In honour of the live acts scheduled for our 13th June bash, including Black Grape, Bez (The Happy Mondays), Northside and Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Oasis tribute acts, we decided to explore the history of the Madchester era. If you still get nostalgic about the good old days when the Hacienda was a nightclub rather than a block of flats, you don’t want to miss this event. Tickets are available here.
The Madchester era is one of the most famous and celebrated parts of Manchester’s rich musical history. It had a profound influence on the cultural landscape of Britain, and fans of the Madchester and ‘baggy’ sound still abound in the UK and abroad.
The Pre-Madchester Music Scene
Directly before the Madchester era began, the Manchester music scene was dominated by bands like The Smiths, The Fall, and New Order. These artists had a real impact on the Madchester scene, as they were the first acts to play at the newly-opened Hacienda nightclub, which would become the epicentre of this fresh wave of music. The Hacienda was a Factory Records initiative, and it opened in 1982 originally as a place for pop music and live gigs from the likes of Culture Club, The Thompson Twins, Cabaret Voltaire, and heavyweights like New Order and The Smiths. In 1986, the club switched its focus from live artists to being a dance club, and by 1987, it was predominantly a house music venue.
Madchester is Born
The Hacienda was no longer making a consistent loss, but selling out with DJ sets from Mike Pickering, Graeme Park, and ‘Little’ Martin Prendergast. American house artists visited, including Adonis and Frankie Knuckles. The birth of the Madchester era, the popularity of The Hacienda and the interest in house music coincided neatly with the availability of ecstasy. Ecstasy changed clubbing forever, and transformed a night out into a transcendental, awe-inspiring experience.
The term ‘Madchester’ was coined in 1989 by Factory Records video director Philip Shotton, and the end of the 80s saw the scene burgeoning in popularity. The sound was new and fresh, and The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays started to take the charts by storm. New Order rolled with the times, released the chart-topping Technique, a heavily acid house influenced album. The club scene in Manchester exploded, and the concept of ‘baggy’ music was born. ‘Baggy’ is generally understood to mix guitar rock, funk, psychadelia, and house music, and fans would typically wear baggy jeans (hence the name), tie-dye shirts and fishing or bucket hats. The look was part 1960s hippy, part football casual, and the ‘baggy’ sound influence a host of Manchester bands including The Mock Turtles, The Charlatans, and James.
The Success of Madchester
Between 1989 and 1990, Madchester bands dominated the UK Indie charts, with ‘Step On’ and ‘Kinky Afro’ by The Happy Mondays both hitting number 5 in the singles charts. James name number 2 in 1991 with a re-recording of ‘Sit Down’, the independently financed single their led to their signing with Fontana. The Happy Mondays made number 4 in the album charts with Pills n Thrills and Bellyaches, Inspiral Carpets hit number 2 with Life, and The Charlatans took number 1 with Some Friendly in 1990. The Spike Island show in 1990 featured the Stone Roses, Dave Booth, Frankie Bones, and Dave Haslam, and is remembered as ‘Woodstock for the E generation’.
The Decline of Madchester
The Stone Roses cancelled their US tour in summer 1990 and the band remained out of the public eye until 1994. The Happy Monday’s album Yes Please! was disastrous, with the band taking drugs in Barbados and demanding extra time and funds from Factory Records. The label went bankrupt in November of 1992, and the Yes Please! debacle is believed to have been a major factor in this. The UK press began to lose interest in Madchester, focusing on shoegaze bands from the south, the US grunge scene, and Britpop favourites like Blur and Oasis.
Madchester’s Musical and Cultural Legacy
The Madchester scene represented a meeting of alternative rock and electronic dance music, coupled with the drumming style of funk and disco music, and jingle-jangle guitar. Manchester’s nightlife became incredibly famous during the Madchester era, and the long-term impact of the scene gave birth to the Gay Village and Northern Quarter development. City centre living became increasingly popular, and in 1990, the University of Manchester was one of the most sought-after university destinations in Britain. Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter is now home to the Manchester musical walk of fame, that pays homage to The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, 808 State, James, and Inspiral Carpets. The influence of Madchester is everywhere in contemporary Manchester; as long as you know where to look!