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The Manchester sound of the 80s
source: Photo by kruchankousiarhei on Freepik

The Manchester sound of the 80s 

If there is a single city in the whole wide world more synonymous to music, more influential with its diverse scenes, it is Manchester, England (England, pun intended).

Located in the north part of England, Manchester has always been an industrial city, with its strong working class, while housing people from all walks of life. Musically wise, it had been a recognizable point through all decades, ever since World War Two had ended.

Having successful music acts through the 60s, well through the 70s, and especially the 80s (needless to mention the 90s and up to this day), Manchester gained its fame, with some people considering it the music capital of Britain, some say England, some say the World.

The 80s are the focal point of our story, so let’s rewind and mention just some of the most influential bands from that era. 

The beginning of the 80s brought huge social changes to the British society, imposed austerity, social unrest and unease, which inevitably reflected into the music, depicting all the insecurities of a man, working and living in turbulent times, both on the deepest, personal level, but also often singing about the man’s position in such society. Probably the most famous band from the second half of the 70s is Joy Division, with its tragic lead singer Ian Curtis, who sadly ended his life way too early. Not having received the fame and glory while they were active, the band gained all the accolades after their split up, in 1980. The rest of the band decided to put an end to the band they had together with Ian, and continued their music journey as New Order. They also evolved from a gloomy, noise rock band into a groundbreaking electronic and dance act, which influenced the further development of the Manchester scene. Having close connections with Factory Records (an independent record label), and the renowned club The Hacienda (opened in 1982), New Order quickly became a prominent band, topping the charts with its singles.

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Another Manchester band, hugely important is The Smiths, formed in 1982. Morrisey, the lead singer of the band often sang deeply moving and a tad depressing lyrics to almost upbeat and cheery music. They too were topping the charts, playing the biggest clubs and festivals at the time.


The second half of the 80s brought some changes on the scene, more and more bands, both one-hit-wonders, and the biggest names of the era (Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, and The Stone Roses, to name just a few), were experimenting with electronic and sounds, as let’s be honest with new drugs at the time – MDMA, or ecstasy. The change was so radical, it led to forming a completely new, never heard before – acid house music and never seen before – rave scene. The impact was so big, it took people out from the clubs, and onto vast, remote fields, deep into the countryside, where people organized (then) illegal parties, with tens of thousands of people clogging highways every weekend, and pouring into rented fields, dancing for hours and hours.

Mad? Yes, Madchester.

Manchester’s 80s music legacy is so vast and important, it also led to a formation of what we know today as indie-scene, too. The bands such as Oasis, The Chemical Brothers, The Verve, to name a few, found their inspiration and raison d’etre in Manchester’s musical diversity.

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