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Madchester was an alternative rock genre that developed in Manchestermarker, England, towards the end of the 1980s and into the early 1990s. The music that emerged from the scene mixed indie rock, psychedelic rock and dance music. Artists associated with the scene included The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, 808 State, James, The Charlatans, A Guy Called Gerald and other notable bands. At that time, The Haçiendamarker nightclub was a major catalyst for the distinctive musical ethos in the city that was called the Second Summer of Love.

Before Madchester

The music scene in Manchester immediately before the Madchester era had been dominated by bands such as The Smiths, New Order and The Fall. These bands were to become a significant influence on the Madchester scene.

The opening of the Haçienda nightclubmarker, an initiative of Factory Records, in May 1982 was also influential in the development of popular culture in Manchester. For the first few years of its life, the club played predominantly indie music and hosted gigs from artists inlcuding New Order and the Smiths. It gradually began featuring more disco, hip-hop and electro, switching focus from being a live venue to being a dance club by 1986. . In the same year, it became the first club in the UK to take house music seriously with DJs Mike Pickering, Graeme Parkmarker and "Little" Martin Prendergast hosting the Nude night on Fridays. .

The Festival of the Tenth Summer in July 1986, organised by Factory Records, helped to consolidate Manchester's standing as a centre for alternative pop-culture. The festival included film-screenings, a music seminar, art shows and gigs by the city's most prominent bands, including an all-day gig at Manchester G-Mex featuring A Certain Ratio, The Smiths, New Order and The Fall. According to Dave Haslam, the festival demonstrated that "the city had become symonymous with...larger-than-life characters playing cutting edge music...Individuals were inspired and the city was energised; of it's own accord, uncontrolled". .

The Haçienda went from making a consistent loss to consitently packed out by early 1987 . During 1987, it hosted perfoemances by American house artists including Frankie Knuckles and Adonis. Other clubs in the Manchester area started to follow the Haçienda's lead in hosting dance nights: The Boardwalkmarker, Devilles, Isadora's, Konspiracy, House, Soundgardens and Man Alive in the city centre, the International (and later the International 2) in Longsightmarker, Bugsy's in Ashton-Under-Lynemarker and the Osbourne Club in Miles Plattingmarker.

Another key factor in the build-up to Madchester was the sudden availabilty of the drug ecstasy in the city, beginning in 1987 and growing exponentially the follwing year. According to Dave Haslam: "Ecstasy use changed clubs forever; a night at the Haçienda went from being a great night out, to an intense, life changing experience".

During 1988, Acid House and early Balearic House became popular throughout the UK, quickly becoming a part of the club culture building in Manchester. In early 1989, New Order released the house-influenced Technique, which topped the UK album charts.

Madchester artists' early careers

Although the Madchester scene cannot really be said to have started before the autumn of 1988 (the term "Madchester" was not coined until a year after that by Philip Shotton who directed many music videos for Factory Records), many of its most significant bands and artists were around on the local scene before then.

The Stone Roses were formed in 1984 by singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, who had grown up on the same street in Timperleymarker, a leafy suburban town to the south of Manchestermarker. They had been in bands together since 1979, when they were both 16, but the Stone Roses was the first to release a record, "So Young", in 1985. The line-up was completed by Alan "Reni" Wren on drums and, from 1987, Gary "Mani" Mounfield on bass.

Happy Mondays were formed in Salfordmarker in 1985. The members between then and the break-up of the band in 1992 were Shaun Ryder, his brother Paul, Mark "Bez" Berry, Paul Davis, Mark Day and Gary Whelan. They were signed to Factory Records, supposedly after Haçienda DJ Mike Pickering saw them at a Battle of the Bands contest in which they came last (the winners being, Manchester band, The Brigade.). They released two singles - "45", produced by Pickering in 1985, and "Freaky Dancin'", produced by New Order's Bernard Sumner in 1986 - before putting out an album produced by John Cale and bearing the snappy title Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile in 1987.

Inspiral Carpets were formed in Oldhammarker, Greater Manchestermarker in 1986. The line-up was Clint Boon (organ), Stephen Holt (vocals - Tom Hingley would not join up until the beginning of 1989), Graham Lambert (guitar), Martyn Walsh (bass) and Craig Gill (drums). They released a flexi-disc a year later, and in 1988 the Planecrash EP (on their own Cow Records) brought them to the attention of John Peel.

James were formed in 1981 by Paul Gilbertson and Jim Glennie (after whom the band was named), recruiting Drama student Tim Booth on vocals and Gavan Whelan on drums (Gilbertson and Whelan were to leave the band before it attained commercial success). They released their first EP, Jimone on Factory Records in 1983, and attracted critical enthusiasm, as well as the patronage of Morrissey. However, sales of their two albums for Sire Records, Stutter in 1986 and Strip-mine in 1988, were disappointing and, at the time Madchester hit, the band was using t-shirt sales to fund its own releases through Rough Trade Records. Madchester helped bring them their belated commercial success and the single "Sit Down" became one of the most popular anthems of the era.

808 State were formed in 1988 by the owner of the Eastern Bloc Records shop on Oldham Streetmarker, Martin Price, together with Graham Massey and Gerald Simpson. The three put together an innovative live acid house set, performing at various venues around town, and releasing an acclaimed and influential album Newbuild on Price's own label. Simpson left soon after the release of Newbuild, but went on to record as A Guy Called Gerald.

Madchester begins

In October 1988, the Stone Roses released "Elephant Stone" (produced by Peter Hook of New Order) as a single. Around the same time, Happy Mondays released the single "Wrote for Luck" (followed by the Bummed album, produced by Martin Hannett, in November). In November, A Guy Called Gerald released his first solo single, "Voodoo Ray".

Only "Voodoo Ray" was a commercial success (although "Elephant Stone" later made the UK top 10), but by December, a sense had started to develop in the British music press that there was something going on in the city. According to Sean O'Hagan, writing in the NME: "There is a particularly credible music biz rumour-come theory that certain Northern towns—Manchester being the prime example—have had their water supply treated with small doses of mind-expanding chemicals ... Everyone from Happy Mondays to the severely disorientated Morrissey conform to the theory in some way. Enter A Guy Called Gerald, out of his box on the limitless possibilities of a bank of keyboards".

The Stone Roses' following increased as they gigged around the country and released the "Made of Stone" single in February 1989. This didn't chart, but enthusiasm for the band in the music press intensified when they released their debut album (produced by John Leckie) in March.

Bob Stanley (later of Saint Etienne), reviewing the album in Melody Maker wrote: "this is simply the best debut LP I've heard in my record buying lifetime. Forget everybody else. Forget work tomorrow". The NME didn't put it quite so strongly, but reported nonetheless that it was being talked of as "the greatest album ever made". John Robb in Sounds said "The Stone Roses have revolutionised British Pop".

The club scene in Manchester continued to grow during 1988 and 1989, with Haçiendamarker launching Ibizamarker-themed nights in the summer of 1988 and the the Hot acid house night (hosted by Mike Pickering and Jon DaSilva) in November of the same year.


In May, the Happy Mondays released the single "Lazyitis" and the Inspiral Carpets put out their first single with new singer Tom Hingley, "Joe". Like the Stone Roses, the Inspiral Carpets were producing sixties-inspired indie music. All three of the main players in the emerging scene took a dance influence, particularly from 1970s funk, with disco basslines and wah-wah guitar mixing with their indie jingle-jangle. The Inspiral Carpets added the sound of the Farfisa organ.

This sound, which was to become known as "baggy", generally includes a combination of funk, psychedelia, guitar rock and house music. In the Manchester context, the music can be seen as mainly influenced by the indie music that had dominated the city's music scene during the 1980s, but also absorbing the various influences coming through the Haçiendamarker.

Alongside the music, a way of dressing emerged that gave baggy its name. Baggy jeans (often flared) alongside brightly coloured or tie-dye casual tops and general sixties style became fashionable first in Manchester and then across the country - frequently topped off with a fishing hat in the style sported by the Stone Roses drummer Reni. Shami Ahmed's Manchester-based Joe Bloggs fashion label specialised in catering for the scene, making him a multi-millionnaire.

The baggy sound influence Manchester bands including James, The Charlatans and The Mock Turtles. However, in the early 1990s the sound spread across the country, with bands such as The Farm, Flowered Up, Candy Flip and Blur treading where Mancunians had gone before.

Dave Haslam notes that the interest of the press in the baggy scene scewed impressions of the Madchester scene. In Manchester, electronic dance music was prevalent in the clubs, and the scene also gave a home to hip-hop artists Ruthless Rap Assassins, Hybrid and MC Tunes.

Madchester hits the big time

During mid-1989, media interest in the Manchester scene continued to grow. In Septmber, the Happy Mondays released a Vince Clarke remix of "Wrote for Luck" as a single. In November, four important singles were released: "Move" by the Inspiral Carpets, "Pacific" by 808 State, The Madchester Rave On EP by the Happy Mondays and "Fools Gold"/"What the World is Waiting For" by the Stone Roses.

The Happy Mondays record, featuring the lead track "Hallelujah!", coined the term "Madchester" - it had originally been suggested by their video directors the Bailey Brothers as a potential t-shirt slogan.

In November, the Stone Roses performed an well-received gig at London's Alexandra Palacemarker, and were invited onto BBC2's high-brow Late Show (remebered by many because the electricity cut out during their performance and they stormed off). On 23 November 1989, the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays appeared on the same edition of Top of the Pops. The "Fools Gold" single made number 8 in the UK singles chart, becoming the biggest-selling indie single of the year.

Madchester became something of an industry bandwagon from this time. According to NME journalist Stuart Maconie, the British press had "gone bonkers over Manchester bands". James were amongst the first beneficiaries of this. The local success of their self-financed singles "Come Home" and "Sit Down" led to a deal with Fontana, and they were to score chart hits with "How Was it For You" and a re-recorded version of "Come Home" in the summer of 1990.

The Charlatans were originally from the West Midlands, but their singer, Tim Burgess, was from Northwichmarker in Cheshiremarker. They came to prominence through appearances in Manchester, particularly as a support act to the Stone Roses and became strongly associated with the scene. They released a debut single "Indian Rope" in February 1990 and their second "The Only One I Know" made the UK top ten.

A number of other Manchester bands gained the attention of the music press during 1990, including World of Twist, New Fast Automatic Daffodils, The High, Northside, Paris Angels, and Intastella. These "second wave" bands, according to John Robb, "copped the critical backlash, but were making great music".

Commercial success

Bands associated with the Madchester scene released material alomost exlusively on indie records labels, with the significant exception of James, who signed to Fontana Records in 1989.

The main Madchester bands dominated the UK Indie Charts during late 1989 and much of 1990.

The success in the UK Singles and Albums charts of a number of indie acts associated with a "scene" was unprecedented at the time. "Step On" and "Kinky Afro" by the Happy Mondays both made number 5 in the singles charts, whilst James scored the biggest Madchester hit, making number 2 in 1991 with a re-recording of "Sit Down". In the album charts, the Happy Mondays made number 4 with Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, and the Inspiral Carpets got to number 2 with Life. The Charlatans were the only Madchester band to take the number 1 spot, with the album Some Friendly in the autumn of 1990.

Outside the UK, the success of Madchester was limited, although some releases gained recognition in specialist charts around the world. In the U.S., the albums The Stone Roses, Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches and Some Friendly reached the lower echelons of the U.S. album chart. Several singles by The Stone Roses, The Inspiral Carpets, The Happy Mondays and The Charlatans were successful on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The Happy Mondays toured the US in 1990 and were alone amongst Madchester bands in troubling the Billboard 100, with "Step On" reaching number 57 (the band would however, reach #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart with "Kinky Afro" in 1990 and on the US dance charts for their single "Stinkin, Thinkin" in 1992).


On 27 May 1990, the Stone Roses performed at Spike Islandmarker in the Merseymarker Estuary, supported by DJs Frankie Knuckles and Dave Haslam. This concert has been described as "a Woodstockmarker for the E generation.

A rapid succession of chart hits followed during the summer, including "One Love" by the Stone Roses, "This Is How It Feels" by the Inspiral Carpets, "The Only One I Know" by The Charlatans and "Kinky Afro" by the Happy Mondays.

The end of the year saw triumphal concerts by James and a double-header with the Happy Mondays and 808 State, both at Manchester G-Mexmarker.

The Stone Roses cancelled their June 1990 tour of the US, issuing a press statement saying: "America doesn't deserve us yet". The band also cancelled a gig in Spain and an appearance on the UK chat show Wogan. They did not face the public again until the end of 1994, spending the intervening time in and out of studios in Wales (where they recorded a second album, Second Coming) and fighting in court to release themselves from their contract with Silvertone Records.

The making of the next Happy Mondays album, Yes Please! was also problematic, and it would not be released until October 1992. The band flew to Barbados to record it, where they went "crack crazy", according to Paul Ryder, making repeated requests of Factory Records for extra time and additional funds. This is reputed to have been the major factor in the bankruptcy of the label in November 1992.

With the two bands seen as the most central to the scene out of action, media fascination with Madchester dwindled. James, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans and 808 State continued to record, with varying degrees of success, during the 1990s, but ceased to be seen as part of a localised scene.

Local bands catching the tail-end of Madchester, such as The Mock Turtles, became part of a wider baggy scene. The music press in the UK began to place more focus on shoegazing bands from the south of England and bands emerging through US grunge.


Musical legacy

The immediate influence of Madchester was in inspiring the wider baggy movement in the UK, with bands from various parts of the country producing music in the early 1990s heavily influenced by the main Madchester players. These bands included Flowered Up (from London), The Farm (from Liverpoolmarker), the Soup Dragons (from Glasgowmarker) and Ocean Colour Scene (from Birminghammarker). Blur, from Colchestermarker, adopted a baggy style in their early career, although in an interview with Select Magazine in 1991 they claimed to have "killed" the genre.

Bands formed in Manchester during the Madchester era included the Chemical Brothers, Verve, Sub Sub (who would later become Doves) and Oasis (Noel Gallagher had been a roadie for Inspiral Carpets).

More generally, the Madchester scene brought together dance music and alternative rock, in particular the combination of the types of drumming found in funk and disco music (and sampled in 80s hip-hop music) with jingle-jangle guitar. In the 1990s, this became a commonplace formula, found frequently in even the most commercial music.

From a marketing point of view, it has been suggested that Madchester taught the music industry a number of lessons in the selling of alternative music, serving as a model for the more commercially-driven Britpop and grunge scenes in the UK and US respectively.

Impact on Manchester

The mushrooming of Manchester's nightlife during the Madchester period has had a long-term impact, particularly with the subsequent development of the Gay Villagemarker and Northern Quartermarker. City centremarker living is also something that began to catch on in Manchester in the wake of Madchester, and which continues to this day.

The attraction of the city was such that, at the height of Madchester in 1990, the University of Manchestermarker was the most sought-after destination for university applicants in the UK , a position shared year-on-year by Oxfordmarker and Cambridgemarker in the normal course of things.

The scene also gave a boost to the city's media and creative industries. The BBC launched The 8:15 From Manchester, a Saturday morning kids' TV show (with a themetune by the Inspiral Carpets, a re-write of "Find out Why").

Organised crime became an unfortunate side-story to Madchester, with the vibrancy of the clubbing scene in the city (and the popularity of illegal drugs, particularly ecstasy) producing a fertile environment for gangsterism. During the 1990s, shootings becoming regular in areas such as Moss Sidemarker, Cheetham Hillmarker, Salfordmarker and Longsightmarker, and occurring from time to time in the city centremarker. Violent incidents at the Haçiendamarker led to a campaign against it by Greater Manchester Police, and contributed to its closure in 1997.

The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, 808 State and James are amongst the bands commemorated on a Manchester "walk of fame" commissioned for Oldham Streetmarker in the city's Northern Quartermarker at the end of the 1990s.

Depiction in film

Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film 24 Hour Party People follows the story of Tony Wilson and Factory Records, including the Madchester period and the Happy Mondays' success.


Key Madchester recordings

Month Artist Title Details UK chart
10/1988 The Stone Roses Elephant Stone Single, Silvertone n/a
10/1988 Happy Mondays Wrote for Luck Single, Factory Records n/a
11/1988 A Guy Called Gerald Voodoo Ray Single, Rham Records 14
11/1988 Happy Mondays Bummed Album, Factory Records 59
1/1989 New Order Technique Album, Factory Records 1
2/1989 The Stone Roses Made of Stone Single, Silvertone n/a
3/1989 The Stone Roses The Stone Roses Album, Silvertone 14
6/1989 James Sit Down Single, Rough Trade 77
7/1989 The Stone Roses She Bangs the Drums Single, Silvertone 36
8/1989 Inspiral Carpets Find Out Why Single, Cow Records n/a
9/1989 Happy Mondays WFL (Vince Clarke Remix) Single, Factory 68
11/1989 808 State Pacific Single, ZTT Records 10
11/1989 Happy Mondays Madchester Rave On EP, Factory 19
11/1989 The Stone Roses Fools Gold/What the World is Waiting For Single, Silvertone 8
11/1989 Inspiral Carpets Move Single, Cow Records n/a
2/1990 The Charlatans Indian Rope Single, Dead Dead Good Records 89 (Re-released in June 1991: 57)
3/1990 Happy Mondays Step On Single, Factory 5
4/1990 Happy Mondays Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches Album, Factory 4
4/1990 Inspiral Carpets Life Album, Mute Records 2
5/1990 The Charlatans The Only One I Know Single, Situation Two 9
5/1990 Happy Mondays Kinky Afro Single, Factory 5
5/1990 Inspiral Carpets This Is How It Feels Single, Mute Records 14
5/1990 Paris Angels Perfume Single, Sheer Joy Records 55
5/1990 Northside Shall We Take a Trip Single, Factory Records 41
6/1990 James Come Home (re-recording) Single, Fontana Records 32
6/1990 James Gold Mother Album, Fontana Records 9
6/1990 MC Tunes versus 808 State The Only Rhyme That Bytes Single, ZTT Records 10
6/1990 The Stone Roses One Love Single, Silvertone 4
10/1990 808 State Cubik/Olympic Single, ZTT Records 10
10/1990 The Charlatans Some Friendly Album, Situation Two 1
2/1991 808 State In Yer Face Single, ZTT Records 9
3/1991 James Sit Down (re-recording) Single, Fontana Records 2
9/1992 Happy Mondays Yes Please! Album, Factory 14

Madchester-era "best of" compilations

Artist Title Label Year
808 State 808:88:98 ZTT Records 1998
The Charlatans Melting Pot Beggars Banquet 1998
Happy Mondays Greatest Hits London Records 1999
Inspiral Carpets Greatest Hits Mute Records 2003
James The Best Of Fontana Records 1998
The Stone Roses The Complete Stone Roses Silvertone Records 1995
Various Artists Madchester Flute Records 1995
Various Artists Sorted - 40 Madchester and baggy anthems Ministry of Soundmarker 2002
Various Artists Viva Haçienda Deconstruction Records 1997
Various Artists The Hacienda Classics Virgin TV 2006
Various Artists Bez's Madchester Anthems: Sorted Tunes from Back in the Day Warner Strategic Marketing 2006


  1. Dave Haslam, Manchester England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, p 158
  2. John Robb, The North Will Rise Again, Aurum Press, London, 2009, p 233
  3. Dave Haslam, Manchester England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, p 128-9
  4. Dave Haslam, Manchester England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, p 165
  6. Dave Haslam, Manchester England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, p 167
  7. United Manchester website, 2003-
  8. New Musical Express, IPC, London, 17 December 1988
  9. Dave Haslam, Manchester England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, p181
  10. Melody Maker, IPC, London, 29 April 1989
  12. Dave Haslam, Manchester England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, p180
  13. Number One, 10th January 1990, IPC, London
  14. Madchester - The Sound of the North, Granda Televesion, Manchester, 1990
  15. John Robb, The North Will Rise Again, Aurum Press, London, 2009, p335
  16. John Robb, The North Will Rise Again, Aurum Press, London 2009, p278
  17. Select Magazine, EMAP, London, October 1991
  18. Dave Haslam, Manchester, England, Fourth Estate, 2000, p263

Further reading

  • Haslam, Dave: Manchester, England, Fourth Estate, London, 2000 (ISBN 1-84115-146-7)
  • Luck, Richard: The Madchester Scene, Pocket Essentials, London, 2002 (ISBN 1-903047-80-3)
  • Wilson, Tony: 24-hour Party People, Channel 4 Books, London, 2002 (ISBN 0-7522-2025-X)
  • McNichols, Conor (ed): NME Originals: Madchester, IPC, London, 2003
  • Robb, John: The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996, Aurum Press, London, 2009

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