It is extremely rare to find a city in which musical heritage plays such an important role in both expressing and shaping the identity of its people.
Artists from Detroit, Los Angeles and New Orleans spring to mind because their sound is so distinctive that you can listen to a record, without knowing who it’s by, and you’ll still be able to tell where it was made. It is a phenomenon that the majority of cities around the world will never experience, but, for Manchester, it has happened a lot over the past forty years.
Let’s start with Factory Records. You can listen to pretty much anything in the first half of the back catalogue and you’ll still pick up on Martin Hannett’s eerily sparse production technique. Albums like To Each… and Unknown Pleasures were, and still are, the perfect musical expression of a city steeped in industrial tradition.
Moving on a decade, you’ve got the explosion of Madchester and acid-house in the late 80’s. Soon after this, the Britpop revolution kicked in, giving us yet another lasting impression of what this city is all about.
Now, no matter how hard you look, you won’t find a single solid gold statue of Morrissey anywhere around town. I’ve checked. Nor will you find any park benches dedicated to the Gallagher brothers, or any plaques stating ‘This is the exact spot where Bez dropped 24 pills at once’. Instead, Manchester’s sonic legacy continues to manifest itself in the attitude of both the people and the up and coming artists who live within its walls.
The city remains a hotbed of new talent, exhibiting a huge variety of styles and genres. Bands like No Ceremony/// and Money are carrying on from where New Order left off in the realm of electro-pop, whereas Janice Graham Band are infusing the influences of ska, reggae and jazz with a provincial pathos that is akin to Happy Mondays in their heyday.
Even in the UK bass scene, we can boast Damu’s Fulcrum Records, which has planned a string of releases from exciting young producers such as Paleman and Thefft for the coming. The imprint is becoming notorious for its techno driven hybrids, fusing elements of house, garage and, well, miscellaneous.
But before you start thinking that the impact of Joy Division, The Smiths and The Stone Roses might have become slightly redundant in modern times, then think again. The omnipresence of these groups can still be felt in every bar, every cafe and every shop in the city. This is especially the case with The Roses at the moment, having returned to Heaton Park last June for their three-date homecoming spectacular.
That said, just because you live in Manchester doesn’t mean that you have to like everything that it has produced – obviously. I can’t stand listening to Wonderwall just as much as the next logically thinking mammal. However, we should respect both the sheer volume and variety of music that this city has contributed over the years. There’s also no sign that this contribution will be waning any time soon.
So, Detroit may have Motown, L.A. may have Dr. Dre, New Orleans may have Fats Domino, but we’ve got Shaun Ryder.