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Hit the North – A Musical Tour of Manchester

It’s ironic that a city renowned for its rain has had so many days in the sun. But Manchester has always done things a little bit differently, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its seminal music scene..

From the clean cut Hollies to the bearded Bee Gees; the birth of punk to Joy Division; New Order, The Smiths, acid house and Madchester, right up to Oasis and Elbow – the past 40 years of Mancunian music contains enough good tunes to basically make the best jukebox ever.

Our musical tour of the city is equally varied, taking in its industrial centre before paying a visit to the leafy green suburbs. So grab your parka, put on your baggie jeans and shake your maracas on our musical tour of Manchester.

Dylan goes electric

Manchester’s Free Trade Hall had hosted notable appearances by Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill before Bob Dylan’s first gig with an electric guitar, but the shout of ‘Judas!’ by a member of the crowd is what gained the concert – and the venue – notoriety. The hall also hosted the legendary Sex Pistols concert in 1976 that arguably birthed Manchester’s musical renaissance (it was attended by members of Joy Division and Simply Red amongst others!).

The Smiths in Salford

Visit Salford Lads’ Club to recreate the iconic album portrait of The Smiths featured in The Queen Is Dead. Undoubtedly one of rock’s most iconic images, the photograph was later accepted into the National Portrait gallery. The location was also featured in the band’s videos for Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before and There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. Incidentally The Hollies used to practice at the venue before they became famous – with two members of the band previously attending the club!

Manchester’s Musical Oasis

Liam and Noel grew up in Burnage, South Manchester where they would visit the now-legendary Sifters Records on Fog Lane. Still open, and still owned by ‘Mr. Sifter’, who was immortalised in the song Shakermaker, it’s a great place to stock up on vinyl. Move on to Stratford Avenue in West Didsbury and you can see the exterior of the house featured on the iconic Definitely Maybe album cover and in the Shakermaker video. The Boardwalk on Little Peter Street is where Oasis would rehearse not to mention the location of their first gigs as a starting band and later with Noel joining on guitar. Now closed, a blue plaque commemorates the location’s musical heritage.

The Haçienda Must be Built

Manchester’s many musical renaissances were created in its live music spaces, and the legendary Haçienda nightclub is undoubtedly the most iconic. Madonna’s first live UK performance took place in the former warehouse, and it was here that the Madchester music scene was born in 1988. Like several of its contemporaries, the venue has since closed but you can still visit the location on Whitworth Street West, just down the road from live music venue The Ritz, itself a local institution where The Smiths played their first gig and The Beatles and Frank Sinatra once performed.

Bands on the Wall

The still beating heart of Manchester’s music scene can be found in the Northern Quarter. A legendary live music venue, Band on the Wall opened in 1959 as The George & Dragon before changing its name in 1975. The Buzzocks played in 1976, The Fall in ’77, Joy Division a year later and an early incarnation of Simply Red played on several occasions. The venue is still open and hosts a number of musical education initiatives, so who knows which legends of tomorrow are yet to grace the stage?

Since opening in 1991, The Night and Day Café on Oldham Street has hosted some of the biggest acts on their way up. Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, Manic Street Preachers, Mumford & Sons, Elbow and many more have graced its stage. What’s more it’s the haunt of choice for many of the city’s musical legends, so you may end up sitting next to Johnny Marr or Guy Garvey.

Other locations:

Jive Walkin’ : The Bee Gees grew up at 51 Keppel Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. They lived at the address for 8 years before moving to Australia.

Up to your Elbow : “There's a hole in my neighbourhood, down which of late I cannot help but fall”. Elbow’s Guy Garvey is singing about The Temple of Convenience on Grounds for Divorce. A former public toilet, it is now a trendy subterranean bar on Great Bridgewater Street.

The other Oasis: The corner of Lloyd Street and Albert Square once hosted a live music venue called Oasis where The Beatles played their first out of town gig. They returned 3 more times to the venue along with early career appearances from The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Rod Stewart!