Mainly more self-indulgent musings about The Roses, but you may find something that resonates…
We’re just about out the arse-end of the Silhouette reunion night that myself, Dave Stead and Sammy Wells somehow pulled off. When the idea was hatched outside Pave on a cold, November Friday night, I think we underestimated just how much the club meant to everyone. I mean, I have my personal reasons, which I’ll go on about, probably at great length, in a bit, but the place obviously holds a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, as was evidenced by last Saturday night and the lengths some people travelled to get there.
Sam had said she’d been inside recently and it hadn’t changed at all. No way! It was a dance school now, as far as everyone was aware. It must have changed beyond recognition. She assured us, nope, it’s exactly the same. I looked at Dave, and you could practically hear the cogs turning in our heads.
‘Do you reckon…?’ I didn’t get the chance to finish my question.
‘Yes. I’ll get onto it tomorrow, make some enquiries. Let’s just keep it hush hush for now until I check if it’s an option.’
Dave, the man with the clout, and the ability to make it happen was already onto it, planning the logistics, while I was just thinking, ‘we’re gonna have it right off in there again,’ like a little kid who’d just unearthed an actual piece of history with my metal detector, instead of the piece of shitty foil that’s usually unearthed on those fruitless expeditions.
‘Let’s just keep it hush hush…’
We wandered round the corner to The Polar Bear, where the first person I saw that I knew was duly informed that we were going to reopen Sil for a reunion. Then Uncle Dave, then everyone else that I knew in the pub. Then I put on Facebook a status which read, ‘how would everyone feel about going back to Silhouette for a party?’ Giddy as fuck. The disdain on Dave’s face was well-masked, but the cogs were audible again.
‘This loud-mouthed fucker has practically made it impossible to not do this now,’ is what I imagine the muscle behind his smiling eyes was saying.
The Facebook status got interest even from those people you think don’t even go on Facebook. Even the lurkers were showing excitement for this night I’d already organised in my head.
We had to do it now, cos big-gob has virtually promised a time machine to the over-40s, and they were rabid, already planning their only night out of the year. Babysitters were being booked that night for an unspecified date sometime in the near future. The soundtrack was being played in people’s heads already, the cocktail of Manchester, Acid Jazz, early house and hip-hop. There was no going back now, even though that’s precisely what we had in mind: going back.
Sam and Dave looked on in horror.
The next morning I woke and thought, ‘fucking hell, what have I done?’ Nothing unusual about that feeling, but what had I done? I checked my phone, the notifications were in the 50s. SHIT! Everyone was buzzing about the phantom night I’d inadvertently promised a few hours earlier.
So, it was with great relief that around 2pm I received a text from Dave saying, ‘sorted.April 1st.’
April Fool’s Day.
Silhouette for me was my bridge.
I wasn’t around for the old Silhouette on Spring Bank, age and allegiance to Spiders, coupled with the fact it scared the shit out of me prevented me from ever visiting or daring to visit it. The tales from people we knew lent it a mythical quality, of a den of seediness that we just weren’t ready for, still being at school. We’d braved and made Spiders our home for two years, and, to us, Silhouette on Spring Bank was a place frequented by people who were banned from Spiders. Imagine the thoughts running through our minds, having previously thought Spiders was the edgiest place in town; Silhouette was a place for Spiders rejects and misfits. What kind of miscreants lurked there? We daren’t imagine. So stayed away.
I don’t remember the date, but the new Silhouette opened early in 1990, and we were there on the opening night. I don’t even remember what prompted us to venture there, having been shit scared of the old one.
How my hazy memory recollects it is thus:
I was at the height of my Madchester obsession, and my transformation from tie-dyed, second-hand rain-mac-wearing indie kid to flared, Wallabeed, baggy indie-dance fanatic was complete, and the new Silhouette was billed as being modelled on Manchester’s infamous Haçienda club; the as-yet unattended holy grail of Stone Roses disciples’ nightspots. I was still an indie-kid at heart, but Sil, (as we called it, later to be Sils) opened up my mind to the possibility that other music existed outside the Top 40, that was equally as exciting as my beloved Roses and Mondays.
Pete Ives was the DJ on the Saturday nights, and he served up an eclectic cocktail of indie, dance, hip-hop and early house music. In my head, it was exactly how the Haç was, it looked the part, but I was then unaware that the Haç was, by then, solely a Mecca for house music, as it was instrumental, through DJs Jon Dasilva, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park, in establishing house music in the north of England, despite claims that the Londoners’ trip to Ibiza in ’88 was the birth of the phenomenon in England.
I was still unconvinced about house music, being a relative latecomer to the (house) party. It’s one of those I-was-there claims that people tout, like seeing Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. I can’t lay any claim to any interest in house music until I saw The Stone Roses at Spike Island. On May 27th, 1990. Under the shadow of cooling towers and remnants of the chemical industry, instrumental in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, is where I had my awakening. I entered an indie-kid, albeit be-flared, and left a fully-fledged raver, despite not consuming any drugs or drink that day (it was my first motorway drive after recently passing my driving test, and ecstasy was still in the realm of heroin in my mind.) That day, a long day, the bar queues putting us off even drinking in the searing heat, a guy called Paul Oakenfold, then not really a household name, and Frankie Bones, played sets of pure house music. And it went off as the two worlds collided, and it made perfect sense. Something clicked in me; the support acts were pretty dull, but this pulsating, hypnotic groove-based music seemed to energise me. I recognised a few: Voodoo Ray, Promised Land (which I thought was The Style Council), 808 State and others, but it didn’t matter, I got lost in the groove.
It’s a myth that The Roses first album had any links whatsoever with house music, but it obviously influenced it. You read now how it was house music played on guitars, but I can categorically state that no connection between house and the music on the album was made upon its release. It’s true that house-heads got into The Roses, presumably for the comedown, but it wasn’t until Fools Gold, released towards the end of 1989, that any nod to house music was a factor in their sound. It’s possible it was, but no-one made the connection until then. The looped funky-drummer breakbeat and the hypnotic bassline, a direct steal from Know How by Young MC, cemented the synonymity with dance music, but, in truth, Happy Mondays were well ahead of them in that game. After Fools Gold, (which on my copy, was the B-side; What the World is Waiting For, being the A-side until the former got more airplay,) my acceptance of dance music was cautious and gradual until Spike Island.
So, back to Sil, and I can probably state with some authority, that subconsciously, dance music was being assimilated into my psyche, as it was creeping into Pete’s sets on a Saturday at Sil. But the majority of the tunes that got me on the dancefloor were the big Manchester anthems, and associated offshoots, plus credible chart stuff like Deee-Lite, Soul II Soul and Neneh Cherry, Primal Scream’s astonishing reincarnation and the hip-hop of the era: DeLa Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, NWA, and Eric B and Rakim. House was when we went to the bar for our Newcastle Brown Ale. But it was permeating this young lad’s subconscious, as we rubbed shoulders with local stars, such as Roland Gift and members of The Beautiful South, whose drummer I would put a night on with 27 years later.
There are stories of a stabbing in the queue on the opening night, but, not being a sufferer of heightened awareness at age 17, the rough edge went unnoticed. The club attracted people from the recently-closed Henry’s club, a notoriously rough Anlaby Road nightspot, another no-no, so there was always an element of edginess, but, for the most part, the scallies rubbed shoulders with the glitterati, the former Sil crowd, and the indie-kids in harmony with little trouble. The former Sil was a reputedly a resolutely gay club, where straight people were in the minority, but new Sil was consciously mixed, and it was a fantastic mix of people, all up for a party; back in those days, this was a pretty big deal, and progressive in its approach and mix of clientele, Hull not exactly being the most forward-thinking of cities, in part due to its isolation and remoteness; outsiders were treated suspiciously, as was anything a bit different, as we discovered on our initial Spiders odyssey.
So, Sil unwittingly readied me for my Spike Island awakening, and made me more tolerant of music not played by white people with guitars; it opened my mind musically, and in terms of what a nightclub could be, beyond the dark, dingy Spiders; until then, my only experience of clubs. It would take me nearly another year to go full-rave, but I embraced the dance stuff in the summer of ’90, and I experimented with Welly and Juliet’s during that time, and also psychedelic drugs, but I was still more Inclined towards the indie that had defined my coming-of-age. In fact, my real coming of age was The Roses and the introduction of house music. It was a seismic moment that would change my life forever, and for that time, Sil satisfied both obsessions. So there I remained until I eschewed guitars, almost totally, for beats, a bit later on.
I’ve banged on about Spiders enough; if you’re interested, you can refer to my blog post about it here, but if anything, Sil was even more instrumental in shaping me as a person. It took my love of The Roses and expanded on that, and showed me there was life beyond that scene that I’d chosen. I was beginning to move away musically from my school friends; my Roses obsession led me there, and Sil was the perfect place for the transformation. Spiders educated me unequivocally about guitar music, but the template was more narrow. What Sil did was act as a bridge between that and what would dominate my life for the next four years or so. A bridge between indie and club music, or rave, as it was rather clumsily defined back then, mainly due the actual parties or raves that were being held in disused quarries, empty warehouses or refuse tips around the East Riding at the time. I wouldn’t have dreamed of going to a rave if it hadn’t been for Spike Island, Sil, and Pete Ives’ Saturday night sets opening my mind.
When house almost exclusively took over me, I still visited Sil, as I liked to keep one foot in both camps, and either Friday or Saturday night was rave night, or later, the more refined and more sophisticatedly named club night, and Sil was a return to some kind of normality, and a place where you could have conversations with people that didn’t revolve around where you were from or how many doves you’d had that night.
It continued to broaden my music taste, even though my car stereo played almost exclusively the latest Bass Hed or Haç tapes. Acid Jazz, and bands such as The Brand New Heavies, The Young Disciples and a pre-twat Jamiroquai ruled at Sil in 1991 and beyond, as did the burgeoning trip-hop scene, led by the peerless Massive Attack, and the jazz-infused hip-hop of Gang Starr, Digable Planets and Black Sheep. It was always an education, and my ears were open to it all, as it had been so instrumental in preparing me for my own personal watershed moment. No longer did I hit the bar (now for Molsen) when an unknown track came on; I sucked it all up, and it served me well for when I got a little jaded by the faux-glam of the club scene, and returned to a wider palette of music, and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful to Sil. For subsequent generations, I know Sil has had the same impact, and it stands alone as the most important coming-of-age Hull nightclub.
(Your host plus useless bodyguard)
During the Britpop era, which snapped me out of my club-exclusive listening habits, it again reigned supreme in Hull. Saturday nights in Sil, we threw the same shapes to Supersonic, and Common People as we had done to New Order and The Mondays five years previously. And music policy was still as eclectic as it always had been, so it never got stuck in any niches, it was always unpredictable, always a pleasure. I think the last time I went was about 1997, when, unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control (or memory), I woke up in police cells the next morning. I assumed I’d been banned, but it turned out it was an incident on the taxi ride home…
That’s probably another blog post in itself…
So, I was aware of how much it meant to me personally, and also its impact on most people I know of my age and younger, so when I received the text from Dave Stead, saying ‘sorted,’ I was excited, not only for myself, but for all those who had had similar experiences, and there were a lot, it transpired. We put the tickets on sale on a Sunday in December, and they were gone within a couple of hours. We got word of people travelling from London, Manchester and beyond for it, so it had to be perfect. I got messages saying they’d met their future partners on the dancefloor in the place, so it had to be bang-on.
Most of the credit must go to Dave, for sorting out the logistics, I was just The in-yer-face annoying social media presence and supplier of the last two hours’ tunes, born out of Sam’s idea. It was a team-effort, and that includes everyone who attended, DJ’d and worked the night. If you were there, you don’t need me to tell you what a resounding success it was. Pete Ives, Skin and myself, I hope, delivered some indelible memories for you.
At one point in the evening, Dave turned to me and said, ‘do you know what? This is probably the first night in about ten years where I’ve been out and everybody in the place is smiling and happy.’ And he was right. And we have to do it again, but not just yet.
It was a nostalgia trip for me personally, and it delivered big-time, there were faces I hadn’t seen for 25 years, and all were happy, but that soon dissipated as my personal nostalgia trip turned into me just getting pleasure from making a load of old farts happy. That’s the overriding sensation I took away from the experience.
Last tune? Resurrection. Of course.
My personal Sil Top Twenty (90-92):
- The Stone Roses – Fools Gold
- Beats International – Dub Be Good to Me
- Happy Mondays – Hallelujah (Oakenfold & Weatherall Club Mix)
- Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
- Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Weatherall Mix)
- Young Disciples – Apparently Nothin’
- Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart
- Primal Scream – Loaded
- De La Soul – Eye Know
- House of Pain – Jump Around
- Electronic – Getting Away With It
- The Charlatans – The Only One I Know
- 808 State – Pacific State
- The Brand New Heavies – Dream Come True
- Northside – Shall We Take a Trip?
- Incognito – Always There
- Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
- A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It?
- Happy Mondays – W.F.L.
- Kym Sims – Too Blind to See It