Editor’s note: In a new, periodic feature for shade, local music genius Clint Corey will pick a theme—sometimes related to a style, sometimes a time period, possibly a geographic location—and then will use his musical knowledge to offer a selection of MP3 tracks that set the tone for the topic and/or mood of the column. This month it’s the home of track suits, all-night raves and soccer hooliganism, Manchester, England. As Morrisey states, “Manchester, so much to answer for.”
When thinking of Manchester one of two things come to mind, either the world’s most famous soccer team or the legendary musical history spawned from the most unlikeliest of places, a gloomy industrial metropolis situated in northwest England. This article focuses on the latter. In fact, there was even a movie based on the infamous ecstasy-laden “Madchester” years, focusing on the incomparable Factory Records and its founder Tony Wilson, 2002’s 24 Hour Party People.
One of the most notorious bands featured in this film is the Happy Mondays, a band known as much for their insatiable appetite for drugs as for their formidable recording abilities. Most notably, the Mondays’ song Step On, their spirited version of John Kongo’s 1970 hit, He’s Gonna Step on You Again, is a brilliant introduction to these years and especially the Monday’s catalogue.
In addition to the Mondays, the film’s two other major bands of focus are Joy Division and its’ offspring New Order. Now any fan of Joy Division or just New Wave in general will tell you that Love Will Tear us Apart is the obvious choice for your MP3 collection, a song powerful enough to have Kurt Cobain cite it as being “the greatest song of all time.” However, this selection is a little too obvious. I am instead going with She’s Lost Control, a song so evocatively brilliant that not even a Tony Danza movie of the same name could tarnish its appeal. It also effectively captures the iconic awe-inspiring essence of epileptic lead singer Ian Curtis who tragically hung himself on May 18, 1980, the night before the group’s first U.S. tour.
After disbanding immediately following Curtis’s death, the remaining members of Joy Division reformed a few months later as New Order, with guitarist Bernard Sumner taking over vocal duties in addition to adding a keyboardist. Although a favorite amongst club-goers for their first few years, it wasn’t until the release of the single Blue Monday in 1983 that they began receiving the recognition that they so richly deserved. Blue Monday is a single so beloved that it went on to become the best selling 12” of all time, moving over three million copies. But, if you want a truly memorable but often overlooked New Order track, check out Love Vigilantes of their 1985 release, Low Life.
The following year another Manchester band known simply as The Smiths released a twelve-inch of their own for the song William It Was Really Nothing. The true treasure of this single, however, lies on the B-side, with the haunting yet ubiquitous How Soon Is Now. However, it took three more years and the release of the album The Queen is Dead for guitar virtuoso Johnny Marr and legendary crooner Morrissey to reach their true potential. This is best exemplified by track nine, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, which features such poetically irony-fraught lyrics as:
And if a ten-ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine
Speaking of Johnny Marr, it was 1988 when he met the aforementioned New Order lead singer Bernard Sumner and they decided to form Electronic. The collaborative genius does not disappoint. Some Distant Memory off of Electronic’s self-titled debut album, which was called “one of the greatest of all time” by Melody Maker, is a pop song/composition so beautifully crafted it will surely make it into heavy rotation on your MP3 player.
When it comes to Electronics’ visceral songwriting ability only two bands come to mind that are even close to being in the same stratosphere. Luckily, these are the two Manchester products, The Stone Roses and The Verve. Now what do these two seminal bands have in common? They both were anointed with the all too commonly bestowed “future of rock” moniker, and they both are greatly influenced by late-60s psychedelic rock guitar hooks. Some excellent examples of this are A Beautiful Mind, off of the Verve’s much under appreciated album A Storm in Heaven, and The Stone Roses other worldly I Wanna be Adored.
Finally the last essential download comes from the most unlikely of combinations, Oasis and The Chemical Brothers. In 1996 The Chemical Brothers scored their first UK number-one single with Setting Sun, which featured guest vocals from the outspoken songwriter of Oasis, Noel Gallagher. This track was later included on the Chemical Brother’s two-million-selling full-length Dig Your Own Hole – although a truly amazing song, download the video. It is one of the only artifacts of pop culture that truly encapsulates everything electronic music aspires to be.