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Seminal Septuagenarians celebrated

Manchester music legends feted at the Town Hall

Published on June 9th 2010.


Seminal Septuagenarians celebrated

Ask most people to name the most influential figure in the Manchester music scene over the years and they will, inevitably, name Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, the Hacienda and the In the City convention. However, largely unknown outside the music business, there is another Manchester character whose influence touched all three of those institutions and also spanned some six decades of Manchester music.

In an impromptu speech, Tosh Ryan expressed his pleasure at seeing so many old friends “out of rehab and not wearing their tags”, while Bruce recollected their childhood together which apparently included Tosh’s gang stealing his comics and tying him to a tree.

Bruce Mitchell started his musical career playing drums in trad jazz outfits during the 60s . In the 70s he played in Manchester bands Greasy Bear and Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias . In 1981 he joined Vinnie Riley’s band, Durutti Column and continues to both manage and play with them to this day.

Back in 1974 Bruce also started the Manchester Light & Stage Company. If you’re at a gig in Manchester, it’s usually a pretty good bet that the lighting and stage will be courtesy of Bruce. Those legendary Hacienda Acid House nights were lit by Manchester Light & Stage and the In the City annual music business conference relies on Bruce for all its staging.

Tosh

Bruce has been the ‘glue’ that has held together countless Manchester musical events - he even organised the late, great Tony Wilson’s funeral.

When Bruce was growing up in Wythenshawe he became friends with another boy who would also become one of Manchester music’s largely unsung heroes – Tosh Ryan. Tosh became a sax player, gigging with Bruce in various bands and working alongside him in 1970’s musicians’ collective, Music Force.

Bruce

Tosh pioneered fly posting to promote records and gigs and used the proceeds to form Rabid Records. Rabid was very much the prototype for Factory Records with many of its releases being produced by soon-to-be Joy Division producer, Martin Hannett. Tony Wilson spent several days shadowing the Rabid Records team picking up tips on how to run a label before launching Factory.

Rabid’s biggest hit was the Jilted John single ‘Jilted John’, they also released records by Slaughter & the Dogs, John Cooper-Clarke and the Freshies.

6 June saw Bruce’s 70th. birthday following on from Tosh’s a few weeks previously. Several people in the Manchester music business felt that there should be a celebration of the lives of these two massively influential characters so, in the rather unlikely surroundings of Manchester Town Hall, the ageing Manchester music mafia gathered to witness the Lord Mayor of Manchester present a lifetime Achievement award to Bruce Mitchell.

In an impromptu speech, Tosh Ryan expressed his pleasure at seeing so many old friends “out of rehab and not wearing their tags”, while Bruce recollected their childhood together which apparently included Tosh’s gang stealing his comics and tying him to a tree.

Naturally the evening ended with some live performances including the Durutti Column with Bruce on drums, his playing as vital as ever showing why, whenever musicians debate that hoary question “who’s the best drummer in Manchester?”, the answer is still “Brucie Mitchell”.

As the evening drew to a close another Manchester legend, took to the stage, Victor Brox, the old white bluesman whose Blues Train included both Bruce and Tosh at various times.

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Richard HJJune 9th 2010.

I shall be spinning the 'Snuff Rock' ep this evening in his honour. 'Snuffin in a Babylon' taught Bob Marley pretty much everything he knew...

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