The Madchester Era

Britain houses some of the most interesting and body-jigging music genres in the world, with stars from Morrissey to Mick Jagger, the UK music scene is arguably the best in the world (of course we’re going to be a little biased). So we want to delve deeper into the music genres that put the UK on the music map- so let’s start with a bit of Madchester…

What is Madchester?

For those of you who are unaware of what Madchester is (we hope there’s very few of you), it was simply the biggest music and cultural scene that developed in the city of Manchester around the late 1980s/early 90s. This was a time in which alternative rock artists created whole new sub genres of music by mixing the likes of acid house, psychedelic, 60s pop and more to form a nightlife scene unlike any other. This era helped to develop and define a youth culture which brought with it its own sound and fashion styles.

The Madchester scene was very heavily influenced by recreational drug use- especially that of Ecstasy (MDMA). The use of this class A drug would allow the taker to experience a non-stop, frantic night of dancing, giving them the energy to party for hours on end (until the inevitable come down of course). This illegal substance abuse should not be the main focus point of what was a magical time for music and Northerners everywhere however. Instead, we’re going to highlight one of the venues and bands that made Madchester what it was.

The venue to be-

30 years ago, the only place any Mancunian would want to venture to on a night out, would be the Haçienda. Co-owned by a few members of renowned Manchester band New Order, this influential club first opened to the public in 1982 and boasted live performances from The Smiths and even Madonna! This was the venue where it ALL happened and it wasn’t all about the money (refreshing to hear). The Hacienda barely made profit for years and most nights would struggle to break even- with Peter Hook (part owner and ex Joy Division/New Order member) claiming the band would have been better off giving each raver a tenner and sending them on their way home.

When dance music met Ecstasy, the Hacienda became a destination for clubbers all around the country. With people travelling miles and miles to dance like their lives depended on it, the DJs in this venue started to become as famous as the artists they were playing- the public could not get enough of this house scene.

All good things must come to an end however, and this short lived dream of drugs, dancing and derivative acid pop came crashing down once the venue eventually closed in the summer of 1997 due to poor long-term planning and huge financial difficulties. The owners could simply not sustain a club that sold limited amounts of alcohol (probably down to other substances being used…) and with crippling debts to pay and security being a huge issue, the owners eventually decided to settle their losses and take the financial hit by shutting up shop. A report from The Hook, in 2009, claimed the Haçienda lost upwards of £18 million during its later years – ouch! The building is now a block of flats, but the aura surrounding the night life haven is still there, with the locals remembering the club in the best light possible.

The music-

We don’t think it’s possible to write an article on Madchester and not link it all back to the Stone Roses. One of the greatest bands to ever come out of the North, the four piece boy band helped coin a new music genre ‘Baggy’ which fused together guitar with funk, house and psych music. This popular sound hit the mainstream charts through the success of big names such as the already mentioned Stone Roses, The Charlatans and Happy Mondays. Singles such as ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ by the Stone Roses and James’ ‘Sit Down’ propelled the baggy genre to popularity across the country, with the baggy culture being best shown in the Stone Roses iconic Spike Island performance.

Baggy jeans, half-buttoned shirts and bucket hats (along with 3 quarter length shorts and long cagoules of course) defined a fashion style that would take over the North. The Madchester music scene inspired so many fashion trends that are still around to this day. From indie to hipster clothing, there’s still a huge reminiscence of Ian Brown and Shaun Ryder in many fashions styles you see on the streets.

The Stone Roses first hit the headlines with their debut album ‘The Stone Roses’ (very creative) in 1989, with critics praising it as the best British albums ever recorded. The bands popularity did not come as a shock to most music listeners, with their previous singles ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and ‘Elephant Stone’ setting the Madchester band’s neo-psychedelic guitar pop in stone. By the early 90s, the Stone Roses had left their comfort zone of Manchester and were now selling out gigs all across the world, from London to Tokyo.

The band had a few issues around the mid-90s regarding band members, with Ian Brown (lead vocalist) and bassist Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield being the only original members left by the year of 1996. Line-up changes arguably saw the band lose part of their identity. Therefore, Brown and Mani decided to quit while they were ahead and dismembered the group (not quite literally) in October 1996, shortly after their stint at Reading Festival.15 years later however, the Stone Roses called a press conference to announce their world reunion tour for 2012, while there was talk of new hit singles and a potential third album. 2016 was a special year for the Stones fans, with two new singles ‘All For One’ and ‘Beautiful Thing’ being released within a month of each other- these would be the last new releases however.

The unofficial final Stone Roses gig was performed at Hampton Park in Glasgow on the 24th June 2017. Although the band members never clarified that it would be their last ever live performance together, Ian Brown addressed the crowd throughout the gig with the touching statement ‘don’t be sad because it’s over, be happy that it happened.’ This created much speculation about the band and their future together. Although no official statement was released from any band member stating that this is the end for the Stone Roses, the public read between the lines and came to said conclusion themselves. This was also helped by the news that lead vocalist Ian Brown would be working on a solo album, which is still yet to be released. We have hope that it may be soon, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Written by Arron Thomas-Perry