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Top Ten Bands From Manchester

Someone asked me to do an article about Manchester bands, specifically the 'Madchester' scene from the late 1980s. I thought I'd go a bit further and compile a list of the best acts ever to come out of Manchester, so here it is!

Bands are listed in the order they were formed. Some bands are technically from Salford or Wigan, but they're in Greater Manchester.

I considered including The Cure as Robert Smith was born in Manchester but that would be stretching it a bit.


The Hollies

The Hollies were formed in 1962, releasing their first single in 63. Contemporaries of the Beatles, they're one of the few British bands that failed to replicate their UK success in America.

Guitarist and singer Graham Nash went on to join some chaps called Crosby, Stills and Young and have some quite significant success.

Hit singles included 'I'm Alive', 'The Air That I Breathe' and 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother'.

Joy Division/New Order

Joy Division started as Warsaw in 1976, going on to release some classic tracks like 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', 'She's Lost Control' and 'Transmission'. They influenced no end of post punk and goth bands throughout the 80s, and more recently were the subject of the films 'Control' and '24 Hour Party People'. After Ian Curtis's suicide the remaining members went on to form New Order, who went on to further critical and commercial success: 'Blue Monday' was the best selling 12" single of all time (although the record company Factory actually lost 4p on every sale due to overspending on the packaging!). Other hits include 'True Faith' and 'Regret'.

Happy Mondays

The other stars of '24 Hour Party People' (alongside legendary Factory Records boss and TV presenter the late Tony Wilson), the Happy Mondays were one of the first bands to cross dance music with guitars, in the process creating classic tracks like 'Step On', 'Kinky Afro' and 'Hallelujah'. Shaun Ryder's unique vocals and dancer Bez's drug-fuelled moves were the band's hallmarks.

NB: This video was chosen purely because it amused me. At this point in time everyone had to mime on Top Of The Pops...

The Smiths

Where to start with The Smiths! Formed in 1982, the band became a mainstay on the UK charts and throughout the world, with songs such as 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out', 'This Charming Man' and 'How Soon Is Now?' still regularly played in alternative clubs to this day.

The band continue to inspire devotion long after their demise, and in Morrissey and Johnny Marr the Smiths had two exceptional talents who both continue to put out albums. Morrissey is a prolific solo artist while Marr regularly contributes to other bands' albums, and briefly joined both Modest Mouse and The Cribs in the last few years.

The Stone Roses

It's sometimes hard to believe that The Stone Roses only put out two proper albums. The songwriting team of Ian Brown and John Squire produced some of the best music of the last 1980s and early 90s. The self-titled first LP is generally in the top ten of any 'greatest albums ever' list. I could list the whole thing but 8 minute epic 'I Am The Resurrection' is remarkable for the fact that it still gets played in full on the radio (I suspect when the DJ needs to nip to the toilet). The follow up 'Second Coming' is somewhat maligned even by fans but still featured two fantastic songs in 'Love Spreads' and 'Ten Story Love Song'.

The Verve

The Verve, hailing from Wigan, started out as a shoegaze influenced indie band, with effect laden guitars underpinning Richard Ashcroft's vocals. Later albums moved towards a more traditional indie rock sound, although keeping some of the epic swirling guitars.

Despite forming in 1989 various splits and reunions meant that the band only made 4 albums, the most commercially successful of which was third album 'Urban Hymns', which spawned a series of hit singles including 'The Drugs Don't Work', 'Lucky Man' and 'Bitter Sweet Symphony'.

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Since you'll likely have heard those here's something else from their back catalogue:


The story of Oasis was dominated by the fractious relationship between brother Liam and Noel Gallagher. Indeed it was an argument between the two that finally led to the band finally breaking up.

Oasis had a fairly quick rise to prominence with the debut album 'Definitely Maybe', but it was the follow up '(What's The Story) Morning Glory' that catapulted them from indie heroes to genuine stars, with massive hit singles like 'Wonderwall' and 'Don't Look Back In Anger'. Oasis became the first of the 'britpop' bands to break America, hitting number one across the world and selling 14 million copies in the process. Every album since has failed to reach the same musical heights, but the band remained consistently popular until they split in 2009.

Main songwriter Noel is currently pursuing a solo career while Liam and the rest of the final line up are performing as Beady Eye.

The Chemical Brothers

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simon met at university in Manchester and initially started out DJing as The Dust Brothers before starting to make their own electronic tracks. After legal action by the American artists of the same name they became The Chemical Brothers and have since released 7 albums, 5 of which reached the top of the UK album charts. Some of their most notable tracks have featured other members of this list: 'Setting Sun' has vocals by Noel Gallagher of Oasis while 'The Test' has The Verve's Richard Ashcroft. Their sound has been referred to as 'big beat', the reasons for which might become obvious upon hearing this beast:

The Buzzcocks

A shocking oversight in the first edit was the lack of legendary punk band The Buzzcocks, not only responsible for the peerless "Ever Fallen In Love" and a string of other singles but lending their names to a long running TV pop quiz.

Badly Drawn Boy

Badly Drawn Boy aka Damon Gough is very hard to pigeonhole. His first album 'The Hour Of Bewilderbeast' leaps from jazz to folk to indie and into lo-fi oddness. for his next trick he write the soundtrack to the film 'About A Boy' starring Hugh Grant, a soundtrack which resulted in 3 singles and worldwide exposure. He's a bit patchy but when he's on target there's not many who can match him.

Honorable mentions

George Formby was from Wigan, and armed only with a ukulele has gone on to legendary status, with 'When I'm Cleaning Windows' being known to almost everyone over the age of 30.

The Inspiral Carpets were one of the key Madchester bands, and are widely thought to have coined the phrase, but although Clint Boon is a regular on Manchester's XFM radio station their musical legacy is somewhat limited.

Mr Scruff remains a constant figure on the Manchester club scene in his regular DJing slot at Band On The Wall but his own records are worth a listen.

Frank Sidebottom was part comedian, part musician, part papier mache. If you've never heard of him I suggest you take a look at the video below!


Luke Chant (author) from Manchester on September 26, 2016:

So much Chameleons love on here! Might have to revise this at some point for a pure 'bands' list.

ChrisJM on May 07, 2016:

Yep the Chameleons were from Middleton Manchester not Middleton Leeds and should be on this list - probably top of it if I'm honest

JuanPi on August 04, 2015:

Yes, I agree with Undo, in my opinion you should update the blog because James deserves to be a member of this top list

Ian on June 17, 2015:

The Chemeleons were from Middleton and considered very much a manc band and should be on this list!

Undo on June 06, 2015:

You forgot James...great live act

Luke Chant (author) from Manchester on January 20, 2015:

Buzzcocks: Legitimate contenders in a re-write!

Adog on April 15, 2014:

What about the buzzcocks?

coolinjector on September 03, 2013:


Luke Chant (author) from Manchester on May 17, 2013:

Music is always subjective, each to their own! Some would includes the likes of Keith, Northside, Elbow, The Fall, etc etc

Hearsz - I assume you mean Mr Scruff - he makes his own music as well as being a DJ, check out his albums!

joe1919 on May 16, 2013:

The Chameleons were from Leeds...Im pretty sure there may be a chance im wrong. I guess I could look at wikipedia. That frank Sidebottom video and song is very dumb and has no place on a top ten list from manchester,Badly drawn boy, chemical bros, Mr. Scruff. These are not even close to top ten manchester bands. The rest on the list are... The verve, The smiths ext...

Andres on January 15, 2013:

Weren't the Chameleons from Manchester? If they weren't I excuse myself, if they indeed were, they positively must be included in this list

Hearsz on December 09, 2012:

Enjoyed reading your article but one has to wonder, since when is a DJ classed as a band??

cherry4144 on July 20, 2011:

me too i loved them all

Luke Chant (author) from Manchester on July 08, 2011:

Here's the new bands hub:

Luke Chant (author) from Manchester on July 08, 2011:

Currently putting together a new Manchester bands hub, the hard part being trying to make sure I don't just put all of my friend's bands in!

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on July 07, 2011:

Loved all these bands. Manchester has a killer music scene.

Luke Chant (author) from Manchester on July 07, 2011:


cooldad from Florida on July 07, 2011:

Nice hub, I always enjoy learning more about music. thanks

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