Popscene – baggy
By Steve O'Brien | January 10, 2023
We travel back to 1990 and the moment when dance met indie…
What is it?
Before baggy, indie and dance were mutually exclusive genres. In the late 80s, few that were shuffling their feet to The Smiths were also sweating it out at the Haçienda to Marshall Jefferson imports.
But ecstasy culture smashed down those barriers. Indie melted into dance and dance was absorbed into indie.
For a band like the Happy Mondays, who’d grown up listening to traditional rock and pop outfits, discovering those coloured pills wasn’t going to suddenly turn them into 808 State.
Instead, they incorporated those blissed-out Balearic rhythms with their own love of Bowie and T-Rex.
Getting one of the titans of acid house, Paul Oakenfold, to remix Wrote For Luck and Hallelujah, helped the Mondays become a bona fide club band.
Similarly, Primal Scream, whose first two records rode the C86 jangle-pop bandwagon, were reborn as indie-dance darlings – with the help of producer Andrew Weatherall – on masterpiece third studio album Screamadelica.
Like glam, the name ‘baggy’ was derived from the clothes that came with the music. The flares revival may have started in Liverpool but Manchester took it to the next level.
Clothes market Afflecks Palace in the city’s Northern Quarter became as essential to the baggy scene as Malcolm McClaren’s Sex was to punk.
Alas, baggy wasn’t built to last. E made way for cocaine, which, in some cases, opened the door to heroin. The Haçienda, which had once been a mecca for swivel-eyed indie kids, had become a gangster’s paradise.
The Happy Mondays imploded, The Stone Roses (who’d finally joined the baggy train with Fools Gold) disappeared and Primal Scream’s next move was to become The Rolling Stones.
If its influence was felt, it wasn’t in the indie bands that came after (Britpop was almost stubbornly trad), but in DJ-led acts such as The Chemical Brothers, Death In Vegas and Basement Jaxx, all of whom sampled rock and pop tracks and brought them to the dancefloor.
Bocca Juniors – Raise (63 Steps To Heaven)
The Stone Roses – Fools Good
Happy Mondays – Hallelujah
Blur – There’s No Other Way
Flowered Up – Weekender
Happy Mondays – Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches (1990)
After creating the template for the baggy sound via sophomore LP Bummed, the Mondays solidified it on their era-defining follow-up, with the help of DJ/producers Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osbourne. A hedonistic, blissed-out classic, it was the NME’s Album Of The Year in 1990.
The Charlatans – Some Friendly (1990)
Cruelly dismissed at the time as starry-eyed Stone Roses copyists, The Charlatans have proved their worth and are still going strong 30-plus years after forming. It was the late Rob Collins’ Hammond organ that really distinguished the band on this debut album, the singles of which (The Only One I Know, Then) were staples of every indie disco in the summer of 1990.
Northside – Chicken Rhythms (1991)
Great things were expected of Northside in 1991. Signed to Factory, their first and only album was produced by The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie, while the band had toured as Happy Mondays’ support act. Despite this pedigree and the fact that it was, in some ways, the ultimate baggy record, Chicken Rhythms only made No.19 in the UK. The band recorded a second album, but Factory’s bankruptcy in 1992 meant it was never released, and they split shortly afterwards.
What can we say about one of the defining bands of the late 80s and early 90s? Forever bracketed with The Stone Roses, in actuality the bands had little in common musically. Always more diverse in their inspirations, Shaun Ryder once described the Mondays’ sound as “Funkadelic being eaten by a giant sandwich… Northern Soul… punk rock… Hendrix… fuckin’ Captain Beefheart, and a load of drugs on top of that.”
Formed in Camden in 1989, Flowered Up released just one album in their all-too-brief lifetime. A Life With Brian arrived in August 1991 on London Records and made No.23 in the UK charts. The next year, however, they released their signature song, Top 20 hit Weekender, a surly ode to the pleasures of 48-hour partying. Sadly, brothers Liam (singer) and Joe (guitar) Maher both later died of heroin overdoses.
Little remembered now, Bocca Juniors was a band formed by DJ/producers Andrew Weatherall, Pete Heller, Terry Farley and Hugo Nicolson. They only released two 7”s, Raise (63 Steps To Heaven) (1990) and Substance the following year, both featuring lead vocals from Anna Haigh and intended, in the group’s own words, as “Balearic anthems”.
The Soup Dragons
Named after a character in cult children’s show The Clangers, The Soup Dragons started off as a Buzzcocks-like punk-pop outfit before embracing indie-dance on second LP This Is Our Art in 1988. Third album Lovegod in 1990 continued that sonic journey, while giving them their most successful single in the dance-fried Stones cover I’m Free. Two more albums followed in ‘92 and ‘94 before the band split. Lead singer Sean Dickson is now a successful DJ, performing under the moniker HiFi Sean.
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Steve O'BrienSteve O’Brien is a writer who specialises in music, film and TV. He has written for magazines and websites such as SFX, The Guardian, Radio Times, Esquire, The New Statesman, Digital Spy, Empire, Yours Retro, The New Statesman and MusicRadar. He’s written books about Doctor Who and Buffy The Vampire Slayer and has even featured on a BBC4 documentary about Bergerac. Apart from his work on Classic Pop, he also edits CP’s sister magazine, Vintage Rock Presents.