Manchester is revered as a breeding ground for punk in the 1970’s. The working class town was ready to explode with youth feeling disenfranchised. Punk music became the anthem for the dark period. For all that it paved a road. The Sex Pistol’s show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall became part of the mythology.
Then it was down a flight of rickety stairs and into a dingy basement which was decorated like a country and western honky-tonk, complete with cow horns, oil lamps and saddles for bar seats. Probably the most incongruous aspect of the decor was an illuminated sign perched on the bar saying “Hot Pies.”
“It was a peculiarity of late license laws in Manchester at the time that food had to be available until the premises closed,” says Taylor. “When the police raided, one of the first things they would check was that there was food available, because if you didn’t have it they would shut down the club and kick everyone into the street immediately.”
The music played at the Ranch was a strange mixture. Because only a few punk records had been released at the time, most of the tunes the DJ played were standard fare from Bowie, Roxy and Lou Reed, interspersed with oddities such as the Andrew Sisters’ 1945 calypso hit “Rum and Coca-Cola” which usually packed the tiny dance floor. The night always ended with “What A Way To End It All” by the whimsical art-school band Deaf School who were from nearby Liverpool.
At first, the place catered mainly to Bowie and Roxy fans. As more and more of them grew bored with the glam look and started to sport leather jackets adorned with safety pins and razor blades, it turned into an exclusive social club for the Manchester punk set. On a typical night, you’d find scattered about the room musicians from all the major bands that formed in the wake of the Sex Pistols’ Lesser Free Trade Hall gigs, preeminent among them Buzzcocks, the Fall and Joy Division prototype, Warsaw.
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