DJ Dave Haslam studies the history of nightclubs

Dave Haslam

Dave Haslam - Credit: Archant

Manchester DJ and writer Dave Haslam has a new book out and it reveals all about ‘Life After Dark’. Words by Janet Reeder

Dave Haslam

Dave Haslam - Credit: Archant

Surely one of the thrilling moments in life is being in a nightclub, a dark counterpoint to the harsh light of everyday where anything is possible.

When we think of clubs we think of live bands, disco or rave but night life isn’t all just a load of glitterballs according to West Didsbury-based DJ and writer Dave Haslam

His latest book, Life After Dark, is the culmination of five year’s enjoyable research into the way people have rocked a night out. He has taken his own experience working in the Hacienda and other venues throughout the world and opened out the subject both geographically and historically with fascinating results.

Who wouldn’t for example, like to visit a louche sounding Soho haunt called the Gargoyle Club? Or another called the Cave of the Golden Calf, where the wife of the doomy Scandinavian playwright Strindberg planned to put on ‘happenings’ that were too advanced even for the Bohos of Soho?

‘They had some great clubs in London in the 1920s and the Gargoyle Club was where the painter Matisse used to go,’ explains Dave, who has previously delved into music history with his books, Manchester, England, Adventures on the Wheels of Steel and Not Abba - the Real Story of the 1970s.

‘ He would pay the bill with paintings which they’d put up on the wall. It was the kind of place where men wore make up in a very rebellious way and quite a lot of the people who used to go there would go with the person they weren’t married to, or leave with a person they weren’t married to! It was very underground. And I really like the idea that you could party with Matisse.’

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The latest book, which is published this month, charts night life stretching back two centuries and yet amazingly it seems the idea of a good time hasn’t changed much at all.

‘Certainly if you went back to those times there would be a lot you wouldn’t recognise,’ admits Dave, who will launch the book at Home this month and at the Manchester Literature Festival (October 12-25).

‘The buildings, how people dressed, the kind of transport they had but what’s clear is that 200 years ago on a Friday and Saturday night the streets would be thronging with people getting drunk and listening to music. People may no longer pay a penny to hear a comic song about the Crimean war they still like to meet up in the very same way today.’

Venues too have a relevance, some like the Ritz in Manchester have survived the vagaries of music, fashion and inner city planning .

‘ There are those who will remember going there in the 1990s in the Doc Martens and having a can of Red Stripe or Breakers while dancing to The Cramps and whose parents and grandparents went courting there in the 1950s,’ says Dave.

‘ These venues have been embedded in the fabric of the city.’

Others have long since gone but remain part of urban legend such as the Limit Club in Sheffield.

‘ In 1978 the two local bands that played there for free were synth pop band Human League, who went on to be pretty famous and heavy metal rock band Def Leppard who went on to be even more famous,’ reveals Dave.

‘If I had a time machine I’d go back to 1978 to the Limit club to watch the Human League and Def Leppard at a very, very early gig with no admission charge. It was such a weird combination of bands.’

As a DJ at the legendary Hacienda he was at the heart of all the crazy times of the Madchester era but it was only by doing an interview for the book with a Manchester gangster that gave him a real insight into the drug dealing shenanigans which went on around him while he was cloistered in the DJ booth.

‘He told me all about the drug market in the Hacienda and although I was there at the time I didn’t have much of an insight into it at all,’ he says.

Dave lives with wife Catherine and has a son Jack, 26 and daughter Raili, 18 who both like the idea of having a father who can get them on the guestlist of cool club or bar and who regale him with stories of their own night time adventures.

‘I seldom go out to the same places as them,’ he admits.

‘Although they obviously occasionally appreciate I can get them on the guest list and they occasionally send me a link to a big tune that I can open my ears to.’

And he admits that in spite of social media and life online the future of night life looks rosy.

‘Having a computer has not stopped people going out. I think they do so as much as they did 20 years ago. There’s something very special about the communal impact of being in a room with other people having a great night out and I think going out will survive the technical age.

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