Places of rock ‘n’ roll interest

Former Free Trade Hall

The building hosted many famous concerts

Manchester’s historic Free Trade Hall is assured of its place in rock ‘n’ roll folklore, with the Grade II-listed building on Peter Street hosting a series of landmark gigs over the years.

Erected on the site of the infamous Peterloo Massacre, it opened its doors over a century and a half ago in 1856 and started life out as a public hall.

As well as hosting public announcements and speeches from prime ministers, the council-owned Hall served primarily as home of the Hallé Orchestra (all the way through to 1996),  but less than 100 years after opening it required major rebuilding work after being targeted by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. Her Majesty the Queen officially re-opened it in a ceremony in 1951.

Nonetheless, the building is best known for hosting a couple of famous – some would say infamous – gigs in rock music history.

The first was a Bob Dylan show in May 1966 – a set that signified the American troubadour’s split with the rigid folk tradition of acoustic guitar and harmonica. Beginning to experiment and expand his musical horizons on record and in concert, Dylan plugged in his guitar to play some songs electric, subsequently inciting audible cries of “Judas” from sections of the audience.

The second was in June 1976, when the Lesser Free Trade Hall welcomed the band that would become the most controversial in Britain, punk rockers The Sex Pistols. Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious and cohorts played an electric gig to a tiny audience of around 50 punters that is often credited with having kick-started the entire punk movement in the UK.

The Pistols were supported that night by talented local bands Buzzcocks and Slaughter and the Dogs, who both went on to have some success of their own.

Many other bands and artists in their prime have played the venue throughout its storied history, including The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

It also hosted a several sporting events, including the Tony Barlow-John McCluskey bout in January 1967.

Sadly, The Free Trade Hall was sold by the council to private developers in 1997 and Hotel chain Radisson promptly took over to make it a Radisson Edwardian Hotel.

Location: Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester, England M2 5GP

The former Haçienda

The Haçienda was a legendary city venue

Dreamed up by music impresario and entrepreneur Tony Wilson and New Order manager Rob Gretton as a place for the Factory Records crowd to party in a then staid city nightlife scene, the now world-famous Haçienda venue first opened its doors in June 1982.

The unique venue – which featured three bars, a large dancefloor, a stage, a restaurant and a cafe – was designed by architect Ben Kelly at the suggestion of the Factory Records-affiliated designer Peter Saville. It was even given a number like all the LPs and singles released by the label, officially know as FAC51 Haçienda.

The club soon developed into the hippest spot in Manchester, with the likes of New Order, The Fall, The Smiths, The Stones Roses and Happy Mondays frequenting the Whitworth Street property.

It also gained a reputation for dance music, particularly so-called “acid house”, and a host of soon-to-be famous DJs turned up to spin records until the early hours of the morning, as the “Madchester” and ecstasy craze really took off in the late 1980s.

Nonetheless, financial mismanagement, theft, drug dealing and violent gangs conspired to end the club’s successful run, and it was closed in 1997 when its entertainment licence was revoked, before eventually being converted into flats.

The club was heavily featured in the film tracking the rise and fall of the Factory empire, Michael Winterbottom’s acclaimed 24 Hour Party People.

Location: 15 Whitworth Street, Manchester, England M1 5DE


Salford Lads Club

Creative Commons / apasciuto

In the Salford part of Greater Manchester lies this still up-and-running recreational club for boys (and now girls), which was made famous worldwide courtesy of its appearance on the inside cover of The Smiths’ seminal classic The Queen Is Dead.

Photographer Stephen Wright and the band can’t have imagined the photo would become so iconic and inspire so many fans to make the pilgrimage to Salford.

Initially, the club did not embrace the link with Morrissey and company, perhaps not surprisingly given the album’s prickly subject matter of vicars dressed up in tutus and intruders breaking into Buckingham Palace with rusty spanners to startle Her Majesty.

But eventually the owners caved in, realising its own cultural relevance and welcoming many hardcore fans of The Smiths to the property.

And The Smiths are not the only act with links to the club. Two musicians from successful British Invasion band The Hollies were members. Indeed, Graham Nash and Allan Clarke used the premises to practice their songs.

Location: St Ignatius Walk, Salford, Manchester, England M5 3RX


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