I’ve spent the last 6 years between 3 cities (Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds) and in each place the local musical heritage has been as essential to the mood of the city as it’s post-industrial landscape, football team or transport system. Perhaps it’s a no-brainer, the fact that Britain’s three primary northern cities each have such a musical identity, but I’m sure that the main players of their post-punk scenes could never have envisioned the longevity of their influence. My intention for this playlist was to stick to the Leeds theme, but I found that other influences were creeping in…
My tastes, a fair understanding of which you’ll get from the playlist, are undeniably the result of growing up a short bus ride south from the bright lights and exciting happenings of Manchester (musical connections people always babble on about in Stockport: the Gallagher brothers, The Hollies, Strawberry Studios). Discovering The Smiths and Joy Division – and discovering they were born and lived, and in cases died, less than 5 miles from my family home – was all I needed aged 12 to become an insufferable music snob. Still, Manchester is a great place to gain a musical education – it’s inhabitants are serious completists when it comes to all genres of music, be it local or alien – and by the time I started going out in town my tastes had widened further than I’d ever expected. Like Leeds, it’s a very DIY focussed scene, blending art and literary self-publishing, with many figures playing multiple roles. I think the final demise of the Hacienda lifted a weight from Manchester’s creative scene, and it is now flourishing. So, as I’m sure you can have guessed, I won’t be subjecting you to any mad-for-it Madchester drivel – the Manchester-born songs on this list represent a couple of my very, very favourites from the late 1970s and early 80s scene, and hopefully prove that the city’s musical heritage isn’t all Morrissey and monkey-swaggers.
I lived for a year and a bit in the Broomhill/Crookes area of Sheffield. It was the time of the Arctic Monkeys initial success, and so you can guess what the student clubs were like then. However, one of the town’s most successful clubnights was called Synthetic and championed Sheffield’s involvement in electronic new wave music (the Human League, Cabaret Voltaire) and the post punk period in general. Though obviously, such alternative 80s clubnights are not intrinsically linked with the Don Valley and it’s surrounding sprawl. Unlike Pulp. Of course, Pulp. Wonderful, brilliant Pulp. Pulp couldn’t have been from anywhere other than Sheffield, and Sheffield’s music scene can arguably be devided into pre- and post-Pulp eras. It was rare that a week went by when I didn’t encounter a young lad on the bus or tram who’s mum, invariably in her early 30s, would be heard saying “keep hold of your ticket Jarvis” (once I even overheard a thick-spectacled, cord-jacketed man talking about his daughter Candida, which I think you’ll agree is a fairly impressive commitment to nostalgia!). Though the band were arguably of great importance to working class young people across the country (admittedly, a generation about 8-10 years older than mine), Pulp and specifically Jarvis’ lyrics reveal themselves to be constitutional to the city when you hear them whilst get the tram past Park Hill flats, or trying to avoid walking through the City Cemetary, or scraping together enough for a pint in any given pub (no wine to be had in these places). Sheffield’s current music scene, though significantly smaller, whiter and straighter than it’s Pennine-region sisters, is still thriving. Criticism is often levelled at bands for harking back to a 90s state of mind, but if that can produce just one more anywhere near as glorious as The Long Blondes then I for one don’t see the problem.
The third city in the equation, Leeds itself, has proved a bit of a musical predicament for me. Leftist post punk Leeds groups a la Gang of Four, Delta 5, the Mekons and Girls At Our Best have long been staples of my own musical canon. But in the year I’ve been here, I’m yet to feel inspired by Leeds’ current music scene. I know I’m wrong! I know the fact that my only free night in a week is a friday is severely limiting my options! I know my cynicism about hipsters is by now a cliche in itself! And this is not to say that the discovery of places like Baby Jupiter and the regularly awesome gig listings at the Brudenell don’t offer what I want! In fact, I have included in my playlist a new Leeds band that I am really into – the Post War Glamour Girls. I’ve yet to catch them live (play on a friday, guys!), but I shall be keeping an eye on them as I think they may well be the entry point that I need into the city’s new music scene. So, Leeds, I am an open book. Based on my taste, I want you to chuck all the reccommendations you can my way. Gigs, bars, clubnights, pubs-with-good-jukeboxes, anything. I need to fill the gap in this bermuda triangle, I need to make this incorrect impression of musical inferirority disappear without a trace!
Vodpod videos no longer available.
1. Gang of Four – Call Me Up
2. Soft Cell – Frustration
3. Pulp – Styloroc (Nites of Suburbia)
4. Ludus – I Can’t Swim I Have Nightmares
5. Delta 5 – Anticipation
6. Girls At Our Best! – Warm Girls
7. Mekons – Sympathy for the Mekons
8. The Long Blondes – Appropriation (By Any Other Name)
9. Blue Orchids – The Flood
10. Post War Glamour Girls – Crrreep