Manchester Music Moments – A Man Of A 1,000 Gigs
Going to gigs invariably starts in your teenage years but it doesn’t have to stop when you hit 30 years old. Unsurprisingly a city of Manchester’s size (and popular musical pedigree) has a choice of gigs pretty much every night of the year.
Someone who has seen many a band, and many a venue, rise, fall, reform and break up is Dave Eckersley from Springhead (see image above). An avid gig-goer since the 1960s, Dave can regale you with musical tales all evening long.
He was there for a famous occasion in 1964 when the blues and gospel train came to south Manchester. Wilbraham Road station was renamed Chorltonville – (itself actually a lovely area of Chorlton) whose name was thought to lend itself to the feel of the southern States of the USA. Muddy Waters, Cousin Joe Pleasants and others performed on the platform and with the audience grouped on the other, a storm rolled in and a legendary musical Manchester moment unfolded. Granada TV’s Travelling Eye filmed it for posterity.
Dave was also a regular at other Manchester 1960s hangouts. The famous Twisted Wheel club and coffee house opened on Brazennose Street in 1963 and was where many a blues act performed, including a young Georgie Fame. Other musical Mancunians to grace the venue included John Mayall, Elkie Brooks, Spencer Davis Group, Alexis Horner, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, The Dakotas and Freddie and the Dreamers. The Twisted Wheel moved to 6 Whitworth Street three years later until it closed in 1971. The building at 6 Whitworth Street is disgracefully due to be demolished in 2013 (to make way for yet another hotel).
The Twisted Wheel northern soul concept will not die, however, and has been holding regular nights since a revival in 1999. In 2013 Twisted Wheel has regular nights in Manchester at NQ Live on Tib Street and a radio show on North Manchester FM 106.6 on Thursday evenings.
The Oasis Club was another 1960s Northern Beat coffee and dance club (nothing to do with a certain Manchester band who named themselves after a cafe at Manchester City’s Maine Road stadium). Oasis evolved into Rubens club in 1972 on Lloyd Street (one of the owners went on to run Slack Alice’s with George Best). The clubs may be long gone but the favoured pubs to meet in remain nearby – The Old Nags Head and The Rising Sun.
Dave recalls that the bands wouldn’t come on stage until 11 p.m. or midnight and after the gigs, “…We would sleep in Piccadilly Gardens – it was all grassed over then – waiting for the buses to start running again in the morning. When you woke up there’d be hundreds of people there having all crashed out.”
There’s probably not a music venue in the region that Dave hasn’t frequented at some point or other. From seeing Family play at a club in Oldham in the late 1960s through to the obvious venues of today such as Old Trafford, The Ritz, Apollo and the MEN Arena. He remembers the Electric Light Orchestra descending on stage in a giant space ship in the 1970s, bands at the Free Trade Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham and Bury Met to name but a few.
If I had a time machine I would have liked to have joined Dave at a 1967 gig at the Palace Theatre, where Jimi Hendrix headlined, Pink Floyd played “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and other acts the bill included The Move, Amen Corner, The Nice, Outer Limits and Eire Apparent. In 2010 Classic Rock magazine described it as the best bill ever.
I’d also like to know if the rumoured Pink Floyd free gig at dawn on Granby Row in the late 1960s did ever take place? Or maybe it’s best left as a mystery in Manchester music mythology.
Even in his autumn years, Dave’s still a regular gig-goer, be it to see the likes of Mostly Autumn at the Academy, the Enid at Band On the Wall, or up and coming acts at his local pub in Lees. He’s truly a north-west man of a thousand gigs.