Music, Media and Manchester: The Search for North West England's Best Band

If you’ve ever read any of my writing previously you’ll know I’m prone to mention various elements of pop culture, music, film or television as references in my writing, sometimes even how they coincide with each other. Along with football, writing and the occasional book, those few entities make up the majority of my hobbies, interests and general time wasters.

In all of my hedonistic pursuits, it’s only a matter of time before the borders and lines of those mediums cross each other and interact. Such it is that I somehow find ways to relate certain bands to certain films, TV shows to films, or even bands to football. This very topic has been written about on EPL Talk before in the past, the intersecting of different forms of media, art and elements of culture. But speaking specifically, it never ceases to amaze me how music and football often mesh together to form such a large part of my life.

English music in general somehow (maybe subconsciously) paved the way for my obsession with football at a young age. When introduced to the Clash in my sheltered teenage years, I somehow associated their punk sensibilities and their being English with the mythical yet actual reality of a chaotic, violent and troubled history of English football in the 80’s. At that point in my life and at such a young age, music had influenced my thoughts on football like it would go on to do time after time during my teenage years and into my early twenties. Two cultures, music and football, would clash (pun intended) and it wouldn’t be the last time in my life they would meet.

Soon after the Clash incident, a band widely regarded as being the most important band in the British music independent scene would be introduced to me well after their prime. In fact, they were likely broken up upon my first listen. Remember, I was a sheltered teen. Obviously I’m talking about the Smiths. I won’t take another long stroll down memory lane except to tell you that music and football again combined when I found out that the Smiths were from a North West city in England called Manchester. I won’t say the Smiths are the sole reason I support United to this day, but the point I’m trying to make is that football and music had once again amalgamated to form some divine idea in my intellect.

Whether it was the romantic idea of this far away land called Manchester – where there was a historic football team and bands I related to – or just a simple twist of fate, a new love and respect for all things English had emerged. I again had been affected by one or the other, but in this case both.

Fast forward some seventeen years and a few hundred bands in between and I still find myself mentally returning to Manchester to search for the next great English band. Who knows, maybe they’re reading this very post before heading to band practice to become the next Oasis or Arctic Monkeys, Sheffield’s finest sons. With all the great Manchester bands over the years such as Joy Division, the Stone Roses and more recently Elbow and Doves, I have become curious as to which band other people think is the greatest to come out of Manchester and I’m ready to settle the debate once and for all.

Take a second to review the bands and vote in the poll below. If you don’t see your all time favorite Manchester group, click ‘other’ and leave the name of the band in the comments section below.

31 thoughts on “Music, Media and Manchester: The Search for North West England's Best Band”

  1. What a tough choice! Chemical Brothers, Smiths, Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Buzzcocks, and the Stone Roses? That’s a stacked lineup. Had to go with Joy Division but it was close between them and the Stone Roses and the Smiths.

    Best Manchester writer–Jeff Noon, hands down.

  2. The Smiths hands-down. Stone Roses & Joy Division/New Order come in just behind as having greatest musical influence. Oasis were great, but hardly groundbreaking.

  3. Well technically The Smiths are from Salford. But close enough. Being old enough to actually claim the honor of seeing them perform as a band, and most of the names on that list. Not to mention a akward late teen phase in the 80’s wearing oversized Buddy Holly black glasses I don’t think its a push for me to say the Smiths are the most important band ever.

    Take that with a grain of salt as I was/ am obsessed with anything with a Fac number assigned to it. Even now in my early 40’s I listen to this music and it seems fresh.

    In the early 90’s I was living in England and planning on going to Ireland by ferry via Liverpool. I stopped off in Manchester and hit up the Hacienda. By then it was a drug infested acid house club, where I’m pretty sure I was the only one buying beer at the bar. When Soho’s Hippy Chick came on with a sample of How Soon Is Now, I actually pulled out my note book and wrote down, “convergence, Manchester”. So I totally relate with your musical obsession.

    The biggest question of all time is…. What team does Mozz support. He wrote Munich Air Disaster 1958, but wore a West Ham Boys Club T-shirt during his You Are the Quarry tour, and recently has attended Millwall games. Then he also has been seen at Chivas USA games as well. Which makes this required reading…

    One of the best shows I ever saw was Mozz at the Harlem Apollo in 2004.

    1. Marr definitely supports City. Moz isn’t a football fan, but when he was a kid he once bought a Man Utd cap, which was promptly stolen. This was when he jokingly said he decided to take his revenge on the world.

      And The Smiths are far and away the best band of the last quarter-century, if not more. Easily my second favourite band (Beatles have always been my favourite, but they shouldn’t even really count. It’s like a music cheat code.)

      1. Actually, The Smiths aren’t from Salford – Morrissey was born in Trafford and grew up in Hulme and Stretford, while Johnny Marr was from Ardwick.

  4. It has to be the Smiths. They are as iconic as any band ever to come from England aside from maybe the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. If you mention Liverpool to anyone, 9 out of 10 people will think Beatles. You mention Manchester, and many will automatically think of the Smiths.

  5. any other answer besides new order/joy division is utterly mistaken. without new order, joy division, hacienda and every other thing they touched (stone roses and happy mondays lumped in) the manchester music scene is reviewed from a completely different perspective. the smiths were good, but they haven’t maintained their musical relevance aside from nostalgia. new order has a more of a legacy to stand on than any other band on your list…all said respectfully of course :)

  6. I love The Smiths but my all time favourite band is The Stone Roses, the group that inspired Oasis to form a band and the front runner for the Madchester indie sceen.
    Man Utd actually walk out to one of their songs when the play at Old Trafford, ‘This Is The One’.
    Bands like the Stone Roses, The Charlatans, James and the Happy Mondays were out when I was a young teenager so I grew up loving that type of music, I missed The Smiths so had to wait until a friend let me borrow a cd when I was about 20.

    Good choice of bands though Jesse, I have a cd of all of the bands you mentioned apart from ‘I am Kloot’. I’ve never heard of them so I might have to get on i tunes and give them a listen.

    You should watch the film 24hr party people if you like music from Manchester, it’s quite funny and shows a little of how the Hacienda, Joy Division and the Happy Mondays came to be

  7. It was reading a biography about the Gallagher brothers well over 10 years ago that got me interested in following Manchester City, so I pretty much have to pick Oasis here.

    1. I first met Noel Gallagher at a small bar in Boston in 1994, could not have been more than 50 people at the show, I didnt know who they were and only went to the show because I lived across the street from the venue.

      I was born in Britain although moved to the states when I was very young and spent a few summers in the UK. I was familiar with football but never really followed it or supported a team. After that drunken night with Noel in ’94 I became a city fan and still am today, directly because of Oasis. CTID

  8. This was a rather mean… er difficult poll.
    Joy Division/New Order, Oasis, and Stone Roses are hands down the best of all-time! None could really be better than the other. Ian Brown was, and-continues-to-be one of the best front-men ever!


  9. I do love The Smiths, and the Stone Roses have their moments, but no one from Manchester can hold a candle to Oasis.

    No other band does what Oasis does. Every song makes me feel like I’m ten feet tall. Every song makes me want to walk into a crowded room in slow motion. Every song makes me feel like I can take over the world. Every song is a wellspring of optimism (even the sad ballads are conciliatory). Oasis is a band whose library is a testament to the power of self belief.

  10. Long live the Republic of Mancunia! Similar story as the author…but for me the artist that sealed my love for Manchester (and Manchester United) will always be the Stone Roses. Hearing “This Is the One” each time the lads come out of the tunnel at Old Trafford gives me chills. I only wish I had grown up in the heart of Northern Soul and not in the cornfields of Illinois.

    Keep on keeping on….

  11. What?!?! You didn’t include Take That?!? I’m offended, Jesse, truly 😉

    In all seriousness, The Smiths are the standout Mancunian outfit, arguably the best band of the 80s.

  12. buzzcocks and joy division..smiths are ehhhhh alright..i always thought if yer a guy and you really really dig must be bi!

  13. Agree that the Smiths are the top band, but wanted to echo the shoutouts for Oceansize. Brilliant, modern band making vital music. 2005’s Everyone Into Position is a dynamic blend of well-written tunes featuring guitar noise, pop, shoegaze with vocals reminiscient of Chris Cornell. 2007’s Frames wasn’t bad either, and am anxiously awaiting their next full release and hopefully a US tour. Oh, Manchester United fan, in Atlanta.

  14. great piece. and great comments, 24 Hour Party People is massive, Steve Coogan does an incredible job. Control was criminally slept on when it came out a few years ago. Bummed to see Joy Division placing third, they belong at the top.
    What of other cities? Birmingham=Sabbath no contest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *