Too young to have visited the famous Manchester club? One former regular is posting DJ sets from the club online so you can hear what you missed
With the closure of fabric causing something of a 'Princess Di moment' among the UK dance music community right now, it's worth remembering that it's not the first iconic, life-changing club ever to be forced to shut its doors. From The Loft, Paradise Garage and Sound Factory to Cream, The End and Turnmills, the pages of dance music history are littered with once-great discotheques that are sadly no more.
And among the most iconic of the lot, of course, was The Haçienda. It wasn't the first club in Britain to start playing house music (that honour, according to most accounts, goes to The Garage in Nottingham), nor did it exist in splendid isolation. But the former yacht showroom at the bottom of Manchester's Whitworth Street was undoubtedly at the forefront of the acid house revolution that changed the face of popular music and nightlife in the UK forever, and as such will always retain a special place in the hearts of those of us who went there.
Which is what inspired former regular Andrew McKim - a Mancunian psychologist-turned-artisan pizza chef who's now based in sunny Cornwall - to start hunting down mixes from the club and posting them on a blog named Blog51 (after The Haçienda's Factory Records catalogue number, FAC 51). Hit up Blog51 and you'll find dozens of Haçienda sets from back in the day, all recorded via the mixing desk and all available for free download.
We got Andrew on the phone to find out more.
Firstly, tell us how you came to start Blog51 in the first place...
"It started in 2012, as an extension of what I was doing on a music forum called Home Of House. I was a moderator on a DJ mix forum there and I just thought, I want to do something related to The Haçienda. So I stepped into the blogging world."
Where do the mixes come from?
"A variety of sources. Some I already had from back in the day, some I sourced from various people associated with the Haçienda, some have come via eBay or from the net generally. I just got hold of mix by a DJ called Tommy D Funk from 1994 which he's given me permission to use, so it's that kind of thing."
Are they all sound desk recordings?
"Yeah, I've got a lot of masters straight from the mixing desk, or some have come from MP3s taken from old mixing desk tapes. People used to go along and knock on the door of the DJ booth and buy tapes for a tenner or a fiver or whatever it was, and they used to spread like wildfire. Every shop you went in would have a Haçienda mix on back in the day - that's what turned me onto them in the first place. You could relive your Haçienda night for the rest of the week then!"
Have you had any feedback from the DJs involved?
"Yeah, I've been in touch with Greg Wilson, he sent me a mix... Dave Haslam, Dave Booth... and Ange Matthews, who was manager of the club, she really likes the blog and she pointed me in the direction of a few mixes too, which was nice of her."
How much traffic are you getting?
"It started off as maybe a thousand visitors a week, but just lately it's exploded and I've got people visiting from all over - France, Japan, Australia, all over. I think initially it was just people typing in 'Haçienda' but now I've been mentioned in a few magazines and forums so it's mainly from there."
Do you have any plans to extend the brand beyond the blog itself - to put on Haçienda-themed nights, for instance, or release official compilations?
"Yes, a friend and I have been talking about the idea of doing nights around the country based on the mixtape sets, because between us we own most of those records from back in the day and both of us DJ. But it's just an idea we've been kicking around at the moment. Right now I've got a couple of hundred mixes still to add, so expect lots more of the same for now, and then we'll see what happens beyond that."
How many mixes do you currently have live?
"There are about 80 at the moment, but I've got about 400 in total and I'm discovering new ones all the time. I found three new ones this weekend!"
The mixes are free and there's no advertising on the site, was that a conscious decision?
"Well, not really... it's more because I started this as a hobby and to be honest I wouldn't know where to start with advertising! But also, I quite like keeping it just to the music. I got these mixes for free, or at most I paid a couple of quid for them if I bought an MP3 online, and I like the idea of giving something back. The ethos of people downloading mixes and then selling them... that's not what acid house was about back in the day. It's just carrying on that Haçienda ethos."
So what, in your eyes, made The Haçienda special?
"Oh, goodness... it was the people, primarily. The DJs knew the crowd, there were a lot of regulars for a long time, and it all just gelled. I'm sure drugs helped, as well, but I think it was just the right moment. It was pure zeitgeist, and Blog 51 is my way of capturing those times."
Can you remember the first and last times you went?
"The first time was to see [former Velvet Underground chanteuse] Nico play a live acoustic set in 1986, which was special because everyone was sat on the floor watching her, so I walked in and it was like no club I'd ever been in! And the last time was Todd Terry in about 1997, just before it closed."
Once you get the 400 mixes posted, are there any other clubs you'd consider doing the same thing for?
"I think Cream would be a good one, though I didn't have the same kind of contact with Cream unfortunately. Maybe Ministry. But I'm also thinking of all the bands that played The Haçienda - everyone from The Smiths to Madonna. Maybe I could try tracking some of those down."
Finally... what's your personal favourite Haçienda mix?
"There's one from September 1991 that I really, really love but I haven't got around to posting it yet! Of the mixes that are live now, there's one from 7 August 1987... I think that mix sums up the period perfectly. You can hear how pioneering they were, the energy, how they put the tracks together - that's what hooked people. You walked in, you heard that music, and for a lot of us, it changed our lives."
Words: Russell Deeks
You can find Blog51 at blog51hacienda.blogspot.co.uk