Out of the industrial dirt, rain and grime of former northern glories, something massive was waking up in Manchester, it’s the late nineteen eighties and the time is now, ”Not everything revolved around the HAC’ [Hacienda]” a lot of seasoned Manc’ [Manchester UK]’ clubbers would say, to any of the ‘rave’ tourists piling into the city from outside the boundaries of Manchester in those early hedonistic days, ”there’s summat else happening and its proper, its mental”, Acid house had arrived.
Manchester produced so many pivotal clubbing experiences back then that it’s actually hard to keep up with. The Hac’ [Hacienda] was only one out of many that revolutionized the way clubbers experienced the new house sound, in the north of England [UK].
There is a lot more grit to the true iconic underground ‘Madchester’ scene that we wanted to hear about, …..The pills n thrills, the love and the gangsters, we caught up with one of those early pioneers that shaped the Manc’ scene who was the former owner of the massive 1200 capacity’ Konspiracy club [formally PIPS].
‘Marino Morgan’s club rose to prominence in the heights of the 2nd summer of love in 1989 and descended into the gang blight that ravaged the cities clubbing institutions only a few years later, this is his exclusive in-depth story for iconic underground.
Mike Mannix: So whats the truth about your club Konspriacy, and those early hedonistic times in Manchester, cos’ like most people outside of Manchester, we’d only ever heard of the HAC’ [Hacienda] and that nowt else even existed?
Marino Morgan: Yes mate, thanks for inviting me down, it’s about time the record was put straight about what was really happening all those years ago. So, the truth about the Konspiracy during that period. To start with
it was one of the most exciting times in the history of Manchester’s night life and the Konspiracy played a very important role in all that, what came to be known as the summer of love or later the Rave scene
I think it was the first club, as opposed to other clubs adopting this new dance music, to open specifically for that purpose, for this new dance culture that had been quietly exploding over a previous couple of years.
Konspiracy opened Nov.1989 with an invitation only private party! That saw the first night of a completely packed club. The following weekend, open to the public for the first time we had a queue stretching from the front doors right around the block, it was amazing as well as a relief as we had no idea really how it was going to be received. But we should have known from the success of the private opening night! (And the way the ‘Kitchen’ had played out during and after those early days at the ‘Gallery’, more of that later)
That went down much better than we could ever have imagined. Thanks to a bunch of people, who had become friends over the last few years and even more so once the idea of the Konspiracy actually became a reality and we all just got stuck in, some who already had their role in the club cut out, such as the Jam MCs who were obviously to be the in house DJs, and many others who just sort of naturally found their own positions in the club once it had opened for real, without whose help and enthusiasm none of it would have been possible.
So the first 8 months or so saw no trouble at all, in fact it was during those first early months that gave most of the people some of the best nights out of their lives which are well documented, especially now in that there are a couple of group sites dedicated to the KON’s memory, such as MANCHESTER.KONSPIRACY.OLDSKOOL RAVERS.
Right from the start, it was a great success, turning away as many people each night as had already been let in going well over the numbers we were licensed to hold (1200) to around 1500,
which speaks for itself. Nights when I.D. magazine had their annual party there were definitely ones to remember, and verified by the write-ups that followed. The Jam MCs were also given the responsibility of handling the promotional duties and did a fantastic job once they got to grips with it, booking all the other DJs that played the many other rooms each night. Plus the other many acts that were booked to perform there such as 808 State, Stu Allen, Jay Wearden, Chad Jackson Etc, and others too many to mention here. But it seemed that each weekend just got better than the previous.
Christmas and New year’s eve went down a storm,
most nights all sold out that we often had to close the doors well before 11 pm,
but even then people would wait outside for others leaving as we had a one out one in policy to try to accommodate anyone to late! But that year or 1990 for me saw the beginning of the end of the Summer of Love as within 9th month or so things started to turn real ugly, like the faces of those fuckers who,
under the orders of the so called heads of some of Manchester’s most notorious gangs, like the obedient little minions they were, started to unleash a total and relentless provocation of the majority of the customers that were mostly just young harmless students and the like, the easiest target to bully and terrorize.
It was about this time that they, the self-proclaimed heads of these gangs, got on to the stalling tactics I was using to avoid paying any of them a ‘Tax’, which I decided very early on that was the one thing I would never do. I knew at some point I would be approached and the subject would come up, and they would do exactly what I have just described.
Some of these stalling tactics were to just take these gang members into the office and ‘blind’ them with the ‘science’ of bills to pay, initial opening cost etc, that should I have to start paying a ‘tax’ to either or to both members from each gang (I was eventually called to talk to a member from each of the two most notorious gangs who had, for the sake of not falling out with each other, joined forces, (anyone would have thought ‘I’ was a gang? Ha) that the club would quickly have to shut its doors and close down.
I managed to convince them that I was not even taking a wage out of myself yet, such were the bills piling up on the desk. Anyway, it worked for like I already mentioned the first 8 or 9 months, with the promise that as soon as most of these most pressing bills were paid then sure, why not?
They could enjoy some of the profits my club was making, for doing fuck all but using the threats of violence if I did not capitulate to their demands! Ya right, that was never going to happen, so I knew the club only had a limited time for me to pocket as much cash as possible before it all kicked off, and I did to the tune of an average of around £5000 each week, and that is just what I took from the door takings, having two tills there, one for me and one for the accountant!
More of that later in this roller coaster of money and emotions, the Love to the hate that unfortunately became of the Konspiracy and we were not the only victims of these gangs. Had the Police done their job as they should have done, then perhaps not all those clubs that they took to court in front of the licensing board to revoke the liquor license would have had many more of those wonderful nights? Instead,
they just allowed these gangs to move from one club, wreak havoc, get it closed down, then move on to the next club and repeat the same bullshit of trying to tax the door. It was a farce that the gangs just fed off, and the police just took the cowards way out and place the blame at the feet of the club owners instead of doing what they get paid for, what I was paying £1000 each fucking week in rates
for. Perhaps I should have paid these gangsters for the extortionate rates for police protection, enough of that, we all know what a bunch of bent cowards the cops can be right?
Anyway, back to the dance movement,
it did explode at such an exponential rate it was hard to keep up,
but we had a head start and felt our ‘Summer of Love’ had started a few years before the word ‘Rave’ had even been thought of! It’s fair to say in fact that the closest Manchester or any other city had come close to this kind of phenomenon was the New Romantics faze led by the music Bowie was creating and then the Great Rock n Roll Swindle of Punk Rock era a decade or so earlier. (Which incidentally, all took place at a club called ‘PIPS’ Disco, 55 Fennel St. exactly the same address as the Konspiracy!!! So
there was already a lot of history in them premises. But even that paled up against what was about to happen, starting out slowly at first then, bang it went off right here in Manchester,
(the home of the first ‘industrial’ revolution).
At first, it was or seemed to have only been available or realised by a small group of people, a very small group! The reasons for that, in my opinion, are that as we all know now that
Dance music or House music goes hand in glove with Ecstasy or ‘E’s’
Well it was no different back then only Ecstasy had not even been heard of by most in this country so with the link between the two, ‘E’s’ and what we now know as House music being so inextricably linked it seemed to be kept back only because
the supply of ‘Es’ had not yet reached a commercial level,
so, rather like the cork of a Champagne bottle keeping back the inevitable pop then burst, things were held back strangely enough by this lack of the yet unknown new drug Ecstasy.
Over in Ibiza something else had been going on for at least a couple of years or so already (we are talking of around 1986) where this ‘pill’ may have already found its way over across the Atlantic Ocean from New York. It had already taken a strong foot hold in the music scene changing the way they played, listened and danced to the music and how it was manipulated by the DJ’s that were in the perfect place for such a paradigm shift in the music scene to take place in the most exciting city in the world New York.
When the first Ecstasy pill’s hit the streets of Manchester the name New Yorkers seemed to have stuck. But that is only my opinion and not based on any fact, it was a long time ago!!!
Up to around 1986, I was working for myself in the construction industry with a few Tipper Wagons and a JCB subcontracting for a local council tarmacking the smaller streets of inner city Manchester. It was very well paid work so
we always had enough money to live a comfortable life and party hard on the weekends.
Also, my income was supplemented by various other ‘activities’ so there was, even more, money to go around. It was these other activities being involved with and together with Middleton, North Manchester being my home town that brought me in to contact with other, younger lads that regularly popped off abroad to ‘graft’ [work], whatever that graft was is not important here suffice it to say that they would usually come back with fat wallets of money and occasionally stuff for sale, expensive gold watches and other pieces of jewellery, the best label leather clobber etc.
So after coming back home for a quick visit, sell their gains they just as quickly would then be off away again for the summer, some going to Ibiza to spend their doe and party. Later coming back with these fantastic stories of what was going on out there, unbelievable at first but there was something in their eyes, an excitement an expression like they had found the Holy Grail! Perhaps they had? That’s
when the first stories of this new drug Ecstasy and the music being played by the DJ’s in the clubs over in Ibiza were brought back home by these young lads and of course, the first hand full of the pills that would change the Manchester music scene for ever just as it had done in Ibiza and the Big Apple
It was a culmination of most of the above and other factors that eventually brought us to the conclusion and realization that we had the perfect opportunity to take that giant leap forwards to open our own club, which I will try and explain in the following.
There have been many stories and some articles written during the past 25 years or so and even more urban gossip and misinformation, stories of gangsters walking around the Konspiracy, taking boxes of Champagne from behind the bar without paying! That would have been some stunt as we never stocked Champagne, why would we?
We were a fucking rough neck dance club full of young ravers chewing their faces off on the dance floor
Or holding up and taxing people with guns, even more, bullshit about guns being fired at one gang member from another different gang. Some as ridiculous as Mac10 spraying bullets all over one of the bars!!!
Come on man, for fuck sake, this was not down town LA.
l can tell you now that there was only ever one incident involving a gun by some fool who had a beef with a well-known Pro Boxer at that time and a slug was let off into the ceiling. Not trying to lessen the fact that this was a serious and very frightening experience for anyone who witnessed it but that truly was the one and only incident of that nature involving a gun.
And that was well into the 8th or 9th month of the clubs life. Stories get twisted and exaggerated over time and others just plain fantasy or pure made up bull in the hope of increasing one’s street cred by pretending that “they were there that night” when such and such a thing happened
or when John Gotti stood at Bar No 2 copped for an ice pick in the forehead!
There are those that perhaps did have a bad or nasty experience in there. But the one that really gets me is when you read on Facebook for instance or through some other means, a story by some that you know for a fact had never even had the balls to ever have been in the place! And believe me, that happened and still happens, a lot.
That really pisses me off, almost as much as some who even have the stupidity and disrespect to claim ownership and credit themselves with the finance and creation of what became that incredibly successful and ground breaking club Konspiracy,
ground breaking for many reasons other than just an increasingly talented and developing array of different DJ’s each week that you must remember, were all still in the very early experimental stages of this new dance phenomenon, so it’s important this not be forgotten.
It’s worth pointing out at this stage, why not, that as you may know, there were many separate rooms in the KON, which not only accommodated several DJ’s to all play at the same time, making it unique again but down a darkened stair case that led to another spiral staircase leading ever further down into the basement of this 200 year old Corn Exchange building where eventually you reached a narrow, dimly lit corridor, the music from upstairs.
Now becoming muffled by the many walls and floors that separated you from upstairs, at the end of this corridor was a door that when opened led you in to yet another room with probably the last thing in the world you would expect to see, and that was the white bearded figure of the Blues Man himself the wonderful Victor Brox and his Freedom Train Blues Band belting out some obscure Muddy Waters number. So, referring to what I mentioned earlier, the Konspiracy was not just about what those brilliant young DJ’s were doing upstairs but contrasted by Victor and
our mutual passion for the music of original musicians who brought the blues from out the cotton fields of old man Dockeries farm and into the recording studios therefore playing a pivotal role in the history of music, and I thought, Victor agreed that it would be a great thing to marry the two together in the same club on the same night, and we did.
If you could have just once seen the faces of the few who actually managed to find this hidden basement room either by accident or they could actually find it again once they had run off to go fetch their friends to tell them about this room just found even after going to the club each weekend for the last six months but having no idea it existed, only to never be able to find it again! That’s true, Victor and myself used to piss our selves at the expression on the faces of those young students when they opened that door for the first time only to be met by Victor banging away on the piano with one hand the other clutching the trumpet pressed to his lips, he was well into his late sixties, barrel chested with a wide brim cowboy hat on.
So that is just another flavour that I was trying to express through that club Konspiracy,
it was much more than it appeared on the surface
and what I was trying hard to do which was something those fucking Gangsters could never grasp and is why I was never worried from any potential competition.
It’s got to be mentioned at this point that there have been many more positive stories by others who claim to this day that it was the best club experience they had ever had. And that is where I have got to agree for myself and for the record that most of the best nights of my life, and I think it’s safe for me to speak for that small but Loyal and fearless bunch of mates of mine that stuck it out with me and stood up to those brainless bunch of Gangsters that
they also enjoyed some of the best nights of their club lives in the Konspiracy, especially for those fortunate to have stayed behind after closing time for some of the most Hedonistic and full on excessive, in every sense, private parties like we were from some great rock bands after tour celebration.
Only we celebrated our own tour of the week which by then was starting on a Monday morning through to the following Sunday afternoon, usually by collapsing into bed at one of the two private apartments we had rented out in city centre Manchester well before like it is today, apartments everywhere.
One of these apartments we had back then was not far from the club so the money taken on the door could be quickly smuggled out and hidden there, only a trusted couple of mates new about this place! The other was I lived was in the only other block in the city centre that provided such Luxury accommodation, so
it should not have been such a surprise when I discovered my neighbour above me was Shaun Ryder
and his then Woman!
So as you can imagine, even whenever I got home for a kip, there would be a gentle knock than a quiet whisper ‘Mazza, are you up for a quick night cap or what, got some Tequila here we picked up in the States…..come on then ya soft twat!’ As mentioned, there are a couple of group sights dedicated to the Konspiracy of which I’m very flattered.
The summer of love started at different times for different people, depending on whenever they had discovered it for themselves. For myself and a few dozen others, it started as early as 1986. This small group including myself, a few close mates, those that were involved in these ‘other activities’ that brought in the money for such a project as owning your own club.
Long gone was the Tarmac business, sold off to help fund buying a club.
Other members of this small group we were also privileged and lucky enough to have known these young guys coming back from Ibiza who was now inventing new and better ways of getting back bigger parcels of these New Yorkers. And of course
there was always the presence of Shaun and Bez,
that’s when he first came up with the words “twenty-four-hour party people” that’s all we wanted to do now we had a steady stream of ecstasy coming our way. And I found myself catering to an ever growing demand for the product I was distributing to an ever growing number of customers as Manchester would be invaded each week with coach loads of ‘ravers’ from all over the country, meeting other that I soon became good friends with.
I only mention this because it was an integral part of the story, the truth, fundamental to and essential. How else would we of found the doe for half a dozen of us to party 24/7 and still have enough left over to buy a fucking night club when we needed to?
So you have to separate one man’s experience from others. But I will carry on with my own and let the reader decide for themselves what really happened or not. The same lads going away grafting then coming home from Ibiza also brought back a couple of tapes of the music these DJs over there were playing, and
they would hold on to these tapes like holding some kind of religious artifact
, ripping out whatever you had played in your car and slotting in one of these tapes, listening to them at first was a bit weird but they soon grew on me, especially played when we were ‘on one’ then it all became clear, as it does to anyone reading this who has experienced the same.
Manchester must be put up there as one of the first cities in the country to have embraced this new way of delivering music to those on the dance floor.
It’s got to be said that the Hacienda became one of the first clubs to have been fortunate enough to have had a couple of DJs who had heard what was going on over in Ibiza and went out there to check it out for themselves.
But as said earlier,
it exploded so quick once everything fell in to place and grew so fast that there was an undeniable and unstoppable demand for more clubs as the HAC’ became slightly arrogant, and we’re talking management here and not DJs,
as a result of that arrogance the door staff also became very nasty towards this new crowd of young ravers on one and on it, that those fucking ‘bouncers’ displayed their stupidity in an orgy of violence against anyone trying to get into a club that held a monopoly for a short time!
Some of that indiscriminate violence would come back to haunt the HAC’ later on in a big way.
The quality of those New Yorkers has never been equaled in pure excellence.
If you were to ask anyone who was around then they would tell you the same, but with the police hot in pursuit of the dealers and more importantly the importers and manufacturers that the chemist, in an attempt to outwit the cops quickly changed around a few molecules as the authorities passed new laws making MDMA illegal.
So the markets were quickly replaced with an array of pills that were inferior and untested sometimes even dangerous which was as a result of these laws passed that quickly backfired as a young girl tragically died after a night out in the HAC’ as a result of a market flooded with all sorts of concoctions, in the police relentless pursuit and impossible task of stopping the rise of the dance music craze and its link to ‘Es’.
That’s why I myself kept well away from any involvement in the ‘E’ trade, and instead concentrated on burgeoning trade in Hash growing but being totally neglected by most grafters in the belief that they could get rich quick selling ecstasy.
But whatever it was you were in to, came the very real dangers of the dreaded undercover cop!
Who fortunately for me was more interested in the ecstasy dealers, but never the less, one always had to be on the alert. We lost one of our best mates in the HAC’ as he became the first person that I know of to have been nicked with ecstasy. And with the unfortunate loss of our friend after he got pounced upon in the HAC’ by those dreaded undercover cops we also lost the only reliable supply of those beautiful but more importantly, safe, New Yorkers.
So that left the demand for ecstasy open for abuse by unscrupulous dealers who started selling all sorts of weird and sometimes dangerous pills the most popular to my memory were those awful horse tranquilizer pills ketamine, they did nothing more than send you under, ok if you were a fucking 500 kilo horse waiting to go under the Vets knife!
But with the popularity of the dance craze out growing still the supply of ecstasy by even more young people who were just starting out on their own journey into
the new music scene knew no difference and just swallowed whatever was offered to them,
in the belief that this was what all the fuss was about but nothing at all like the real MDMA that was the proper party pill, more importantly, safe. .
Part 2 –
Marino Morgan: So, picking up where we left from issue 5
… now we have to go back a few years around the time I first came across Chris and Tom Lyn of the Jam MCs, around the end of 1987. This was at a club called the Gallary on Peter Street. Downstairs it was predominantly a club for black people but upstairs it had a smaller room where the Jam MCs played every Thursday night. But it never had much of a crowd, not for any reason I could find, we all thought they were pretty good although they were not playing what we wanted to listen to, the sound of Ibiza, that did not stop me from becoming great friends with them, especially impressed with their interest in what we were trying to explain, using as an example the success that the HAC’ was now experiencing.
So I suggested that if it was cool with them that I would promote a night there each Thursday calling it ‘Balearic Beats’ avoiding anything to do with what had by then became known as ‘Acid House’ which in any event would just have attracted the Police. So we went ahead with it but at first there was just myself and friends, mostly the lads involved with the ‘business’ that had really started to take off now we were regulars around town, particularly the HAC’ and all the new faces we were getting to know who came down to Manchester from all over the north and even further each weekend to get in on what the HAC’ was doing. But each week more people started to come down to our ‘Balearic Beats’ night now that the Jam MCs started to understand what it was all about.
We started to follow Chris and Tom Lyn down to Hulme after the Gallery shut up at 2 am, now we had nothing to get up for in the mornings
we just wanted to and now could party all night into the next day.
Hulme or the almost derelict part we went to was a strange place if you had not been there before, a part of inner city Manc’ that was abandoned by the authorities as it was one of those awful concrete monstrosities built to accommodate the overspill from the demolishing of the crumbling down old terraced houses left over from the great industrial revolution that Manc’ had grown its wealth from. But now left to be occupied mainly by drug dealers and their customers, but was also somewhere that the travellers, those that would travel around the country following the festivals like Glastonbury and the like, would park up there lorries and caravans for the winter and just move in to any of the many abandoned flats there, especially on the block that got the nick name ‘The Horse Shoe’ on account of its shape.
it became the perfect place to party all night unmolested by the old bill
There was a guy who had lived there for some time who had knocked to flats together into one on the 5th floor I think with the idea of building a recording studio. Don’t know how much, if any, the success he had with that but the Jam MCs had discovered it by way of an introduction by Bridget Turgoose who became an important part of what became known as ‘The Kitchen’ then an even more important and invaluable member of the management at the ‘Konspiracy‘. Then most of who came down the ‘Balearic’ nights at the ‘Gallery’ started to follow us down to
the Kitchen as it quickly grew in reputation and numbers until it became the number one underground place to be
This is when the Jam MCs started to come into their own and really started to make a name for themselves. Other
club management and staff, especially from the Hacienda, including some of their DJs started to come regularly to take a look at what the fuck was going on that was getting as much attention and almost as many people as the Hac’ now that the place got so packed they would be dancing outside on the landing with queues all the way down the stairwell.
It became the place to be after most clubs shut at 2 am but strangely never got any trouble there, and think that was down to the ominously dark unlit building apart from the odd flat with lights on that if you were unfamiliar with could be a bit frightening. So it kept out any strangers and even the local gangs who had never seen anything like this before, no one had but
we had grown with it so it became ours and ours alone
You would just have to follow the sound of the Jam MCs to find your way up to the Kitchen from down the bottom carpark. Even inside it was weird with only one small light bulb hanging from the ceiling for illumination, occasionally turned off for the UV to be turned on. The strobe only used if any strangers found themselves brave enough to push their way inside only to be confronted by a couple of dozens mostly white guys and girls of various ages off their nut on those NYs dancing to the tunes of Chris and Tom Lyn, dreads hanging down the face of this huge figure was enough to freak anyone out.
Of course, this place became known as the infamous KITCHEN which stands alone in being one of the greatest illegal ‘blues’ that has to this day kept its place in the rave scene that was all part of the Konspiracy’s great story. It was at the height of the Kitchens popularity and success in that dark and foreboding atmosphere that the idea, that the seed was planted in my head that we now needed our own night club ‘just take a look at that crowd, that queue’ I thought to myself!
So, eventually I approached Chris who was taking a break from the decks on the dance floor of that room packed with a sweating, raving mass of people dancing away oblivious to their surroundings immersed in the music pumping so load the whole room, walls and all shuddered with ‘I wanna see you sweat’ or some other tune the Jam MCs had managed to pull out of Eastern Block Records somehow. They were by now amongst those DJs at the forefront of what was going on in this new dance craze, some of them now regulars at the Kitchen after they had finished work at the world famous whatever club listening to what was breaking out there down at the Kitchen, breaking out and breaking the mould others had found themselves in!
I thought the Jam MCs were exploring and delivering something so fucking new and special it’s hard to explain here now all these years later.
So Chris and Tom Lyn new what I was saying that we had done it, cracked it, we were by now all in this together, it would become a joint enterprise and we knew we had to do something about it. It was like we were all surfing on a giant tsunami of a new wave, this new dance culture we were helping create different to what other DJs were doing we felt.
Perhaps that had something to do with the Jam MCs being both black and bringing that influence into the music they were playing, as there were no black DJs at the Hac‘ it maybe they were missing out on this influence altogether helping the Konspiracy to eventually stand out and deliver a new flavour to the dance floor at last? So the Konspiracy was probably conceived that night or one like it at least so I knew my work was cut out and had only just started, I felt we had no choice, we had been chosen, as ridiculous as that sounds now all these years later and
without a head full of MDMA, I would not expect anyone to understand what was going on back then. There was something unique about those NewYorkers, real MDMA that has been lost now!
So the following few weeks were dedicated to finding the right venue for what we wanted to do, how we could carry on this vibe started out in the Kitchen and take it to the next level. We wanted to move quickly as there would obviously be some competition at some point, but we were not that worried so far as anyone else delivering what we had in mind. We knew there was talk of others with some vague ideas for opening their own club but they were just predominantly members of some gang or another that had just started going down the HAC’ and just in it for the money only, therefore, missing the whole point of what was really going on,
this music being created for and by the real ravers that today go by the venerable title of THE OLD SKOOL RAVERS.
It was not long before, driving down Fennel Street one beautiful summers day back in 1989 that out the corner of my eye I saw the for sale sign of the premises that was once the home of that great night club, PIPS. The rest is history and there is not enough room here to go into any of the detail of how we ended up buying then opening the KONSPIRACY there by November that same year. There is so much more to this great story that is the KONSPIRACY.
to be cont, in issue 7
Part 3 –
Marino Morgan: If you have been following this story in previous issues of iconic underground magazine; you may remember ‘Victor Brox’ and his ‘Blues Train’ a 4 or 5 piece band that had been on the UK club circuit for years and years. I had known Victor from around 1982/3. When he was not touring around the States or Europe particularly France where he was very famous, (also having a second home there) back home in the UK he would always have a gig here and there, mostly around Oldham that has always had a very healthy live music scene going on.
Playing every Friday night down the spiral stair case that took you to the lowest basement room of the KONSPIRACY, a small room that most who ever came to the KON never even knew existed! It was so well hidden that even if you already knew about it, always frustratingly difficult to find again.
Some Ravers so off their heads were convinced they had imagined the whole thing
after a couple of window-panes then unable to find their way back there again.
Anyway, if you go back an issue or two there’s a lot more already written about Victor and what went on down his hidden Dungeon? But it was being such good friends, and an even bigger fan, of Victor which led to an introduction to one of his long-time friends he knew from London back in the swinging sixties.
His name was Dave Vaughan, an artist, a very exceptional artist who pioneered the psychedelic art movement during the 60s. He formed a design team called BEV, (Binder, Edwards, and Vaughan) the father of five Sons and the actress Sadie Frost. He obtained commissions for his psychedelic painted furniture from HRH Princess Margaret, worked for EXPO 67, Lord John in Carnaby Street. While photographer David Bailey used his work for a series of posters. Involved in events at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse, Jimi Hendrix and more importantly the famous psychedelic painted Rolls Royce owned by John Lennon (Lennon’s psycha Rolla)
So, if you never got the chance to ever visit the KONSPIRACY then you may only have heard the story of the ’Caves’. Positioned right at the very back of the club, you had to pass through several corridors then across through the ‘Middle Room’, mainly used by the JAM MCs, down another short passage then WOW, it was like walking into another world.
Using mesh and plaster held together by a solid wooden frame, it was made to look like you were on the inside of a white washed underground cave system, with alcoves and pillars giving the illusion of being inside a mine shaft or something. Originally built when it was opened as PIPS some 20 odd years before it became the KONSPIRACY, the Caves back then were known as the Roxy rooms, more about this in issue 8.
Marino Morgan: I’m gunna bring you back a little to the beginning of this story 2 issues back there was a lot of interest in the dark side of the KONSPIRACY,
the drugs, and violence, the gangs and the all the trouble that they brought with them.
But I thought that this would have just been the same story that could have described any club at that time because it was not unique to the KONSPIRACY alone, every club eventually had their own trouble with these gangs, not just the KON. But it seems that is mostly what it gets remembered for. Which is a great shame?
When you look beyond that, you will also hear many stories, personal stories from people who say to this day that some of the best times of their night clubbing life were spent at the KON, it’s a great shame that these stories seem to have been over shadowed as the first 12 months of nights were relatively free of anything more serious than the occasional brawl you would expect in any club. But it always turns out that most of these stories of excessive violence involving guns and such seem to be spread by dicks who I know never ever went in there.
Their only motivation that could compel various groups of morons talking shit while around their local drinking pints of lager on a Sunday lunch, is the pent up jealousy of bar room politics.
All such behaviour from this handful of what were once friends was a lesson in the nature of how one man can sit back and enjoy another man’s troubles, when things reach a point that you are slowly losing control of thing because of circumstances well beyond your control, then the green headed beast finds his soap box to drunkenly wobble about on and tell his story to anyone who will give him their applause.
Behind the scenes,
I was having my own private ‘cold war’ with various members of some of the most notorious gangs that were just forming themselves into factions.
Secretly, as I think I have already mentioned earlier, they were paying a lot of interest in the success the KON was experiencing (and the many other clubs at that time, the troubles were not unique to the KON alone). At first, tentatively, they sort of played the same game, you know the one, the Good Cop Bad Cop approach!
Before the KON, my other life, the success I was having with ‘the other game’ went largely unnoticed, or they were well off the mark as to the extent and level we were at. The rave scene had been going on for around 18 months before the KON opened, with these impromptu warehouse parties here and there, the most memorable for that time, in my opinion, being ‘JOY’, put on by the Donnelly Bros’ over on a farm in the middle of nowhere! A great success and to that date, the biggest platform the JAM MCs had as they took top slot on stage. There were many DJs on that night but
the JAM MCs were wonderful
The KON was in the middle of being refurbished and there was a huge buzz around it and the JAM MCs made the most of their time on stage by announcing the forthcoming opening night which wasn’t far away.
Every time the KON was mentioned over the mic, there was a loud roar by the hundreds of ravers in the middle of this field. This and other raves brought in young ravers from all around the North West and further, so my ‘client base’ grew along with my rep as a trusted and reliable supplier of the product. That’s all, nothing else interested me, there was a huge amount of cash to be made but along with its success, there was the infamy that came with it. So, not only were these gangs learning about my being the man responsible for this club KON opening soon but also now a more growing interest because of my other activities! Hindsight!!!!
The wonderful experience anyone involved with me had in the creation and hard work being put in, day and night, by lots and lots of friends (working mostly for free in the hope that they would find themselves a permanent position once the KON opened for real) meant I kept the darker side of the time mostly to myself and a few close friends who were involved in the business of raising the cash. Which we needed to not only pay for the work needed to fix the KON up but to pay for ‘the life’ we were leading, which was not cheap, several hire cars, apartments around town etc.
There was a complete paradox to what I had in mind for the KON. I was trying to balance two lives, one full of hope and the promise of tomorrow until then unspoiled by any bad guys or gangs or the threat of violence, but I knew it was here, and here to stay. Everyone wanted a slice of the action. There seemed to be a lot of dough around, enough for everyone, but some just wanted to take the easy way and the word ‘tax’ became very popular.
So, the day I noticed that sign hanging outside the premises that was once the home of the famous club PIPS disco saw the start of a hectic and unbelievable time for us all. I had a mobile phone, the size of a brick, and decided to make the call requesting all the details relating to the club, everything they had as I was very interested in arranging a viewing. Before I knew it a package arrived with all the details, floor space, they map of the lay out. The asking price then was a whopping £100,000. At this stage, I really did not think we would get anywhere but went ahead anyway just for the experience.
So, a few days later after another phone call, we were met outside by a rep from Wilsons Brewery, who held the deeds for the lease. We shook hands then he put a huge brass key into the lock, after some twisting and turning of the big brass key, open sesame, the double doors creaked open like the old doors of some abandoned mansion, pitch dark and stinking of the mould! We made our way to the light switch panel with the aid of a torch but nothing worked, it looked dangerous.
Eventually, we turned on the emergency light switch and suddenly we had light, faint but enough for us to negotiate your way around the many rooms and caverns, alcoves and corridors that took us from room to room. We then made our way, in the dark down the stairs with the torch. The one thing that stands out most was at the bottom of the steps where we could vaguely make out a white sort of carpet the seemed to explode into a cloud of fine white dust with each foot step, almost like walking on talcum powder. It was not until we got the emergency lights on that we realised that 5 years of dead moths, that must have hatched once a year, but having nowhere to go in this dark prison, with nothing to eat but mould, and their dead predecessor’s, would eventually die and join their cousins in this 3 to 4 cm layer of dead pure white moths, all the way through the club.
That was just the start of heart sinking realisation that this place was in a bad way. There were puddles of stagnant stinking water, mould everywhere. The bars were in such a dilapidated state, it just seemed like an impossible task, and certainly not worth £100,000. So out of politeness we carried on with our tour of this shipwreck and after dusting our shoes off and locking the doors behind us thought that would be the last we saw of that place, sad because it once had such a reputation as one of, if not Manchester’s best ever club, holding the same reverence the HAC’ had back then.
But after the next few days of looking around for other venues suitable for what we had in mind came to nothing
the dream of owning our own club were fading fast,
I started to realize just how hard and expensive this enterprise could become! Then, out of nowhere came a phone call from a big time player in our other ‘work’.
So, after a little chat, he said he would find out what was really happening behind the scene concerning the old PIPS club and the info he gave up was invaluable. It turns out that Wilsons Brewery had hanging around their financial neck 20 years left on a 25 year lease they had signed for some 5 year’s previous holding them responsible for the next 20 years of rent of £750 pw and £750 rates bill they were legally obliged to pay, if there was a running business in there or not.
So, armed with this valuable info I made another appointment with the head honchos and as cocky as I could be with this knowledge and nothing to lose, I went to that meeting with all the confidence of Mohamed Ali before a fight. Remember,
I was young, full of myself and with the traces of MDMA still floating my veins felt invincible
After a very straight forwards conversation across a huge oak desk, on the other side a bunch of suits with folders, pen in hand. Then me on the other, forget who was with me, but now armed with this info of their position, I then just ad lib my way through the next hour or two.
Without going into specifics, basically, I told them that I was the man responsible for all the success the HAC’ was having as I was the man in control of all the promotions there. As soon as they heard that all heads turned around to look at each other because the HAC’ was all over the press, the paparazzi were making such a fuss over it.
They never seemed to doubt my story of a dissatisfied employee feeling he was getting ripped off by the management there and wanting to take my skills and team to open up our own venue. Impressed and feeling like they had just won the lottery the rest was easy. I made them an offer they could not refuse.
To cut a long story short I offered to take on the responsibility for the £1500.00 pw to cover the rent/rates right there and then under the condition that if I pay for all the refurbishment of the club, that they would agree to pay for the complete refurbishment of all seven bars in there and stock them up on a deliver now pay later agreement so long as I used them to supply everything needed behind the bars. After handing over the big brass key across the oak table to me and signing a few documents, I was now the proud new owner of my own club. As simple as that. And it did not cost me a dime. But I knew there was quite a hefty bill to be paid for a complete refurbishment of such a huge place, with a full capacity of around 1500 people.
I made my way back to the Dry Bar where the rest of the crew were all waiting for the news! There was a look of astonishment on all their faces, I don’t think anyone expected or believed we had actually pulled it off. After a celebratory drink or two, we all made our way down to what was now our club. Only two or three people had been with me on the day we met the rep and he opened those doors for the first time in 5 years so everyone was eager to see what it was we were letting ourselves in for. After a guided tour of the place accompanied by the JAM MCs, Bridget Turgoose and others who would become involved, work started almost immediately that day, with everyone and their friends arriving one after the other with brushes, mop, and buckets, cleaning stuff and rolls and rolls of bin liners.
Quickly it became a hive of activity with people just getting stuck in, there was such a buzz, the middle of a beautiful summer and at last with everyone involved from the early days going as far back as the Gallery to as recent as the Kitchen. Now it had become a reality, the buzz surrounding the KONSPIRACY just intensified with people offering their services, painters, and decorators, plasterers, and tilers, every kind of tradesman you could think off just turned up either first thing or after their regular job. Obviously, for the most skilled workers, I worked out a price but with most, it seemed to be enough for them just to be involved. It was enough for me just to cover their expenses for the day, or if I had a particularly good day in the other game, then I would show my appreciation much more generously!
It was a chaotic time with no real organization to anything but it took on an almost organic life of its own. If something needed doing, there always seemed to be someone around who could fix it. Slowly things started to take shape and it started to look more like a club. But I soon had the realisation that I may have a problem! I, nor anyone else involved at this time, had any idea how to run a club, not even the simple everyday activities we had taken for granted. Like the hiring of bar staff, paying the wages at the end of the night, book keeping etc. Ordering the bar supplies and paying the bills.
Basically, someone with experience in the day to day running of a night club was needed. I had a friend called Paul Udo who was very well known about town and had been running a very successful if small club called Richfields, an outdated sort of 80’s medallion man style club. So after approaching him and making him a deal he could not possibly turn down, we had ourselves one of the most well-known, experienced and reliable managers who was just as excited as everyone else at getting in on the anticipation that had by now exploded in advance of the opening night. Problem solved!
So, there is all this work going on and we were also dealing with licensing laws that were archaic. Things have probably changed today, as many things were after the sacking of the then Chief Constable the Reverend Sir James Anderton who got the sack after some comments made in the press about
Manchester ‘Being run by queers, pimps, and prostitutes swirling around in a cess pit of filth and disease.’
To add petrol to the fire he also actually suggested that disabled people had been reborn that way because of a life of sin they had lived in a past life!
My solicitor told me that Manchester only allocated so many late licenses at any one time, so if I were to get a license I may have to wait some time. Noticing the dismay on my face knowing I was already deeply involved financially and recognising my naivety in such matters, like a good old friend, he pulled me to one side in his office, sat on the end of his polished desk, put his hand on my shoulder and whispered to me that he knew a way to jump the queue!
… to be cont, in issue 8
Part 4 –
So, here we are again. It’s very hard to try and tell a story, especially one that is so packed full of life-changing events, and that with any one of these events, we could curve off from the tangent in many directions!
And there are many such stories that are still waiting to be told. Like from the center of a spider’s web-spinning round and around connecting each tiny event eventually linking through time everything into one hell of a story!
Couple this with the time that has stretched out from that period of Manchester’s spectacular rise from a stagnant, boring city center nightlife. Well maybe that is a bit harsh, but it is just a fact that what was about to take place, take hold and change the shape of things to come, anything else was sure to pale in comparison. Similar to the way the Dot Com Boom (or .com bubble?) of the 90’s gripped peoples imagination, or the way Bitcoin (Cryptocurrencies) is playing out right now, awakening the possibility that something really significant is taking place, quietly at first, realised by just a privileged few, but an event, something so huge and significant, that it would change the way we did things previously, forever!
An unstoppable force, invisible and so powerful that no matter how hard the media played out their various own take on this New Musical Revolution, stories laced with false claims of what our children were getting up to over the weekend,
spaced out on LSD dancing manically to the beat of Acid House Music
The devil’s music! The desperate and sometimes pathetic way the Police and other organisations tried so hard to “put a stop to this nonsense”, but today collaborate with each other, local councils, local licensing authorities and the police put on huge, expensive events like Bowlers in Trafford for instance!
Basically, what they once feared and hated, persecuted and harassed are now embraced (becoming huge cash cow’s for a significant few
and unfortunately, just another institution, as the X Factor has made, sorry, manufactured countless new Popstars, so these same “mover’s and shaker’s” now ride on the back of all the hard work and experimenting the “originals” all put in, DJ’s promoter’s and the new club owner’s sometimes illegally, sometimes dangerously but always with the passion and enthusiasm of those who KNOW that something fantastic was unfolding.
Remember how lucky you felt to be amongst the very first group, no matter what size that group you found yourself in, whether it be just the first 1000? Or the first few 100? Or even the first dozen or so? How fucking special you felt? But the countless stories out there, some shared, some personal, but all with a fascinating tale to tell of that time in Manchester’s nightclub nightlife history. And the KONSPIRACY?
No matter what you know, or think you know about that club, it will never be just another tale of mediocrity! Just another club around at that time. The KONSPIRACY has and still does to this day hold a special place in the memory of those that WERE there and did do it, got involved and helped it unfold into what and onto where nobody really new? But it is refreshing to see at last some kind of resurgence of that time, an interest and genuine appreciation by some who were even too young to have been around then!
More importantly and amazing to hear that a lot of those DJ’s whose names can still be seen on some of the original flyer’s and posters from the KONSPIRACY who were true pioneers of those times are still out there and doing very well in places like Hong Kong, Thailand the US and other places around the world. Many starting out there carers at clubs like the KONSPIRACY taking it to next level! I remember one or two who worked there behind the bar or glass collecting asking, pleading even, such was there desire to get behind the decks, to play a set whilst we regularly stayed behind after the club closed at 2 am.for our own private party. A humble start for some has become an illustrious career in the global music industry. If I am to be proud of anything that the KONSPIRACY helped play, even a small part it has got to include stories like that. Not forgetting, of course, this unique opportunity offered by ICONIC UNDERGROUND MAG!
Least of all because of the many false articles in other less credible mags who fail in there research in to some of the stories they try to cover, simple issues like who really was the true owner of the KONSPIRACY, no mention of the many other DJs who played and continue to play important roles in this story, and after it was pointed out to me by my partner, Jacqueline that there were some pretenders to the thrown out there claiming just that, hardly a mention of myself in an attempt to re-write history by tearing out some of its pages, we would not have been surprised to see a pile of these burning books of history outside the Town hall or Eastern Block records!
Joking apart we are also grateful to Glynn Broadhurst for creating and maintaining the only officially recognized (by me at least) group site KONSPIRACY. MANCHESTER. OLDSKOOL! Recently very happy to see its members grow in numbers as other less recognised sites fade away………pop goes the weasel……aha! (This one is up to you Mike?) and where one can find, if you scroll down enough those posters and flyers mentioned above and much much more related stuff including some live recordings by several DJs who played their way back in 1989—1991.
Some of the best by no less than the duo we know as the JAM MCs who were the in-house DJs at the KONSPIRACY also involved in the promotional side of business then too. Anyway, it is true that it can be difficult to write a story about what happened all those years ago as time seems to have eaten away a lot that has been forgotten? No mobile phones with an app for everything back then is a shame. But there are one or two things that come to memory from time to time. The artist David Vaughn who has been mentioned in earlier issues of ICONIC…..
He gave much more than just the Cave Paintings. During his time through the 60’s down in London leading the then-new psychedelic art movement mentioned in earlier issues of ICONIC,
he was very well connected to everybody who was anybody in the music industry of that time not least good friends with John Lennon, who commissioned him to paint his famous Rolls Royce and other works of art
This gave him the unique opportunity to spend a lot of time down at the Abby Road recording studio’s hanging out with most the musicians that produced some of the most famous and iconic albums of that period.
So, when the well-documented refurbishment of Abby Road took place in the 80’s he was there, as any curious and inquisitive artist would be under the ‘excuse’ to help out he had his artist’s eye on what was getting thrown out into the skip’s outside! At the end of each day, his van would be cluttered with all sorts of stuff being unceremoniously chucked out. So he kept a lot of this stuff for years not really sure what to do with it. Any monetary value connected to anything he had kept never interested him, he just realised it’s value for posterity I guess.
So it was while he was working on his artwork at the KONSPIRACY that he just turned up one day with a trailer full of crates. One of these crates’s contained a huge green cast iron mixing desk with leavers and dials all over the place. Helping him unload the trailer it was then that he told me the fascinating history behind this ugly green cast iron exhibition. All of the Beatles albums recorded at Abby road before its refurbishment where mixed on this antique of a thing (and obviously any other Band or musician who used those famous recording studio’s back in the day) He told me he wanted me to have it because he recognised the significance and similarity of what we were trying to do at the KON, and that it reminded him so much of that time he spent down London during the swinging sixties.
He was well aware that something big was happening in the music industry again, at a grassroots level that he had witnessed before with the first “summer of love”. And I’m not 100% sure if it was he or someone he knew (His daughter, Sadie Frost was married to one of the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet I think, Gary Kemp) but I also ended up with four “mechanical mannequins” is the only way to describe them. Made from of scrap iron welded together with electric motors connecting each joint, arm or leg, with glass heads (used by shops to display wigs and things) that when plugged in would make these metal life-size dolls swing about in all directions
as if they were dancing like one of those first E’d up young ravers who enjoyed those early days of the second “summer of love” down at the KON or the HAC’.
We had some Perspex boxes made up to put the green mixing machine and the iron dervishes in, then just strategically placed them around the club under variously coloured flashing lights that just blew people away! The story behind these four metal dancing machines is unique again. It turned out that they were used as props on stage during one of Boy George and Culture Club’s tour in the 80’s. It was things like this that was the result of what can only be explained as the KONSPIRACIES completely decentralized and chaotic style of management, but the totally democratic attitude that made it function as it did.
It was just, so far as I was concerned, one big experiment in putting on a rave each week without any boundary’s. Of course it had to have a financial objective, to make as much money as possible to sustain its function and reward the investment, but primarily it was just to provide a place for this growing number of people of all ages from anywhere and everywhere something and somewhere completely new to get of ya face and rave all night listening to equally experimental way of delivering the new “dance music phenomenon”.
So forget all those tired old stories of fucking Gangsters, they only decided to turn ugly once it became obvious to themselves that they did not, could not get their tiny lumps of grey matter around what was really going on and just enjoy themselves like everyone else! Like bewildered packs of hyenas, they eventually turned on themselves when there was no one left to terrorise! Now, long after the KON shut for the last time, there are many of us still around to tell these stories, alas, there are not many lefts of them who still count in our ranks, through one self-inflicted disaster or another, either spent the intervening years behind bars or worse, much worse.
I have often been asked why did I decide to call it KONSPIRACY? That is another story for another day….
Interview – Design – Editing – Mike Mannix