Gun Club “Live At The Hacienda ‘83” (2022 Record Store Day LP)

The recent spate of Record Store Day vinyl LP releases from The Gun Club continues on RSD 2022, with the first appearance on vinyl (or any audio medium) of Live At The Hacienda ’83. This concert by the long-defunct American punk band – led by the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce – at the Manchester venue was first documented on a 1994 VHS release called Live At The Hacienda (Visionary Communications JE248), and later on a U.K.-only DVD called Live At The Haçienda 1983/84 (Cherry Red CRDVD122) in 2006. This exclusive RSD LP edition of the concert is limited to 2,000 copies, and is pressed in clear-and-black split-color vinyl.

This concert took place on April 20, 1983, years before the Haçienda club acquired some notoriety as an ecstasy den. The lineup consisted of Pierce (vocals), Jim Duckworth (guitar), Patricia Morrison (bass), and Dee Pop (drums). This LP should not be confused with the 2010 digital-only album Live At The Hacienda, 1984, which was recorded 18 months later at the same venue, but with a different lineup.

The Gun Club’s brand of punk rock was a deranged variation on Southern blues and rockabilly; in modern terms, it would be labeled as “psychobilly” or “cowpunk”. Pierce may well have been the inventor of that subgenre -- or should we say, those subgenres? This concert captures an ‘80’s moment from the punkabilly pioneer very well, and the show generally gets better as it goes along. The opening song “Strange Fruit” seems a bit too lazy and primitive, getting the set off to a weak start. But the band starts to find its footing with “Fire Of Love”, the title song from the Gun Club's 1981 debut album. Then they really catch their stride with their very un-Fogerty-like rendition of Creedence’s “Run Through The Jungle”, which pairs wild high-speed guitar and drums with Pierce’s loony howling and moaning. This mixture sets the tone for the rest of the show, with the remaining eleven selections showing varying degrees of control and intensity. “Cool Drink Of Water Blues” and “Death Party” deliver the most hallucinogenic doses of intensity, while “Fire Spirit” and “Heebee Geebees” excel at raw force. By contrast, “The Lie” and “Texas Serenade” sound more controlled.

Considering the quality of the available video, the sound quality of the Record Store Day LP will probably be better than that of other recent RSD Gun Club live albums. But still, I don't see a reason to merely listen to this concert when you can watch it. You may as well go the whole nine yards and experience the up-close visual document, and witness the atmosphere of the long-defunct England venue, the oddball stage presence of Pierce and Morrison, Pierce’s interaction with the crowd of mid-‘80’s new-wavers (who appear less barbaric than early punk-club crowds usually did), and the brief close-up of Duckworth’s fingers playing the high-speed guitar during the truly chaotic “Disco Inferno Mix” at the end. Can the LP evoke these things without the visuals? Perhaps, but its hard to imagine it doing so completely. My advice is to go with the video medium.

Gun Club “Live At The Hacienda ‘83” (LMLR) 2022

Track Listing:

1. Strange Fruit
2. Fire Of Love
3. Run Through The Jungle
4. John Hardy
5. The Lie
6. Black Train
7. Sex Beat
8. Cool Drink Of Water Blues
9. Fire Spirit
10. Death Party
11. Goodbye Johnny
12. Texas Serenade
13. Heebee Geebees
14. Disco Inferno Mix