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24 September 2014

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You are in: Manchester > People > profiles > The forgotten pioneers

Dislocation Dance and Richard Boon (centre)

Dislocation Dance and Richard Boon

The forgotten pioneers

Think of a Manchester record label and the first name you think of is Factory, but while it is rightly celebrated as one of the greatest independents of all time, its groundbreaking precursor has been almost forgotten.

New Hormones was not only the first DIY record label in Manchester, it was the first in the UK, inspiring a generation of punk and post-punk musicians both to make their own music, and to release it on their own labels too. Thus, indie was born.

Buzzcocks - Spiral Scratch EP

Buzzcocks - Spiral Scratch EP

Founded by Buzzcocks and manager Richard Boon with £600 borrowed from friends and family, New Hormones was set up to enable the band to put out its debut EP, Spiral Scratch. The record, released in January 1977, quickly sold out and went on to launch Pete Shelley and company on the road to punk (anti-) stardom.

Later the same year, the second release on New Hormones was not a record, but a glossy collage fanzine called The Secret Public, put together by music journalist Jon Savage and graphic designer/conceptual artist Linder Sterling.

As well as providing inspiration for 1980s ‘style bibles’ such as i-D magazine, The Secret Public, with its catalogue number ORG 2, may well have inspired Tony Wilson to start giving catalogue numbers to things other than records, a conceit that Factory would take to enormous lengths.

'Better bands than Factory'

New Hormones then lay dormant until 1980, while Buzzcocks – by now signed to major label United Artists - became the kings of punk pop and Factory became the pre-eminent indie in Manchester.

A reformed Biting Tongues in 2007

A reformed Biting Tongues in 2007

As a new decade dawned, Richard Boon decided to revive the label and, over the next three years, released a string of highly individual records by some of the best groups in the city: names such as Dislocation Dance, Diagram Brothers, Ludus (fronted by the aforementioned Linder), Eric Random, Gods Gift and Biting Tongues.

According to former Ludus drummer, Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall, New Hormones "actually had better bands than Factory".

Yet despite releasing some great records, Boon’s label never had the success its singularity deserved. A top 20 hit in the Netherlands for Dislocation Dance with the Housemartins-esque ‘Rosemary’ was as good as it got after Spiral Scratch.

Tipped by Smash Hits as one of the bands to watch in 1983 (alongside Wham!), Dislocation Dance instead faded into obscurity, although trumpeter Andy Diagram later helped James to the top of the charts.

"It was a great adventure: set out with that map and see where you land."

Richard Boon on New Hormones

Meanwhile, ex-Biting Tongue Graham Massey would also achieve pop success in the Madchester era with 808 State.

'Open house to derelicts'

Frequently cash-strapped, New Hormones operated out of a ramshackle office in a former merchants’ warehouse at 50 Newton Street that also housed gig promoters Wise Moves and City Fun fanzine.

This 'open house to derelicts', as Richard Boon describes it, also gave refuge to a post-fame Nico and a pre-fame Morrissey.

The Bard of Whalley Range later approached Boon about releasing a record by his new band, The Smiths, but Boon generously advised the group to go to Rough Trade, which had the marketing and distribution clout that New Hormones lacked.

The New Hormones offices - now a hostel

The New Hormones offices - now a hostel

Following a final single by Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias in late 1982, and with money running out, Boon called time on the label the following spring, moving down to London to work for Rough Trade.

Around the same time, New Order released Blue Monday, starting the second phase of the Factory story.

Twenty-five years later and Factory is everywhere, while New Hormones, despite its important role in Manchester musical history, has been virtually forgotten.

Richard Boon though, says he is "not bitter" about the lack of recognition for his label. As he puts it, "it was a great adventure: set out with that map and see where you land."

last updated: 11/04/2008 at 10:30
created: 06/03/2008

You are in: Manchester > People > profiles > The forgotten pioneers

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