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How 'Madchester' culture defined a city united


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After the recent terrorist attack in Manchester on 22nd May, Manchester has suffered a great deal of heartbreak. But, as always, Manchester does what Manchester does best: it shows to other cities that you can join hands and celebrate what makes your city great.

And what makes Manchester great? Music.

It could be said the vibrant, loving Manchester we know and love today emerged in the late 80s soundtracked by the ‘Madchester’ sound.

Fuelled by the sounds of acid house, ecstasy and 60s psychedelic the music was part of the youth culture flood that helped transform the bleak, industrial city into one of colour and groovy sounds.

It saw The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets channel this new vibe and Madchester was born.

Madchester, like the punk explosion of the late 1970s (with bands like Buzzcocks, Joy Division and the Fall forging a northern identity for the sound) helped put Manchester on the map nationally birthing bands that defined a generation like The Stone Roses, The Charlatans and James as well as 808 State, Northside, The Mock Turtles, Candyflip and A Guy Called Gerald. 

All these bands although different in sound all have the optimism that the new rave culture was bringing in the second summer of love in 1988 to 1989 when acid house really took hold. Manchester was a central hub of this burgeoning new culture.

Acid house really took hold at the legendary Haçienda co-owned by Factory Records, the record label owned by Tony Wilson and gave us the music of Joy Division, and New Order (the second incarnation of Joy Division) who were pivotal in bringing dance sounds to the city.

The Haçienda brought people across the country into one building as they danced the night away to the biggest acid house tunes. It also became the home of a great deal of ecstasy taking - for dancing purposes of course - which was creatively influenced the sounds created by bands in that era.

Many of the bands in the Madchester scene, as well as bands like Primal Scream, had their lives changed in attendance at the Hacienda and those experiences fed into their ‘indie’ music to create a new dancefloor sound.

The scene also had a profound effect on fashion with ‘baggy’ (also another name for the indie music emerging) looks became popular as it aided hours of dancing.

As the ravers of the north headed to the Haçienda, grabbing baggy t shirts, fluorescent jackets and Adidas trainers, the on-lookers took note and soon began dressing to match the rave scene no matter where they were going. And yes, that is probably why your mum and dad hate it when you come back from shopping with a fluorescent k-way jacket for Leeds Festival or some grubby old trainers, because they probably had some strange, drug fuelled encounters in similar outfits ‘back in the day’.

Although, short-lived as raves became illegal, e was cracked down on and the major music industry latched on to the sound the brief moment of the Madchester scene changed everything for the city and culture on the whole.

It’s influence paved the way for Oasis, featuring once Inspiral Carpets roadie Noel Gallagher, who would define the mid-90s and become one of the biggest bands of all time, proudly representing the greatest city on earth through their rock 'n' roll image.

The Stone Roses, pioneers of the scene, got back together and toured the biggest stadiums in the world. The Charlatans are still producing music, and Bez from Happy Mondays is still shaking his maracas on stage.

But what’s so special about Madchester?

If it's not the fact that it inspired some of the biggest bands around, if it's not the fact that several festivals across the country celebrate its sound and if it's not the fact that someone would sell a piece of flooring from the Hacienda (now luxury flats) for over £400... then it's the fact that the day after the Manchester attacks, people across the city joined hands and sang Oasis’ 'Don’t Look Back in Anger' with pride and emotion.

Madchester was the genre that brought people together no matter where in the city you were from, no matter if you were a red or a blue, you were a city united... and a city united it will forever be.

This is our Manchester and there’s nowt you can do about it, R Kid.

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