Graeme Park: “The Haçienda was the most liberating club experience I’ve ever had”
Graeme Park

Veteran house DJ Graeme Park discusses the influence of Manchester’s iconic The Haçienda nightclub ahead of the Haçienda Classical shows – with Mike Pickering, Peter Hook and The Manchester Camerata Orchestra.

Looking back, The Haçienda’s influence is vast.

It was arguably the first British super club and Cream, Ministry Of Sound and others used us as a blueprint, although admittedly they were run much better and existed on a much sounder footing.

The Haçienda was the birthplace of what was to become the 90s dance music revolution. Mike Pickering and I were playing all these obscure acid house records on a Friday and it just spread from there across the UK and beyond.

First Summer Of Love

The reaction to the ‘Friday Nude nights’ was utterly incredible. In those days clubs opened at 10pm and closed at 2am, but as the 1988, first Summer Of Love, continued and Nude became even more popular we had to start to opening at 9pm to accommodate the vast queues that began forming well before we opened the doors. People didn’t want to risk not getting in.

I can remember once arriving early into Manchester on a Friday and driving past in a taxi. It had just gone 7pm and the queue had was already snaking around the corner. You just don’t get that now.

The energy that was created on a Friday night began outside the club. The junction of City Road and Whitworth Street West was alive with an energy that you could feel in the air. People getting out of taxis or jumping out of their mates cars saying ‘We’ll hold a place for you in the queue’. There was a massive buzz in the street before they even opened the doors.

hacienda-classical

Once they opened, people would just run in. Half of them headed straight to the dancefloor, the rest to the bar. By 9.30pm the place was already busy and the vibe was building. It was then just a non-stop roller-coaster until 2am.

We had to finish at 2am on the dot. There was no chance of continuing despite the crowd chanting repeatedly for ‘one more’. People just didn’t want the night to end. That’s what it was like every single Friday from ’88 to ’92.

Introducing clubbers to new music

The other thing was that on a weekly basis there was so much new music that people just didn’t know. But they dancing to it and loving it. They eventually got to know the stand out tunes but every week it was just me and Mike saying to each other, ‘have you heard this?”, then playing it and the crowd going crazy.

Don’t forget that back then the only way for anyone to hear those tunes was to either come to The Haçienda or visit a record shop. Not like today with the internet where you can access pretty much everything.

1988 and 1989, the first two Summers Of Love, wasn’t just Chicago acid house, Detroit techno, New York Latin house and all the early UK house stuff. Mike and I were still playing Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shanté, Eric B & Rakim and all those kind of original electro records from Afrika Bambaataa, Hashim, Jonzun Crew as well as big Miami beats too.

Everyone just let us get on with it. Nobody was banging on the DJ booth door asking us to play this or that. People trusted us.

It was very liberating having such an open-minded crowd. It certainly was as a DJ but it must have been totally liberating for someone in their late teens and early twenties on that dance-floor too. In fact it must have been liberating regardless of your age.

The Haçienda was full of proper party people of many different ages, some of whom were old enough to know better. Yes, The Haçienda was the most liberating club experience I’ve ever had or probably will have. And that feeling remains with me as well as the thousands and thousands of people who flocked to our dancefloor every single week.

All grown up

With The Haçienda Classical concerts our die-hard regular ‘Nude Night’ crowd have all grown up but you can’t take those amazing memories of youth away and they still love to come and listen to the music that they grew up with. That’s true of any generation. That’s why Mike and I chose tunes from that ’88 to ’92 period. Tunes that have stood the test of time and that people know and love.

But they’ve been transformed by the Manchester Camerata Orchestra. The three shows so have been absolutely wonderful and we’re proud of our choices. We’ve reinterpreted the past and the audiences have love it.

Hacienda Classical

After more than three decades as a DJ you have to be careful that you don’t get bored and be careful that you’re always trying to move forward to avoid becoming a little staid. That can be difficult when some audiences want to hear the same classics, so being able to play those classics with an orchestra makes that whole experience liberating once again.

The first two shows in Manchester were very nerve racking because it’s the home of The Haçienda, but the Royal Albert Hall show was much less nervy for us because we knew what we were doing and the venue just lends itself to the grandness of the show.

So roll on Glasgow. I’m already beside myself with excitement and getting just a bit nervous about playing to my fellow countrymen and women. The Scots are always up for a party. I know from experience. The Glasgow crowd in particular are just so up for it and I think it’s going to be the best response yet.

I’m hoping this will be one of the highlights of my career so far.

The Haçienda Classical is playing the following UK date:

Apr 22: SSE Hydro, Glasgow

More information can be found at www.fac51thehacienda.com

More:

5 Manchester landmarks that are gone but not forgotten

12 things we miss about clubbing in Manchester in the 90s

A personal account of 6 Glasgow clubbing institutions

Main image: Jack Kirwin