Rig arrived on the burgeoning Manchester music scene in 1989, spawned from the deepest depths of South Manchester. They were Adam Rockingham (vocals), Darren Jones (guitar), Carl Lawson (bass), Jonathan Baz Barrett (drums). And in the great rock'n'roll traditional they were all teenagers at the start of their adventure.
All the band members attended Parrs Wood High School, their paths crossing infrequently. Darren spent the summer break of '87 formulating a musical plan in the image of Morrissey and Marr, planning to pick up the baton they'd dropped in the wake of the Smiths premature demise. Joining him on this crusade was Tom Wainwright who, within a few years would abandon the guitar for the bright lights of the Hacienda and DJ stardom.
The band of school friends called themselves No Immunity and responded to an invite by Jonathan to record at the Arden Music College in Wythenshawe. The band took full advantage of the facilities with Jonathan even joining them on drums. Also at the college at this time were Metro Trinity with Jez Williams, later of the Sub Sub and Doves fame, and he played on some of the fledgling band's early demos.
No Immunity tentatively dipped their toes into the gigging arena and played at iconic Manchester venues Placemates 7 and the International One, and others such as Newall Green High School. But University beckoned for some of the 6th form dreamers leaving Darren and Jonathan to enlist friends Carl and Adam to complete the line-up of the new look band. Rig were formed.
By this time Jonathan and Adam were working at Strawberry Studios under various guises. So the band spent their formative months between damp Ancoats rehearsal rooms and sneaking in overnight to use the lush facilities of 10cc's historic Stockport studio. With a handful of songs, some already committed to tape during sessions at ungodly hours at Strawberry, Rig emerged into public view in July 1989 with some well-received local shows.
The colossus that was to become Madchester was gathering pace and Rig were quickly chucked into the mix. That momentum was helped with gigs supporting the Inspiral Carpets at some seriously big venues. Around this time Rig contributed to some much loved compilation albums, 'Hit the North' and 'Home', which perfectly caught the spirit of Manchester before they added the 'd'.
Their first solo output was to be a self-produced single called Dig, backed by remixes by label mate DJ Blue and featured an early guest appearance from Roisin Murphy. It was released in April 1990 on Stockport based Cut Deep records, also home to What?Noise, Dub Sex and Biting Tongues.
A mini-album produced by the late, great Stuart James was recorded at the Suite 16 Studios in Rochdale. The new music saw the band bordering on pop and even featured a cameo from Swing Out Sister's Andy Connell. Unfortunately, the much anticipated album never saw the light of day as Cut Deep Records disappeared and the master tape sat on the shelf gathering dust.
Undeterred, Rig re-grouped, and under the guidance of Martin Moscrop (ACR) they released their own white label cover of the ESG song 'Moody'. Rig recorded several incarnations, the band version that was a staple part of their live set and a new 'dance' version fabulously dropping Byrne and Eno's 'Bush of Ghosts' into the mix. Both featured the seductive vocals of Anthea Clarke.
The Thursday night Hacienda crowd got Moody, as did the home of the Charlatans, Dead Dead Good Records. So the band signed, celebrated with a Northwich fish supper and released two singles on the label. The sultry Talking Heads inspired 'Bighead' came out in early 1991 and the wannabee Chic groove of 'Spank' was released later that year.
Live, Rig were be a loud force to be reckoned with, if you could keep them away from the rider. They played just under 100 gigs enjoying headline tours of the great indie venues of the time, a few of which still survive to this day. And they had great fun supporting some incredible bands: What Noise? The Wedding Present, King of the Slums, the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Yargo, Revenge and the World of Twist.
Then suddenly it was 1992 and Rig were no more. They re-invented themselves briefly as the Flatback Four for a short, moderately successful period. But here's only so many trips in the back of a cold, drafty transit van to the Princess Charlotte in Leicester you can survive before you all decide to try something else.
But what a ride for all the bands of that period.
The whole world was looking directly at a microcosm in the North West of England, in awe at the creativity and the attitude of these Mancunian folk. We had our own summer of love, we had our punk. We had the club, the music, the clothes and the drugs. Manchester was the darling of the cultural world for a brief fling and boy did we have fun.