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Saturday 30 September 2023

Saturday Live

It would be utterly remiss of me, irresponsible even, to do a long running series of bands playing live (on stage and on TV) without including what is possibly the finest television appearance of any group ever. 

In 1988 Tony Wilson's late night series The Other Side Of Midnight had a performance by Happy Mondays, at that point a group most definitely on the way up. Bummed, their second album and released in autumn '88, is a record unlike any other, a delirious Ecstatic stew with funk rhythms, off kilter guitar chords, big rubbery basslines, a dense Martin Hannett sound and Shaun Ryder's unique approach to lyric writing, snatches of nursery rhymes, Mondays in jokes, Salford street slang, lines stolen from films and all kinds of improvised weirdness. On The Other Side Of Midnight Tony, their record label boss and biggest cheerleader, introduces them proclaiming his 'profound devotion to the cause', and in a bright white Granada TV studio, they lurch into Performance, looking like they just wandered in off the street and started playing.  

The music is not entirely indie, not entirely dance, something different- scratchy, strange, out of key. Shaun in big glasses and neatly centred- parted hair, shakes his maracas and spins his lines. Bez, the lightning rod, the talisman, the puppet with no strings, dances in a world completely of his own. During the instrumental break Shaun and Bez twist around each other, Bez circling, Shaun conducting. It's something else. As the performance finishes, Mark Day's chicken scratch guitar and PD's organ wheezes its last, Shaun gives a sly side eye grin to the camera. He knows what's going on. He knows what they're on. Everyone else will catch up next year. 

I saw them live around this time at Liverpool University, 3rd March 1989, a life changing gig in many ways. It certainly changed my perceptions of what a gig could be like, not just a bunch of people staring at four men on stage and clapping after each song while the front few rows bumped into each other. The whole room danced. Shaun spent the gig seated on the drum riser, never even standing up, a victim of the night before possibly. Not that it mattered. His voice was loud enough and the focal point visually, through the clouds of dry ice, was Bez. 

After that I saw them quite often between 1989 and 1991, always good but never quite like they were that night. In March 1990, by that point several steps up the fame ladder, they played a big gig at GMex in Manchester. The setlist included some of their older songs (Tart Tart, Kuff Dam, 24 Hour Party People), some of Bummed (Lazyitis, Do It Better, Performance), some from the breakthrough Madchester Rave On EP (Clap Your Hands,  Rave On, Halleujah) and some from the forthcoming and with Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches (the crossover hit Step On and God's Cop). By this point they'd expanded to include Rowetta on backing vocals and on Lazyitis Karl Denver is borugh on stage to join Shaun on vox. They finished as they always should, with the riotous peak Mondays' song Wrote For Luck.

The gig was filmed and broadcast on Granada and later available commercially on VHS.  There were many occasions on returning from a night out the tape got pushed into the video player and we spent a hour marvelling at Happy Mondays in full flight. 


Jake Sniper said...

I loved The Other Side Of Midnight, some great performances on it. I remember this one got seared onto my brain. When I think of band performances on TV, it's this that pops up. https://youtu.be/JfI8pJQbcZQ?si=PPc01cmDIMNLrNRu

Jake Sniper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Swiss Adam said...

That one's due to feature in another post at some point Jake

Anonymous said...

Did 808 State play at that G-Mex gig too? Michael

Swiss Adam said...

Yes, Michael, 808 State supported. Bernard Sumner appeared with them too singing on a couple of tracks.

Webbie - FootieAndMusic said...

One of the things I miss about living in the North West is Granada TV.
Don't know how it is now obviously but back when Wilson was running things, always a good watch.

Swiss Adam said...

Granada's musical tv output has long gone I'm afraid Webbie, very little in the way of regional music tv the way there was when Wilson was there