I Swear I was There – Memories of the Free Trade Hall

“I don’t believe you, you’re a liar – play fuckin’ loud”, drawled Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall on May 17th 1966. What followed was an exhilarating and venomously delivered version of “Like A Rolling Stone”.

Dylan was angry and like his rival and contemporary, John Lennon, when wound up, he was brilliant. What rattled Dylan was a catcall of “Judas” from 16 year old Keith Butler in the audience because he was playing with an electrified band (The Hawks, who themselves would go onto have a distinguished career) and not acoustically.

Fans of folk music, who Dylan was strongly aligned to in his early career, were, and are, notoriously puritanical about their beloved genre. What Dylan did, in Butler’s eyes, was tantamount to a betrayal akin Continue reading I Swear I was There – Memories of the Free Trade Hall

Bright Lights, Late Nights and Hard knocks at the Hardrock

Alan Miller remembers the growing anger in the crowd at The Hardrock in Stretford as they were awaiting Chuck Berry to take to the stage on the evening of Thursday 18th January 1973. Alan says that “we were oblivious to the chaos that was unfolding behind the scenes. Chuck Berry was due on stage at 9.30 and he ended up coming on at 11. He was going to have to come up with something special after that and he didn’t”. Former Red Issue columnist Mister Spleen remembers that “Chuck Berry got bottled offstage after turning up late and only doing half an hour”. What caused the delay was Berry’s now notorious practice of demanding payment in cash, prior to the show. The main problem was that the management of the Hardrock had no idea of this until the night of the show. Chuck Berry was going nowhere near the stage until the money turned up and they didn’t have the required cash to hand. Old Trafford swag stall holder Malcolm Hancock says that “they had to plead with the manager of the local Midland Bank to open up and give them the cash. It’s just as well they did, there would’ve been a full scale riot otherwise”. Charlie Darlington, an Urmston red who grew up idolising Johnny Berry and a lighting engineer at the Hardrock said that “Chuck Berry is one of the most arrogant and ignorant people I’ve ever heard of”.

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The Hardrock opened its doors as a venue in the summer of 1972 and November the 8th saw the 40th anniversary of its closure, before the building was converted into a DIY shop (which itself is due to close imminently). Over its three years, giants of the rock music world, such as Led Zepellin, Paul McCartney, David Bowie and many others played the venue.

Prior to being a music venue, it was the Top Rank, a bowling alley which was a mere hundred yards from where Tommy Taylor lived. Red News writer Roy Cavanagh also remembers it being a favourite place of George Best’s when he first came to Manchester in the summer of 1963. Roy explains that “I used to go there with George on Tuesday and Thursday nights”. Jamie Rennie, a Manchester City season ticket holder from Old Trafford has similar memories. Jamie told Red News that “When it was the bowling alley, we used to play football on the car park and some of United’s younger players used to turn up and join in. John Fitzpatrick and Francis Burns were regulars. Sometimes even George Best played with us” Continue reading Bright Lights, Late Nights and Hard knocks at the Hardrock