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Jon Savage's Secret History Of Second Wave Psychedelia 1988-93 Mick Middles , May 14th, 2015 08:53

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At any given time in its tumultuous history, The Hacienda could be enjoyed/endured on several levels. In the early days, from 1982-86, you could hang your emotions on the big gigs. Jesus And Mary Chain, The Pogues, Big Audio Dynamite, New Order, Stone Roses; it didn't really matter because, once in there, you could travel through numerous areas of sensual extremes. At its simplest, you could simply smell the place. That distant aromatic allure of non-sexual rubber, the coldness of industrial metal, the sense of space: vast hollow areas enhanced by light grey and yellow interior decoration, girders and in-house television. Stuff like that. A drug-less inebriation. Unlike anything that you had seen before and yet curiously harking back to the legacy of the world's first industrial city. This was the allure of the old and the new. An ancient modernity.

There was music. Much of it pulled from the darker edges of the mainstream. Some from the garish blaze of early 80s pop. And then something else. Super hip sounds pulled in by all knowing DJs – you know their names – drifting out onto the dance floor. I am not sure I ever really heard this music outside of The Hacienda walls. And then, as the Mike Pickerings, Dave Haslams and Graeme Parks of this world dig deeper into the new underworld. The heady rush of Madchester caught fire. Personally, I hated it, but that mattered not. Still, at the Hacienda, a vast under-swell of music existed/ Music that would alert your senses on entry. Music that would edge out of a secret underworld. This was no longer the Chicago house of the Pickering era. This was something else. A modern psychedelic mesh. A pristine and elegant noise. It seemed so suited to those modern spaces: the Hacienda alcoves, The Gay Traitor Cocktail Bar, up on The Gallery. It was more than fad, it lay in the shadows of Madchester. It was a feeling.

This record, compiled by Jon Savage, who hovered long and hard around the beacon that was Tony Wilson, captures that feel. And still it seems fresh. Still it takes you to a  different place, if not a different city. This music now arrives in a modern format. That is to say an ancient format; this being two 12" slabs of vinyl on the small but visionary Caroline True Records. At first glance, the assembled artists seemed disparate to the point of ungainly. What is this? The Pet Shop Boys? Northside? Deee-Lite? The High? Primal Scream? 808 State and, surely not? Electronic? What curious fad unites such surprisingly familiar artists?

You may ask, where is A Guy Called Gerald's 'Voodoo Ray'? Omnipresent, it seemed, throughout The Hacienda's history - well nearly and arguably the most distinctive 'Hac noise' of them all. Well, Gerald's home-made gem would go on to define several 'Hac' eras, the music collated by Savage, hugely evocative within that club at the time, would eventually drift further underground or float high into the mainstream. Electronic's 'Get The Message', which seems incongruous at first glance, became a top ten hit. Hardly what you would expect on an underground compilation. However, the version herein, the DNA Groove Mix - recorded one month later and produced by DNA – Nick Batt and Neal Slateford – who managed to expand the song until it sat in wide open spaces, lush pastures where instrumentation and backing voices could joust and jam. A kick-back to 12" experimentation. Perfect for 'The Hac'.

By contrast sits Northside's 'Take 5'. If Sumner and Marr (aka Electronic) were seen as Manchester music royalty, then Northside were, as Savage notes, "the runts of the Factory/Madchester roster".

There is certainly a North Manc angst in evidence here. As singer Dermo told me this week, "that song...it was a big 'fuck off' to all the fakes. I have always believed in being yourself and having the guts to live your life that way. So I write the lyrics in the song, 'It's time to be real and say what you feel, what's with the gimmicks and your plastic image? Don't be afraid to be who you are, your mine's your own."

Whether the song was, in-part, aimed at some of the people in and hovering about Factory, Dermo wouldn't say. But it was certainly a call to arms against the pretentious edges of Madchester, of which there were many.

Much of this music served to fill an unlikely gap. While it was, by and large, Chicago house that fuelled the push towards Madchester and 'Aceeeed' during 1988's second summer of love, there existed a basic problem. Much of that admittedly innovative music didn't actually hold any noticeable psychedelic qualities. It was, in essence. A monochrome soundtrack to a multi-coloured movement. An odd fact that triggered much of the music on here. With this in mind we turn to the excellent Deee-Lite Could any music unit – well, since the Bohemian confines of San Francisco in '67 – so perfectly embody the acid fed kaleidoscope? The track included here being 'What is Love? (Hologram Goatee Mix) which had been on the flip of their gargantuan and global 'Groove is in the Heart'. There moment may have been an energy flash...but what a flash?

'What is Love' will zing many 'Hac' devotees back to moments (in Love) in and around that maple dance floor.  (Oddly this reminds me of The Beatles' B-side 'Baby You're a Rich Man', which could no be escaped in the youth clubs of 1967 and yet never emerged out of Beatles backwaters.)

While Deee-Lite will always  mean 'Groove is in the Heart' to the rest of the world, and what a slice of genius it was, 'What is Love' fits perfectly within this elegant collection.

There is much more. 808 State's 'Let Yourself Go' was their debut release (although we had known them in previous guises) and recorded while Gerald Simpson (A Guy Called...) was still in the group. (Bit of Crucial Three style mythology here). With samples tugged from Love Unlimited Orchestra's global hit, 'Love's Theme', it offered a rare marriage where the overtly familiar is stretched to unworldly areas. Strangely enough, as Savage hints, this is probably the most 'out there' song in the giant 808 State canon, arguably due to the outsider pull of Gerald.

All this and I have yet to mention the eternally underrated The High, formed by ex Stone Rose Andy Couzens, who pitched in with 'Box Set Go', initially co-produced by Martin Hannett and, most awkward of all perhaps, The Stone Roses at their most precocious, with the backwards experiment of 'Full Fathom Five'. Savage is too smooth an operator to lump for more obvious Roses inclusions. This CD version offers greater sensual detachment due to guitars added to the backward mix and a shifting – upwards – of Brown's vocals. Of all the tracks included here, this is the one that most effortlessly catches the groove. Rather like Deee-lite, Electronic and The Pet Shop Boys – who deserve their place among the ranks – it offers a are glimpse of a single moment when the mainstream is usurped by an uncontrollable free spirit.

This is music temporarily untamed. The entire double album is a moment, a split second, a sun-spot when all things seemed to flicker towards the fantastic. Of course, the powers that be would all too soon gather like dark clouds, reigning in this state of dangerous freedom. But there lies the true irony. Like the first frantic flash of punk, it died at the moment of release and attained an unworldly perfection.

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paul
Aug 13, 2015 10:54am

might be asking the obvious, but does the release have notes from Savage himself?

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