8 Top Albums Straight Out Of Manchester

8 Top Albums Straight Out Of Manchester

the smiths
The Smiths, Photo by Clare Muller/Redferns/Getty Images. 

The Manchester music scene has proven itself a bottomless creative metropolis, delivering many of the most influential, genre-defining bands of their respective decades. Some hypothesis that the city’s industrial, blue-collar past has amplified public attitude, inspiring artists to write songs reflective of their surroundings. Others claim it’s the city’s DIY, hard work ethos; or the thriving club scene that nurtures developing artists. 

Whatever the instigator, the cities overarching melancholic mood has put romance into every genre, magnifying the human connection that turns a sound into a movement. From pop to punk to rave, here’s a timeline of albums born out of Manchester that both defined an era, sound and genre while inspiring the next.

1. The Hollies: Hollies Sing Hollies (1969)

'He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother'

Manchester’s music scene was already in full swing by the 1970s, having already produced groups like The Hollies and The Bee Gees who possessed a distinctive vocal harmony lead sound and Herman’s Hermits, in 1965, outsold even The Beatles. The Hollies were first formed by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash in Manchester in 1962 and became one of the leading British groups of the 1960s. In 1968, lured by the rapidly expanding music scene Graham Nash moved to California, taking the vocal harmony style across the ocean to form the supergroup, Crosby, Stills & Nash

In 1969, The Hollies released Hollies Sing Hollies. It was their first album of original songs composed without Graham Nash and contained the worldwide hit single, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother with a young Elton John on Piano. 

2. The Buzzcocks: Love Bites (1978)

'Ever Fallen In Love'

Pop-punk instigators, the Buzzcocks were formed by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto in 1976. Their self-produced debut EP, Spiral Scratch, was released on their own label, inspiring the burgeoning DIY indie scene at the heart of the punk movement. They delivered in spades with their debut album, Another Music In a Different Kitchen (1978), marked by an ominous sense of urgency and rapid-fire punk energy. Confirming it was no fluke, only six months later they followed it up with Love Bites which contained the classic punk masterpiece, Ever Fallen In Love.

The Buzzcocks were also responsible for organizing the famed Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976, which was attended by only 42 people, despite hundreds claiming to have been there. Of those who can be confirmed, there were several key players of Manchester's future music scene present, including: Tony Wilson (creator of Factory Records), Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner (Joy Division and New Order), Morrissey (The Smiths ), Mark E Smith of The Fall and Mick Hucknall of Simply Red.

3. The Fall: Live At The Witch Trials (1979)

'Rebellious Jukebox'

The Fall’s formation in 1976 was inspired by the aforementioned Sex Pistols gig. They would go on to release 32 studio albums in 40 years, alongside many, many EPs, compilations and live records - making them possibly Manchester’s most prolific band of all time. 

Mixing elements of American garage rock of the mid-'60s, then filtering it all through a post-Velvet Underground lens following the explosion caused by the Sex Pistols, the Fall ended up sounding like no one else. Their debut album, Live At The Witch Trials was recorded in a single day.

4. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (1979)


Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures was the first LP released on Tony Wilson’s Factory Records. The label played upon Manchester's traditions, invoking incongruous images of the industrial north and the glamorous pop-art world of Andy Warhol. Joy Division‘s bleak and blackened post-punk brilliance managed to grimly define what exactly it was to be a Mancunian as the 1970s drew to an end.

5. The Smiths: Meat Is Murder (1985)

'How Soon Is Now'

From the same melancholy same post-punk movement came The Smiths, who would ultimately become the definitive Manchester group of the 80s. Morrissey’s self-deprecating lyrics and gorgeous croon matched with Johnny Marr’s iconic, jangly guitar lines invoke an all-prevailing sense that there’s a romance to sadness if you let it envelop you. 

Their second album Meat Is Murder was released in 1985 and hit No.1 in the UK charts. Morrissey and Marr produced the album themselves and with songs like Rusholme Ruffians sang explicitly about Manchester, bonding them to their hometown.

6. Happy Mondays: Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches (1990)

'Kinky Afro'

As the 1980s drew to a close, a new energy arrived in Manchester, fuelled by the emerging electronic dance music scene … and everything that came with it. The Haienda nightclub, part of the Factory Records empire was the centre point of what would become known as the “Madchester scene”. 

The Happy Mondays first appeared in 1980 and signed with Factory Records to release two singles, 45, produced by Pickering, and Freaky Dancin', which was produced by New Order's Bernard Sumner.  Their second album Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches personified the hedonistic ideology sweeping Manchester that took tomorrow off the table, celebrating sex, drugs and dead-end jobs in a never ending party. 

7. The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses (1989)

'I Wanna Be Adored'

The Stone Roses eponymous debut has been consistently voted one of the greatest albums of all time. Packed with classics like I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs The Drums and the signature bagginess of the eternally fantastic Fools Gold.

They are credited with pioneering the "baggy" sound that combines funk, psychedelia, guitar rock and house music. In the Manchester context, the origins of the part rave, part retro, part hippie, part football casual scene can be traced back to the various influences that rose to prominence through the Haienda Club. 

8. New Order: Movement  (1981)

'Blue Monday'

Also formed in 1980, was New Order. Born from the ashes of Joy Division after the untimely death of their lead singer Ian Curtis. To begin with, the members were understandable apprehensive about stepping into the singer’s position, but they eventually on Bernard Sumner’s soft, warm and slightly robotic delivery that defined their sound. 

Their debut album, Movement was a triumph of pop-electronica. Bouncing elastic basslines, glimmering, weaving guitar lines, the synth-y glitches and the swooning melancholy provide a human connection to the experimental electro that immediately casts a spell over you. Manchester’s notoriously gloomy atmosphere fired the post-punk darkness of the artists it raised, leaving a distinctly brooding and reflective mark on pop culture across the decades. New Order’s Movement propelled music into the future with its use of synths and drum machines. 

Celebrating 40 years since its original release, this special vinyl version of ‘Still’ is a limited edition of 10,000 with a ruby red sleeve, pressed on crystal clear vinyl. Pre-order, here. 

‘Still’ (40th Anniversary Crystal Clear Vinyl).

Still is a compilation album first released in 1981 after the death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Their two previous albums had already cemented the Manchester’s band’s iconic status in music history and Still filled in the gaps. It featured previously unreleased studio material, two non-album tracks Dead Souls and Glass and a live recording of Joy Division’s last ever concert, at Birmingham University.  The show included the only live performance of Ceremony by the band, who later morphed into New Order and released it as their first single.


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