Madchester DAHHHHLINGAmidst the inevitable submission to social capital tendencies, postmodern youth have found it imperative for their voices to be heard, and for their identities to be recognized. This rebellious, self-aware feeling has sprung up from the desire to depart from the constraints of mass culture, and to assert a new route for youngsters to follow. The notion of identity mixed with a sense of non-belonging is adjacent to many movements throughout history, particularly to those who have struggled to find their political and social rights in a patriarchal and white-dominant society.
But this reaction to adversity can also come forth due to class and cultural injustices. Such is the case of late 20th century England, where the North-South Divide dictated the unwritten disparities between both extremes of the country. These differences resulted in the overruling perception of the North as an industrial powerhouse, most specifically the city of Manchester, which was known for its cotton industry. Furthermore, the country was in a very divisive position, as the Thatcher government had chosen to focus on the assets of the capital and strove for a socio-political shift from working-class values, which are more related to the North, to a more capitalist approach.
This tug of war between the left and right wings had severely damaged the working communities who had most of their privileges stripped away from them. Seeing the likes of George Michael, Madonna or Kylie Minogue in the music charts could be somewhat frustrating as they failed to provide the message and the relief that most of the country yearned for. In face of this panorama, Manchester’s music scene, inspired by the punk movement of the previous decade, started to develop in an unapologetic and rebellious manner, gaining the nickname Madchester. This essay will attempt to put forward the functions inherent to the cultural shift that Madchester promoted, alongside the social and economic patterns that made this movement relevant 30 years after its appearance and how it changed the monopolization of England’s culture.In the late 1980s the music industry in the United Kingdom was dominated by record companies based in London, and, in the absence of local music industries, it was to the capital that bands from all over the country were drawn. This is better illustrated by The Beatles who are from Liverpool, but had to set base several times at Abbey Road Studios in London in order to record their music. It was only with the advent of punk that Manchester realized that its potential does not equate with the greediness of London, since good music could be made anywhere. Suddenly there was a transformation in the power structures of popular culture marked by the rejection of the capital’s dominance over the music industry; the redefinition of what it meant to be Mancunian; and by the emergence of new cultural institutions that allowed for a more proactive participation in culture. One of these institutions would be the birthplace of the Madchester movement ” the Ha§ienda nightclub. Owned by the band New Order, this venue was fundamental for and intracultural exchange between the Mancunian youths, as they could meet up, create music and perform there. Bands such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays sprung up in this nightclub, establishing its importance to the scene that was slowly inserting itself into the mainstream media. Soon enough Manchester started to develop its own cultural networks with the creation of independent record labels, fanzines and venues that very consciously steered away from the social and cultural norms established in London. Fans started to have created this DIY movement, very much inspired by punk culture, where they would take matters into their own hands and create their own means of expression ” from posters, magazines, gigs and even music. Matt Carroll, a young artist in the scene, created all of the designs for The Happy Mondays activities and merchandise, alongside his sister Maria Carroll, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Constructively, Madchester belonged to everyone and everyone had a role on its proliferation, since the development of cultural industries in the aftermath of the movement has allowed Manchester to rebuild its image as an important and autonomous cultural center and to, essentially, move on from the rigid notions of being an industrial and provincial city. On the other hand, the acknowledgment of the scene and its labelling turned something that was spontaneous and defiant into something a bit more controlled, but nevertheless still booming and important for the city’s reputation: But you could say that the labelling had a value, in that it sent out a message that Manchester was being remade and that was a very important thing to say. Because in London, let alone New York and Paris, the view before then was that Manchester was post-industrial, everyone was unemployed, warehouses were lying empty, it was grimIn fact, it was this spontaneous and carefree sentiment that influenced the creative indie-rock sound of Mancunian bands. This alternative music had noticeable acid house and dance influences, which was considerably odd since rock music and house beats had never overlapped so far. Venues such as The Ha§ienda allowed this heterogeneous culture to happen, since everything was happening at the same places and at the sametime. Ultimately, this contrast between two different musical intentions brought forth the sentiment of chaos and excitement representative of the movement.It would be impossible to address every single sociological faction that created the momentum for Madchester to thrive, but one that is worth mentioning is definitely the excessive use of drugs, since they also played an important role in the creation of these distinct sounds. Bands and fans alike were partaking in drugs, particularly Ecstasy, which enabled them to keep partying for hours or, in some cases, days. According to Peter Murphy, a photographer of the scene, drugs were an essential part of the community, since they enabled a very diversified interactive experience:Ecstasy and music brought young people together, friendships were made, ideas were created. All walks of life, from single mums, through to students, council workers and football hooligans, in that moment, in that era, they all came together and embraced each other.This era was not just about the music, it was also about excess and decadence. Such lifestyle inspired heavily rave-culture in the city and throughout the country. Soon enough, however, drug use started to become a problem within the movement. In July 1989, a 16-year-old overdosed in the crowded Ha§ienda’s dancefloor, causing a massive stir within the city, especially with the older demographic.Within a year, Ha§ienda would have to close in order to reinforce security, making the crowds seek other venues to gather. This migration changed dramatically Manchester’s spatial distribution and affected the urban landscape, as abandoned warehouses and industrial complexes started to be used to hold illegal rave parties. Other nightclubs started to gain a reputation as well, namely the Thunderdome. The high consumption of drugs was enhanced in these places, which brought forth another problem: gangs. Due to the overcrowding of the parties, any sort of criminal activity was impossible to patrol, which definitely affected Manchester’s reputation: the Dome let in anyone who paid at the door. It catered to kids and those rooted in Manchester’s criminal underworld from the more rundown, dangerous areas of the city.These complications, however, did not slow down the increasing popularity that Madchester was having throughout the entire country. Gradually, Manchester started to be the place to be, despite the shabby lifestyle that it was promoting. In a sense, this mixture of chaos and freedom was very representative of a culture that had been neglected for centuries as the servant of London’s elitism and whose speech had been silenced by the current government. Suddenly, Mancunian bands started to appear in large media outlets, such as BBC and music charts, causing a shift from cotton to culture, at least in the eyes of the entire of country. The development of the counterculture allowed the North to thrive culturally and, most interestingly, aesthetically. In the wake of the movement, music transgressed into other areas, specifically fashion, architecture and the visual arts.In fact, fashion and the Madchester sound were deeply connected, since they were both defined under the same term ” Baggy. This term referred to the loose-fitting clothes, such as bell-bottomed jeans and oversized sweatshirts that youngsters were wearing at the time. Many of the designs present in these clothes were vastly inspired by the psychedelic patterns rooted in the drug-taking experience, perpetuating even more the connection between the movement and certain substances, which were dangerous but, nevertheless, inspiring.As it is mentioned previously, the scene also caused a major shift in the urban landscape of the city, as the abandoned warehouses and industrial spaces were regenerated and transformed into rehearsal spaces and nightclubs. This lawless reutilization of space was very indicative of the power that the scene had over its local background, as they rapidly changed the city’s scenery. Madchester was figuratively pumping life and culture into the industrial background of the North, and everyone was very much aware of it. People from all walks of life started to see an opportunity to fully explore their artistry in the city, not only as consumers but also as creators: People began to see it as increasingly more viable to work in the production of their leisure time as managers, promoters, visual designers, fashion designers, DJs, sound technicians, lifestyle journalists, bar and club architects and designers. Such is the case of artists like Leo Stanley, who created the famous shirt designs On the sixth day, God created ManOn the sixth day, God created Man-chester sold at Afflecks Palace and later worn by Jean-Paul Gaultier and Madonna.The demand to incorporate the Madchester movement into every single aspect of the quotidian reached a paramount state when the cultural phenomenon transposed into football. Hooligans started using the minimalist lyrics of The Stone Roses or The Charlatans to convey their enthusiasm and pride for their team, which was the case when Manchester United reached the European Cup Winner’s Cup final in May 1991 and won. To this day, football fans are still deeply connected to the music of this specific era, as they blast out the artists that reminds them of a time when Manchester United was on a winning spree. While hooliganism is seen as a problem, especially in Britain, this combination of Mancunian sport and music reinforced the growing feeling of pride in the city, which was now finally being appreciated for its cultural and creative value.The movement came to an all-time high with the proliferation of the band, Oasis. Formed by two brothers, Liam and Noel Gallagher, the Mancunian band broke several records, including the fastest selling album with Be Here Now in 1997 and the concert with the biggest crowd at Knebworth. While the band steered away from the acid house mixture, their alternative rock sound was very much inspired by The Stone Roses and the Inspiral Carpets, both icons to the youth movement that the brothers belonged to. In the same vein as their influences, Oasis incorporated the Mancunian lifestyle of the 90s and even its dialect in their music, as it is heard in Round Are Way, where our is pronounced as are, an interesting inclination of the Northern accent.This sort of unapologetic Northern pride was even more extreme, when Oasis was pitted against the Londoner band, Blur. Since both had a distinct indie sound, it was impossible to have them talked about separately, but more importantly, the discussions held were always traced back to the undermining of the Northern potential to put out good music. Although it may not seem like it, this comparison caused an effervescent effect in Manchester particularly, as people paid close attention to who was topping the charts and who was appearing more often in the Top of the Pops. Suddenly, people had a band that was representing the North at the same capacity that Londoner bands had represented the South. It was not about the rave-like environment of Madchester anymore; it was about having an unmerciful voice singing the songs that had been silenced or exploited by the capital. The band, alongside other Northern bands such as The Nerve, helped transition Manchester from its Madchester days into the era of Britpop, which was marketed for a wider audience. While their Mancunian roots were still very much visible, these bands were not afraid to be associated with a standardization of their sound, as their genre had an intention to be more diverse and, ultimately, British.While the birth of Britpop enhanced Manchester’s cultural potential, it also signified the end of the Madchester era, as the music press in Britain started to pay more attention to the emerging bands of the new genre, as well as to the U.S. grunge scene. Cultural institutions associated with the movement started to collapse, particularly Factory Records, the recording studio of most of Mancunian bands, as they went bankrupt due to complications with the Happy Mondays. Despite commercial success, The Stone Roses also abandoned the spotlight whilst struggling to leave their record label. It was inevitable that with the momentum gone from the main bands of the movement, people started to turn elsewhere. Inevitably, Ha§ienda closed down after not making enough income based on their events and the sale of alcohol, marking, officially, the end of an era.Though Britpop would go on to represent an entire country for a whole decade, it should be clear that Madchester an everlasting effect on pop culture in a very notable way. According to researcher Dave Fawbert: Questionnaire respondents listed nine bands heavily influenced by the Happy Mondays and thirteen influenced by the Stone Roses. Furthermore, the effects of the movement could be noted in a very physical way, as a clear interest in culture sprouted in the North, especially to a younger demographic. Until this day clubs such as 42nd Street, The Venue and FAC251 still play Madchester anthems much to the enjoyment of adolescents, highlighting the recurrence of the themes of the scene.THE MOVIEINDUSTRIAL/ CULTURAL MANCHESTER CONCLUSIONBIBLIOGRAPHYMADCHESTER ENDHOW EVERYTHING AFFECTED MANCUNIANS TO THIS DAYINDIE ELITISM