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As well as football, music has played a big part of the Manchester social scene over the 20thCentury and into the c21st. In recognition of that, we have compiled a musical journey from the 70’s through to the present day, as a celebration of the Manchester (and especially Madchester) sounds. As played throughout the evening at our Premiere event. You can access it here. http://www.deezer.com/playlist/2909796166 – If you don’t have Deezer, you can always sign up for a free trial and give it a good listen! You will find it remarkable how one city (not a capital) has produced so many globally famous bands. I am not talking about a handful, it’s a truck full. This is the era of the Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, The Smiths courtesy of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, Oasis, The Charlatans, The Verve, Factory Records, FAC51, Ecstasy fueled House and the start of many a career for TOP DJs championing the new wave of dance music from Manchester outwards (Take a bow Mike Pickering, Graeme Park, Sasha et al). Some famous bands and names from Manchester may even be a surprise for you, so read on…
From the Prog rock era in the ‘70s, there was Barclay James Harvest, paralleling with the more traditional and global rock sound of another famous Manchester group 10cc. Both featured here. In fact 10cc’s legacy lasts to today. They invested in the state of the art Strawberry Recording Studios in nearby Stockport, providing a professional platform for local bands, without the need to travel to London.
This was closely following by the rising disco movement that had come to the UK from America. The brits were flying that particular flag, back in the US, through the Bee Gees. Yes, they were from Greater Manchester folks! The dance theme was further fuel injected in the 1990’s. House and Acid House, driven by the newest kid on the Drugs block, Ecstasy.
It seems Manchester, and wider in the NW of England, had much in common with the “North” of the US – Northern Soul being pioneered down the road in Wigan (with nights championed at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester) to Chicago beats / funk / sounds and then dance, mixed with post-punk and groundbreaking electronica centred in NYC (quite a mix). All influencing and shaping bands like A Certain Ration, New Order, Happy Mondays and more – In fact, The Danceteria club in New York, one could argue, shaped New Order’s sound into the more dance driven electronic groove following Joy Division’s untimely end. The arrangement was reciprocal of course!
Back to the 70’s…Disco and traditional / prog rock segued into a sound of protest and youth. A youth disillusioned with the way Britain was heading, finding an anti-establishment outlet in Punk. Punk hit Manchester following a famous concert in Free Trade Hall which featured a young band called the Sex Pistols. They were Londoners but Anthony (Tony) Wilson of Manchester’s Factory Records (Then of Granada Reports, a regional TV news and views show) was the first to sign them up (briefly) to a label – thereby making them honorary Mancunians (ta da!). By the way – the venue could only hold about 100 people but apparently closer to 8000 attended, if everyone who says they were there is to be believed!
The punk edge in Manchester was famously led by the Buzzcocks (still going strong) and the Bard of Beesley St. himself, Mr John Cooper Clarke, punk-poet, writer, singer. He is not featured in our compilation as a solo artist but is heard in the song ‘Let You Down’ by the Inspiral Carpets, which is part of the mix. I felt ‘Evidently Chickentown’ was perhaps a step too far for this particular selection. You just have to be a Brit, preferably from the North West and mainly living near Salford.
The 80’s brought in the new romantics, electronic and synth sounds. Those echoes from the US never far away within the soul of Greater Manchester’s Swing Out Sister, Simply Red and – from Buxton – Lloyd Cole (and his Commotions). Buxton isn’t quite Greater Manchester, I know, but its close enough and I like the sound. All are featured here. In the midst of all this, the beginnings of Madchester were stirring…
So, let’s go back to Tony (Anthony) Wilson – the visionary from Manchester who was the only person in the 70s and 80s to feature up-and-coming music on his show on regional telly. This was usually reserved for Londoners only. He introduced a North West hungry for new sounds – having seen the Northern Soul movement peter out – to ‘what could be’. His shows and reports (i.e. of the Sex Pistols concert above) inspired many a band. In parallel others were swept away with the possibilities. None so iconic at that time perhaps as Joy Division, which morphed into New Order on the tragic death of Ian Curtis. Genius and tortured soul. Peter Hook, ex Joy Division and New Order bass player, jokes that the Stereophonics (from Wales) have it easy. Their song ‘have a nice day’ (ironically a rather bitter song) is used for weddings and continues to sell in large numbers; whereas Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’ is only ever used for funerals. He marks that down as a key reason for not selling bucket loads of singles! But that was Joy Division – moving songs largely driven by Ian Curtis, with lyrics far more personal and dark than anyone at the time knew or cared about.
Enter the Hacienda and all that… Watch the film ’24 Hour Party People’ with Steve Coogan who plays Tony Wilson – it will give you a strong sense of place and time. This is the story of Madchester, Factory Records, Clubs, Drugs, Baggy clothes and flared jeans from Manchester Street label Joe Bloggs. It’s fictionalised of course, but gives a great flavour. For something even better, look no further than Peter Hook’s brilliant ‘How Not to Run a Club’ – a story of the disaster or legend (depending how you read it) that was the Hacienda. Obviously legendary! I found myself turning pages, shaking my head and audibly crying out ‘WTF?’ on many occasions. It all added to its legendary status for me. But…WTF??
Preceding the club, Tony Wilson and his mates set up the Factory Record Label first and then the Hacienda (FAC51 in Factory Records vernacular) – co-owned and largely funded by New Order. Read more about Fac here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factory_Records .
Many of the bands from that era are featured on this mix. The less widely championed like The Durutti Column, Delphic, Northside; to better known bands like A Certain Ratio, Mark E. Smith’s The Fall, Inspiral Carpets and The Farm; through to the stadium fillers, New Order, Happy Mondays, Simply Red and James. This was the time of Madchester. A uniquely Mancunian Scene, bringing together the red and blue halves of the city and giving Manchester the iconic identity that still influences it today. Truly a Northern Powerhouse of Soul Music – with a capital S and a capital M.
The story isn’t even half over yet… enter a band that would yet again morph the Manchester scene into an all-conquering movement – driven by catchy hooks, a chugging bass, Joe Bloggs Baggies, Funny hats and a phenomenal beat from the sticks of a Talent called Reni (Alan Wren). Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Stone Roses. This is the band that Oasis wanted to emulate (as well as the Beatles obviously). A band with such a rich history and mythology, it’s hard to remember they have only ever made 2 albums – with the second one still splitting opinion. The first Album is a religion to some (including me) and their recent comeback has been received with packed stadiums (yes stadiums) the world over. A world waiting for an announcement of the third album… This was Madchester, the forerunner to Britpop, inspiring bands far and wide like Pulp, Blur, Oasis and more.
In parallel with this new sound from Manchester, like Disco before it, the new House Music sound was catching fire. FAC51 having Madchester band nights plus a DJ, which over the years completely flipped to be led by, or completely taken over by the DJs themselves. The start of the cult that is a massive part of today’s music scene globally. It found a home and became a thriving scene in Manchester. Interesting to note that the smiley we all know and love on our smartphones was the badge of honour for the house movement. The Emoji movement also started in Manchester – what about that! Sorry world . We feature a fine exponent of the Manchester House brand here, in the form of 808 State. You’re welcome.
Back to Britpop…Oasis eclipsed the success achieved by any Manchester band before it. By the mid-90s they were Britpop and had two era defining albums under their belt. The second, ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory’ is widely viewed as their best ever and is featured in our mix of course. Let’s not talk about their third…
In parallel Richard Ashcroft’s the Verve had a string of powerful hits like Bittersweet Symphony, Sonnet and more, leading to a successful solo career for its frontman, who is acknowledged as one of the finest songwriters to have come out of Manchester. His latest album was released October 2018 – still going strong. Noel Gallagher from Oasis is going from strength to strength with his ‘High Flying Birds’ and his brother, Liam, is still dabbling with Beady Eye and more successfully his own solo career.
In the middle of Britpop, Manchester gave us a more intelligent brand of rock through the band Elbow and their poet-cum-writer-of-the-every-day-struggle, Guy Garvey. Now going solo, he has a show on BBC6 music and busy writing, singing, recording and performing. Featured here a couple of great songs from the band and from Mr G., including the anthemic ‘On a Day Like This’.
Similar, but different, were Doves, another North West (Honorary Mancunians) power group, born out of Sub-Sub and giving us some darkly brilliant tunes, until they disbanded a few years ago. Tunes that crop up in the most unexpected of places. Their hit ‘Kingdom of Rust’ was part of the soundtrack to the Hollywood hit ‘Zombieland’. What about that then! We have a couple of crackers featured in our mix for your listening pleasure.
Even now, the old guard are still magnificent. Take Tim Burgess of the Charlatans, another world-conquering Manchester band. He’s an author (Check out his ‘Tim Book Two’ – a love letter to Vinyl), Tweeter, Festival reveler and organiser, Coffee drinker, Dad, Solo artist and still producing fantastic sounds with the Charlatans.
It wasn’t all about purely guitar driven sounds in the 90s – New Order’s Electronica was still going strong and the Boy Band phenomenon hit the North West in the shape of a group of 5 lads calling themselves Take That. Who knew! They are featured in our mix, as is Robbie Williams. As I write, Take That have just released their new album, recorded by the 3 remaining members of the band. Apparently their writer, main songster and all round Talent, Gary Barlow, is now an official “UK National Treasure” – so there!
As we headed into the Naughties, many of the above bands found their groove, a more global audience and new directions. They have inspired many of the current bands breaking out and enjoying a mass audience. Recent examples like the Courteeners have a huge following and one of the best-selling bands in the UK last year (2016) was The Blossoms. A group of young guys from Stockport (Greater Manchester: Check!) writing catchy guitar pop-rockers, with intelligent lyrics and the looks to go with it. The future is bright. The future is (Greater) Manchester.
Sign up for a trial on Deezer and give this taste of the North West a listen.http://www.deezer.com/playlist/2909796166. It will give you a certain swagger, a certain knowledge, a certain pride and a certain itch to scratch. Enjoy!