The rock ‘n’ roll bookshelf is filled with cautionary tales, from drugs to sex to booze to just plain crazy. Most end tragically, in ways virtually everyone saw coming. But Peter Hook’s new book The Hacienda: The Inside Story of Britain’s Most Notorious Nightclub is a cautionary tale of a different sort. In fact, it has a second sub-title, “How Not To Run A Club.”
A caveat: I’m not a fan of Joy Division, New Order, acid house or rave music. You might think, then, I’d be pre-disposed to hate this book. You’d be wrong. I loved it. This book has got it all: piles of money and drugs, gangsters and violence, non-stop Ecstasy-fueled parties in Ibiza...what’ s not to like?
However, those piles of money soon disappear and that’s one of the lessons of the book; rock stars aren’t necessarily good businessmen. Other entries into this school of hard knocks might be that your friends don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind, and philanthropy and good intentions will drain your bank account.
The backstory is that, flush with the success of Joy Division and New Order, the band and their label, Factory Records, were advised to use some of their earnings to “give back” to Manchester in the form of a music venue in Manchester. The Hacienda is in deep red ink from the get-go and drains the band and label’s bankbooks mightily, until the Ecstasy and rave revolution lifts it into Studio 54 territory and it becomes one of the most famous music clubs in history. But those very things that made “Madchester” will, of course, soon sink The Hacienda.
Hook claims no one was really minding the store, but judging from yearly ”What’s On At the Hacenda” lineups, excerpts from the company’s accounts, and P& L statements, that are reproduced between chapters, somebody was keeping track. The meticulous details really provide a whole 'nother level of tracing the Manchester music scene and the club’s arc during this time period.
One of the big reasons I liked the book is Peter Hook. He’s a natural born storyteller: honest to a fault, self-deprecating and funny as hell. He has a way of setting up a particular storyline or incident and then telegraphing it so that you and everyone else — except for Hook and company — know exactly what’s coming. The foreshadowing inevitable leaves you thinking, “they couldn’t…they wouldn’t..” but of course, they can and do and that is what makes The Hacienda such a page-turner. Clearly, there was no shortage of crazy nights at the Hacienda.
The question the book asks — metaphorically but with a shocking twist at the end— is, “Can you ever really go home again?” Regardless of what answer you — and Peter Hook — arrive at, The Hacienda will leave you shaking your head in disbelief right to the very last page. Great read….
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