photo & text by nacrowe
i mean the title says it all. THE HAÇIENDA: HOW NOT TO RUN A CLUB (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2009) book by LEGENDARY JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER bassist PETER HOOK goes into excruciating detail about the MISMANAGEMENT and horrendously BAD DEAL-MAKING at the heart of one of the most CELEBRATED NIGHTCLUBS of all-time.
for its part, the MANCHESTER venue THE HAÇIENDA out of dumb genius or FINANCIAL NECESSITY (one person was less costly then putting up a whole band), is credited with elevating the figure of the DJ in the 1980s to a pedestal they still hold in MODERN DANCE CULTURE to date. inspired by the inclusive underground dance venues like the DANCETERIA in NEW YORK, THE HAÇIENDA sought to establish a similar void in BRITISH culture. what is interesting is that it took nearly a decade and the melding of sorts with another DANCE CULTURE, that of the party isle of IBIZA, with its use of a new DRUG called ECSTASY, that saw the emergence of ACID HOUSE under its own watch and became the epicenter of a WORLD-WIDE DANCE PHENOMENON from roughly 1988-1990.
the narrative HOOK presents is one where NEW ORDER and its label FACTORY RECORDS basically stumbled into one CULTURAL SUCCESS after another despite their combined efforts to the contrary. from the start, THE HAÇIENDA made NO FINANCIAL SENSE and its INSATIABLE need for CASH INFUSION throughout its history OVER-LEVERAGED all INVESTORS involved, including the band members themselves who were liable for any OUTSTANDING DEBT. not NEW ORDER was overly concerned or involved enough in the day-to-day to see what a drain the operation was on their bottom line. they lived in a COCOONED ALTERNATIVE REALITY with little interest or regard for the combined extracurriculars of manager ROB GRETTON and label head TONY WILSON, for them the venue was a clubhouse of sorts where they could hang out when back home in MANCHESTER from tour or recording.
like everything FACTORY-related, the whole enterprise was more of an ASPIRATIONAL ART PROJECT than a CALCULATED BUSINESS OPERATION. as HOOK's other books about JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER will attest, this naive modus operandi basically carried over to all BUSINESS ASPECTS of their career as guided by GRETTON and WILSON. so much with THE HAÇIENDA was wrong from the get go. the BUILDING itself with its high ceilings and rooftop was not conducive to a NIGHTCLUB in terms of SOUND or ATMOSPHERE. FACTORY brought in a designer who OVERSPENT on the interior design. they OVERPAID for a CRAPPY sound system. OVERPAID for bands. took out LOP-SIDED BAD LOANS. made BAD BUSINESS DEALS with vendors and contractors. the list is NEVER-ENDING. but somehow eventually nearly a decade in, it all worked despite itself.
until it didnt.
after the peak years of THE HAÇIENDA and the MADCHESTER scene, LOCAL GANG interest reared its head due to the money made on PARTY DRUGS and basically infiltrated the scene, which led to VIOLENCE and AGGRESSION that winnowed away regulars and provided OPPORTUNITIES for EMERGING rival VENUES to exploit. the book is written in sequential year-to-year chapters with figures about REVENUES and EXPENDITURES as well as notes regarding event calendars and FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES for the coming year included in the mix. you can see how it all financially spiraled out of control as well as the dominance of regular DJs over time. it really is a REMARKABLE top-down look at a BUSINESS VENTURE that stayed afloat in spite of itself.
the question i keep coming back to in my mind is what would have happened if THE HAÇIENDA was actually run well throughout its run. would it have been more PROFITABLE? its GLOBAL CULTURAL IMPACT more sustained? could it possibly have been more successful? somehow i doubt it. the rolling SHAMBOLIC nature of the FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE that propelled the VENUE had an energy all its own and the conspiring players in the midst all played a part in its success and eventual downfall. despite everything, the long-defunct VENUE today is a BRITISH LANDMARK that still has an IMMENSE CULTURAL CACHE attached to it. for a FAMOUS BUSINESS FAILURE, and it was surely that, it oxymoronically sure was a CULTURAL SUCCESS for the ages. it is part of the ENDURING MYTHOLOGY of JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, FACTORY RECORDS and by extension MANCHESTER itself, just as much as OLD TRAFFORD or FREE TRADE HALL.