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Review: Happy Mondays – Excess All Areas – by Simon Spence

Happy Mondays

This is the third Simon Spence book that I have read. He is a very talented music journalist from Manchester with a taste for documenting, wild, stylish cultural movements that have emerged from the Madchester craziness. Excess All Areas covers perhaps the most successful and innovative band to have ridden the early acid house craze that swept the nation in the mate 1980s. With the charismatic Shaun Ryder heading up the band, a true hedonist, a notorious substance abuser, it was always difficult for the true Happy Mondays to translate through the myriad web of journalists who tried to document them. Ryder, much to the annoyance of most of the musical backdrop of the band, Paul Ryder (Bass), Gary Whelan (Drums), Paul Davis (keyboard), Mark Day (Guitar), Mark ‘Bez’ Berry (dancer), got into a habit of blagging the press and feeding them over the top exaggerations of the band’s history and exploits. In hindsight, this was pure marketing genius and led to much of the mystery and notoriety that paved the way for success. However, it sifting all the bullshit, has made the writing of this book that much more difficult for Simon Spence. The early days of a relatively privileged middle class upbringing contrasts with the bunch of Manchester council estate ‘scallies’ they tried to portray themselves as. Sure there was petty crime and shopflifting etc. but nothing serious, although perhaps the addition of Bez to the group was actually verging on real true life crime as he obviously was up to the neck in it as a youngster and quite obviously expanded his mini empire quite a lot under the guise of being part of the band…. Manchester Giants, Factory Records and Tony Wilson picked up the band and signed them which paved their way to success following the ilk of luminaries Joy Division and New Order and allowing them direct access to one of the UK’s most influential music venues, the Haçienda. It all happened at just the right time for this band, as the cultural rebellion against failed Thatcherism took hold of the UK’s disillusioned youth masses and expressed itself in the ‘Acid House’ movement. Ecstasy-fuelled, fashion shifts, mass movement and gathering of people in raves, parties and festivals, vast increase in polydrug clubbing and mainstream ending of anti-drug taboos. A lot of this movement was driven by DJs and the Mondays’ uniqueness was that they…

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Review: Mister Good Times by Norman Jay MBE

mister good times

I was lucky enough to be a warm up DJ for Norman Jay back in the 1990s in The Cross Nightclub, London and I think I was billed on a couple of other events with him. He was a great DJ, I remember him once, in Ministry of Sound, having a full glass of drink topple on the bar decks where he was spinning from the above balcony and Norman, lightning quick just kept the music rolling and not even a skip of the needle. The book is divided up into several unique sections. The first part covers Norman’s Good Times sound system at Notting Hill Carnival which is for what he has been most famous. The whole logistics of such an event is well detailed enough for the professional DJ to thoroughly enjoy and learn from and to any reader the whole politics and excitement and logistics of such a fun event must be enlightening. The book covers Norman’s childhood, whereby he was brought up in Ladbroke Grove, West London to Windrush Caribbean immigrant parents, both of whom seemed very hardworking and supportive and keen to give their family the best start to life. The book discusses a lot about how being a black DJ was defined during the early years of the deck revolution. For me, a highlight was Norman’s journey to New York, where he learnt the best of what would be culturally exported from the USA to British streets. Norman Jay’s love for Tottenham Hotspur football club is covered in detail and during the excitement of terraces and the emergence of the hooligan years it is great reading of times past and the fun and frolics of being a serious football fan. For me, as a Liverpool fan it was truly disturbing to read about racism at Anfield back in the 1970s. Growing up in the John Barnes era of Liverpool, for me I always felt that we were a progressive club when it came to racism which is still a fight in the beautiful game to this very day. I really wanted for the book to keep running once it hit the years of house music. The warehouse parties with Judge Jules thrown across London were particularly interesting, the funniest moment in the tale, when the Met Police tried robbing all the takings from the promoters and Judge Jules and Norman hid under raincoats, pretending…

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Review: Still Breathing: The True Adventures of the Donnelly Brothers – by Anthony and Christopher Donnelly (and Simon Spence)

still breathing

Chris and Anthony Donnelly are two likely lads from Wythenshawe, Manchester. Growing up to a backdrop of crime, allegedly part of the the notorious Quality Street Gang, these entrepreneurs became leading figures in the birth of Manchester’s Acid House scene, initiating illegal raves and forging bonds and networks across music from the Hacienda to the launch of their own short-lived crime-ridden Parliament Club, at the peak of The Gunchester headlines when Guns and gangs took hold in Manchester. After heading out of music they entered the world of fashion, launching Gio-Goi. Using a mixture of guerrilla marketing, incorporating their music friends and street buddies, they became a necessity of fashionistas. The brand ultimately became corporate turning over £40 million a year at its height. This tale, interview-style, arranged by Stone Roses biographer, Simon Spence, is a true journey of life’s ups and downs, for a most colourful family. From drug busts, media headlines and jail sentences to filming videos with Pete Doherty and Deadmau5. I especially enjoyed the reminiscences of Old Skool Hacienda DJs, Mike Pickering, Jon Dasilva and Graeme Park. This book has it all. I’m sure that no party is complete without the Donnelly brothers influencing it in some way.

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Wez G DJ CV

Rock & Fountain, Penhow Set Sail with Shuffle boat parties Miss Moneypennys London: Ministry of Sound, Velvet Underground, The Cross, London Zoo, Turnmills, Plastic People, the Gardening Club, Bar Lorca-Stoke Newington (drum n’bass), The Sound Republic, Legends, The Clinic, Thirteen, Skinny Dipp@UCL, Easy J’s, The Little House, Connaught Hall, Ormonds, Hooked boat parties, The Crystal Ship, Rare FM Radio Birmingham: Bonds, The Church, Raymondo’s Canal Bristol: Lakota, Silent Peach, The Powerhouse, Cast, The Level, Moles, The Vaultz, Walton Castle, Byzantium, Bar Latino, Club Loco, Blue Mountain, The Old Fire Station, Cafe Blue, Po Na Na Cardiff: The Emporium, Elements, Q bar, Slug & Lettuce, The Howardian, GloBar, Cuba Club, Owain Glendower, Sub 29, Journeys, Callaghans, Dep Cult in the Bay Festival, Nettie’s fancy dress shop, Soda Bar Newport: The Cotton Club, V3, Annabels, Bah Rumbah, The Bunker, Langtons, The Arcade, OTT, Baltica, Jesters, Duffryn Community Festival, Maindee Community Festival, the Gallery, Mustang Sally’s, Newport City Radio Chepstow: Muts Nuts@The White Lion, Mathern Village Hall, Jimmy Deans, New Inn-Pwyllmerric Caldicot: The Haywain, The White Hart, The Galleon, The Pill House, Jordan’s, Caldicot Football Club, Undy Football Club, Ye Olde Tippling Philosopher, Dewstow Golf Club, Rogiet Hotel, Broome’s horse shows, The Severn View Club Other UK: Chuff Chuff, Shrewsbury Alter Ego @ The Lost Weekend, Nottingham 1 Love @ The Brunel rooms, Swindon In a field in Chippenham, Wiltshire The Winchester Arms, Taunton Kings Arms Hotel, Salisbury King’s bar, Lydney Disco Lites, Cinderford International: Klubb Ra @ Nefertiti, Goteborg, Sweden Kafe Publik, Goteborg, Sweden Tikisoft, Tahiti, French Polynesia Ceramic, Wanganui, New Zealand Da Tempo Radio Station, Paris, France KryKey Radio, San Francisco, CA, USA JNCBEST Radio, Kabul Afghanistan Dr House Music, Holland Cloob.fm, San Francisco, USA ItaliaNetwork, Italy ScoutLounge, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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