So… last week was all about Manchester – and as you might know, Manchester is the home of many great musical talents. I’m not being an uber-purist about where Manchester ends – suffice to say if it’s below Bury, east of Salford, north of Stockport and west of Stalyvegas, it’ll do.
This week, my top ten are top ten ‘sounds of Manchester’. I’ve tried to do a kind of chronology, but I’m too lazy to do it properly. I need an anally retentive man in the style of High Fidelity to come and sort it out.
#1 Joy Division Atmosphere.
Could have gone for lots of tracks, but this one means so much more to me. It was the first single I bought of theirs and Love Will Tear Us Apart is just a little too popular. I still have many Joy Division posters. Top band. When Americans talk about British New Wave, this is is. Post-punk, nothing left.
This song is Affleck’s Palace through and through. Plus, I like it because the ‘disco’ in Bury was called Atmosphere, and it was nothing like this track, despite being equally depressing. I also like it because I kind of hope someone might have gone looking for Russ Abbott’s Atmosphere and found this by mistake.
# 2 New Order True Faith
The first on my list gave birth to the second. And this is one of my favourite tracks from them. I used to think that the day would never come… That my life would depend on the morning sun…
This just reminds me of PE where Mrs Riley encouraged us to do some kind of bizarre rhythmic dance to New Order. It’s a horrible memory to have of a top track.
# 3 The Smiths Girlfriend in a Coma
Here’s a cheery little ditty for you. I could have picked many, many things from the Smiths’ pantheon, but I love the faux-cheerfulness of this. Also, Morrissey doesn’t look quite so… special… in it. In fact, he doesn’t look unhandsome. Here’s a fact for you. My high school friend Anna was nearly run over by Johnny Marr on Deansgate. Boys that liked The Smiths were always cute. Witness Ferris Bueller with his ‘Meat is Murder’ poster.
So what if Morrissey is crazy now and says the most outlandish things. Like other Manchester men, he’s nothing without his partner, Johnny Marr – oh he of the twangly guitar.
# 4 A Certain Ratio The Big E
Perhaps from their more … hmmm… how shall I put this? … commercial period, this is a cracking song and one of my feel-good Manchester tunes. I won’t stop loving you. I still believe in you. When everything goes wrong, you think you’re on your own, I won’t stop loving you. And it’s also part of the soundtrack to the superb film about Ian Curtis
Bedfellows of Joy Division, Jeremy Kerr is also the brother-in-law of my RE teacher. See. Small World.
# 5 The Stone Roses. I am the Resurrection.
They might have to be in here twice, being the defining sound of my late teens. My favourite Stone Roses track has to be I am the Resurrection. It captures Manchester insouciance like nothing else. I don’t care where you’ve been or what you plan to do. I am the Resurrection and I am the light. Confident, cocky, lovable, great tunes.
And, not unlike the Smiths, when John Squires decided Ian Brown was a little bit bonkers, the band fell apart. This isn’t a story that’s going to end here. Manchester bands seem to have a thing about having two prima donnas. Two egos are far too many for a band.
#6 James Laid
I listened to this album almost non-stop in 1995. It was on a cassette I took to France with me, back to back with a Depeche Mode album. I had so little space (and so much vinyl) that I only had five cassettes with me. It’ll always be about leaving St Malo and leaving Phil behind. Sit Down is a top track, but Laid is one of my favourite songs ever.
Tim Booth is strangely attractive in this video too, for a generally unattractive man. I love his songs because he seems to get what crazy really is. Anyone who has a line in their song saying ‘Dressed me up in women’s clothes, messed around with gender roles, line my eyes and call me pretty’ is a bit crazy if you ask me.
#7 The Happy Mondays Step On
I was never a huge fan of the Happy Mondays – Shaun Ryder was a talentless has-been even back in the day. However, they’re a lot of fun – laid-back good-for-nothings made good. That’s such a Manchester story. You couldn’t hate them even if you tried. This is why Bez won Celebrity Big Brother – because he’s impossible not to like, even if he can’t put a coherent sentence together and he still rattles, even if he’s not had a pill since the 90s. Even Shaun Ryder’s got something likeable about him, even if he is a hood.
Nothing is Madchester like the happy marriage of the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays.
#8 Inspiral Carpets This is how it feels
An often overlooked Manchester band, they’re still pretty cool and trippy. Another 1988-1989 kind of vibe. This is how it feels to be lonely. This is how it feels to be small. This is how it feels when your world means nothing at all. Great music. Clint Boon’s synth is very 60s psychedelia as well.
#9 Oasis Champagne Supernova
Another chapter in the ‘too many egos’ in this band story. Noel’s the one with the talent. Liam’s the one with the attitude. Again. Manchester insouciance. Someday you will find me caught beneath the landslide in a champagne supernova in the sky. I don’t know what a champagne supernova is, but I guess it’d be a good way to go.
Liam practically invented the Manchester swagger. Unfortunately, now lots of people in England copy it and have neither the talent nor the balls to carry it off.
One of these people is the last in the list, though he’s a Wiganer by nature, and they’re not like Mancunians very much at all.
#10 The Verve Bittersweet Symphony
And that concludes my top ten. You’ll notice I’ve left out M People and Simply Red. That’s on purpose. Mick Hucknall makes me gip. Heather Small, well, she’s alright. She doesn’t fit in to either the snake-hipped floppy haired youth with haunted eyes category or the just plain barking mad as a hatter category that most of these bands seem to conform to. I could also have put Take That on the list, but my street cred would have fallen to pieces.
Few towns keep spewing out music like Manchester does. Some do, for a bit, like Liverpool did, and their well of creativity dries up. Not Manchester’s.