Written by: Paul Gleason
Peter Hook’s bass playing and writing share a common quality that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s listened to his music or read his books – and that quality is intimacy.
Whether Hooky’s playing one of his magnificent basslines for Joy Division, New Order, or The Light or writing in his inimitable prose style, he brings you close to his heart and soul.
Hooky’s iconic bass work covers a wide range his of emotions – from melancholy to aggression, from exuberance to fun – and his writing shows his humor, gregariousness, and lust for life.
And it’s this emphasis on humor in the form of terrific storytelling that makes Hooky’s books, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division and The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club, such necessary reads for any fan of Joy Division, New Order, or, for that matter, great music writing.
The Haçienda, which is now available for the first time in the United States, gives the inside story of the Haçienda, the club that Hooky and the rest of New Order helped run from 1982 until 1997.
The book is probably one of the funniest tragedies you’ll ever read. As Hooky did in Unknown Pleasures, he makes you feel as you read like you’re sitting down with a pint with him in a pub, listening to him tell you a hilarious story about everything you ever wanted to know about the rise and fall of one of the most famous and important clubs in music history.
What made the Haçienda so important? New Order, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Bauhaus, Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, and Happy Mondays all performed there, among others. It was the site of Madonna’s first UK gig. It birthed the acid house scene, 90s’ rave culture, and electronic dance music. It even featured prominently in the film, 24 Hour Party People.
But let’s get back to Hooky’s book.
Hooky’s storytelling is magical because the tragedy becomes comedy in his one-of-a-kind blend of self-deprecating and gallows humor. It’s the kind of book that you don’t want to put down, simply because you don’t want to leave the author’s presence and stop him from spinning his great yarn.
Like all great stories, The Haçienda has its great, larger-than-life characters. Of course, there’s Hooky. Appearances are made by key players such as Tony Wilson (co-founder of Factory Records and Manager of the Haçienda), Rob Gretton (Joy Division and New Order manager, co-founder of Factory Records, and founding partner of the Haçienda), Bernard Sumner, Morrissey, Happy Mondays, and a host of other Haçienda-related characters that would have been lost to history without Hooky’s pen.
Unforgettable stories abound, which I can only preview here in the form of questions (you’ll have to read The Haçienda for the full scoop and all the laughs). Where does a great bassist-songwriter relieve himself when his club doesn’t have enough bathrooms? What happens when a great bassist-songwriter has taken ecstasy and gets into a car crash in a foreign country? What happens when a great bassist-songwriter realizes that all his band’s money is being used to support a club that, despite its cultural import, never makes any money?
This last question gets at the narrative thrust of The Haçienda, which, in addition to being a site for Hooky’s ribald stories, precisely chronicles the financial woes of the club. Hooky meticulously devotes a chapter to each year of the Haçienda’s existence and includes lists of which bands performed when, excerpts from financial accounts, miscellaneous facts and quotes, and other sundries, all of which make you feel like you’re a part of (and, maybe even, an investor in) the club.
So we’re back at intimacy again, which is Hooky’s forte, whether he’s playing, writing songs and books, or just being Hooky.
The Haçienda truly is a book that can’t be missed – it’s uproariously funny, historically compelling, and a document of a scene that shaped popular culture.
(Photography by Steven Baker and Eric Swalens.)