The rave-influenced scene is widely seen as heavily influenced by drugs, especially ecstasy (MDMA). At that time, the Haçienda nightclub, co-owned by members of New Order, was a major catalyst for the distinctive musical ethos in the city that was called the Second Summer of Love.
The music scene in Manchester immediately before the Madchester era had been dominated by The Smiths, New Order, and The Fall. These bands were to become a significant influence on the Madchester scene.
The opening of the Haçienda nightclub, an initiative of Factory Records, in May 1982 was also influential in the development of popular culture in Manchester. For the first few years of its life, the club played predominantly club oriented pop music and hosted gigs from artists including New Order, Cabaret Voltaire, Culture Club, Thompson Twins and the Smiths. It had DJs such as Hewan Clarke and Greg Wilson and switched focus from being a live venue to being a dance club by 1986. In 1987 the Hacienda started playing house music with DJs Mike Pickering, Graeme Park and "Little" Martin Prendergast hosting the Nude night on Fridays.
The Festival of the Tenth Summer in July 1986, organised by Factory Records, helped to consolidate Manchester's standing as a centre for alternative pop-culture. The festival included film screenings, a music seminar, art shows and gigs by the city's most prominent bands, including an all-day gig at Manchester G-Mex featuring A Certain Ratio, the Smiths, New Order and the Fall. According to Dave Haslam, the festival demonstrated that "the city had become synonymous with ... larger-than-life characters playing cutting edge music ... Individuals were inspired and the city was energised; of it's [sic] own accord, uncontrolled".
The Haçienda went from making a consistent loss to consistently selling out by early 1987. During 1987, it hosted performances by American house artists including Frankie Knuckles and Adonis.Other clubs in the Manchester area started to catch on to house music including Devilles, Isadora's, Konspiracy, House, Soundgardens and Man Alive in the city centre, Bugsy's in Ashton-under-Lyne and the Osbourne Club in Miles Platting.
Another key factor in the build-up to Madchester was the sudden availability of the drug ecstasy in the city, beginning in 1987 and growing the following year. According to Dave Haslam: "Ecstasy use changed clubs forever; a night at the Haçienda went from being a great night out, to an intense, life changing experience".
By the late 1980s, the British music was symbolised by a robust sound such as a Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet and the pop music of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. The Guardian stated that 'The '80s looked destined to end in musical ignominy.' The Madchester movement burgeoned, its sound was new and refreshing and its popularity soon grew.Music by artists such as the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays began to chart highly in 1989 with New Order releasing the acid house influenced Technique, which topped the UK album charts.
Although the Madchester scene cannot really be said to have started before 1988 (the term "Madchester" was not coined until a year after that by Factory Records video director Philip Shotton), many of its most significant bands and artists were around on the local scene long before then.
808 State were formed in 1988 by the owner of the Eastern Bloc Records shop on Oldham Street, Martin Price, together with Graham Massey and Gerald Simpson. The three put together an innovative live acid house set, performing at various venues around town, and releasing an acclaimed and influential album Newbuild on Price's own label. Simpson left soon after the release of Newbuild, but went on to record as A Guy Called Gerald.
Only "Voodoo Ray" was a commercial success, but by December, a sense had started to develop in the British music press that there was something going on in the city. According to Sean O'Hagan, writing in the NME: "There is a particularly credible music biz rumour-come theory that certain Northern towns -- Manchester being the prime example -- have had their water supply treated with small doses of mind-expanding chemicals ... Everyone from Happy Mondays to the severely disorientated Morrissey conform to the theory in some way. Enter A Guy Called Gerald, out of his box on the limitless possibilities of a bank of keyboards".
The Stone Roses' following increased as they gigged around the country and released the "Made of Stone" single in February 1989.This did not chart, but enthusiasm for the band in the music press intensified when they released their debut album (produced by John Leckie) in March.Bob Stanley (later of Saint Etienne), reviewing the Stone Roses album in Melody Maker wrote: "this is simply the best debut LP I've heard in my record buying lifetime. Forget everybody else. Forget work tomorrow".The NME did not put it quite so strongly, but reported nonetheless that it was being talked of as "the greatest album ever made". John Robb in Sounds gave the album 9/10 and said "The Stone Roses have revolutionised British Pop".
The club scene in Manchester continued to grow during 1988 and 1989, with the Haçienda launching Ibiza-themed nights in the summer of 1988 and the Hotacid house night (hosted by Mike Pickering and Jon DaSilva) in November of the same year.
The "baggy" sound generally includes a combination of funk, psychedelia, guitar rock and house music. In the Manchester context, the music can be seen as mainly influenced by the indie music that had dominated the city's music scene during the 1980s, but also absorbing the various influences coming through the Haçienda.
Alongside the music, a way of dressing emerged that gave baggy its name. Baggy jeans (often flared) alongside brightly coloured or tie-dye casual tops and general '60s style became fashionable first in Manchester and then across the country - frequently topped off with a fishing hat in the style sported by the Stone Roses' drummer Reni. The overall look was part rave, part retro or part hippie, part football casual. Many Madchester bands had football casual fans and a number of bands even wore football shirts. Shami Ahmed's Manchester-based Joe Bloggs fashion label specialised in catering for the scene, making him a multi-millionaire.
The Happy Mondays record, featuring the lead track "Hallelujah!", coined the term "Madchester" - it had originally been suggested by their video directors the Bailey Brothers as a potential t-shirt slogan.
In November, the Stone Roses performed a gig at London's Alexandra Palace and were invited onto BBC2's high-brow Late Show (during their performance the electricity was cut off by noise limiting circuitry and singer Ian Brown shouted "Amateurs, amateurs" as the presenter tried to link into the next item). On 23 November 1989, the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays appeared on the same edition of Top of the Pops. The "Fools Gold" single made number 8 in the UK singles chart, becoming the biggest-selling indie single of the year.
Madchester became something of an industry bandwagon from this time. According to NME journalist Stuart Maconie, the British press had "gone bonkers over Manchester bands".James were amongst the first beneficiaries of this. The local success of their self-financed singles "Come Home" and "Sit Down" led to a deal with Fontana, and they were to score chart hits with "How Was it For You" and a re-recorded version of "Come Home" in the summer of 1990.
The Charlatans came to prominence through appearances in Manchester, particularly as a support act to the Stone Roses and became strongly associated with the scene. They released a debut single "Indian Rope" in October 1989 and their second "The Only One I Know" made the UK top ten.
Bands associated with the Madchester scene released material almost exclusively on indie records labels, with the significant exception of James, who signed to Fontana Records in 1989. The Madchester was growing in popularity and was not just a local trend in Manchester with an article entitled Stark Raving Madchester appearing in the Newsweek Magazine in 1990 describing the Madchester scene.The main Madchester bands dominated the UK Indie Charts during late 1989 and much of 1990.
The success in the UK Singles and Albums charts of a number of indie acts associated with a "scene" was unprecedented at the time. "Step On" and "Kinky Afro" by the Happy Mondays both made number 5 in the singles charts, whilst James scored the biggest Madchester hit, making number 2 in 1991 with a re-recording of "Sit Down". In the album charts, the Happy Mondays made number 4 with Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, and the Inspiral Carpets got to number 2 with Life. The Charlatans were the only Madchester band to take the number 1 spot, with the album Some Friendly in the autumn of 1990.
The Stone Roses cancelled their June 1990 tour of the US, issuing a press statement saying: "America doesn't deserve us yet".However, their debut album sold more than 350,000 copies in the U.S. that year. The band also cancelled a gig in Spain and an appearance on the U.K. chat show Wogan. They did not face the public again until the end of 1994, spending the intervening time in and out of studios in Wales - where they recorded a second album, Second Coming - and fighting in court to release themselves from their contract with Silvertone Records.
The making of the next Happy Mondays album, Yes Please! was also problematic, and it would not be released until October 1992. The band flew to Barbados to record it, where they went "crack crazy", according to Paul Ryder, making repeated requests of Factory Records for extra time and additional funds. This is reputed to have been the major factor in the bankruptcy of the label in November 1992.
With the two bands seen as the most central to the scene out of action, media fascination with Madchester dwindled. James, the Inspiral Carpets, the Charlatans and 808 State continued to record, with varying degrees of success, during the 1990s, but ceased to be seen as part of a localised scene.
In 2010, a new nightclub managed by Peter Hook of New Order, FAC251 opened in Manchester, with musical emphasis on Madchester music. Although Madchester faded by the mid-1990s, various bands have reformed for one-off concert tours. Notable bands which reformed in 2012 include the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets.
Guardian critic Penny Anderson looked unfavourably upon the scene, calling it a "breeding ground for aggressively marketed mediocrity".
Impact on Manchester
The mushrooming of Manchester's nightlife during the Madchester period has had a long-term impact, particularly with the subsequent development of the Gay Village and Northern Quarter. City centre living is also something that began to catch on in Manchester in the wake of Madchester, and which continues to this day.
The attraction of the city was such that, at the height of Madchester in 1990, the University of Manchester was the most sought-after destination for university applicants in the UK.
Organised crime became an unfortunate side-story to Madchester, with the vibrancy of the clubbing scene in the city (and the popularity of illegal drugs, particularly ecstasy) providing a fertile environment for opportunist gangsterism. Violent incidents at the Haçienda led to a campaign against it by Greater Manchester Police, and contributed to its closure in 1997.
In the late 1990s, a Manchester musical walk of fame was commissioned for Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. The walk includes a triangular slab for each music group and pays homage to bands such as the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets, 808 State, and James.
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Crossley, James (April 2011): "For EveryManc a Religion: Biblical and Religious Language in the Manchester Music Scene, 1976-1994". Biblical Interpretation 19 (2): 151-180. DOI:10.1163/156851511X557343