Popular music of Manchester

Popular music of Manchester


The pop groups of the 1960s and early 1970s

Manchester had an impressive music scene before 1976, with groups like The Hollies, The Bee Gees, Herman's Hermits, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, Freddie and the Dreamers in the 1960s and Barclay James Harvest and 10cc in the early 1970s. Top of the Pops was also recorded by the BBC at this time in the city. In 1965, Herman's Hermits outsold the Beatles, selling over 10 million records in seven months.[citation needed] Manchester bands Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and Herman's Hermits topped the American Billboard charts consecutively during mid-April – May 1965. In 1965, all three bands were numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the US Billboard top 100 for one week. Graham Nash of The Hollies moved to California to become part of the rapidly expanding music scene there. With the exception of Graham Gouldman of 10cc and Eric Stewart of The Mindbenders (who built Strawberry Studios in Stockport, the UK's first world class recording studio outside London) there was little reinvestment in Manchester from its local musicians who had been successful.

The Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall and Punk Rock

On 4 June 1976, at the invitation of Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols played at the Lesser Free Trade Hall.[1] In an audience of less than 42 people, several key members of Manchester's future music scene were present: Tony Wilson (Granada TV presenter and creator of Factory Records), Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner (Joy Division and New Order), Morrissey (later to form The Smiths with Johnny Marr), producer Martin Hannett, Mark E Smith of The Fall, Paul Morley later to become an influential music journalist, and Mick Hucknall of Simply Red. Another influential event was the release of Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP in early 1977 – the first independent-label punk record.

In the wake of the Buzzcocks' release, the old movers and shakers from the Manchester music collective Music Force, who included producer Martin Hannett, Tosh Ryan and Lawrence Beadle, formed a local label called Rabid Records and started putting out singles by local acts like Slaughter & The Dogs (Rob Gretton later to manage Joy Division and New Order was their roadie/tour manager – all Wythenshawe lads), John Cooper Clarke and Ed Banger & The Nosebleeds (whose lineup included Vini Reilly) and they licensed "Jilted John" by Jilted John to EMI records. The timing of this record company coincided with Tony Wilson bringing the cream of both American and British punk and New Wave bands to the public on his acclaimed late night Granada Television show So It Goes. This meant that Manchester had televised the Sex Pistols long before they appeared on Thames Television with Bill Grundy (incidentally another Mancunian). Unlike other major cities, Manchester hosted The Sex Pistols Anarchy Tour twice at The Electric Circus; and it was these gigs more than the small Lesser Free Trade Hall gigs which really lit a fire under Manchester's assorted musicians and gave them that do-it-yourself philosophy which defined British punk.

When So It Goes concluded on Granada TV, Tony Wilson wanted to remain involved in the local music scene, so he started an event night at the old Russell Club in Hulme called The Factory along with his friends (soon to be business partners) Alan Erasmus and Alan Wise. Deeply Vale Festivals (1976–1979), just north of Manchester between Rochdale and Bury, was the first free festival in the country to introduce punk bands such as Durutti Column, The Fall and The Drones. The festival was compered by Tony Wilson as a favour to friend and organiser Chris Hewitt. Wilson had been taking a great interest in Rabid Records and its set up. After working on the research for a Granada TV feature about Rabid, he along with Alan Erasmus and Joy Division Manager Rob Gretton (the Ideal for Living EP had been distributed by Rabid) decided they would do their own version of Rabid Records, but instead of churning out singles and then licensing the album deals to major labels (Slaughter & The Dogs' debut appeared on Decca, John Cooper Clarke was licensed to CBS, and Jilted John to EMI), they would concentrate on albums. The first album following the Factory sampler EP (which included Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, and Od) was Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport.

Factory Records and the post-punk period

Taking the Industrial Revolution as its model, Factory Records played upon Manchester's traditions, invoking at once apparently incongruous images of the industrial north and the glamorous pop art world of Andy Warhol. While label mates A Certain Ratio and The Durutti Column each forged their own sound, it was Factory's Joy Division who managed to grimly define what exactly it was to be a Mancunian as the 1970s drew to an end. At the same time, and out of the same post-punk of Joy Division combining rock, pop, and dance music to earn much critical acclaim while selling millions of records. The group that would ultimately become the definitive Manchester group of the 1980s was The Smiths, led by Morrissey and Marr. With songs like "Rusholme Ruffians" and "Suffer Little Children", Morrissey sang explicitly about Manchester, creating songs that are as iconic of Manchester as the paintings of L.S. Lowry.


As the 1980s drew to a close, a new energy arrived in Manchester fueled by the drug ecstasy. A new scene developed around The Haçienda night club (part of the Factory Records empire), creating what would become known as the Madchester scene, the main proponents being the Happy Mondays, The Inspiral Carpets, Northside and The Stone Roses. The history of the Manchester music scene over this period was dramatised in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film 24 Hour Party People.

The 1990s and after

After the Madchester period, Manchester music lost much of its provincial energy, though many successful and interesting acts were still to emerge. Notable musical acts in Manchester have included Gene, Take That, 808 State, M People, Oasis, The Courteeners, The Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio, James, Badly Drawn Boy, Chameleons, Simply Red, Cleopatra, Michael McGoldrick, Monomania, I Am Kloot, Autechre, Lamb, Marconi Union, A Guy Called Gerald, Goldblade, Mr Scruff, Oceansize and Doves.

Morrissey and The Fall still continue to garner critical acclaim while Oasis remains the most popular, having played to more than 1.7 million people worldwide during their Don't Believe the Truth tour of 2005 and early 2006. In 2010, Manchester was named the UK's seventh "most musical" city by PRS for Music.[2][3]

The venues of the early 21st century

Manchester's biggest popular music venue is the Manchester Evening News Arena, which seats over twenty thousand and is the largest arena of its type in Europe, with the City of Manchester Stadium and Old Trafford's cricket grounds also providing large ad-hoc open air venues outside of the sporting season. Other major venues include the Manchester Apollo, Manchester Central (formally known as the GMEX) and the Manchester Academy. There are over 30 smaller venues for signed and unsigned artists of all genres to perform in, ensuring that the music scene in Manchester constantly remains vibrant and interesting. An area known as the Northern Quarter, considered the cultural and musical heart of the city, houses some of the best known of these venues such as Band on the Wall, the Roadhouse and The Night and Day Cafe. Various other venues exist in pubs and clubs throughout the city.

Resources on the web

List of music artists and bands originating from Manchester

Broadcast media

Granada TV, the BBC on Oxford Road and Key 103 have all played prominent roles in supporting and expanding various parts of the music scene in Manchester. Rock Radio is another recent addition to the local airwaves. The region is now served well by its own local radio shows, most notably via some regular weekly slots on BBC Radio GMR. London based commercial station Xfm Manchester in Manchester has also established itself, delivering a strictly indie diet to the populace and offering regular and effective exposure to local unsigned acts.

The continued development of programming by TV broadcaster Channel M (part of the Guardian Media Group) provided an opportunity for many contemporary unsigned acts to appear on live television via interview shows, in studio sessions and in-venue recordings. This boost to the profile of the North West's already diverse array of emerging talent was terminated in 2009 when the Guardian Media Group (GMG) disbanded its in-house music team and removed most of its music programming from the Channel M schedules.[citation needed]

Pop songs about Manchester

Many Manchester bands, and those from elsewhere who have been influenced by the city's musical heritage and unique atmosphere, have immortalised the city in song - see List of songs about Manchester.


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