracks got their first airing on your radio show, but it’s not there in the documentation of what happened at that time.
SA: Yeah, it is a bit strange. Maybe I wasn’t enough of a personality or something; I don’t know what it is really. I think people who are genuinely into it would always remember hearing me on the radio playing these things. It’s nice to know that people like Laurent Garnier have never forgotten that. They always used to tune in. I remember seeing Mike Pickering in Spin Inn on the Monday morning with a list of tunes I’d played the night before, asking for them. He didn’t know who I was stood next to him, you know, but I don’t know whether he’d admit to that now, but there you go, it doesn’t bother me. It’s been a bit of a mystery because certain people get loads of mentions for it and it’s just a bit weird. It’s like when people talk about you now a bit more that they were 5 or 6 years ago. Who knows?
GW: I put it down to the fact that it was black thing and at the time the whole thing about being black in the UK was that you were kind of shoved into the background in some sense. There was less media attention being played. I mean, you were talking about The Gallery, what was going on there, the All-Nighters and things. It was an amazing scene, yet a lot of people haven’t got a clue about this.
SA: No, that was what I was saying before. You knew as soon as you walked in there that this was an underground club, and from the music they were playing as well. You know, no problems, but that was 90% black and a great place to be. It was a more relaxing place than Legend, which was quite full-on, you know what I mean, it was a real ‘yeah let’s dance’ place. It was a great, great night. You know that was a proper dancing place, but The Gallery, there was too many people, not enough room to dance! But it was slightly more relaxing. A different scene, yet just as important really as anything else. But, like you say, it’s very odd how these things don’t get mentioned.
GW: I just think Acid House, when it happened, it was so big. It was such an explosion and, obviously, it was all the E that came with it as well.
SA: Just the word Acid House, you know, ‘woo woo’.
GW: You mentioned both Mike Pickering and Laurent Garnier. Both of them have stated that the original Haçienda House crowd was predominantly black, but this seems to have been ignored by many of the documentarians. What was really interesting with Laurent Garnier was that he said that he had to go back to do his National Service in France and he missed the start of the whole Rave thing. When he came back to the UK, back to Manchester, he said it had changed around and that the audience now wasn’t this mainly black audience in the Hacienda, it was mainly white. When I think about it, it’s obvious that it was the point in time when so many white kids en masse got into dance music. You were a white kid who came onto the scene, but, back then, you were very much part of the black scene. Whereas now there were legions of young white kids coming along, taking E and doing their Acid dance. Can you imagine what the reaction from the black kids would have been at the time? These were serious dancers and they would have been thinking ‘not for me anymore’.
SA: Well it was almost that way for me, for DJing. When the kind of Italiany thing came in I didn’t like it at all and the type of people who were into it. I thought ‘this is not a crowd for me’. I can totally understand the black crowd. It’s kind of like you’re having a party and a load of gatecrashers come in, you sort of go ‘oh they’ve fucked it up now and changed the music”. It stopped being a good time in that way, so yeah, I could totally understand them thinking ‘I’ve had enough of this’ and looking for something else, totally something else. It’s just white piano music, you know, it couldn’t get further away from the original House sound really.
GW: The “something else” was more the kind of movement towards hardcore would you say?
SA: Well it stems from the Rave thing, which again is white, I mean there were black people there, but it was predominantly white. When I first played Acid House, it was made by black people in Chicago, you know, young black kids like Adonis. Adonis was 18 or 19 years old doing these things, just pissin’ about with a 303 making acid sounds. It was hardcore music, there’s always hardcore, but the only way anyone would class hardcore now is if it goes very, very fast and is a little bit noisy. That’s not really hardcore as we knew it, that’s a form of hardcore for today. All these styles of music were hardcore, I mean we’ve all played it, you’ve played hardcore; you know what I mean, cos it was of that time. A lot of those Electro tunes, you know, something like, I would say, West Street Mob is a hardcore tune, as soon as it starts from the ‘breakdance’ and then in comes the ‘Apache’ beats. That’s a hardcore record, you know, it just happens to be 109bpm and not 160bpm now. So it’s just weird really. I think todays hardcore stems from people on drugs wanting music faster and faster and a little bit noisier and whatever, and that’s all it’s down to in my mind.
GW: You were still kind of involved in a black scene but not the Rave scene as such?
SA: I only got involved about 1990-91. This club in Coventry, called The Eclipse, asked me to play, and then things were getting a bit ravey really. American House was a little bit unexciting for me at the time, I didn’t mind listening to it, but I like all kinds of music and it wasn’t a problem for me to play it, you know, something that’s a bit noisier and whatever cos I like music that was a bit noisy anyway. Like just way back from the Electro days, it was all noisy. So this just had different noises in them. It was still synths and drum machines just done slightly differently, you know.
GW: At what point would you say that your association with a black scene at club level came to an end?
SA: The big sad thing was the end of my Saturday night at Legend.
GW: Right, so when did you start Legend?
SA: About 87ish
GW: Round the Gallery time would it be?
SA: Yes, definitely. In the meantime I was doing a Thursday night at the Playpen on Booth St.
GW: Owned by the same company.
SA: That’s right. I mean you were doing your Legend night, where you hope a few more come the next week and then the next week, and in the end it goes massive. The same thing happened, there was a big night at the Playpen on a Thursday, but they had let it die, you know, and it was pretty shit and I went down and I said ‘well, I’ll have a go’. It was a quiet night, around 30 people in, you know, and you kind of change the music round a little bit and make it slightly more commercial but throw in things that aren’t commercial and then the word gets round and you know you’ve got this enormous night, guaranteed rammed every Thursday playing no commercial music whatsoever and that was a great night cos that was Soul, Rap, Hip Hop and House all mixed into the night and no-one complained when a different style came on, it just got everyone dancing. That was a good 75% black as well.
GW: So you had that night running concurrently with Legend?
SA: Yeah, Legend came later, but still going together. Legend was actually owned by the Wigan Pier crowd at this point. Playpen was owned by a guy called Nigel. Nigel bought Legend and that’s why Legend finished, cos he went ‘a few too many blacks in here really’. That was the problem. So I said ‘well I’m not playing here anymore’ and all the doormen left as well. So I just had to announce on the radio that I’m not at Legend anymore, you know, only for the reason that the new owner doesn’t like black people turning up.
GW: Right. How did that go down?
SA: He threatened to sue me and I said ‘ask all the doormen’, they heard what he said as well. His solicitor sent a letter to the radio station and I said ‘No, that’s why I’m not there, cos he doesn’t want black people turning up, he wants white students’. I got ‘that’s slander’ and all this bollocks and I said ‘that’s what he said; I’m only repeating what he said’. All the doormen and the bar staff left at the same time. I didn’t ask them to do it. So that was the end of that really.
GW: So, that was it for you from the perspective of the black scene?
SA: Yeah, I mean I did do other nights. It moved to another club. We had a nice black scene going but I think the music was changing as well though. The Soul side of things, where you could get people dancing, was changing an awful lot. If you wanted a good black night then you really had to dig deep into the underground and 12” records which were just on white label, done by a few lads in London or whatever. The whole thing had changed. Anything import wise just wasn’t happening really. All the best Soul was becoming very ballady. The danceable stuff was just that same Soul II Soul beat over everything, and that was another reason. The rap was becoming more gangstery, whereas before people liked to dance to all the Hip Hop tunes you know, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, it was all danceable stuff even though it was quite rugged. The rap was getting too gangsta style, the Soul was getting a bit, you know, not as it was. So I was thinking there’s not much for me to play, unless you do an old school night or something, which wasn’t gonna work at that time.
GW: Do you remember Shoom coming to Legend?
SA: Yeah, they used to do a Monday and I just poked me head through the door one night to have a look and see what they were doing and that was just so weird to see. It was the start really, it was all the start of the Rave scene, or what became the Rave scene. I don’t think there were any black people in there at all. Very scruffy looking people, you know, not that you dressed up too much to come to Legend, but you would never go out looking like that, put it that way. They were there waving there arms in the air and playing pretty strange music. Danny Rampling had something to do with it, very strange, very not us, you know. I mean it eventually developed into other things, but it just wasn’t the same at all, definitely not. When it got to the very early 90’s, you know 91, I think it was when I first went to the Eclipse and I was playing a lot of the Belgiany sort of mad synth things, which were termed as hardcore then, but the BPM was only 125-130, it wasn’t anything mentally fast until a couple of years later. Then the more breakbeat things started, which I quite liked, though I didn’t play a lot of Jungley things and I wasn’t termed as any kind of Jungle DJ, but it was quite nice cos once you played that it pleased the more black audience. I felt more at home then. I used to do a club in Wolverhampton called Quest and that was a black club. It had a great sound system. It liked breakbeats and heavy basslines and it was nice to do that cos at least the onus was black, even if it was for only one night. Having said that, anyone whose reading this interview, it’s not like I don’t like playing to white people, colour doesn’t bother me it’s just that my roots, as regards music, to be in a club and to play it, my crowd is a black crowd.
GW: This is something that I’d endorse as well because I think, with a black audience; this is my experience of it. They were the most upfront, they were the best dancers, they were on the ball musically, they really knew their shit and the fact that you could play to this audience and be accepted by them was an honour. That’s how I saw it.
SA: That’s how I found it, at the end of the day, I’m not even a city kid, you know what I mean.
GW: Same here, I mean, I’m from New Brighton (laughs).
SA: Oh right, there you go. The only time I lived in a city was when I moved to Manchester, but I hadn’t had that upbringing that they had. That’s their life, it’s an urban life, I was never ever there to try to impress them, I was there playing tunes for them cos I liked it. Sometimes now I think, ‘fuckin’ hell the audience are a certain type of audience. I’m going to have to play my DJ set another way because they won’t dance much if I don’t’, whereas then you just played music. You just think ‘well, these are all really good dance tunes’ and you just played your music and you’d piss about mixing, put a little bit in and tease the crowd and they’d go ‘Ooh’, cos they’d heard a little bit of something. If you did that now they’d just look at you and go ‘what have you done that for?’, but there you go.
GW: Bringing it back up to date, how do you feel now about the fact there is, maybe for the first time, a re-evaluation of this period of time? The way it is now, it seems to be starting with the early 80’s period. There’s a lot of interest in that, but it’s also the whole pre-House era and what led up to House, and I think that for the first time now a lot of people are starting to question the established myth, if you like, that it sprang out of a group of DJ’s going to Ibiza or whatever. Now they are beginning to see that there was a big underground thing, especially in a city like Manchester, leading up to that, and your own place within that is obviously a central place because of the radio show. Also, the fact that you hark back, like myself, to a time where you could play all these various styles together. It was the next period, carrying on from where you were at, that it all started to split off and splinter into its own areas. How do you feel about this movement back?
SA: It’s obviously a good thing cos it’s not only our scene. I’ve always wanted people to know about it, and the more the better, whether they like it or not. I think people have sort of noticed that it’s a style of music that’s good. With a lot of it they just think ‘that’s that fucking Disco shit, isn’t it?’, where there is a certain style of Disco like a school reunion would play, but once they’ve played this other stuff, which isn’t just that, but has a style of it and a bit more to it, I think it’s then that they go ‘fuckin hell, I didn’t realise that’. You just need to re-educate people who were there first time round, but just didn’t get to know the scene, you know. You just take them back.
GW: Again, we talk about a black/white thing, but a lot of the white kids at that point in time were very much into the indie side of things, and the New Romantic side. This is why it was unusual for you to be going to a club that was playing dance music. I mean, we called it black music then.
SA: Yeah, out and out black music or Funk nights, whatever you want to call it. I think the other crowd would have to go ‘well yeah, I quite like this and I quite like that’ and it just ends up being a very commercial night which dominates most weekends.
GW: Another reason I think that a lot of this period has been overlooked is because, unfortunately, like with a lot of other areas, there weren’t many black kids who were encouraged to write for magazines and stuff at the time. So there wasn’t that direct documentation. Nearly all of the people who wrote about dance music were white, and a lot of them didn’t really get into dance music until probably the mid-late 80’s, but see themselves as being quite early on with it. It’s early on in one context but not in another, you know. It’s not early enough to trace the history from a black perspective. So I think you get a situation where you get a documentation of something like the Northern Soul scene and the Soul Mafia side in the South, which again is stemming from more of a white soulboy basis, although there were black kids who came onto that scene. Then it stops around about early 80’s, before jumping to the mid 80’s, when you’ve got the start of the House scene. It’s that gap of a period that both of us, me from the early part of it, you from the latter part of it, were involved in. I think that’s the interesting period now, because people are starting to realise that it’s a missing link – which it is.
SA: You’re right, like you were saying, the Disco thing was the 70’s, wasn’t it? Then it’s the start of the House thing. That’s 86 onwards, sort of thing. But it’s as you say, that bit in the middle is the big gap that people really need to find out more about because the Housier crowd now, I don’t mean the 18 year olds, have a bit of a duty to find out the roots of that music really, the House music, because if you just go back to the gap we were talking about, there it is. I think they should find out a little bit more. It’s almost like knowing where you come from. If you’re into that sort of music, find out where that music stems from. Find out the influences and the roots of it and then you can be a bit more happy with your life or something.
© Greg Wilson, 2004