It says on the bottom of the flyer about the closing down of the Poly; truly the end of an era. I saw so many bands here; wish I’d had more flyers. The thing about the Poly more than anything, it really was a social kind of place. Unlike most venues it wasn’t particularly dark or overly loud so it was quite easy to sit round in the rather large bar area, which wasn’t completely separate from the rest of the hall and converse away, if so inclined , while keeping an eye on the ensuing proceedings; half-watched many a band that way...What was particularly exceptional about it was that it must have been an old Victorian exhibition hall and as such, had a glass roof above the mezzanine which overlooked the dancefloor. That meant, of course, till round 9 ish at night during Summer it was pretty much broad daylight in the venue .Under normal circumstances an odd state of affairs but it didn’t seem to inhibit proceedings any; bands or disco. In fact it just made it more upbeat with that long Summer evening vibe in the air....
The first time I ever ventured into that hallowed hall was in the year the 2 sevens clashed.I felt I’d come of age. Being from a large family and at the younger end of it , I’d grown up with my elder siblings and their peers mentioning their weekend shinanigans and the Art College ,as they mostly called it, seemed to be a constant in their social calendar. So being only a youngster , their tales of legendary, almost mythical nights out in the late ‘60s/ early ‘70s grew in my impressionable mind over the years and I knew one day I would visit that Utopia.
Well of course it was just a rather old, semi-neglected building ( like most city centre buildings; Central Library being a grimey, charcoal, smog stained building at that time, not the impressive white rotunda it was eventually restored to); but of course that just added to the ambience; it was a bit of a dive, just as it bally well ought to be!
I rocked up in my best clobber for the time;- a rather smart -casual olive green herringbone jacket, cheesecloth shirt with the big open collar ,some purpley-flaired troosers with possibly some brogueish type footwear; no doubt with Blakeys in so you could spark ‘em off the pavement as you walked along like ten men, and a barnet that somewhat replicated a much maligned brillo pad. (You don’t forget your first time out in the big smoke as a coming of age adult; would have been a week or two into seventeen). I’ve mentioned somewhere before how I went to the Band on the Wall as a first real night out but that was a one off; this time there was no turning back....
Actually, rewind selector, (trying to cram a lot into this). The very first time I went into a city centre club was when I was 16 in ’76. I’d gone to see Osibisa; my very first paying gig ,at the King’s Hall, Bellevue. Well I was impressed ,(support by a band called Thunderboots from Liverpool as I recall...). First time I ever ventured onto a dancefloor, (except once at The Robin Hood Caravan Park Social Club in Prestatynl....worst holiday ever!) )My sister wanted to go to The Conti (New not Old) after , and so I willingly went along, not knowing if I’d get in or not; with only the sproutings of bumfluff on my mush to show the imminent onset of manhood. Well we got in past those old Greek Cypriot boys and lo and behold I was in another oft mentioned venue of my yoof. Writing a bit about fashion (or lack there of...) earlier, what springs to mind the most about this night was my brother, who was already in there, got into an altercation over the meaning of life or some such, (too much Stella Artois, very posh in those days!), and the next thing there were boots and fists of fury flying everywhere. Well I say boots; they were actually a more than elevated platform shoe and he had on a pair of chocolate brown Oxford bags (the ones with the big side pockets you could carry L.P.s round in); I remember ‘cos it was a sort of slow motion moment; also I had a pair of exactly the same trousers , must have been on sale...Needless to say we all got thrown out and that was my first ever night on the town; a scenario that was replayed with a certain amount of regularity from that time on.
Well, so there I was at The Poly and so far so good , although I realised straight away I was overdressed for the occasion as it really was a raggle taggle mixed bag of people. We’d been drinking in The Salisbury which became the rendezvous central for the next few years, with odd side trips to The Cork And Screw, Lass o’ Gowrie, Salutation etc , all of which I’m sure do a roaring trade to this day. For me the Poly had two eras; the one where the stage was on the left side wall along the length of the building, and later on, moved to the end and narrower wall at the far end, away from the bar, (very technical I know...). I think I preferred stage 1 , as I often affectionately refer to it ( I don’t really, honest!); partly because it was a much bigger area to sit around on and also because , when bands played the audience was more spread out so the little people, like meself, could avoid some big lump blocking the view. The walls were also muralled as if in a modern day Renaissance style, that is :- pictures of The Bash Street Kids (Plug being my favourite), Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan , Minnie the Minx etc., much more appropriate than Walt Disney’s menagerie of characters; these ones were ever so naughty!
So the tone was set for the coming years. What I particularly liked about the Poly above all I think , was the music, or more specifically the music policy; mostly instigated by one Steve Toon. It didn’t really discriminate, which is why it had such a diverse crowd, and to my way of thinking, that was a good and healthy thing. There were the punky types, hippy ones, funky ones, fashionistas, Perrys, Jack the Lads and straight “A” student types of all creeds and colours, all in it together, and all getting a crack at their own particular genre. So the hippies would dance to The Clash, punks to A.C./ D.C., the general get-down to James Brown ,and everyone on the floor for a bit of a reggae skank! It was just good old fashioned fun....We used to think we were hilarious playing mock cricket/ tennis across the dancefloor and co-ercing fellow strutters to humour us and pretend they were fielding/ umpiring or whatever; a particular kind of dance fad that never caught on....just as well really; “Health and Safety “ would have a field day sending you off to the sin bin for 10 minutes if you attempted such unwarranted manoeuvres these days....
Floor-fillers I particularly recall from that time;
“Wild Youth” dub....Generation X / “Whole Lotta Rosie”.....A.C/D.C. /"Faith healer-Alex Harvey/the unholy trinity of.."Gloria-Patti Smith,"Fuck off"Wayne County and "White Punks On Dope"-The Tubes/Ku Klux Klan-Steel Pulse/ “Massacre “ and “ Nice up Jamaica”.....Nigger Kojak / “Reason for Living” dub....Dr. Alimantado. Mega choon!/ "Rat a Cut Bottle-Lion Youth/ “Turn to Red “ Killing Joke ; any number of Buzzcocks, Pistols, Clash ; and a lot of The Two-Tone stuff which I mentioned in passing before, would have to be the pinnacle of all I hold dear about the power of music; i.e. great uplifting music, politically aware, socially engaging and multi-cultural...the whole deal!.....seems like the reggae stuff really stuck in my head though....Ah well, at least I tried ...
It didn’t hurt that at that time, like most teenagers, you felt the world was your oyster and you were invincible. Politics ( albeit mostly apolitical), was definitely in the air, with righteous and urgent causes to affiliate too. C.N.D. ,R.A.R. , opposition to Thatcher’s bulldozing creed of greed (being voraciously embraced by a fast polarising island nation); probably being the main aspiring causes. (On the other hand the common slogan “Fuck Politics ,Let’s Dance” was emblazoned on many a T- shirt at the time...Rose- tinted glasses can make your eyes go all squinty....).
Another reason why I think The Poly was popular was that you didn’t have to be a student to get in, unlike The University Union which discriminated against plebs like us who just wanted to go and see bands. Of course there was usually ways around it, as fake student cards could be got hold of without too much meither.....
So I graduated along the long line of my siblings and became a fully fledged punter at The Art College. It was like a mantle being handed down; a sort of rite of passage. One of my brothers was often there ( the one of the platform shoe/ Oxford bags combo) but I would rarely see him as he and those of his generation (6 years in the difference) had retired to the upper levels by then to play darts, table football etc. He’d gone from playing Badminton for Manchester in his prime to representing the Great City in the quarter finals of the British Table Football Championships circa ’78,( only to be knocked out by Norwich; they woz robbed apparently..),and had a beer gut to prove it. Sometimes I’d skin up for them, while he and his colleagues, with names like Johnny Jackanory, (an old Hell’s Angels type who was always there with his mate Karl ,who’d played guitar in many a Manchester band), sat around and reasoned about things. Their earlier times there had often included drug raids where the police would come in, line everybody up and search them. I know my eldest brother (59 now), saw Led Zep there about ’68 before disappearing to Amsterdam to live on a barge for many a year; definitely got musically influenced by all of them; and for the most part in a good way. Yeah I looked up to those old skool , slightly yobbo,Jack the lads,donned in Donkey jackets, trenchcoats and for the most part United supporters (can’t all be perfect), who’d go Old Traff
ARTEFACT ADDED ON 30.10.2010 BY
Amazing stuff, thanks for posting all this stuff. I remember lots of very similar times at the same venues. God how I miss those halcyon days of yore!
COMMENT ADDED 30.10.2010
brilliant bit of writing dubwise-er, brings a lot of detail back to my hazy memories does all that! remember blagging student cards to get in there or pestering people to sign you in, same deal over at UMIST on a Saturday night
COMMENT ADDED 31.10.2010
Wow Dubwise-er that is a good read. Thanks for sharing all that and bringing back some dim & distant memories. I never really cottoned on to the fact that the Poly was the Cavendish-it was always the Poly & the song which ALWAYS reminds me of the place is Turn to Red by Killing Joke which always seemed to be blaring out and audible as I made my way along Oxford Rd. You're right about the one-size-fits-all music which meant you could go with your hippy mates if you had too. Steve Toon was also pretty inseparable from the Poly story. I remember one night someone stole his good lady's handbag & every song was topped & tailed by what the Loon thought about the thief & what he would want to happen to him in an ideal world. Although I think its heyday was pretty shortlived, the Poly was the best.
COMMENT ADDED 31.10.2010
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