Manchester Music Tour: A Guide to the Most Iconic Music Locations in Manchester

Manchester Music Tour: A Guide to the Most Iconic Music Locations in Manchester

Manchester Music Tour: A Guide to the Most Iconic Music Locations in Manchester

Rivalling its competitive cousin, Liverpool, for musical supremacy, Manchester is the birthplace of countless influential artists and groups. With a rich history of ground-breaking talent emerging from its ‘streets upon streets’, Manchester is a key location on the musical map of the UK - if not the world. Join us on our Ultimate Manchester Music Tour as we guide you through the city’s musical heritage.

John Cooper Clarke - Broughton

The Band on the Wall pub and John Cooper Clarke
The Band on the Wall in Manchester saw many seminal Cooper Clarke performances

On the outskirts of Manchester in 1949, the sleepy suburb of Higher Broughton produced a wayward son who would go on to rock the music scene to its core. John Cooper Clarke’s radical performance poetry lent itself perfectly to the punk movement of the late 1970s – his notoriety later securing him gigs throughout Manchester and beyond, alongside the likes of Joy Division, Elvis Costello and New Order. Still very much a punk personality at 70 years young, ‘the bard of Salford’s’ influence on contemporary music, and the North of England, is tangible. Cooper Clarke again rose to popular prominence in 2013 when Arctic Monkeys adapted his poem ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and featured it on their hugely successful album, AM.

The Bee Gees – Chorlton

Chorlton street and the Bee Gees
Keppel Road in Chorlton was home to the Gibb brothers before they emigrated to Australia

Although born on the Isle of Man, the brothers who would form the Bee Gees actually spent their formative years in Chorlton – a suburb of Manchester – before they and their family emigrated to Australia in the late 1950s. The three Gibb brothers were heavily influenced by the skiffle scene – a genre which fused American folk, jazz and blues influences – which was blossoming in British pubs and clubs in the mid-fifties. Thus their first band, The Rattlesnakes, was a skiffle three-piece, with additional members joining later on. After moderate success as a minor British band performing in the clubs and cinemas of Manchester (and briefly renaming their group Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats), the Gibb brothers reformed again as the Bee Gees in the sixties, and the rest is disco-infused history!

Joy Division - Salford

Joy Division's poster on Oldham street, Salford, Greater Manchester
Joy Division's impact can still be felt throughout Greater Manchester

Inspired by a Sex Pistols show they attended in Manchester, 1976, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook decided to form their own band with Terry Mason. In need of a vocalist, the band posted an ad in the Manchester Virgin Records shop, to which Ian Curtis responded and was immediately hired. Initially named Warsaw, the band renamed themselves Joy Division to avoid being confused with the London based Warsaw Pakt; the first gig performed by the group under the Joy Division name took place on 25th January 1978 at Manchester’s Pip’s Disco – setting the stage for the band’s rise to fame. As their sound and identity developed, it was clear that Joy Division possessed a unique quality which separated them from typical ‘punk’ bands of the time – instead pioneering a new genre of post-punk/gothic rock. Following the tragic death of Ian Curtis prior to their American tour, the band released their final album, Closer, and the single ‘Love Will Tear Us apart’ – iconically used in the Donnie Darko soundtrack. The remaining band members reformed as New Order in 1980 to continue Joy Division’s Mancunian musical legacy.

The Smiths - Stretford

Salford Lads Club and Morrissey
Salford Lads Club in Greater Manchester was famously used on a Smiths album cover,
and also featured in several Smiths music videos

One fateful day in 1982, Johnny Marr knocked on the door of an unremarkable family home in Stretford, Manchester. A young Stephen Patrick Morrissey answered, and was promptly asked if he would like to form a band; after a day of deliberation, he agreed. Stephen (soon to answer only to Morrissey) chose the name ‘The Smiths’ for the band, attributing the decision to a desire to be a voice for ‘ordinary folk’. The Smiths were soon picked up for their distinctive sound and mesmerising performances – with Morrissey providing whimsical, and often despair laden, lyrics, which became emblematic of Manchester and its underground music scene. Although the band split in 1987, The Smiths’ music continues to be played throughout Manchester’s venues and is heralded as being a major catalyst for the worldwide indie movement which was to follow.

Madchester - City Centre

The Hacienda Apartments in Manchester formerly Hacienda nightclub Madchester
The Hacienda Apartments stand on the site of the Hacienda Club,
which was a key venue for hosting many prominent 'Madchester' performances

Prevalent Manchester bands, New Order, The Smiths and The Fall, left a void in the local music scene when their dominance began its inevitable decline in the late eighties. Stepping into the vacuum, the Madchester era elevated a number of genres to the forefront of Manchester music culture, including acid house, dance and alternative rock. A few groups, in particular, were integral to the Madchester scene – notably: The Stone Roses (with origins in Altrincham), the Happy Mondays (formed in Salford), the Inspiral Carpets (with Oldham roots) and James (with the band’s namesake, James Glennie, hailing from Moss Side). A coalescence of singles released by these bands in the late eighties propelled them into mass stardom, with influential magazines such as NME noting the buzz around Manchester bands, and the growth of the ‘baggy’ sound and surrounding culture established within the Madchester scene. The Madchester phenomenon was more or less in full decline by the end of 1990, with its key bands either 'AWOL' or experiencing musical and financial downturns. At around this time, the British music press began to turn their interest towards a new music scene, which would come to be known as Britpop.

Oasis - Burnage

Oasis from Burnage
The Gallaghers were raised in the Manchester suburb of Burnage

Although the original line up of the band that would become Oasis consisted of Liam Gallagher and three others (Liam, in fact, replacing an earlier vocalist), there is no doubt that Oasis was very much the Gallagher’s creation. The Gallagher brothers were raised in Burnage, Manchester, and unsurprisingly much of their music was inspired by earlier Manchester groups, including The Stone Roses and The Smiths. Liam renamed the band ‘Oasis’ (previously ‘Rain’) after seeing an Inspiral Carpets poster, which listed Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon as a venue on their tour. Noel (Liam’s brother) quickly took ownership of the band’s musical direction, creating a trademark sound which utilised distortion and root bass notes. Noel was also the group’s primary songwriter and is credited as being the driving force behind the band’s success. Songs like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ have been adopted by Manchester as unofficial ‘anthems’, and although Oasis split up in 2009, the band’s oeuvre is still very much alive – with both brothers continuing to perform in their own respective bands.

If you would like to explore Manchester in person and conduct your own Manchester music tour, browse our Citybase Manchester serviced apartments today and plan your trip to enjoy the many music venues the city has to offer. For more information on what you can see in Manchester, consider reading our city guide, or read about the best rum bars you can visit during your stay.  

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