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From 1993 through the late 1990s, there was a revolution going on in the UK and at the front of it was Manchester aka Gaychester. Back in the late 1980s, clubs had been shaken up by house music and the nascent rave culture. Factory Records Dry Bar opened in 1989 changed the nature of drinking establishments, blurring the line between clubs and pubs.
While criminal gangs were trying to muscle their way into running the doors and dealers within clubs, some of the venues became open to ran gay or gay-friendly nights. The most famous of this was Flesh at the Hacienda, that was seen to be at a head of a movement called Gaychester.
I was playing garage and house in a wine bar in Birkenhead on a Wednesday and Thursday night. To cater for the local crowd we would drop in Italian import records, a little vintage progressive, early trance and handbag records that foreshadowed the trance sound that Cream later became famous for.
By the time Rupaul’s Supermodel was given a UK release in 1993, it was suddenly perfectly fine to play for a bunch of scallies out on the lash dancing like loons on a school night. I have an abiding memory of playing a Gaychester anthem: the Coming Out Crew’s Free, Gay and Happy to a pogoing club of people who would weren’t exactly known as the most tolerant folk.
Gay culture had become more high profile which eventually manifested itself with the Queer As Folk TV drama and the popularity of Urban Splash-style loft apartments. Urban Splash resurrected Manchester’s industrial revolution buildings as loft living for creative, media and business professionals at the forefront of the Gaychester movement.
There were a couple of road bumps along the way, Flesh Records short business life stuck out for me.
Flesh branched out into setting up a record label that in the end only had a couple of releases. The only one I came across was Roger – Mr Right – a remake of the Eleanore Mills track from the late 1980s. Whilst Graeme Park’s production was fine, the vocals weren’t up to scratch and the record never went anywhere.
It’s neon rainbow sleeve used to jump off the shelves at you when you went to the likes of Penny Lane Records, especially their short-lived branch in Birkenhead precinct.
What I didn’t realise until recently was that Flesh had been run by a PR agency called A Bit Ginger and that they had put out a comic strip based press release (NSFW) to promote Roger Mr Right.
Graeme Park, Kath McDermott, Matt Ryan, Mike Huxham flyer The Hacienda – 29.05.1994 (Manchester District Music Archive)
‘Gaychester’: Remembering Manchester’s early 1990s gay scene | guardian.co.uk