The Night Madonna Played at The Hacienda

THAT Madonna and THAT Hacienda. Bit of a weird combo don't you think?

By Ben Brown | 9 March 2021

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Basically, ever since this happened in 1984, Madonna, the world-famous superstar artist, claimed that she doesn’t actually remember being at The Hacienda in Manchester – but she WAS there and people can prove it.

There’s not just the couple of hundred people there, but also the cameras and crew from Channel 4’s The Tube, who quite happily filmed the whole thing. Quite why she claims to not remember the whole debacle is a mystery. Maybe she was hammered? Maybe she was jetlagged? Or maybe she had such a rotten time that she’d shunned it out of her memory forever?

Before I tell you this really rather interesting story though, I should probably proclaim my rather sour dislike for Madonna; not that I’m questioning her contribution to music (well, pop music) – I just think she started to believe her own hype around the turn of the 90s and never looked back.

Back in the late-80s though, she was unstoppable. With a string of hits and some serious fashions that cemented her as one of the absolute icons of the decade, Madonna was probably the most famous person in the world. Except for Michael Jackson. He was definitely more famous than Madonna – but he never came to Manchester so let’s ignore him for now.

Before she got super-duper famous though, Madonna was just a normal girl growing up in “a little, smelly town in Northern Michigan” (her words not mine), until she moved to New York and got herself a gig as a backing singer for disco legend Patrick Hernandez.

From here it wasn’t long before she was making a name for herself around the city, and she subsequently signed her first record contract and released her first album ‘Madonna’ in 1983.

Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t very well known outside of New York just yet, but the executives at The Tube liked her and arranged for her to jump on a plane and head to a mucky little club in Manchester to sing her latest hit “Holiday” to a baying crowd of ravers.

That “little club” was, of course the soon-to-be legendary Hacienda, which in 1984 was pretty much haemorrhaging money left, right and centre, and acted as a live music venue for the city’s up and comers. A year earlier The Smiths had played here, but it wouldn’t be for another 2 years that it became synonymous with acid house and rave which we know if for today.

So on a Friday afternoon at the end of January in 1984, probably one of the single-most depressing days in the history of time, a blonde American woman rocked up at a crappy club on Whitworth Street to perform on the telly. What must she have been thinking?

Decked out in what would become a signature 80s Madonna look, she was set to perform in front of around 500 Mancunians, who were offered free tickets and mainly wanted to be there either to watch Anthony Wilson’s Factory ‘All Stars’ or to try and get their mug on the telly so that their mum would have something to talk about down the hairdressers on the weekend.

If you’ve never heard of or seen The Tube, head on over to YouTube now and have a look. It was a ‘music magazine’ TV show presented by Jools Holland (someone else who I detest) and was seemingly crafted by a bunch of toddlers. It was chaotic, it was messy, it was a complete shambles – but they managed to secure themselves some enormously impressive musical guests week-in, week-out.

Usually filmed in some clapped out old warehouse in Newcastle, this particular week would be presented from the Hacienda too – with Madonna front and centre.

The whole thing just seems so surreal and odd. Nobody looks like they want to be there, Jools Holland is being his usual weird smug self and Paula Yates seems like she’s just remembered that it’s 1984 and Bob’s going to be in a bad mood when she gets home later.

Almost as an afterthought, Madonna wasn’t even first up – instead viewers were treated to the aforementioned ‘Factory All Stars’ (featuring members from the Durutti Column, Quando Quango and A Certain Ratio), Britain’s first breakdance troupe ‘Broken Glass’ and soul singer Marcel King.

What you’re all wondering is – was Madonna actually any good? Well, David Conner who was there and wrote a piece in The Guardian about it back in 2015 said “she was rubbish”, while Tim de Lisle remarked how “she mesmerised the crowd – you just knew there was a personality there“. So the jury is still out on that one.

I suppose it depends on what you were there for. Most of the audience will not have been expecting an American lady to get up there and mime to two songs whilst dancing and bopping away with a couple of scantily-clad muscle heads. I highly doubt any of them in attendance thought that they were witnessing a future superstar – and I don’t think they were really that bothered.

Madonna didn’t seem too bothered either because she got her coat on and pissed off almost immediately – I’m surprised she wasn’t halfway out of the door before the track began to fade away.

I’m presuming she went straight back to the airport and to New York, but I’d like to think of her heading off to the Spar on Oxford Road for a couple of tins of Stella and a mucky kebab from Monsoons next door.

The show finished with a rather stilted interview with Morrissey and that was it – Madonna’s first ever performance on British TV and her first ever gig outside of New York.

Years later, Tony Wilson met Madonna and told her that she had played at his club; “She gave me an ice-cold stare,” he told the Manchester Evening News, and said; “My memory seems to have wiped that.