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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: 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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Review: Touching from a Distance – Ian Curtis and Joy Division – by Deborah Curtis

ian curtis

I am a massive fan of Joy Division and feel that the band’s greatness has always been tainted by lead singer, Ian Curtis’ early death. He was a modern day British Jim Morrison, a trapped poet, muse to millions. This book, a heartfelt examination of the real man by his loving wife, serves as a poignant celebration of Ian Curtis. The biography is intimate in its detail and we are not just scratching the surface here but getting a true glimpse of what made this dark poet tick. His early fascination with a young death and suicide provide a recurring theme. From poverty through to a point where huge success was imminent and all their material worries would be over, Ian Curtis killed himself at the cusp of true legend status for his band. He has a mixed relationship with his wife, ultimately forcing her to endure a rock n roll affair through his Belgian mistress. He was truly torn and love ultimately did tear him apart. I found the struggle with epilepsy to be the underlying factor that drove Ian Curtis to death. It must have been horrific to live with such a chronic condition and yet he still rarely missed a live performance and maybe the forthcoming trip to America was just one jettison too far? This book is thoroughly readable, a true page-turner. I feel, having read it, closer to Ian Curtis and indeed one of my most favourite bands.

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Head Alchemy

Head Alchemy

I felt like a bit of a change, a bit of an up-tempo feel to the mix to warm those toes in the murky winter weather… I’d recently put together a nice acid house feeling dub for a Brazilian vocalist to work on and wanted to fit it into the mix… It is Hacienda style Acid House… This mix flows from Acid House to techno and back down to Acid… I wanted to bang it up to full-on Adam Beyer style techno and add in some Goa Trance but unfortunately couldn’t get the tempo geared up that high in 80 minutes… Some nice Laurent Garnier tracks thrown in and he has been a big influence on me as a DJ – I’ve never seen anyone at all demonstrate crowd control on a dancefloor like he does… He’s like an operatic conductor and his versatility and range of music in his sets is astonishing… I started off in the scene listening to a lot of techno and playing it so I guess this mix is taking me back full circle… :::TRACKLISTING::: 1. Wez G – Brasil Acid (Dub) [White] 2. Joey Beltram – Energy Flash (Original Mix) [Transmat] 3. Irregular Synth, Andrea Frisina – Dub City (Lutzenkirchen Remix) [Gate Null Recordings] 4. The Japanese Popstars – Heavy Hitter (Sharooz Remix) [Bedrock Records] 5. Paul Ritch – Run Baby Run (Original Mix) [Drumcode] 6. Gabriel D’Or, Bordoy – Kepler 69 (Original Mix) [MKT rec] 7. Soulik – Enjoy This Trip (Original Mix) [Audio Elite] 8. Möd3rn – Mö 3 (Original Mix) [Mod3rn] 9. Scan X – Midnight (Laurent Garnier Edit) [WTF! Music] 10. 04LM – Tragicaller (Original Mix) [Soma Records] 11. Gayle San – The Porter (Original Mix) [H-Productions] 12. Kollektiv Turmstrasse – Grillen im Park (Dreher & Sm.art Remix) [DJ Series] 13. Mark Henning – Blackout (Original Mix) [Soma Records] 14. Syco – Danaka [Oxygen Music Works] 15. Laurent Garnier – Jacques In The Box (Chicago Bordelo Remix) [Ed Banger Records / Because Music] 16. Dax J – Spotlights (Original Mix) [Unknown Territory] Wez G – Head Alchemy by Wez G on Mixcloud

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