Manchester makes music – and music made Manchester.
One of the true engine rooms of the Industrial Revolution, the city gradually lost its heavy industry prestige, instead gaining an entirely new export – creativity. Working people were able to reinvent the environment they lived in, crafting a form of youth culture that still resonates around the globe. And at its heart – every step of the way, in fact – was a commitment to inclusion, to making sure that the party didn’t have any defined borders.
Take Factory Records. Birthed in the white heat of punk, it stood out through a commitment to design and a small but incredible roster that took post-punk to austere levels of emotional communication. Yet even here, that Mancunian desire to reach out runs through the DNA of the Factory experience.
The label’s co-founder Alan Erasmus was one of the most recognisable black actors on British television in the late 70s, just a few short years after the minstrels phenomenon was finally ushered into the dustbin of history.
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Factory was always a multi-racial cast. A Certain Ratio were born from the city’s jazz-funk scene, a gritty Northern hub for some of the latest sounds ushered over from the United States on 12 inch.
This search for the latest sounds took New Order to New York during the final days of disco, soaking up the emerge trends of electro and what would be termed proto-house. Sparking the band’s reinvention, they took these back to Manchester, continually seeking out new sounds and then referring back to the city that bore them.
It was this instinct that led Factory to launch the Hacienda, one of the most important buildings in the history of modern Manchester. Initially derided as a white elephant, it took a team of super resident DJs – Dave Haslam, Mike Pickering, Greg Wilson and more – to turn it into a cathedral of sound, where music from all corners would be celebrated in an atmosphere of acceptance.
One of the prime locations for the emergence of Acid House, the Hacienda’s fame perhaps obscures wider developments in Manchester nightlife. Boasting a large Afro-Caribbean community, the sounds of blue beat, reggae, dub, and dancehall always had a place in the city. Indeed, it was these late night shebeens that helped inspire Mani to push the bass to the forefront of The Stone Roses sound.
Further back, the sounds of soul would reach a new distillation point at the Twisted Wheel, where pilled up dancers of every description would beg the DJs to play faster and faster tunes, until somehow Northern Soul emerged from the mist of blurred limbs and sweat.
In almost every aspect of Mancunian life you can feel this aura of acceptance, of new nationalities reaching to the core of the city’s atmosphere. Manchester’s industrial heritage lay squarely on the back of Irish navvies, and a further wave of immigration in the 50s turned the dial once more.
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Stephen Patrick Morrissey. Johnny Marr. Noel Gallagher. Liam Gallagher. All are born from immigrant families, and all are innately Mancunian. The line between Manchester and Ireland should be paved in gold discs, it should be littered with classic album after classic album most of which have gone on to re-define our notion of what it is to be British in any wider, modern sense.
A Guy Called Gerald took the city’s dance culture into the charts, with ‘Voodoo Ray’ becoming a defacto Acid House anthem that Manchester could rightly call its own. But then he took a sidestep, plunging into the emerging Jungle sound with his mighty, epic ’28 Gun Badman’.
Shaun Ryder split from the Happy Monday and formed Black Grape with Kermit, a Moss Side kid whose role in the Ruthless Rap Assassins fused hip-hop with a peculiarly Mancunian viewpoint.
And it’s there to this day, a feeling that Manchester is at its best when it’s also at its most open. It’s what helped turn a fading industrial powerhouse into one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. It’s what drew thousands upon thousands of fans to watch Ariana Grande last night, and it’s why the terrorist who took those lives will never win.
Manchester makes music, and music made Manchester – that’s something that will never, ever be allowed to change.
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Photo via Noel Gallagher's Instagram.