Ian Brown is my least favourite Manchester musician, but he did come up with my most favourite Manchester quote, as referenced in the Shameless finale last night. “It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”
Actually, I’m neither anymore. I arrived in 1998 as a terrified fresher (literally, sobbing) and left seven years later as an overconfident NME rookie. That’s the effect that Manchester and its music has on the people who go there.
It’s an over-repeated story, but one that we should never forget, that the biggest player in the city’s musical revolution of the 1980s wasn’t an A&R man or a manager or even a songwriter. Tony Wilson was the local newsreader, but he caught the bug so massively that when he got his hands dirty he pretty much invented clubbing in this country and bankrupted himself in the process. But Wilson preferred the history, because he knew what Brown knew.
Basically, all of life is in Manchester. It’s just there a bit more. You can only get Oasis, New Order, The Smiths and Take That coming to define a town if that town already has (respectively) the proudest football crowds, the first and best nightclubs, the fiercest intellectual tradition and the most thriving gay community in the UK.
And as disparate as this music and those people might be, they essentially share the same Spirit. It’s why no great metal band ever came out of the city. And it’s why we used to joke, back on the indie circuit, that no matter how much people in Manchester might hate each other, they’re united because they hate everyone in London more. Being sure enough to know you’re the best and lazy enough not to really bother – it’s why most Manchester bands fuck it up in the end, but it’s also why they’re cooler than bands from anywhere else.
Incidentally, the city’s time seems to be back. Nobody was more surprised last year than The Whip to hear their song ‘Trash’ pumping out at the Perez Hilton party at SXSW last year, but 12 months on they’re the darlings of that scene. The long-ignored Oceansize now soundtrack Orange adverts and support The Smashing Pumpkins.
And what happened to Elbow last year gave the band what they always deserved, and the nation a new national anthem. It’s a testament to all that that, even though their last two albums went platinum, the entire British media are now hailing Doves as a bold new discovery. And in the shape of Everything Everything, Delphic, heck even The Courteeners, there’s a new generation waiting in the wings.
But this is about nostalgia. The point is that you know this Manchester just as well as I do. You know it in the every note and curve of the songs on this list that you love. And even more in the ones you hate. As different as they are, all of these songs, in different ways, are smart, swaggering, heartbreaking and cool as fuck.
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And since you ask, my favourite is ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ by New Order.
Ultimate Manchester anthems – vote now, and suggest your own favourite Manchester tracks by posting a comment below.
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