Market Stead Lane, 1640: Turgid little Serfs hobble hither and thither gingerly on Trench Foote. A gaggle of mud-encrusted street urchins play ‘footeball’ with a decomposing nobleman’s head. There’s a two-for one-deal on Women and Negroids in the shadow of the Chapel. A religious zealot pogos around on one pathetic leg, yelling at anyone within earshot to repent: for there’s not a Badger in ASDA’s chance that any of this will remain beyond Micklemas…
…okay, I didn’t read THAT far back.
Arndale Office Tower: completed in 1976 – the year the BBC occupied their Oxford Road home and the Sex Pistols played The Free Trade Hall, inadvertently forming Warsaw in the process.
Arndale Office Tower is stabbed like a betrayal into the shoulder of Market Street, like some tobacco-stained Lego-headstone for Manchester past. Looming with its dull red epitaph, it looks down on its shelled-brethren now re-covered with crystalline fly-wings, seeming increasingly bothered by the knowledge its number is surely up. It was assembled on the labyrinthine site of what had previously served as Manchester’s Boho heart, before of course Oldham Street’s voice eventually broke and spoke-up. Shudehill is the last surviving tentacle of the City’s mid 20th century den of inequity, where until the 70s (*gasp*) “men of colour”, musicians and artists had quaffed coffee and shared London newspapers, incendiary opinion and original ideas. Today if you want to buy a safe in which to keep the vintage nudie books you bought from a one-armed man, you’re in the right place.
The jaundiced monolith whose remaining old-man yellow toenails poke out from the palatial glass slipper of the Neo-Arndale by whom its been disowned, bears all the hallmarks of a well-intentioned modernist gesture sanctioned by some Geometrically-obsessed, sub-mental City official, but was at its inception intended as a much needed…yadda yadda…for the city, and has eventually…whoop-dee-fucking-shit…Europe’s biggest City Centre Shopping…blah, blah, blah…
Lets face it, however ugly it was, or intermittently continues to be – it’s nowhere near as repugnant as the Unmitigated Palace of Faggotry that is ‘The Trafford Centre’, no hindsight required.
Well intentioned or not, Manchester’s beige Rubik’s zirconia sucked all and sundry into its thrall from every other shopping area, rendering formerly thriving High Streets such as nearby Oldham Street, a wilderness…
Photo courtesy of Dullhunk
Lasting half the time it took to complete the Arndale, Joy Division endure with the sort of legacy that demands their mention in that hushed utterance normally reserved for culture’s uppermost echelon, and will on a spiritual level be sewn into the fabric of this City’s heart far longer than any shopping centre ever will. Unfortunately it is perhaps owed in large part to the fact that Ian Curtis decided to go neck-bungee-jumping off the Sheila Maid clothes airer.
Joy Division: ‘Warsaw’ From their inaugural release: ‘An Ideal For Living’ E.P.
Momentarily stoked by the Sex Pistols’ first shots at the Free Trade Hall, ‘Warsaw’ echoed that frenetic barbed guitar and vehement stage presence, but gradually abandoned it in favour of a new name and more sparse, foreboding sound, shot-through with encroaching electronica, it’s Limbo-soul reverberating beneath Martin Hannett’s Bell Jar production.
Joy Division’s legacy remains brooding and complex – untouchable, despite Peter Hook’s best efforts to butt-fuck it, and that of New Order into oblivion.
And he’s tried…
…oh my, how he’s tried:
0:19: Having emitted his shrill mating-call in the hopes it will lubricate the fundament of his musical legacies, he squats and snakes-out a long hot log to make way for the possibility his legacy wants to reciprocate. Trust me Pete, it’s a one-way street.
The ‘Richard Madeley with-a-way-with-words’ that was Tony Wilson, has thankfully had the ‘twat’ forever erased from his brow in the event of his tragic passing. A Salfordian boy, the Cambridge-educated Wilson was scathingly berated and ostracized as an outsider by rivals and peers alike – his need to simultaneously prove himself & his City to their respective peers arguably the catalyst for his success. Upon seeing how Joy Division had clasped the baton from the starter Pistols and legged-it in an unprecedented direction – he was presented with a vision of how it could outshine it’s bastard past.
NEW DAWN FADES
Factory’s greatest achievements endure not in some laughable rehash of a former site once integral to the ‘Legend’ (I’m glowering at you Hooky, you money-grabbing motherFaçer) but in the form of the music and self-confidence it facilitated, or vicariously embellished. The musical achievements of this city, from the seminal Joy Division to the self-indulgent/destructive drugged-up sub-culture-of-yuppiedom that was ‘Madchester’ – while not representative of us all, did provide every denizen with a sense of pride and identity that had been independently carved-out, with a reverence for – disavowal of – its long-lapsed and outdated tag and stature as ‘The World’s First and Greatest Industrial City’.
After a stint doing a topical programme on Sunday morning BBC TV, (I can’t recall or electrically locate the name of the show, but it might as well have been titled: ‘Skeleton Presents’) Wilson died from complications relating to Renal Cancer in 2007 at The Christie Hospital on Wilmslow Road, Withington.
Ponce-on 100 yards down the road and pass under the hanging baskets, through the Hobbiton portal of the Red Lion and carouse among the recreational Rugger Buggers and affably mannered menopausal? No – boldly go.
While having remained untouched since 1963, 9 O’clock rolls round, and The Turnpike is suddenly deluged with students while the regulars bob along as obliviously as they have since the 60s.
Like a City, whose citizens blister in and out of existence…
Tony Wilson’s Peter Saville-designed headstone in the sprawling ‘Guess Who’ game of Southern Cemetary – Sandwiched between West Didsbury & Chorlton.
1. Abbr. Tnpk. or Tpk. A toll road, especially an expressway with tollgates.
2. A tollgate.
While Tony Wilson’s Factory dream flourished and snuffed-it, The Oldham Street that was abandoned by its consumers, drawn like ‘Dawn of the Dead’ to the Mall on Market Street, was gradually inhabited by the bottom feeders who occupied its abandoned outlets, their creativity and fresh-perspective making it not only cool, but eventually profitable and inhabitable. South Manchester suburbs like Chorlton and West Didsbury have likewise been gentrified, making them desirable hives of City Centre rivalry for it’s well-to-do residents as well as honorarily-naturalised émigrés to the City.
It seems always to have taken an outsider’s perspective, to identify and bring out the best that exists in this City. With Media City’s sprouting on the site of Manchester’s formative glories almost complete, any fears of the selling of the City’s soul can be allayed by the knowledge that whatever it’s impact – its surroundings will respond accordingly.
WORDS & IMAGES by Chester Whelks