Friday, 27 November 2015

A Manc before midnight

Small number of locals, outnumbered by roadies and hangers-on ? Check. Spiggytapes sample song uploaded to YouTube ? Check. Poster from LG on the sisterswiki ? Check. Contemporary Meteors gig footage ? Check. Venue since demolished ? Check.

Yes, it’s another date from the never-ending sporadic series of TSOM shows in the first half of 1983. The date at Manchester’s Gallery venue was in the middle of what Gary Marx later described as “our first proper mini-tour” of half a dozen shows towards the end of March 1983, a useful warm-up for the more high-profile joint tour with The Gun Club the following month. The Sunday night Manchester gig (27th March) therefore followed on from the Liverpool Warehouse, Birmingham Golden Eagle and Colne Franc’s gigs, and came before the Hull Dingwall’s and Glasgow Night Moves shows.

Looking at the somewhat home-made and last-minute nature of the above poster (again from LG’s voluminous and generously shared collection, as regular readers will recognise from the distinctive tv remotes used to weight down the corners for the photo), it’s hardly surprising that the Sisters show failed to draw a capacity crowd. Amongst those who were in attendance was (along with his friend Clive) long-time fan Ed Dobson, seeing TSOM for the very first time, who reckons that “there were less than 100 people at the gig, I’ve always said about 60, with probably about half being the God Squad anyway.”
                    (pic © and featured on the Pubs of Manchester blogspot)

Like many of the venues played in 1983, The Gallery was a basement room and bar and although it was most famous as a (still fondly remembered) soul club largely patronised by the city’s Afro-Caribbean community, it also regularly featured gigs, and the Happy Mondays made their live debut here. In his autobiography (memorably entitled “Twisting My Melon”), Sean Ryder remembers The Gallery “could be a bit moody, but all those gaffs that were late-night joints back then were like that.” Ed Dobson’s description of the venue, which was on the corner of Deansgate and Peter Street (although “Beesley Street” sounds like a more appropriate location),  is even more evocative : “It was a real sweaty hole with black gloss painted walls on the stairs down into the venue that dribbled condensed sweat and nicotine.”
According to this set of stills taken at the venuethat night (and set to one of their better studio recordings on YT), the support act was local new wave band Nu Tricx (who sound like The Offspring on this track), and the TSOM cloth backdrop banner is clearly visible behind them, but Ed Dobson arrived during their set and has no recollection of them. He does remember chatting to Von sharing a Marlboro and buying him a drink (still your round, Andrew) by the entrance to the changing room to the left of the stage, and asking him how much he wanted for the backdrop banner. “He just laughed”.

(picture from the Manchester District MusicArchive, where a comment below the photo makes the unlikely claim that Alexei sayle was the warm-up man on the night))

A recording of the show has surfaced, beginning with Anaconda, although Ed is almost certainly correct when he states that “I’m pretty sure they started with Kiss the Carpet (as did the other gigs at that time)”. Although some gigs on that tour seemingly ended with Gimme Shelter, those at The Gallery were also treated to the Ghostrider/Louie Louie medley, which Phil Verne has (once again) generously uploaded toYouTube for all to enjoy. This was the moment which ensured Ed’s enduring affection for the band : “The beat from the Dok just made my jaw drop and for me it was the best song of the whole gig.” Ed also states that “Clive always says that Gary fell off the stage during the gig, but I couldn’t swear to that, but as the stage was only about 8” high it wasn’t epic.”
Those wanting to sample the atmosphere of The Gallery in those days could do worse than check out this excellent footage of a Meteors gig from around that time, revealing the small balcony which gave the club its name. Other YouTube footage from the club features The Chameleons, the ubiquitous UK Subs and even REM. Despite a paint job (turning the rather garish green and red colour scheme a pristine white), The Gallery closed for business a couple of years after TSOM’s gig, and the whole building was eventually bulldozed as part of the redevelopment of the Deansgate area, a modernist building surfacing in its place.
 Despite the attempted gentrification of the era, the yuppified Bar 38 and pre-club Purity have both failed to make the new venue pay, and it has lain empty for the past two years.
The Sisters returned to Manchester the following month on the Gun Club tour, famously playing in drag at the more prestigious Hacienda venue (which hey had already visited in October 1982 supporting The Furs). Manchester has remained a popular stop off, and only last month (October 2015) they returned to the city’s Ritz venue, where they had played back in 1985.

My special thanks for this post, in addition to the usual suspects (Phil Verne for the audio and LG for the poster), are due to Ed Dobson for sharing his memories of his first Sisters gig, and for patiently dealing with my follow-up queries. I would be delighted to hear from anyone else who saw the Sisters back in ’81-’83 and wouldn’t mind sharing their reminiscences for a future post.

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