Press "Enter" to skip to content

Manchester’s musical heritage

Oasis, Happy Mondays and the recently reformed Stone Roses; many outstanding and iconic names within British musical history have distinct links to Manchester.

The city’s long standing associations with music were arguably imbedded the industrial revolution, sparking a platform for the working classes to identify themselves against. It is from this that the musical world within the North of Britain flourished and continued to grow, with Manchester at its heart.

The iconic picture of the Smiths, hanging outside the Salford Working Men’s Club proves a key representation of such a stronghold. Morrissey and Marr became icons of a generation, and were culturally relevant poster boys for vegetarian activists, ambiguous sexuality as well as roots of working class symbolism that resonated with the youth population in the early 80s. This foundation further grounded Manchester as a cultural hotspot for up and coming musicians with the vast number of opportunities available.

Moreover, the impact of the “Madchester” generation was profound. The formation of the independent recording company Factory Records in 1978 was pivotal to this scene, with its founder Tony Wilson signing bands including Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays. Fundamental to the new raving subculture of the 1980’s, the Hacienda (FAC 51) was opened in conjunction with the label and, although monetarily was a failure, provided a landmark to the shift in youth culture, most noticeably in terms of increased drug usage.

Although the club closed in 1992, Peter Hook (the bassist from Joy Division/New Order) has since re-opened FAC 251 at the record companies old headquarters on Charles Street, proving the populist iconography of the movement has continued relevance to this day.

The Britpop scene of the 1990’s further increased Manchester’s long standing tradition as a musical epicentre, arguably providing the basis for the biggest band of a generation; Oasis. The longstanding rivalry between them and Blur had foundations on more than just musical differences, with social implications of a North-South divide and the supposed class connotations of listening to one or the other. As the movement swept the nation, and the associated tabloid frenzy surrounding comments by both Damon Albarn and the Gallaghers, Manchester’s musical relevance once again was in the spotlight.

Looking around Manchester today, the affects and ties to Manchester’s musical past can be seen daily. With the waiting list to gain a job at RNCM being notoriously long, the past musical boom is still presenting itself in a positive form.

The Academy within the Student’s Union further offers young, bidding performers to find a fan basis in the hope of achieving musical success. To put into context, Manchester’s musical past entrenched the city’s influence as a diverse cultural hotspot, and one that continues to be musically relevant to this day. Many students can take a modern day stance on the development of Manchester’s rich musical heritage, with The Chemical Brothers played their first gig at the Bop in Owen’s Park, as well as the presence of Radiohead performing, after Ed O’Brien’s stint in the Tower.

From Everything Everything being nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 2011, to the Smiths “banning” David Cameron from liking their music, Manchester’s musical heritage continues to dominate even to this day.