When Ziggy played B&Q

A Defining Me contributor whom I didn’t mention in my previous post is Bill Mather, because I thought his subject deserved a post all to itself.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I was excited to see Bill’s display because I have been curious about The Hardrock in Stretford for a few years. I really can’t remember a time when it wasn’t B&Q!

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The place was mentioned on Greg Wilson’s website ElectroFunkRoots in an interview with Hewan Clarke from 2008:

Hewan: “I started off going to the Hard Rock in Stretford listening to Andy Peebles play things like ‘Golden Years’, David Bowie.”

And it popped up again in 2011 during a conversation about Piccadilly Radio with Phil Griffin who confirmed that Piccadilly approached Persian to DJ on the station, but as they wanted a black DJ to play reggae, not soul, the plan fell through. The soul slot had already been bagsied by Andy Peebles, who was DJing at The Hardrock and staying at The Great Stone Hotel nearby.

(Persian did guest-spots on Soul Train but apparently Peebles considered him a threat because of his superior soul music knowledge, and blocked his involvement. Phil Griffin protested that Peebles had the ‘finest radio voice of his generation’ and had no reason to feel insecure while I tend to think that it was most likely Peebles’ style of Smashy and Nicey presentation that made an entire generation think soul music was middle-of-the-road… at least for a decade or so. But I digress.)

The Hardrock was a music venue and a disco and it opened in September 1972 with two back-to-back David Bowie shows:

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Bowie returned to The Hardrock on December 28th/29th 1972 and all four dates fall within the Ziggy Stardust Tour which seems to have gone on for 18 months, and included other Manchester dates at The Free Trade Hall in April ’72 and June ’73.

Una Baines recalls:
The Hardrock “was a great venue… Bowie had green lurex tights on and I reached up at the front of the stage and touched his toes! I was about 14/15 at the time so about ’72…”

RoberPH on MDMArchive remembers:
“I attended Bowie at the HardRock in Dec 72… Stealers Wheel (Gerry Rafferty) were support – one half of the venue was seated the other standing… I used to go to the Wed (?) night disco there too and remember the fluorescent lights that made your teeth look fantastic – you could also see girls white underwear. I also remember we sat around on toadstools (I joke not) and the DJ was situated overlooking the dance floor and you had stairs up to his booth…..I also remember the beer was shit and expensive !!”

deputysherrif says:
“Half of the week it was the Hardrock and then with a flick of a switch, half of the floor rotated and it was a disco!
…What was incredible about the Hardrock was the free Sunday night gigs – six or seven up and coming bands who to be honest nobody had ever heard of. …I do remember… a band called Thin Lizzy. They opened with a traditional Irish song called Whiskey in the Jar – wonder what happened to them?
The most memorable thing about the Hardrock was how low the ceiling was for such a large venue, which channeled the sound towards those stood at the slightly higher part right at the back.”

Remembering 10CC’s concert in October ’73 Frandaman says:
“The description of the Hardrock as a “concert theatre” is a bit rich! I can remember it when it was a bowling alley.
That long low room led to problems when there was a good crowd in. When the Faces played there a year or so after this their drummer, Kenny Jones, passed out from the heat and had to be taken to hospital.
No such problems at this gig. The audience consisted of a load of “heads” who had probably picked up on the band from John Peel standing at the back…”

Redmist thinks The Hardrock closed some time after July 1975.

Bill Mather was inspired to research the history of the venue following Morrissey’s comments about the cancellation of a New York Dolls gig there having been a crushing blow.

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Morrissey lived round the corner from the venue when he was growing up on Kings Road and its proximity must have been a formative influence upon him. He wasn’t exactly languishing in a suburban wasteland, as I had previously imagined… he was in fact sitting on top of a regional hub of pop/rock activity.

What’s weirdest of all about The Hardrock/B&Q phenomena is how short the communal memory is. What was once common knowledge has become a quirky fact, all but forgotten by most people around here. And it’s not like it was very long ago!

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Now when I’m shopping for emulsion I can entertain myself with visions of Ziggy cavorting amongst the plumbing supplies and garden features, like a brightly coloured faun.

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Postscript January 2016

On 11 Jan 2016, at 10:30, Matt wrote:

Hi there,

I’m a journalist with ITV Granada and we’d be really interested in talking with you and your contributors about when Ziggy played B&Q.
Do you think you can help us?

Thanks, Matt

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On 11 Jan 2016, at 21:00, Urs wrote:

hi matt
sorry i’m too late – most of the quotes were from mdma archive – online mcr music archive. i’m not a bowie fan so it would have been a travesty to use me as a contributor anyway.

i was just thinking how darkly ironic it is that b&q stretford and david bowie should both close down in the same week/month (- not sure exactly when the shop shuts for good but its any day now.)

Best wishes, urs

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On 11 Jan at 9:53 PM, Matt wrote:

Hi Urs,

Thanks for getting back to me. We hunted down Andy Peebles and dug back into our Manchester archive, in the end.

There is a finality in both the death of David Bowie and the closing down sale at B&Q. But I could always go to A&M on Seymore Grove for my DIY needs.

Kindest regards, Matt

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3 Comments

  1. Bill Mather

    Hey ! its Bill Mather here :) fancy meeting up for a chat sometime ?
    I’ve been researching The Hardrock now for nearly ten years
    its a labour of love and my book will get finished in the end
    cheers Bill

    • Hi Bill! Sorry I’ve not replied til now… I’m not on here every day! Yes it would be great to meet you – i didn’t realise you’d been researching for so long. If you email me on urs@mancky.co.uk we can sort something out x

  2. Tony Holmes

    I was lucky enough to work there when it opened, quite a big deal for a kid of 16 – plus I got paid :-) I don’t live in the UK now but I drove past it last year when I was over and it’s not even open as a B&Q any longer, it was quite sad to see it looking so tatty.

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