"The most important piece of journalism I've read in the last 20 years"
An underground acid house fanzine that documented Tony Wilson’s iconic Haçienda nightclub is being compiled into an anthology and released for the first time.
The Freaky Dancing fanzine, created by Manchester music lovers Paul Gill and Ste Pickford, was described by Factory Records founder Wilson as “the most important piece of journalism I’ve read in the last 20 years.” Other famous fans of the fanzine included Haçienda co-owner Peter Hook and DJ Mike Pickering.
Wilson, who died in 2007 at the age of 57, also wrote about the fanzine in his autobiography, 24 Hour Party People, describing how it was initially created for the club’s long Friday night queues as a means to keep people entertained.
The club, which opened in 1982, played a key role in the “Madchester” scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s, mixing indie rock and dance music that included artists such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. The club also hosted Madonna’s first UK television appearance in 1983.
After well-documented struggles with finance and crime, the club closed in 1997 and was demolished 18 months later; its contents were all eventually auctioned for charity.
The fanzine originally ran for 11 issues, with the first eight being given our for free and the remaining few being sold around Manchester. The new anthology will contain all 11 issues of the fanzine together with unreleased strips and scrapbook sketches as well as reviews, fliers and photographs that document the music scene at the famed Manchester club during its peak.
Speaking about the collection to NME, creator Paul Gill said: “Tony Wilson’s quote meant a lot to us. He was a great believer in the fanzine, mentioning it in his autobiography, on his commentary on the 24 Hour Party People film and getting us into the infamous Granada Madchester documentary.”
He continued: “Both Ste and I came from a background of putting out fanzines. In fact, picking up each other’s fanzines is how we first met. By the time we were both clubbing at the Haçienda, it seemed the most natural thing for us to put something together for the club. The first 8 were distributed for free to the people in the queue then we started selling them in shops and bars around Manchester in he vain attempt to break financially even – we never did!”
Both Gill and Pickford would write the fanzine during the week in between their full time jobs. The finished fanzine would be copied on a Friday afternoon in the office where Pickford’s office before being handed out at the club’s queue later in the evening.
Pickford continues: “Reading back through them, I think the most interesting thing is to see the trajectory of the fanzine, which matched that of the club, as it changed from blissful optimism to something a lot more darker. Too many guns, too much violence and way too many drugs.”
Remembering the production of the anthology, Pickford told NME: “Reading back through it all, it does get better towards the end. By the final issue I think it’s actually a really good magazine with a great balance of strips and written content, and regular one-off features. It would have been in good shape to step up from being a fanzine to a proper magazine.”
Compiling the fanzine, Gill and Pickford managed to locate most of the originals together with some unpublished items the two later found. Gill adds: “I only completed the fanzine collection recently after tracking down issues on eBay. I ended up in a bidding war for one issue and ended up paying something like £20 for it which was sort of ironic considering we gave the magazine away for free!”
Music journalist John Doran, who is publishing the collection via his website The Quietus, remembers visiting the club and meeting the creators of the fanzine in 1994.
Speaking to NME, Doran said: “When I moved to Manchester in 1994, it was only just in time to catch the last dying days of the Haçienda – the final time I went was to watch The Chemical Brothers play one of their first ever live shows and it was clear that everything in dance music was changing.
“I may well have missed the glory days of the club but I was taken under the wing of a larger than life group of caners, clubbers, artists and music fans all flying the freak flag in the Rainy City. And some of them were the people responsible for this legendary magazine.”
Doran added: “It’s really my pleasure to be involved with publishing this complete anthology, which is a time capsule of a special time and place, in all of its ragged, psychedelic, uncensored glory.”
The collection will be published on February 21 and will be followed by an event at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on March 2 where Gill and Pickford will be in conversation with Doran.