A musical tour of Manchester: from the Hallé to the Happy Mondays

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Every genre of music has made its mark on Manchester, including dialect ballads, classical, TV theme tunes and all the strands of post-punk. Welcome to the north-west sound

Myth distorts any city’s musical history, and in Manchester myth looms as large as the new Co-op Live, a £365m, 23,500-capacity mega-venue that opens today and will soon be staging big-name acts, including Take That. So, for every occasion a music fan mentions the hit-making boy band or, for that matter, 10cc or the Hollies, a thousand more bark back: Joy Division, the Fall, Happy Mondays. Not that 10cc were a small Manc band, but they peaked before punk and a wall went up at the end of the 1970s that relegated all that had passed prior to 4 June 1976 – the night the Sex Pistols performed at the Lesser Free Trade Hall – to prehistory, as in dinosaurs, fossils, folk musicians. New hagiographies about music impresario Tony Wilson (1950-2007) are no doubt at the printers as I write. But how about we spend half an hour mooching round the Rainy City aboard the free buses and trams in search of the underplayed, surprising and tangential – with a few Gen X/6 Music standards for when we’re stuck at the lights.

You might not think Coronation Street a promising departure point, but it gives us an in to Bowton’s Yard. It’s one of those ditties that may prompt unpleasant memories of the BBC TV series Sit Thi Deawn, but listen carefully and you’ll hear it is in fact a Victorian reality show made song. Written by Marsden-born, Stalybridge-based Samuel Laycock, it inspired Tony Warren when he was devising the characters for his Weatherfield/Salford-set soap opera. Granada Studios on Quay Street also played a leading role in disseminating the north-western sound, from regional accents to theme tunes to the Beatles’ first TV appearance, in October 1962.

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