Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: "The Hacienda - How Not To Run A Club" - Peter Hook

In case you didn't know, Peter Hook is the former bass player of Joy Division and New Order; he previously documented the history of Joy Division in his book "Unknown Pleasures - Inside Joy Division" and in October 2016 the long-awaited follow-up "Substance: Inside New Order", is due to be published, which will be a must-read, if its predecessors are anything to go by.  So I thought it would be a good idea to rewind to 2009 when Hooky published his first book about the famous Manchester nightclub.

In the 1980s, Factory Records decided to diversify its interests and open its own nightclub: The Hacienda.  New Order co-owned the club and kept on ploughing money into a venture which on reflection was way ahead of its time,  Hooky was not only a shareholder in the club but also a regular attender through thick and thin, so he's certainly qualified to write this very detailed story - every chapter includes a full list of the DJs and their playlists, and the acts who appeared at the club, year after year - and even the club's accounts are, well, accounted for.

As with his Joy Division book, Hooky writes in an appealing down-to-earth and unpretentious style, so don't expect any deep literal journalistic analysis here: instead there's lots of plain speaking and fondly remembered anecdotes.  And there's certainly no airbrushing as he tells the story of the club's ultimate downfall, as the euphoric age of acid house gives way to the arrival of gangsters, guns and drug overdoses, and a constant undercurrent of violence.

As the book's title suggests, The Hacienda wasn't the most professional business model, and whilst reading this book you will ask yourself how the club managed to stay open for so long.  But then again Factory was no ordinary record label so it follows that The Hacienda (which like all Factory releases even had its own serial number, FAC51) was no ordinary club.  Hooky however warmly acknowledges the various unsung heroes who kept the club running from day to day despite all the pitfalls along the way.

"The Hacienda - How Not To Run A Club" certainly lives up to its title, highlighting a business model which probably shouldn't be emulated.  But there are many entertaining anecdotes along the way, and this book should be treasured as a historical snapshot of a time long gone, but also a time which meant so much to so many.

EuropeCrazy's Book Reviews!

Firstly, an explanation.  I love books.  I used to be a very avid reader but the combination of work and life and, well, just not having enough hours in the day, meant that I ended up with a very large number of unfinished books.  And every birthday and Christmas brings yet more books to read.

Being the self-proclaimed "queen of the backlog" I ended up with a huge amount of books to read in addition to my large amount of DVDs and TV recordings. However I've been making inroads and as part of my plan to widen the remit of this blog beyond the original focus on European music and travel, I would like to include a few more book reviews along the way.  My initial plan is to publish at least one book review a month although if you've followed this blog over recent years then you'll realise that's easier said than done :)

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: August 2016

Big news at EuropeCrazy HQ this month as I've now moved over to Virgin Media and discovering the joys of fibre broadband, Tivo and on-demand viewing.  All very 21st century :)

Most of my viewing this month focused on the Rio Olympics which received the same blanket coverage on the BBC as London 2012.  Unfortunately I've ended up with yet another backlog thanks to hours and hours of evening and overnight recordings so although Rio 2016 is over, it will be going on for a bit longer yet in my house....!

I was late in discovering "BRIEF ENCOUNTERS" (ITV).  The series is now finished but I would be very happy if ITV decided to go with a second series of this drama, set in the early 80s.  The basic premise of this show was based around the early days of those Ann Summers parties, but if you were expecting anything trashy and tacky, then think again - it was an extremely engaging drama with characters you couldn't help but root for.  Yes it was lightweight, but sometimes that's what you need.

Every year it happens: "THE CHASE" (ITV) goes on its summer break and the teatime quiz show slot runs riot with summer pilot/replacements. This year we had two of them, both running for two consecutive weeks: "CASH TRAPPED" not only presented by Chase legend Bradley Walsh, but also devised by him too.  Unfortunately it was just too confusing to stick with, whilst its successor "ALPHABETICAL" hosted by Jeff Stelling, didn't do enough to hold my attention.  It all proves that the formula for quiz show success isn't as easy as it looks.

We hardly had time to digest Rachel Frederickson's (controversial) win on "THE BIGGEST LOSER" (Sky Living) before a new series came along.  Some changes this time round: out goes Jillian Michaels - in comes Jen Widerstrom and the one and only Jessie Pavelka (Jessie and Jen pictured above).  Jessie first came to my attention on "Fat - The Fight of My Life".  I make no apologies here for being completely shallow, but if you had this guy as your personal trainer then shifting the pounds would be more pleasure than pain.  This series is a change from the usual as it also features former athletes who haven't stayed in shape.

Serie 4 of "DAG" (Sky Arts) is here, with its trademark deliciously dark humour still in place.

Sky Arts' "TRAILBLAZERS" series brought a very interesting documentary on the influence of pop radio in the UK - from Radio Luxembourg to the 60s pirates, to Radio 1 and commercial radio, and even a mention for legendary 80s Irish mega-pirate Radio Nova, a major obsession of mine back in those days.  It was particularly interesting to see former Nova newsreader (and partner of the station's late founder Chris Cary) Sybil Fennell commenting on the station's famous closedown which never fails to bring a tear to the eye whenever I hear that clip.

That's all for this month: now off to catch up with some of that backlog of recordings....

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A temporary intermission...

Just popped in to say that my blogs will be out of action for a little while as I'm switching over my internet service (along with TV and phone) to a new provider very soon.  Hopefully everything will go smoothly and it won't be too long until I'm back here with the conclusion of the Llandudno diaries and some of my other long-overdue posts.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Llandudno Diaries - Day 2: Tuesday 21st June 2016

Isn't it great to wake up to this view?  The Great Orme, the Grand Hotel and Llandudno Pier.  We're heading in that direction after breakfast.

The weather today is a bit duller than it was yesterday, but it's still pleasantly warm and the temperatures have to rise as the week goes on.

One other familiar sight on the seafront is the Rhyl Flats Offshore Wind Farm, which is actually 8km north east of the 'Dudno.

That's the only modern concession to the seafront though.  Llandudno promenade is sedate rather than raucous, with no sign of all the usual seafront souvenir shops etc.  You have to head all the way up to the Pier before you come across candy floss, fast food and seaside souvenirs.

Today we're taking the Marine Drive tour in a vintage coach ride up the Great Orme, This is the limestone headland (above) which dominates the Llandudno landscape.

It is an authentic old coach (above) complete with original seating.  The driver also provides an entertaining and very informative narration throughout the journey.  The coach leaves from next to the Pier and begins to climb up the Orme.  Having travelled on the corniche in the South of France, and along the Dalmaian Coast in Croatia, I can honestly say that this journey rivals those for thrills and spills, narrow scary roads, high mountains and stunning coastal views.

We are particularly interested in spotting the goats who live on the Orme.  It's well-populated by sheep too, but the goats are harder to find, although they eventually make an are some from later on in the journey.

We have a stop at the 'Rest and Be Thankful'.

We then make our way around the other side of the Orme, passing a row of very expensive houses known as "Millionaires Row", including property which has belonged to Sir Cliff Richard and goalkeeper Neville Southall to name two.  On this side of the Orme there are views over to Anglesey and Snowdonia, before we make our way round to the West Shore, where you can find the white rabbit statue.

There are many references to Alice in Wonderland in Llandudno. If the myth is to be believed, the "real Alice" who inspired the story, took holidays in Llandudno in the 19th century.  There are statues and references to the story all over Llandudno and you can also follow an "Alice In Wonderland Trail".

After the tour, we head back onto the Pier.  It's been years since I was on a seaside pier.  As a regular visitor to Blackpool as a child, going on the Central Pier was a big part of the holiday.  Mum, gran and I would even go to theatre shows at the end of the pier.  But as I grew into an adult I developed "pier fear".  As a child it didn't bother me, but as an adult, seeing the water underneath the boards sparked off an irrational-but-real fear.  However I managed to overcome this and have a trouble-free stroll down Llandudno Pier, where I encounter a new friend.  More about him later.

From the pier you can see the Happy Valley gardens which sit at the foot of the Great Orme.  Due to time constraints we didn't have time to explore the gardens on this holiday but that's definitely on the 'to do' list for a future holiday here... yes we've already decided that we want to come back here.

One thing I have noticed is the number of people who have brought their dogs with them on holiday. There's quite a selection of breeds on the pier today, it's like a mini Crufts!

After our coffee at the end of the pier, we stroll back to town, for a late lunch. The pre-holiday research is paying off and this nice little Turkish restaurant in town delivers the goods.  This chicken kebab would turn out to be my favourite meal of the holiday.

We do some souvenir shopping in town after lunch.  I end up with a couple of new friends.  I purchased my little sheep on the pier earlier today,  There are many, many soft toy dragons in the various souvenir shops in town, but you know when you've met the one.  

So this is basically like every Welsh cliche wrapped up in one picture.  Meet Dafydd the dragon and Bara Brith the sheep.  Mini rugby ball appears courtesy of faithful travelling companion, who is as partial to cliched stereotyped holiday souvenirs as I am :)))

Tonight we have dinner at an Indian restaurant.  Most of the town's restaurants are located on or around Mostyn Street which is the town's main street.  There is a cuisine for every taste in Llandudno, although we have noticed that the restaurants aren't too busy at night during the week. This probably has a lot to do with many of the hotels offering bed, breakfast and evening dinner, which means that many of the holidaymakers on full board don't really have any need to frequent the town's good selection of eateries.

Llandudno attracts a lot of coach trips for, let's just say "people of a certain age" and the town can resemble a "retirement village" at times.  But I don't have an issue with that - after all, if we were a few years older, retired and lucky enough to be in the position to afford a few coach trip holidays, then of course we would be doing that too.  I have some older friends who are retired and are lucky enough to have the health, the freedom and the finances to afford this type of holiday, which they really enjoy doing.

The promenade is deserted again, just after 11.00pm as we end the evening by making our way back to our guest house.

In the next instalment....a day trip!