I was working in Our Price Records in Aldershot, when a strange album, with an even stranger title, was released on Factory Records. The band were from Manchester and were called the Happy Mondays. The album, ‘Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)’ was produced by John Cale, so I put it on the shop’s stereo. I didn’t really know what to make of it, but I did know I liked it. A lot.
I booked them for the Buzz Club. I can’t remember how, through an agent, the label or their manager. I got sent this photo and a few photocopied press sheets to help with the promotion.
My band Bluetrain had done a little tour of Scotland around that time and the promoter of our gig in Perth, Derek Moir, was in a great band called This Poison!. I asked if they would like to play. They didn’t make it in the end, but they are on the flier, so it gives me a nice excuse to post this track!
‘We really enjoyed putting on Bluetrain. You were one of the first bands that we put on in Perth. Our club was called Strasbourg– after the Julian Cope song but also after the idea that it is a symbol of EU unity (we have been on several demos lately).
The success of Bluetrain enabled us to put on The Wedding Present and McCarthy several times in conjunction with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen mates – also 1000 Violins and MBV among others and This Poison! Played return support slots in other cities. It was very exciting.
I remember the discussion about playing in Aldershot well but we were either working or at college, so couldn’t make it. At that time I was a bit sceptical about the HM’s – had seen them supporting James and any other Factory bands when they came to Scotland probably saw them 5 times from ‘85-87. They just seemed to be square pegs and I didn’t get them – even though my mate (This Poison! bass player ) had bought Squirrel, I just didn’t get it. Like you, I thought that they were a bit scary!
Then we moved to London in October ‘88 and Bummed had been the record of that summer of our transition down. It was weird and mad (Country songs about fat lady wrestlers??? ) and getting oiled up! – not quite The June Brides! Our bass player was living with Malcolm McCarthy – lyrical Marxist genius, so how did that fit! My London mates were blasting this out every where. I still Was unconvinced. Until we went to see them at Dingwalls. They played twice that autumn and it was like seeing The Pistols in ‘76. Tiny club, new scene didn’t quite get it in ‘87 but something big and exciting was happening. They had brought a bus load of Mancs, which my London mates were pretty apprehensive about until they realised they they were actually very friendly….Very friendly indeed! (I wonder why?) it was the beginning of such an even more exciting time which led us into a new club scene.’
In fact, both the main support bands failed to make their epic journeys down south. The Waltones from Manchester, who were on the fabulous Medium Cool label run by Andy Wake, were also meant to play, but also failed to make it.
I adored this single – Mark Collins from the band later joined The Charlatans.
We had started to put bands on in the bar. You didn’t have to have a ticket to watch them or have a drink there, it made for a great atmosphere. Local band the Stigmata Club and solo artist The Caretaker aka Giles Sennett played. They didn’t have to travel far, so fortunately made it! Giles remembers ‘I played a few songs by Billy Bragg and a Microdisney fave ”Armadillo Man”
I don’t have any of the posters for this gig – but a poster on the wall in the background in a photo of Mark from Bluetrain and a ripped up poster on the Buzz Club display at the West End Centre recently revealed these –
It was a hot summer evening on the 3 July 1987. It was also a Friday – we usually had the Buzz Clubs on a Saturday. No one had really heard of the Happy Mondays yet and so, not many people turned up. I think about 30 or so. I remember sitting on the steps outside the West End Centre and looking down the street, realising that no one else was coming. At that stage it was a bit of a blessing as the band themselves hadn’t turned up yet. They were about three hours late. I have a feeling, since neither of the main support acts were there, once the Mondays were there and sound checking, they just kept playing and it turned into the gig. I also remember being pretty scared of them. Southern softies that we were. I hadn’t really ever come across anyone like Shaun Ryder or Bez before. Probably haven’t since to be fair.
One of the people who was there, was Buzz Club regular, Jason Cox. He recalls;
‘One of the most memorable Buzz Club gigs I’ve been to. Having bought the record on the back of an NME review and giving it a test drive in Our Price (Aldershot branch of course!) remember turning up for the gig and counting just 17 of us in the audience at one point. Nobody knew what to make of this strange new band of Mancunian rogues on Factory records as they certainly didn’t fit the usual jingle jangle template of the time. But I do remember Shaun Ryder sporting the type of hat later made famous by Reni in the Stone Roses. He wore it for most of the gig and it covered the top part of is face but he also had a big spliff on the go. I don’t think Bez had completely mastered his freaky dancing at this point and was doing a kind of nodding dog with his feet nailed to the floor movement thing which was none the less unusual for its time. The whole gig for us Southerm indie kids was as brilliant as it was bemusing and I was a fan from there on in. Another Buzz Club triumph of sorts!’
Luckily, the scattering of people who were there also included Dave Driscoll aka Fruitier Than Thou who recorded the gig. Dave says;
‘A number of things that I remember about this gig… I remember Jo saying she desperately put some sandwiches together for them (being the good egg she is) as they turned up “Fookin’ Starvin’ “ Shaun & the drummer asked me “Have you got any gear?” when I was expecting them to say “Do you want to buy some gear?” … I obviously looked like a gearmeister… I like to think that the encounter lead to the comment at the end of the first track “Keep Britain drug free move to Aldershot…” As Jason said.. Most of the gig you could just see Shaun’s nose from under his beanie hat… Not only that but Bez actually had a rack of percussion stuff which he occasionally whacked rather than just doing that squat thrust breast stroke dance…. At the end of this track you can also hear Mr Paul Maguire Esq. suggesting that Shaun sounded like Frankie Sidebottom…. I’ll put the whole gig up sometime’
Also, in the crowd was Philip ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson. His memories of the night are:
‘I didn’t recall it being a Friday, but it clearly was. My dad must have dropped me off as usually, had it been a Saturday, I would have come from my weekend job at Foster Bros Menswear at the bottom of Union Street. I hated that job. I started on £1.24 an hour, and everyone who worked there was so different to me.
I don’t remember anyone being flustered or the band not having arrived, but I DO remember them soundchecking shortly before the doors opened. I did record the soundcheck on my £30 Sony dictating machine (which served me well for three years of solid gigging, though the quality was rubbish) and the full show (about 35-40 minutes, I recall) but I loaned the tape to someone about 20 years ago and never got it back (I have a feeling I know who!). They soundchecked with ‘Yahoo‘, most of which was just the bass intro.
I have to concur with the ‘scary’ tag everyone is giving them. I was just 17 at the time, and not at all worldly-wise. Even then, though, I figured that this band had seen a lot and probably had various degrees of ‘form’. Bez scared me because I wasn’t used to a band member not really having a role. He had a shaved head and was stick-thin and his eyes were pretty glazed. At that age I was thinking more ‘cult’ than ‘drugs’. The rest of the band (except Shaun) seemed very serious. No laughing or larking. Apart from when A Certain Ratio had played in June the previous year, I had never seen that from a Buzz Club headliner; they had all been friendly and jocular.
I clearly, like everyone else, remember the gig being very poorly attended. My ticket was number 70, so obviously a lot had gone to outlets who didn’t sell them or purchasers who never came. I felt there were about 30 people there.
I really couldn’t get a handle on the music. I liked the drone style of some of the tracks, and the rhythms, but I was less enamored of the funkiness. I had never heard the band before, but I had heard OF them. Peel had mentioned them and they were already the darlings of the music press. Shaun had a huge face picture on the front of the NME and I remember thinking how incredibly unattractive he looked!
Not being familiar with the tracks, they all sounded pretty similar to me. Only ‘Yahoo’ (which they also opened with) stuck in my mind, and that was because of the catchy bass line.
Shaun certainly made the occasional reference to Aldershot from memory but the band seemed to be working by numbers, almost like they were playing half-asleep (or half-stoned).
At the end of the set, I picked up the hand-written setlist which was on a fluorescent green sheet of paper (how 80s, eh?) I still have it somewhere, but God knows where it is. I met Tony Wilson in 2002 (and he was REALLY nice) and showed him the setlist. He said it was a rare piece of history as he signed it for me.
After the gig, I met the band backstage. They were all perfectly nice to me, to be honest. Shaun was asking me what it was like in Aldershot – did the Army go after people and were the police used to using CS gas? They all signed the back of a gig flyer for me (also still owned, also still in an unknown place) and Bez signed himself as ‘Skaghead’. In my innocence, I thought it was some kind of Manc slang for a shaved head. I knew what ‘skag’ was, but I thought no way would I ever meet someone who had a connection to it!
Jo and Danny drove me home and I remember Jo being quite shocked that Shaun had asked her where he could score some heroin in Aldershot.’
Hutch and I recently got back in touch and he very kindly dug deep into his family garden shed and was able to find lots of joyous recordings and photos of various Buzz Clubs. Including these. Never seen before – thanks so much Hutch!