Quietus Book of the Year Northern Soul Book of the Year The Australian Book of the Year Even if it’s a fool’s errand trying to decide which is the greatest LP out of The Fall’s huge back catalogue of albums, many fanatics of the group will tell you that the worst thing you can say about Hex is that it’s their equal best at the very least. – John Doran, ..Read More
A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings
A Northern Soul Book of the Year
Nominated for the 2018 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research
When British bands took the world by storm in the mid-sixties, the world turned and looked at London. Despite the fact that the most successful of these bands hailed from the North West corner of England, for the USA, London was the source of these thrilling new sounds. And in many ways it was – The Beatles, The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits recorded all their hits with London-based producers, for London-based companies in London studios. And that’s how it remained, until four Mancunian musicians became alive to the possibility of recording away from the capital.
Against the prevailing wisdom, they opted to plough their hard-earned cash back into the city they loved in the form of proper recording facilities. Eric Stewart of The Mindbenders and songwriter extraordinaire Graham Gouldman created Strawberry Studios; Keith Hopwood and Derek Leckenby of Herman’s Hermits crafted Pluto. Between them they gave Manchester a voice, and facilitated a musical revolution that would be defined by its rejection of the capital.
This book tells the story of Manchester music through the prism of the two studio’s key recordings. Of course that story inevitably takes in The Smiths, Joy Division, The Fall and The Stone Roses. But it’s equally the story of ‘Bus Stop’ and ‘East West’ and ‘I’m Not in Love’. It’s the story of the Manchester attitude of L.S. Lowry, by way of Brian and Michael, and how that attitude rubbed off on The Clash and Neil Sedaka. Above all, it’s the story of music that couldn’t have been made anywhere else but Manchester.
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Northern Soul, Book of the Year
An ambitious, engaging history of Manchester music… Hanley really gets to grips with the entire tale, and relates it to the reader with clarity, skill, wisdom and wit. All told, it might just be the definitive book on the subject.
One of the most entertaining, well researched and informative books about making music in Manchester I have read. Paul Hanley’s writing is effortlessly entertaining yet packs masses of detail without ever sounding geeky. If you want to know what connects Herman’s Hermits, The Clash and The Stone Roses you’ll find it here.
A broad reinvestigation of Manchester music history from the 60s to the 90s. Written with passion, flair and an attention to factual detail worthy of the BBC’s John Motson, Hanley convincingly argues that the endeavours of oft-derided British Invasion-era Mancs The Hollies, The Mindbenders and Herman’s Hermits resulted in Manchester wrestling some control from the London music moguls a decade before Buzzcocks’ self-released Spiral Scratch. To further illustrate his point, the author then isolates 13 mould-breaking Mancunian recordings which mirror the richness and diversity of his city’s musical heritage. Hanley inevitably endorses influential titles such as The Smiths and Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, and to his credit also salutes brilliantly unlikely home-grown smash hits including 10cc’s opulent 'I’m Not In Love' and LS Lowry-inspired folkies Brian & Michael’s 'Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs'.
Robert Iannapollo, ARSC Journal
An informed perspective written with intelligence and wit. Hanley tells his story entertainingly and does it in a thorough, readable, unpretentious manner. Hanley’s witty prose is to be found even in the book’s copious footnotes. Well researched, Hanley provides some good, unique information about the British music scene that most probably do not know. It is one of the best books I have read on a rock topic in years.
Mike Sweeney, BBC Radio Manchester
One of the best books on rock’n’roll I’ve ever read.
Makes a convincing – and thoroughly entertaining – case for Manchester studios Pluto and Strawberry being the lightning rods for the city’s celebrated music scenes.
We Are Cult
Leave The Capital explores the best bands that Manchester had to offer the world, and how that talent was grown and nurtured in the heart of the North West. Forget The Beatles and all of Epstein’s acts who never recorded anything further north of the Watford Gap. This book celebrates Mancunian bands in the city that made them.
John Maher, Buzzcocks
Well written, educational and very entertaining.
A great document and seriously well written (for a drummer).
The Big Takeover
A must-read account of a particular time and location that came together to alter popular culture… by leaving the capital.
In this extract from Paul Hanley's Leave The Capital, we see the birth of Herman's Hermits at a Beatles concert in Abbotsfield Park, Urmston.
On Bank Holiday Monday, 5th August 1963, a momentous concert took place in a tatty, hastily-erected marquee on Abbotsfield Park, Urmston. The Beatles were reluctantly honouring a booking that was made before they broke big. They’d had a good time when they played the Urmston Show in 1962, met some nice people and enjoyed a couple of pints in the Bird In Hand, so they happily agreed to come back the following year. Things were a little different by then though – at the time of the second gig ‘Please Please Me’ was riding high, they were ready to release ‘She Loves You’ and they had made their final appearance at The Cavern two days before. It was clear their days of playing council functions in rundown suburbs were over. Brian Epstein had tried to wriggle out of the gig on safety grounds, citing the uncontrollable numbers the newly-famous Beatles could generate, but Urmston Council were having none of it. There was no way they were going to cancel their flagship festivities on the grounds they might be too successful.
The lads got changed in a shed on the nearby allotments and were smuggled into the venue in a Parks & Gardens van. Depending on who you ask, between 1,000 and 4,000 people braved the horrendous rain to catch a glimpse of the zeitgeist blowing through their backyard. The council had expected 12,000.
Davyhulme mates Peter Noone and Alan Wrigley had wandered along to Abbotsfield Park ostensibly to see The Tremeloes. They were in a band themselves, The Heartbeats. Peter had a nice voice, a winning smile and a stage name he was proud of, Peter Novac; Alan had been practising hard on his hire-purchase bass guitar, and they figured they had what it took to make it big. However, what they saw that day changed everything. Alan was (un)lucky enough to witness four astonishing musicians at a point in their career when a serious case could be made for them being the most experienced live act in the world. The Beatles had played nearly a thousand hours in Hamburg and a year of lunchtime gigs at The Cavern on their journey to Urmston, and it showed. Pete and Alan had seen plenty of bands live – good bands, with talented musicians – but they’d never seen anything like this. And that bass player! Not only was he technically better at his instrument than Wrigley could ever hope to be, he was, as Ian MacDonald has memorably pointed out, perfectly capable of ‘singing, whilst simultaneously playing a bass-line in quavers. And winking at the girls in the front row.’ Alan knew the game was up. ‘We’re fucked,’ was just about all he could find to say on the subject, so he said it several times. His companion couldn’t manage such heady levels of discourse and remained speechless throughout.
Peter was something of a showbiz kid, he’d been on TV several times – including a stint as Len Fairclough’s son on Coronation Street – but in terms of charisma and sheer professionalism, this was beyond anything he’d ever imagined. He knew he’d never be able to compete with The Beatles at rock and roll, but then Paul took centre stage and sang ‘Till There Was You’; the one they half-heartedly wheeled out when they needed to broaden their appeal, just as they had done for Decca, just as they would do for The Royal Variety and Ed Sullivan. John and George always struggled to take the song seriously, and Paul could only carry it off by covering himself with a self-conscious smirk, but it was clear the song went down a treat with the mums and dads. (And, more importantly, the girls, Peter noted.) Suddenly, Peter could see a way forward. He’d never do authentic Little Richard like Paul McCartney, but he could sing that syrupy stuff like he really meant it. He would do the kind of songs The Beatles were desperate to drop. Of course, to do those numbers justice he’d need proper musicians, so it was a good job Alan had decided that he wasn’t good enough. It would save Peter a task later on.
Of all the iconic musicians and scenes that emanate from Manchester, Simon Wolstencroft is the one who joins up the dots. He learnt his chops playing with Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke, but turned down The Smiths because he didn’t like the cut of Morrissey’s jib. He parted ways with his schoolmates Ian Brown and John Squire before The Patrol became The Stone R..Read More
Carpet Burns is Tom Hingley’s account of his life as lead singer of Inspiral Carpets, one of the big three bands of the Manchester movement who, along with The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, changed music for a generation. Tom’s own words provide an account of what it felt like to be in the eye of a pop hurricane and what happens when the hits end and the ar..Read More