Music in Manchester

From The Smiths to the Stone Roses, Oasis to Take That, Manchester has left an indelible mark on the global music scene. With small intimate venues and vast gig spaces, the city has welcomed some of the biggest names in the business to its stages over the years. Manchester has also played a pivotal role in shaping Britain’s music culture, as we explore here…


One of Manchester's best-known venues

The exterior of Manchester's buzzing music venue, Band on the Wall. Credit to Marketing Manchester and JP Brown

Band on the Wall has witnessed all kinds of music genres, from jazz to punk, with famous local post-punk bands such as the Buzzcocks, the Fall and Joy Division having graced its stage. Now a not-for-profit venue run by registered charity Inner City Music, performances on the main stage help to support the charity’s school and community education endeavours.


Music in a converted chapel

The Albert Hall is a Grade II listed converted chapel in Manchester’s city centre. The venue is renowned for welcoming up-and-coming artists as well as established stars, and the ornate surroundings of this former Mission make it an almost spiritual experience!


Calling all Smiths fans

Outside of famous Smiths location, Salford Lads Club in Manchester. Credit to Salford Lads Club

Smiths fans from around the world have made the pilgrimage to the Salford Lads Club to recreate the famous inside cover of The Queen is Dead, famously showing the Manchester-born band standing outside the building. The club also has a dedicated Smiths Room, a space to celebrate the seminal band with walls and ceilings plastered with posters, photographs and written notes. The collection also includes a mosaic featuring Morrissey that was donated by the founder of Afflecks Palace, Manchester’s legendary indoor market, which is filled to the brim with quirky finds and threads fit for a rock star.


Manchester ravers

The Haçienda was the epicentre of what became known as the ‘Madchester’ years, which saw a fresh creative energy sweep through the city in the 1980s and 90s. Mixing house music with indie and post-punk sounds, this legendary club created a new type of party, the effects of which can still be felt. It wasn’t all raving however, as the former yacht builder’s warehouse also hosted Madonna’s very first performance in the UK, as well as welcoming The Smiths to their stage three times in 1983, the year This Charming Man was released. Although flats now occupy the former club site, the legacy of the Haçienda lives on through immersive exhibitions and artefacts at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, much of which is available to view as part of its online collection.


The iconic bridge

Affectionately known as Joy Division Bridge, Epping Walk Bridge has gained legendary status in Manchester’s musical history, having been the backdrop to the local band’s famous NME photoshoot and later their Best of album cover, shot by Kevin Cummins. Taken in 1979, the photo shows Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris on the bridge on a snowy winter morning.


Moments in musical history

Now the The Edwardian Manchester, the Free Trade Hall in the city centre was once a location of great musical significance and the site of two world-altering cultural events. The first was Bob Dylan’s career-defining ‘Judas’ gig, where he appalled fans as he chose to play with an electric guitar rather than his acoustic, abandoning his much-loved early folk sound. It almost immediately became known as the ‘Judas’ gig, due to this being the heckle of choice shouted by the disturbed fans. And exactly a decade later, more music walls were to come crumbling down as the building’s smaller concert hall, the Lesser Free Trade Hall, saw the famous 1976 Sex Pistols gig. Only 40 people turned up, but the concert has gone down in music history as ‘the gig that changed the world’.