Last one for The “New” Poly I believe, and a good ‘un to finish on. Saw Mark Stewart with The Pop Group supporting Patti Smith at The Apollo about June ’78, decked out in a natty white suit and screeching like a banshee. ( I’m in grave peril of repeating some of this stuff so if it’s the case, apologies in advance; and if I’ve already apologised for said faux pas, well then, au naturele’ment, soz for that too.....It’s one reason I’ve been bombarding the website, ‘cos if I stop I’ll probably forget where I’m up too and I haven’t the inclination or will to read back through what I’ve written.....one day perhaps....)...That was a good gig. I particularly recall Ms. Patti talking about going in A1 (?), the instrument shop on Oxford Rd., and buying her latest acquisition that afternoon. All the guitars were in the basement and probably like every guitar shop in the British Isles , (Europe, The Universe...?), it had a sign up along the lines of “Anyone playing Stairway to Heaven will be asked to Leave”....Quite right!
I don’t seem to have many flyers for The New Poly; I probably weaned myself off the place over it’s first couple of years. Any students I knew had probably graduated/signed on by then, plus there were so many other places to go. As many gigs were held around the collective student unions and being an “outsider” (i.e. supposed to get signed in) , I think there was a noticeable change in general student behaviour and dress in these times. When I was hitting my stride about ’77, students definitely seemed more politicised and fancifully dressed. By ’82 we were way past the “Winter of Discontent”, deep in the throes of Thatcherism and the battle of wills was on between the old guard and The Brave New “Friedman” Economic Model the country was eagerly embracing; (miners’ strike, Red Wedge; Derrick Hatton , Poll Tax at a later date etc.,stuff I've mentioned before).This obviously impacted the mood of the country and was pretty much reflected in how people felt and acted; there was a definite seismic and permanent paradigm shift. Personally I believe this was manifested in students generally becoming more “conservative”, singular and insular in their world view, both in dress and engagement in current affairs; perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to the polarised uncertainties of the time....I’m only surmising and mentioning this in passing , as Manchester then, and much more now I believe, had a large and thriving student population and, living in Hulme, close to the city centre, it was quite noticeable. With hindsight there was a touch of the “canary in a coalmine “ syndrome about it. Basically I would say girls became more “girly” (lots more pre-Raphaelite hair-dos rather than shorn or spikey), and blokes became more “blokey” ( most obviously displayed in dress sense:-straighter, smarter , more uniformly “alternative” if that was your particular bag; i.e. garbed mostly in shades of black etc.) . Feminism , militantism and other such ‘isms, although still vibrantly active, seemed not so much to the fore, and did not seem to find as much favour with the latest conscripts to young adulthood. Of course this would have been felt to one degree or another by any young person, but I think interestingly with students, being temporarily less susceptible to the strictures of the workforce and therefore more freely able to express their opinions and individuality, seemed to be a good litmus test of the acridity of the times. Don’t know much ‘bout anthropology ( don’t know much ‘bout biology..,tra la deeda dum...etc..) , but I believe the general consensus is” fight or flight when in uncertain and euphemistically termed “interesting” times. People were in general busied; finding out on which particular side their bread had been buttered , (dividing and ruling at it’s veerry best!),and seemed single-minded in their pursuit of such goals. I don’t believe just a couple of short years previously the likes of Duran Duran’s excessive and overblown videos, the contrived and studied nihilism of The Jesus and Mary Chain (..not a fan!), nor the sentiments so bluntly stated in Gwen Guthrie’s “Nothin’ Goin’ on but the Rent” (top-a-top choon though!) and Chuck Brown's "I Need Money", (top-a-top No.2!...whatever happened to the Go Go beat ,so good!), would have been entirely credible or feasible. Of course such things were nicely counterbalanced in that yingy yangy way by the likes of Gil Scott’s “B-Movie” and “Re Ron”, Valentine Brothers “Money’s Too Tight”, as well as the general but necessary sloganeering of Billy Bragg, The Redskins, and their ilk. I’m not trying to write about music here , (might as well play charades to try and explain Chaos or String Theory), just the social context of it; which I believe are inextricably linked. I’m surprised I still strongly feel a way about all this and although I’m sure my time lines and chronology are slightly skewiff , I think the gist's about right, and much of this still has repercussions and holds resonance to this day....I just feel it in me waters chuck!...... Mark Stewart, (remember him from early on in the piece?) was still flying the flag for the nominally morally-compassed old skool, and probably still is, so props to him! (Ooh I do love a good generalisation now and again.....).
Aaaaaaanyway , as music is “Art” and “Art” to my uncertain knowledge, is supposed to reflect the “human condition”, I do believe that the general tenor and mood duly infiltrated and influenced the musical stylings of the time. I’m sure there must be any number of theses on such topics so I’ll take the cop-out clause and rely on the old Robert Nesta Marley quote, “he who feels it knows it” ; cheers Bob!; ( also I’ve got to go out and do the weekly shopping chores an’ ting, otherwise I’m in biiiig trouble..... must remember to get some asparin for the impending headache all this thinking is bound to bring on!) . It’s not that I’ve thought long and hard about such matters but , after trodding the good earth for any number of years now, you do get a sense of history repeating, and after hearing the same bland and crass old lines of political-speak and bullshit being peddled out with a certain regularity; dressed in new clothes, ad nauseum and ad infinitum; well “oh bondage up yours!” to coin a phrase, ( just like a bad curry, you can’t keep an old punky wunky down....). Jonathon Swift, one of a long line of great Irish writers, (not mentioned in Dexy’s “Dance Stance” as I recall), summed it up so long ago in the epic “Gulliver’s Travels” (coming to an I-Pad near you!).
And as for the music at this version of the Poly; well the mighty Joe Strong (earlier of The Cyprus, then The Venue, and later of Home ) supplied the Friday night’s fair, and “Whistling” Mick Hucknall supplied the Wednesdays, under the banner of “Black Rhythms”. It was a good soundsystem in there and yes, yes !the beats and tastes were definitely funkifying up y’all!
Ooh I don't 'alf go on....