Music: Together, forever: the gestation of Acid House anthem ‘Hardcore Uproar’

 

Thirty years ago, in the middle of 1989, a memorable tune was made by Together. Two two young Englishmen yearned to hear their record titled Hardcore Uproar one night at Manchester’s Haçienda nightclub in the midst of the wonderful cacophony of mainly European and American dance music delivered each week on its dance floor.

Fast-forward a year and their wish came true as their creation was taken up headlining DJs and disparate dancers all over the UK, becoming a mainstay in sets at warehouse parties and now a vivid reminder of times gone by.

Its moody, noodling with intent piano riff was in sync with the poppy Starlight‘s Numero Uno and the Loleatta Holloway-rip-off which was Black Box‘s Ride On Time whilst simultaneously sharing something of the vision of more elegantly deranged Strings Of Life by Derrick May and Michael James.

Before George Lucas started to get high on his own supply and long before the eerie minimalism of John Carpenter propelled him from B-movie to festival headliner slots, Together‘s anthem for dancing youths cannibalised seminal parts of the scores for those directors’ Star Wars and Assault on Precinct 13 films, resulting in an electrifying hybrid.

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At a time when clubbers willingly ate up the alien acidic tangs escaping from skilfully-abused TB-303 bass synthesisers, this record featured the vocal noises of what was once described as the ‘human sampler’ – the work of an energetic and mesmerised British Asian called Suddi Raval who has retained his love of acid house music and culture to this day.

After the death of his band partner, Jonathan Donaghy, in 1991, Suddi went on to make music under his own name and recently performed at the ‘Shiiine On’ weekender in the south-west of England.

His hugely enjoyable conversation with #mellow on the gestation and creation of Hardcore Uproar, taking dobbers to clubs, bidding wars and cheap bus fares to Manchester has been edited only for clarity and length.

[30.11.19: Article updated to include further details on the Angels nightclub].

Describing himself as a happy child, it was clear Suddi considers himself fortunate to have partied in legendary clubs and warehouse parties in the North-west. It all happened a long time ago but his experiences have never really dissipated.

‘I was born in Manchester but my parents moved to Ashton-under-Lyne. I moved to London earlier this year but have been in Manchester all my life. I grew up in Ashton, went to school there, that’s where my childhood was.

I discovered house music through buying compilations and listening to the radio, mainly Stu Allen on Piccadilly 103. He used to have an acid house show. He had this deep voice and he said ‘this is the sound of acid house music’ and that’s where the line at the start of Hardcore Uproar come from. I didn’t get into it through clubs. There were a couple of friends who were into it but they didn’t seem to be as obsessed. They were almost amused by how obsessed I was, that this music was the most incredible thing I’d ever heard.

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There was a guy called Kelvin walking down the street in Ashton who recognised me as someone into house music. He started chatting to me, asking what clubs I went to, and was really surprised to find I didn’t go to clubs… only the shit ones in Ashton and Oldham where I had to wear shoes and a tie to get in.’

The almost-overnight transformation of clubs was witnessed by both interviewer and interviewee – and was welcome with regard to the focus on music and a reduction in violence. During this period smaller, lesser-known DJs and venues briefly became the place to go together with the more established venues.

‘I’d heard of the Haç [Haçienda] but it seemed like somewhere far away, somewhere I’d read about in I-D and The Face. This guy, Kelvin, said there are these parties in Blackburn and a club near Charnock Richard called Park Hall and they’re incredible and you’ve really got to come. We exchanged numbers and I went to Park Hall later that week on the Thursday.

A guy called Phil Meredith was DJing. He was the resident and he played all the right tunes though some of it was commercial like Pump Up the Jam. On the Friday I went to the Haçienda and it was Mike Pickering. It may have been with Graeme Park as well. On the Saturday I went to Blackburn so it would have been the residents like John Jepson and Shack.

I couldn’t believe there were thousand of people into what I liked. It’s a bit of a cliche now but there was such a sense of unity in the acid house scene. Weirdly, I was young and naive, I never considered any dangers or any places not being safe. I was always just dead excited at being around people who were as into it as I was. I constantly met new friends all the time.

I always felt fairly safe to be honest… apart from – like a nutter – I used to go to the Thunderdome [in Miles Platting, a Manchester suburb] with my Ashton mates. It was the roughest place I’ve ever seen in my life but, there were very few acid house clubs at that time, and the Haçienda wasn’t always that easy to get into. Thunderdome? They did not care… who you were, they didn’t even care how old you were! You didn’t even need fake ID, they let anybody in. They had some all-nighters which was very unusual… I’m sure they didn’t have licences for it.’

The Eighties in Northern England is still remembered for dole queues, a lack of jobs and Thatcherite Youth Training Schemes, which used young adults as cheap temporary labour, and Suddi was not a rich man towards the end of that decade.

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Sett End pub in Blackburn (photo courtesy of the Lost Pub Project)

‘There were times when I only just had enough money to get from Ashton to Manchester, 12p to get back home with a student pass. The ‘Void’ nights at the Haçienda were £1.50 to get in! I might have had enough money to get a drink if we went to a bar or pub like the Sett End [Blackburn pub]. We used to jib the train when we got to Manchester, hide from the conductor. Sometimes I’d walk back from the Haç… seven miles back to Ashton. But I didn’t give a shit as I’d just had what felt like the best night of my life, and it was happening a few times a week.’

Capitalising on the large number of accessible and abandoned mills throughout post industrial towns like Blackburn and Nelson, free parties were thrown after clubs had finished in order to prolong the euphoria. Though short-lived as a phenomenon, these events still inspire those who attended them.

Ewood Mill
Ewood Mill (courtesy of Cottontown)

‘I met Jonathan at the Blackburn raves – I think it was the one at Ewood Mill. It feels like there were hundreds of raves but in reality it didn’t last for that long a period, probably less than a year.

Way before I got into dance music I used to make stupid noises with my mouth – it’s just something I did to entertain people. The acid house era, everyone was really excited and taking all kinds of drugs…. and if you’ve got someone coming up to you and making noises with his mouth that you can’t quite fathom how he’s done it…. it was a playground for me, one big arena of fun.

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I used to take props to clubs. I made these eyes out of a dobber, a big marble. I’d sellotape a dobber onto a lollipop stick and cover it with a white carrier bag which I’d draw an eye on. And I sort of had this eye I could pull out of me pocket. There was nothing fancy about any of this, it’s pretty primitive but if you go up to people who are off their heads… I used to put the eye on my eye socket and pretend to pull it out so people would go ‘What… the fuck…. is that!’ It must have taken me a while to make these things… I’d take flashing torches… it’s really common now to see club merchandise now.

So I went up to Jonathan and clearly entertained the fuck out of him. He took a shine to me. He was already involved into the music industry as he’d made a record – I don’t remember what the name of it was but it sampled the guitar from The Doors. It was almost rare groove, not a house tune. He had a rehearsal studio, Greenhouse Studios, that all the Manchester bands used and he drove his mum’s flash Mercedes, so I felt like I’d met this rich person who seemed like a rock star.

Bizarrely, he asked me if he could manage me and I didn’t understand what that meant. I can’t quite explain why he saw something in me, God knows! He took me to the services [motorway service stations] after I said was starving, hoping he’d buy me some food! Going to the services was to me a really big deal as it was something we only did two or three times a year because we were going on a big holiday to somewhere like Blackpool. So him buying me a meal at a services was like the big league!

It was quite a surreal first meeting. This was the middle of 1989. I’d already had ideas about making music. A friend of mine knew Humanoid [possibly Brian Dougans] and we’d talked about going into a studio but it was hundreds of pounds. I remember thinking Humanoid had quickly gone from having an idea to being in the charts. I had lots of musical ideas but a record required contacts and lots of money and I had neither. I never though it would happen… it was almost like a pipe-dream that I wasn’t sad about – I’ve always been unusually happy! But Jonathan said ‘I’m going to put you in the studio’. I sang my ideas to him and he told me what they meant in a musical sense, so I went off on my own and learnt more about the process.’

It’s easily forgotten that the turn of the decade saw an enlightened approach to genre selection in venues which meant that every week DJs seemed to unearth and unleash a new ‘classic’ on unsuspecting dancers. Henceforth attendance at certain clubs and parties was almost mandatory…

‘We were in the studio for one night, Spirit, did like twelve hours. I remember being really upset we had to miss [a Blackburn warehouse party] because Jonathan had got us a cheap night session. At the end of it we had a cassette demo of Hardcore Uproar. We were listening back to it and were convinced we had something that could be quite big. We went back the week after and properly recorded it and polished it in one night again. Pacific State [by 808 State] was done in the same studio and I think some Stone Roses stuff was done there as well.

When Jonathan submitted the cassette to the demos chart in the Manchester Evening News, we didn’t have a band name so he thought it would be hilarious to call us the ‘Jam Factory’ as I’d started working at the Robinsons jam factory in Ashton when I was at college because it gave me a little bit of money. I went ape as I didn’t want anyone to know I worked there.

Jonathan said we’d release it as a white label – I’d never even heard of that term before – and we’ll set up a recording company called Greenhouse Records. That’s why GH001 is scratched into the middle of the records (the run-off grooves). We pressed up a thousand white labels and 25 test pressings. We typed up a press release with a bit of text, ‘This is the new single…’. There wasn’t a photograph. That was all the press we did.

 

We made a list of the most important DJs – Sasha, Mike Pickering, Graeme Park, Paul Oakenfold – he was touring at the time and was at Park Hall on the Wednesday night – and we thought we’ll just go up to them and ask them will they play it. The shipment arrived on a Thursday. Sasha was one the first people to play it; he said he’d played it the previous night in Leeds – it might have been the Warehouse – and the place went mental.

The day after we went to the Haçienda. We met Jon DaSilva who wanted to hear the tune. He was the first person to say to me, so confidently, that we had a club hit on our hands. He didn’t say a pop hit… that was just impossible [it ultimately reached No.12 in the UK pop charts]. What he said made me tingle a bit! That Friday Nathan McGough [former manager of Happy Mondays who now manages White Lies] took us to the DJ box and introduced us to Mike Pickering who we asked to give our record a listen.

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We went back on the dance-floor and almost forgot about it. Then we heard it being mixed in and it was really weird. The intro is meant to get the crowd up into a frenzy and it had the desired effect and we watched it happen for the first time in the Haç, in our favourite club in the world! All of the things in the arrangement which we hoped would make people put their hands in the air and start screaming worked, but we didn’t spot that the piano would be the bit that people would go really mental. We thought the bit where the drums dropped out would be where people would cheer!

Actually, we had a fall-out with the engineers at Spirit Studios as they wanted the drums to continue: ‘You can’t let the drums drop out, the tune’s only just started, you’re going to ruin what sounds like a good record…’ We were young so it was ‘It’s our tune – you can’t do that!’

A couple of weeks later and it was Spike Island [the Stone Roses gig near Widnes in Cheshire] and Paul Oakenfold happened to be playing it to 30,000 people. Because of the Star Wars intro, people remembered it, so night after night, the buzz about it just got bigger and bigger. Jonathan’s telephone number was on [the tests] and people started to offer us money. Jon was pretty clued up and said to just wait and see where it goes. He realised if we started to sell the white labels, it would affect the demand so just a few people got one so that the word was out on it. We just held on to the boxes so people would be begging for it and the buzz would grow. It was really savvy… I was just thinking let’s sell as many as we can!’

Pre-streaming, record companies signed bands on the basis of albums and not singles; longevity mattered and new music was treated with suspicion.

‘Jon knew ffrr‘s talent scout, a guy called John Slater. He took it to one of their A&R meetings, this was when it was on cassette. Their response was they liked it but they would never sign a band on one single, so they refused it. The tune then went ballistic and they came back to us and asked what we’d like to sign with them. I’m not sure how much of this I should broadcast but we didn’t want to sign with ffrr, with London Records. That wasn’t our intention as we wanted to sign to deConstruction [RCA-linked independent label which released the strangely similar sounds of Jam Machine‘s Everyday in 1989].

ffrr logo

Mike Pickering was a big part of making [Hardcore Uproar] as big as it was. He knew how much the Haçienda meant to me so he said if we didn’t sign to deCon, he was never going to let us in there again! It’s funny now but to me at that time it scared the hell out of me… it was really unfair! I basically grassed him up to Tony Wilson [Factory records supremo], who we’d got to know a little bit. He told us to ignore him, that he was only winding us up. It was ironic as we wanted to sign with deCon but he didn’t know that! I saw the owners of the label at an event later and they were pissed off as they felt like we’d played them against ffrr to get as much money as possible and that just wasn’t the case.

Something very strange happened… our lawyer effectively forced us to sign with ffrr. Obviously it was a good label, a reputable label, and everything went well, but when we went to London to sign with deCon it turned out we were going to ffrr. He said ‘I’m your lawyer, they’re a better label, that’s what you’re going to do’ and he just sort of talked over us. What was suspicious to me and Jonathan was that the lawyer and Pete Tong [ffrr founder] seemed to shake hands like the deal had been done and we thought that they seemed to know each other….eh, what’s going on here?

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Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout

Jonathan and Adrian, our manager who was Jonathan’s cousin, used to be so amused when we went to London as I’d be jumping up and down like Zebedee. It was so exciting going to London but you’d think I was in New York!’

Newly signed and with the tune finally ready for a mass release, the duo were eager to promote their banger.

‘Our first PA was in Burnley at Angels [where #mellow first danced as a young man. Paul Taylor was the resident DJ and Marcus Intalex was in charge of the lights at that time].

Angels
The writer’s membership card.

We did loads of them, supporting 808 State and playing with K-Klass and Sasha and Derrick May – it was quite incredible, yeah. Just this weekend I supported Inner City so I met Kevin Saunderson for the first time – he was really nice. I don’t do them all that often but if it’s a big gig, it’s basically a great laugh – it’s a party that I get paid for. I’m making new music – I’ve got a new album out next week – and I am more interested in what I’m doing now. The old school scene is fantastic but I want to concentrate on new music.’

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Suddi Raval today (Photo courtesy of the Big Issue North)

My final question to Suddi touched back on where we started, his Mancunian roots and whether Together saw themselves as a Manchester act.

‘Yeah, we did. We saw ourselves as a British dance act but we were dead proud of the scene in Manchester and our connection with it. I was a huge fan of the Stone Roses. The Shiiine On gig we did recently… I think the reason we get bookings like that is because we’re so connected with that Madchester era. The number of people who came up to me that night and said we’d made their favourite ever dance tune, shaking my hand… it’s really nice. I’ll never complain about that. Yeah, indie kids seemed to have a soft spot for us…’

Suddi said at one point that ‘I just wanted to hear it in the Haç and if that’s all that had happened, I’d be happy now!’ and it sweetly encapsulates how one tune, one club and a phase in time led to so many good memories for him and us all.

Visit suddiraval.com for news on his new music and follow @suddiraval on Twitter.

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