As Madonna’s career took off, I would always be bragging about this story. I can’t count the number of times I’ve told people I saw Madonna at the Hacienda and how it was one of the most intimate gigs I’ve been to. And every now and then I would add, “Yeah, but she was rubbish.”
I got into the Manchester music scene from quite a young age. Luckily, my best friend, Andy, had got a job at the Hacienda. He was a barman/pot collector, but as he was a signwriter they used him for odd jobs around the place, like painting the columns with those yellow and black stripes. (Andy is still my best friend and does the decorating in my house. I like to say that my house is painted by the guy who painted the Hacienda.) Through Andy I got on the guest list for all sorts of gigs. I remember one Smiths gig when I got so crushed at the front, I ended up lying on the stage watching the show upside down. It was excellent.
I was 20 and I’d been going for a couple of years when I heard about the Madonna gig through Andy. He told me the TV programme The Tube was going to be there filming one night and asked if I wanted to come along. I was working as an electrician on a building site nearby, and I told him I’d be there. I hadn’t heard of Madonna, but the Factory All Stars were also playing and I really went to see them. Plus, I just like a freebie.
We were told Madonna was going to be doing two songs on the dancefloor, as opposed to the stage, and were directed to stand around her. I will be honest, I thought she was quite boring. It really wasn’t my thing. I was into the indie bands and her being a pop star was everything I was against at the time. I could see she was miming and it was just a dance routine. I can’t speak for everyone, but I got the sense that the crowd thought the same as me. No one was that fussed about seeing her. It was just like, what’s next?
They filmed the show quite early in the evening and I decided to stay for the club night. Madonna was actually meant to be staying, too, as the headline act. I remember seeing her leave around 6pm with her dancers, after the TV shoot was over. They had all their stuff with them and I had a feeling that was it, she was gone for the night. And, sure enough she was, she didn’t reappear. I think all she wanted was the TV publicity. I don’t think she was interested in playing for 500 Mancunians.
I first saw photos from this gig in the local press shortly after, and over the years I’ve since seen them in various music magazines. I never kept a copy. It dawned on me that maybe I should have. The Urbis museum in Manchester had a Hacienda exhibition in 2007, and as I walked in I saw a really big print of it – and there was me, nearly lifesize. That was a shock.
This story still definitely impresses people. I now teach electrical installation to 16- to 19-year-olds and, whenever I’ve mentioned it, they ask, “Who’s Madonna?” Although one of them once piped up, “I know who she is – she’s that old bird.”
• Interview by Abigail Radnor.
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