If you could journey back to 5 November 1990 and warn all those people buying copies of Happy Mondays’ third album that nightclubs wouldn’t exist in thirty years’ time.
Just picture it.
You’d send their bucket hats tumbling to the ground as they keeled over with laughter.
November ’90 was a time when the age of Madchester was at its zenith. The closure of nightclubs wouldn’t just sound absurd. It would seem impossible.
Back then, it felt like the party was never going to stop.
Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches – released 30 years ago today – is considered to be the definitive soundtrack to the Madchester zeitgeist; a record that bottled the sound of a scene spreading out from within the hazard-coloured walls of the Hacienda.
Over the course of ten hedonistic dance tracks, the Happy Mondays take listeners on a vivid tour of that sodden-shirted, wild-eyed nocturnal world… a place where all the worries of the preceding week were zapped away by ecstasy and strobe lights on a Saturday night.
Three decades down the line, clubbing and gigging have been reduced from weekend adventures to distant memories. Right now, they’re a non-entity – and we don’t know when we’re going to get them back.
So, Pills ‘n’ Thrills’ 30th birthday arrives at the perfect time.
The record is the closest thing we have to a time portal into Madchester. And on a day where the country enters another lockdown, a window into another world has never been more welcome.
At the turn of the 90s, Happy Mondays had come to represent the twisted, giddy faces of the rave movement sweeping the nation.
Fronted by local rascal Shaun Ryder – alongside bassist brother Paul, iconic percussionist Bez, drummer Gary Whelan, guitarist Mark Day, keyboard player Paul Davis, and vocalist Rowetta – the group were an instrumental and noisy cog in the Factory Records music machine.
By November, the band already had two studio releases (including Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) and Bummed) under their belts and had headlined Glastonbury.
The hype for their third studio release, Pills ‘n’ Thrills, was huge; arriving when the entire planet was gawping at a city where everyone seemed to be dancing – even the inmates at Strangeways Prison.
This was the crest of a wave; the peak of the high; the crescendo before the drop… and Pills ‘n’ Thrills captured it perfectly.
By this point, The Mondays were in a mood to push some boundaries, crank the volume and bust out some of their biggest shapes.
They drafted in Paul Oakenfold as a collaborator for the record – after the DJ had added a clean, crisp jangle and thumping bassline to their track ‘Hallelujah’ (remixing it into a more famous and popular version than the original).
Oakenfold’s production helped to steer the Mondays into sparkly electronic territory that made Pills ‘n’ Thrills such a perfect partner for the clubs – coinciding seamlessly with the rise of drug-fuelled euphoria across the region.
It’s been re-released, polished, and expanded in the years since, but the original version of Pills ‘n’ Thrills was made up of just a handful of tracks – all buoyed by delirious piano, joyful guitar, breathy maracas, nasally vocals and the distant sound of chopped-and-screwed classics (John Kongos, Change and LaBelle are all sampled).
Slurring atop of each song are Ryder’s impudent lyrics – which echo the kind of conversation you might find in someone intoxicated to the point where their social filter has fallen away.
His verses are an arresting mixture of bullying boasts (“I’m here to harass you, I want your pills and your grass you”), puppyish enthusiasm for partying (“now that we live together we both get fucked up”), obnoxious jibes (“son, I’m 30, I only went with your mother ’cause she’s dirty”), and unintelligible nonsense (“hey rainmaker, come away from that man”).
43 minutes of kaleidoscopic mayhem, Pills ‘n’ Thrills is packed wall-to-wall with smash hits that still enjoy airplay today – including ‘Kinky Afro’, ‘Step On’, and ‘Loose Fit’. But another reason the record is so beloved is because of what it represents.
For many, Pills ‘n’ Thrills is the sound of when they were young, free and single – with flat stomachs, full heads of hair, hopes and dreams.
But that never lasts. And in hindsight, the record’s abrupt conclusion hinted at the comedown on the horizon.
The closer, ‘Harmony’, brings things to a fitting screeching halt – sound like an authority figure had raided the studio and literally yanked the plug from the socket.
Madchester fell into decline soon after that.
Two years following the release of Pills ‘n’ Thrills, the host of the party, Factory Records, went bust.
The critical and commercial failure of The Mondays’ fourth record, Yes Please! shouldered a large portion of the blame – with the band apparently spending most of the recording process taking drugs instead of making music.
Without its major label and flagship group, Madchester had no vessel for its vibe. Within a few years, the Hacienda was gone, too.
Still, the sound of the city enjoying its biggest ever party in November 1990 will always remain within reach. All you need to do is hit play on Pills ‘n’ Thrills.
When nightclubs and live gigs eventually return, we’ll have a big historic moment and new anniversary to celebrate.
But for now, it’s forgivable to yearn for those Happy-er Mondays.
Gorilla launch season pass competition for you and a mate to enjoy unlimited gigs all year
Beloved Manchester bar and music venue Gorilla has announced an incredible new season pass competition which could see you and a mate win unlimited access to all their gigs in 2023. Insane.
Revealing their new promo on Tuesday, 24 January, Gorilla Manchester has promised to hand out free gig tickets to you and one lucky winner, along with a plus one, for the entire year. Incredible.
Basically, think of it as like an unlimited pass you can get for the cinema, only for live music and about 100 times more valuable as you’ll get to see some of the most exclusive gigs anywhere in the city this year. There’s already one we have in mind…
Announced on their social media channels, Gorilla explained that all you have to do for the very straightforward competition is show them a bit of love on their new TikTok account. Happy days.
@thisisgorilla_ G O R I L L A G I G P A S S 2 0 2 3 ! It's gig season and we are feeling GENEROUS! To win FREE GIGS for the whole year all you need to do is: – Follow us on TikTok: thisisgorilla_ – Repost the competition video – Tag who you would bring along as your +1 We will announce the winner privately, through our official channels (No dodgy bot ones) (Terms and conditions Apply – we will contact the lucky person with all these bits) This season pass includes THAT gig on the 1st Feb… 👀 Good luck! #thisisgorilla#the1975#gorillamanchester#manchester#channeltres#rebeccablack♬ Love Me – The 1975
As explained in the caption of the post, all you have to do to win free gigs for you and a friend for the ENTIRE YEAR is repost the competition video on your own TikTok. Suspiciously simple, we know, but honestly, that really is all there is to it.
The winner will be announced privately through their official channels (no dodgy bot ones, of course) and terms and conditions apply, but as they reassured, you don’t have to worry about any of that for no: “we will contact the lucky person with all these bits”.
Once again, the season pass covers you and a plus one of your choosing for Gorilla’s entire 2023 gig calendar. This includes the likes of Fuzzy Sun, Olivia Dean and Amber Run, Channel Tres, Corella and more of course, that intimate 1975 gig that everyone is scrambling to get tickets for.
We have everything crossed for you. *Races to spam every group chat*.
Kendal Calling 2023 line-up released with headliners including Blossoms, Royal Blood, Kasabian and Nile Rodgers & Chic
Kendal Calling has announced the line-up for its 2023 festival, featuring massive headline performances from the likes of Blossoms, Royal Blood, Kasabian and Nile Rodgers & Chic.
The beautiful festival takes place in the heart of the Lake District each July, at Lowther Deer Park.
More than 100 incredible acts have been announced today ahead of tickets going on sale later this week.
This year, the festival will welcome huge artists including Kaiser Chiefs, The Lathums, Example, Frank Turner, Circa Waves and Happy Mondays, who will open the show on Saturday.
Kendal Calling’s 2023 bill features some of the biggest names in pop history, like Rick Astley, Melanie C, and Natalia Imbruglia, plus dance music heavyweights like Annie Mac, Mike Skinner and DJ Yoda as part of Glow by Kendal Calling.
The festival is famed for providing one of the UK’s biggest line-ups in arguably the most beautiful setting, with something geared towards festival-goers of all ages.
This year’s Kendal Calling will take place between 27 and 30 July 2023, with pre-sale tickets going live on Friday 27 January – you can sign up for pre-sale here.
Kasabian will headline the beloved music event this summer, with frontman Serge Pizzorno performing their big hits like Fire, Club Foot and You’re in Love with a Psycho.
Royal Blood will make their Kendal Calling debut – the Mercury Prize-nominated duo are widely considered one of the best live acts it the world and have previously supported Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys and Iggy Pop.
Local lads Blossoms, originally from Stockport, will be pulling the crowds to the main stage with their brilliant indie back catalogue, including songs Charlemagne and Your Girlfriend.
Nile Rodgers & CHIC will return to the Kendal Calling stage this summer too. Rodgers is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and a multiple Grammy Award winning songwriter, composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist – quite a CV.
The group are behind Le Freak, the biggest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records, as well as working with Madonna, Sister Sledge, Dianna Ross and David Bowie on their biggest songs.
Nile Rodgers said: “The last time we played Kendall Calling was epic and one of my favourite shows ever. We are excited to be back this year for more good times!”
Representing the noughties indie scene will be Kaiser Chiefs, Wigan’s own The Lathums, and Circa Waves.
Pop star Example, famed for his energetic stage presence, is on this year’s line-up, as is the legendary Rick Astley, along with folk-punk favourite Frank Turner.
Beyond the live music scene, one of the biggest podcasts in the UK JaackMaate’s Happy Hour Live will have their first-ever festival booking at Kendal Calling.
You can see the full Kendal Calling 2023 line-up poster below
Kendal Calling’s luxury boutique camping village The Deer Lodge will be back, with free parking, clean enviro loos, hot showers, phone charging and its own food and drink stall.
There’s also The Frontier, with Live-In Vehicle options.
Festival Co-Founders Andy Smith and Ben Robinson said: “After an absolutely stunning festival last year, we cannot wait to get back in those fields!
“With Kasabian, Royal Blood, Blossoms, Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Kaiser Chiefs, Rick Astley, Annie Mac – the line-up is looking absolutely stacked. All we need now is a bit of sun and we’ve got the perfect weekend!”
Kendal Calling 2023 pre-sale will start from 10am on Friday 27 January, with general sale from 10am on Saturday 28 January.