Spanning 55 years and 45 songs, a 2CD collection to ratify Manchester’s claim to be Britain’s second – if not at times, first – musical city. From primal beat through promiscuous punk, high 80s disco/soul and pure baggy to proud and proper rock, the evidence is all here.
Starting with Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’, which captures the effects the industrial revolution and its aftermath had on the city, “Manchester - A City United In Music” moves through the 60s beat boom, Strawberry Studio’s pop revolution, northern punk, indie mayhem and on to the Madchester years, culminating with Oasis’ modern-day rock‘n’roll anthem. Tracks vary from the multi-million selling hits of Wayne Fontana, 10cc, Herman’s Hermits and Simply Red to the more acquired taste of Haydock’s Rockhouse, Wynder K Frog and Smack. Well-known artists such as the Hollies, Georgie Fame and John Mayall are heard on some of their lesser-known but top-notch tracks.
Cult singles are featured by the Purple Gang, the Toggery Five, Gerry & the Holograms and the Dakotas, along with tracks by local personalities Graham Fellows (aka Jilted John and John Shuttleworth), Chris Sievey (Frank Sidebottom) with his group the Freshies and Dr John Cooper Clarke, the Bard of Salford. Future stars Graham Gouldman and Dave Formula are present on great cuts recorded before their fame arrived and producer Martin Hannett’s name threads throughout.
Manchester’s soulful roots can be heard in tracks by Elkie Brooks, Sweet Sensation, M People and Blue Zone; earlier attempts at R&B were made by beat groups the Measles, Pete Maclaine & the Clan and the Whirlwinds. A dozen years later the musical rebellion was taken up by Buzzcocks, Salford Jets and Slaughter & the Dogs. A further burst of pent-up energy followed through the angst-ridden sounds of Joy Division, Magazine and the Fall, while the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets come across in a far more blissed-out state.
Housed in a fold-out digipak, the 2CD set and its accompanying 44-page booklet – featuring copious notes by local music historian/musician C.P. Lee and a foreword by one-time Manchester resident Jon Savage, along with photos and illustrations from the period and reminiscences from many of the players – tell the fascinating story of the city’s musical history and examine how it came to be. Despite the several-decade time span, the varying music styles weave well together to make the experience a pleasure as well as an education.