Music of Manchester: Wikis


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Music of the United Kingdom
Royal Albert Hall, London, a major venue for all forms of music
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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 sixties and Barclay James Harvest and 10cc in the early to mid seventies, and with Top of the Pops being recorded by the BBC in the city. In 1965 Herman's Hermits outsold the Beatles , selling over 10 million records in seven months. Manchester bands Freddie and The Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders and Herman's Hermits topped the American Billboard charts consecutively between the middle of April 1965 and the end of May, with one week in 1965 where the three bands were numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the US Billboard top 100. 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, Britain's first world class recording studio outside London) there was little reinvestment in Manchester from its successful sons and daughters.

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

During the late 1970s a thriving growth of heavy metal bands in Britain later became known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal ( NWOBHM )

The Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall; Punk Rock

On 4 June 1976, the Sex Pistols, at the invitation of Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks, played at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Castlefield.[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 (of Joy Division & New Order), Morrissey - later to form The Smiths with Johnny Marr - producer Martin Hannett, 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 releasing the first truly independent record onto the Punk scene, the old movers and shakers from Manchester music collective, Music Force who included producer Martin Hannett, Tosh Ryan and Lawrence Beadle formed a local label called Rabid Records who started putting out singles by local acts like Slaughter & The Dogs(Rob Gretton later to manage Joy Division/New Order was their roadie/tour manager- all Wythenshawe lads), John Cooper Clarke and Ed Banger & The Nosebleeds(whose lineup included Vini Reilly) and licensed Jilted John by Jilted John to EMI records. This record company coincided with Tony Wilson bringing the cream of both American and British punk; New Wave bands to the public on his acclaimed late night Granada Television show So It Goes. This meant that Manchester had the Sex Pistols on the TV long before they were on LWT with Bill Grundy (incidentally another Mancunian). Unlike other major cities Manchester had The Sex Pistols Anarchy tour play 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 finished on Granada , Tony Wilson still wanted an involvement in the local music scene, so started a night up 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 76 - 79 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 and was compered by Tony Wilson as a favour to friend and organiser Chris Hewitt. Tony had been taking a great interest in Rabid Records and its set up and after working on the research for a feature for Granada TV 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

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 labelmates A Certain Ratio and The Durutti Column each forged their own sound, it was Factory's Joy Division who somehow managed to grimly define what exactly it was to be a Mancunian as the 70s drew to an end. At the same time, and out of the same post punk energy, emerged Mark E. Smith's groundbreaking group The Fall, who would become one of the most inventive, original and prolific groups of the next three decades. New Order rose from the ashes 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 80s 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 80s drew to a close, a new energy arrived in Manchester, fuelled by the drug ecstasy. A new scene developed around The Haçienda night club (again 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, 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. Other notable musical acts in Manchester have been Take That, 808 State, M People, Oasis, The Verve, Magazine, The Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio, James, Badly Drawn Boy, Chameleons, Charlatans, Simply Red, Cleopatra, Michael McGoldrick, Elbow, 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 remain the most popular, having played to more than 1.7 million people worldwide during their Don't Believe the Truth tour of 2005 & early 2006.

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, and various other venues exist in various pubs and clubs throughout the city.

Resources on the WWW

  • The definitive independent northern resource is available at:

ManchesterMusic - An independent website established in 1999 cataloguing hundreds of local acts and with thousands of reviews available on-line:-"Manchester Music".  

  • Other major long established websites with music review content include :

BBC Manchester's indispensable Music & Entertainment Section:- "BBC Manchester: Music and Entertainment".  

  • Manchester Evening News (includes City Life) Music Pages:

"Manchester Evening News Music section".  

  • High Voltage—long running fanzine and local music site

"High Voltage (fanzine)".  

  • Manchester is Music Radio - a free online local music station exclusively playing unsigned bands

"Manchester is Music".  

  • Manchester music - a free online music blog covering all the latest gigs, events and clubnights in Manchester.

"Manchester music scene".  

Broadcast media

Granada TV, the BBC on Oxford Road, Kiss 102 and Key 103 have all played prominent roles in supporting and expanding various parts of the music scene in Manchester. The region is now served well by its own local radio shows, notably some regular weekly slots on BBC Radio GMR. However the recent addition of London based commercial station Xfm in Manchester, has helped elevate the city's media facilities and Xfm has developed a real presence on the local live circuit, as the only daily on-air resource for local music.

The continued development of programming by TV broadcaster Channel M (part of the Guardian Media Group) has provided an opportunity for many contemporary unsigned acts to appear on live television and a healthy diet of interview shows, in studio sessions and in-venue recordings have boosted the profile of the North West's already diverse array of emerging talent.

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 it in song - see List of songs about Manchester.


  1. ^ Sex Pistols gig: the truth BBC Where I live - Manchester


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