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

Raving And Rolling At The Russell Club

On the crest of the Two-Tone Ska wave, Madness played the Russell Club in Hulme during September 1979. Peter Barry, a home and away Red from Hulme, saw the Nutty Boys play there, on what was a fairly raucous night.

Peter explains: “We were Perry Boys and had a bit of a skirmish with them in The Russell the week before their first appearance on Top Of The Pops. They were gobby Cockneys, being the big-time boys, and I ended up belting Chas Smash. If you look up Madness’s singing The Prince on their first appearance from Top Of the Pops, you’ll notice that he is wearing a trilby carefully positioned to obscure his eyes; that’s because at least one of them is black.”

Madness on Top Of The Pops in September 1979

Madness weren’t the only band to have trouble at their concerts. David Murray, an Old Trafford lad and United supporter, saw Continue reading Raving And Rolling At The Russell Club

Legends In Their Own Closing Time

In 1988, the Licensing Act which amongst other things, allowed pubs to stay open from 11am while 11pm, was introduced by Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. The legislation was widely derided by the tabloid media, who screamed all kinds of Armageddon-esque rhetoric about the streets being full of drunkards seven days a week. As Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday said in response to the legislation, “where men will not place chains upon their own behaviour, others have to do it for them”. Like the vast majority of other tabloid created hysteria, this didn’t materialise. If anything, the opposite was true. In the year of the legislation, Manchester United had an average attendance of 39,152 and in the 2014-15 season, a mean average of 75,334. Despite the fact that United’s average attendance has nearly doubled in the twenty seven years since the act was introduced, paradoxically the amount of pubs around the vicinity of Old Trafford has plummeted. In 1988 the A56/Chester Road, which is the busiest arterial road serving Old Trafford, had nineteen pubs/social clubs. Now it has four. In 1988 Hulme, a neighbouring district to Old Trafford, had twenty eight pubs within its boundary. Now with The Junction on Rolls Crescent and The Three Legs of Man on Stretford Road, it only has two.

The Pomona Palace, the last pub standing on Chester Road in Hulme. Demolished in January 2014

When Peel Holdings successfully applied for the demolition of the Pomona Palace in December 2013, the final pub on what was loosely known as Chester Road in Hulme vanished. To this writer, who grew up in the area, the thought of there not being a single pub on Chester Road was inconceivable as a child in the 1980s. In 1988, there were eight pubs in the half mile between the end of the Deansgate flyover and the border of Manchester and Trafford; now there are none. This isn’t necessarily down to the changing of people’s drinking habits, Continue reading Legends In Their Own Closing Time