Manchester, North of England
Back in Easter 2016, Manchester Digital Music Archive's thriving online community was given the opportunity by Cherry Red Records to help curate a CD box set celebrating Greater Manchester music from 1977-1993. Our users were asked to make suggestions for the track list, the more obscure and diverse the better. 134 people got in touch with suggestions, and gradually a 7-disc box set began to emerge. The box set would be called MANCHESTER, NORTH OF ENGLAND, named after the treasured 'Bop Cassettes' compilation of from 1988. It has been put together by John Reed at the label. Veteran Manchester writer Mick Middles supplied the exhaustive sleeve notes. A launch event is planned in 2017, featuring some of the showcased bands, as a fundraiser for Manchester Digital Music Archive Trust. This online exhibition contains artefacts relating to many of the bands featured on the box set. We hope you enjoy browsing whilst listening along! “What this treasure trove displays is the extraordinary amount of creative outpouring that oozed from the sullen streets. Manchester music manages to combine euphoria and melancholy. It is both uplifting and mournful at the same time.” Mark Radcliffe “The Electric Circus, a desolate ex-bingo hall set in a post-apocalyptic vision in Collyhurst, offered the ultimate in essential edge, if you made it past the bricks and bottles hurled by local youths, over-zealous policing and the prevailing air of mean spirited conservatism.” Mick Middles www.cherryred.co.uk/product/manchester-north-of...
MANCHESTER, NORTH OF ENGLAND – FOREWORD By Mark Radcliffe As an impressionable, whey-faced almost translucent undergraduate, I moved to Manchester in September of 1976. It had been a hot summer and the first rumblings of this thing called ‘punk’ were vibrating up the M6 and down Princess Parkway into the city centre. I was anything but worldly-wise but I was wise to the possibility of my world shifting on its axis. I was leaving home for the first time and was hungry for a new soundtrack to fit that seismic shift and it soon began to emanate from the very streets of my adopted metropolis. Today Manchester is the very epitome of the modern Emerald City. Every railway arch, where gentlemen-of-the-road once lay in tangled oblivion, is a tip-top tapas bar. Every post-war bomb site of rubble and knotweed is the base of one of the glass and chrome edifices dominating the skyline as the mill chimneys had done in the industrial revolution. In 1976 we were stuck in no man’s land without even the prospect of a football match between the lines on Christmas Day. The shimmering conference centre now known as Manchester Central, formerly G-Mex, was the skeletal dereliction of Central Station – its forlorn clock frozen in time on its crumbling façade. The hipster enclave of the Northern Quarter, now abuzz with soya latte imbibing elaborately bearded urban lumberjacks, their jeans meticulously turned up above the ankle, was a forbidding warren of rag-trade sweat shops and mean streets of perpetual malevolence. The walk from the city centre to the beacon of The Factory, our contemporary museum of musical curiosities, was a tense meander through the doomed housing projects of Hulme. Conceived as a modern homage to the Regency crescents of Bath, they quickly shed their idealistic New Brutalism and became merely brutal. The noble aesthetic ignobly pathetic. Even the untrained eye could spot Trainspotting unfolding. An Ideal for Living? Well, no. What kind of idiot would want to live in the centre of the city anyway? There was nowhere you could get a drink after the draconian licensing laws were enforced. The nightclubs were populated by oleaginous reptiles in rayon who would liberally lubricate their ladyfriends with Liebfraumilch at prices way beyond the pocket and dress code of the pimply prog-rock runaway with new found new-wave aspiration. Admittedly, if you were prepared to subject yourself to the rugby club jostling you could imbibe until dawn at The Continental. If you were bold enough to venture to the darkest upper reaches of Oldham Street, where I once encountered a group of middle-aged women crawling back from one of that blasted boulevard’s three branches of Yates’s Wine Lodge on their hands and knees towards the cab rank in Piccadilly Gardens, you might safely reach the sanctuary of the noted jazz club The Band on the Wall. But that was your lot. As far as I can remember. If I had photographs I would check them for memories but we didn’t take photographs then. It was too expensive to get them developed. But the few frames that survive show us in pitifully inadequate jackets on streets of scruffy and boarded up shops, with utilitarian public transport and slab fronted buildings. We could be in East Berlin after the wall went up. Apart from the Watney’s Red Barrel signs. An Ideal for Living?…….. …..was of course the debut EP from Joy Division. In many ways the famous pictures by Kevin Cummings of the Factory Fab 4 on that bridge over the dual-carriageway in Hulme say everything about how Manchester felt in those days. It looks cold. It was. It looks alienating. It was. It looks unloved. It was. And it wasn’t. The proud pulse of the King Cotton era still pumped through our veins. We were proud Northerners who were always going to do it our way and show those soft Southerners a thing or two. The Right Honourable Tony Wilson began to preach his doctrine of self sufficiency. We didn’t need London corporations to give us permission to make music and release it. In unwitting homage to Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby in the ‘White Christmas’ film, we could ‘do the show right here’. Okay, it wasn’t the snowbound Colombia Inn, Vermont but the principle was the same right? And then Buzzcocks and their visionary manager Richard Boon did the unthinkable. THEY RELEASED THEIR OWN RECORD! ‘Spiral Scratch’ was not only perfect in its stripping away of unnecessary musical artifice, it proved that Tony was right. It could be done right here, right now. And with that we were off. The new soundtrack had arrived and things would never be quite the same. Not every track here can call itself a classic of course. What this treasure trove displays though is the extraordinary amount of creative outpouring that oozed from these sullen streets. And there are common threads running through a lot of these tracks, celebrated and almost forgotten in equal measure. There’s a painting by the modernist master Marc Chagall called ‘The Promenade’. In it a dark suited male holds the hand of his crimson gowned female companion who is, inexplicably, floating above the landscape. Manchester music is like this. We are rooted to the city streets but simultaneously looking to the stars. Manchester music manages to combine euphoria and melancholy. It is uplifting and mournful at the same time. We know who we are and where we come from, but we are daring to dream. If Joy Division hadn’t made that noise, in a strange way you’d have heard it inside your head anyway. It is music born of time and place. It sounds like Manchester felt back then and so here are myriad individuals, idealists, idiots and iconoclasts who tried to express that feeling in their own unique way. Some were more successful than others but all were inspired by Mother Manchester: forbidding, tough, proud, enigmatic but with beauty and romance at her heart. Probably just off Albert Square. In a dingy basement. Mark Radcliffe, Boltonian (1958-1976) Mancunian (1976-present)