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Mike Knowler

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The State


All you ever wanted to know about the State, but were afraid to ask!

The State Ballroom is situated on Liverpool’s Dale Street. Originally a Ballroom where ‘Tea Dances’ where held in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the State is architecturally unique, and is a Grade Two listed building. I believe that the State actually opened in the late 1920’s and I would consider the design to be Art Nouveau rather than Art Deco. The State fell into disuse in the late 1970’s having previously been used by the Littlewoods Organisation as their Social Club.
Littlewoods then used it simply as a store house.

Mike tells me that the State opened as Liverpool’s first Laser Disco sometime in 1982. The original music policy was White Alternative Dance (Kraftwerk, Heaven 17, New Order, DAF, ABC, King Trigger, A Certain Ratio, et al) and the resident DJs where Frank Cookson and Steve Proctor. This was unique for Liverpool at that time, because most other clubs were either playing Soul or chart music. Mike believes that the music policy was there so as to attract a particular type of crowd, and to avoid the crowd from Kirklands, who were mostly Black, simply leaving Kirklands (Hardman Street Liverpool) and moving onto The State. The two venues were owned by the same company, and the Director’s must have been aware that when The State opened they could end up emptying Kirklands as a result.

Steve Proctor played on Thursday, and Frank Cookson took charge on Fridays and Saturdays. At that time, the State was Liverpool’ most trendy night club, and Mike used to attend regularly on a Thursday evening, to be amazed by the laser light show and intrigued by Steve Proctor’s ability to beat mix. Mike hadn’t learnt to beat mix at the time, and most of the records he was playing were not suited to mixing anyway. On a Thursday evening local celebrities such as Pete Burns, Jayne Casey, Holly Johnson and Pete Wylie could be seen strutting their stuff at the State. Mike used to go to the State in 1982/1983 with his friend Andy Carroll and dream about the possibility of becoming one of the DJs at the State! At the time Mike was studying for a degree in electrical and electronics engineering at the University of Liverpool. Little did he know that in September 1984 his dream would come true?

On graduation from Liverpool University, in the summer of 1984 (the summer of Liverpool’s Garden Festival), Mike was offered the residency at the then newly opened Cavern Club in Liverpool’s Mathew Street. This was an exact replica of the original 1960’s club of the same name, and Mike was doing lunchtime sessions, six days per week, with local new music bands, just as Bob Whoola had done in the early sixties! And the presence of so many tourists in Liverpool, that summer in 1984, for the Garden Festival, meant that these lunchtime sessions were a runaway success!
However, at the end of that summer, Frank Cookson, who was then the resident DJ at Liverpool’s the State Ballroom, came to see Mike to ask if he would stand in for him, at the State, while he was away on his honeymoon. That was the first two weeks in September 1984: by October of that year Mike was the State’s resident DJ, playing alongside his old DJ friend Andy Carroll. At that time, the music on offer included Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Simple Minds, U2, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dead or Alive, King Trigger, Echo & the Bunnymen and New Order. Mike and Andy also introduced an element of Hip Hop into their respective sets, featuring the likes of The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim, L L Cool J and Stetsasonic. This would be 1986 to 1988.

The State also put on concerts by live groups; these concerts usually being booked and promoted by Steve Proctor, or some other outside promoter. Particularly note worthy were appearances by Big Audio Dynamite, New Order, Divine, A Certain Ratio and Zigue Zigue Sputnik. The State Ballroom also featured in the film “A Letter to Breznev” with local actress Margie Clarke. Mike wasn’t actually involved with the music played when filming took place in the club. The duties were handled by Andy Carroll because Mike had a day time job. It was a good film and shows The State in an excellent light. Also, Liverpool group Frankie Goes to Hollywood filmed their video for their number one hit record Relax at the State.

Mike Knowler remained at the State until it closed in November 1989, due to Police pressure; the Police believing the club to be overcrowded and out of control. However, eighteen months before that, in the summer of 1988, Mike & Andy met up with another local DJ James Barton (later of Cream fame). This was to be the first Summer of Love and James wanted Mike and Andy to DJ at Liverpool’s first regular Acid House event, on a Monday nights at the State. The night was called Daisy, and was an immediate success! (Mike & Andy had both been turned on to House Music on separate trips to New York’s New Music Seminar in 1986 and 1987 respectively). Mike amusingly assumed the DJ name of mic microdot, and as a direct result of James Barton’s Monday Acid House nights, the State played House Music exclusively until it closed on 11th November 1989. In between the end of the State, and the start of his residency at Quadrant Park, Mike played briefly at the Twilight Zone in Liverpool’s Duke Street. When the State reopened in 1991 Mike was approached about going back there, but he declined, saying that he would rather remain at the Quad. However, in 1993 Mike attended a brilliant live concert at The State given by Detroit’s Inner City. And in 1996 whilst resident at Liverpool’s the Gallery Bar Mike was asked to play a guest spot at the State by the then resident DJ Lee Butler. The State has been closed now for some time, having last been used as a temporary haven for the club Garlands, following a major fire at their venue in Liverpool’s Eberle Street. Rumour has it that the State is soon to reopen as a Casino.




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