The 50 best songs from Manchester

22 May 2022, 19:00

Manchester music legends: The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Joy Division
Manchester music legends: The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Joy Division. Picture: Peter Pakvis/Martin O'Neill/Joe Dilworth/Avalon/Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty

Let's celebrate the greatest music city in the world with some of its finest music.

  1. The Smiths - This Charming Man

    With its danceable bassline and jaunty guitar riff, this 1983 single quickly became Morrissey and Marr’s calling card and ushered in a whole new era of indie.

  2. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart

    Hailing variously from Salford and Macclesfield in Cheshire, Joy Division became one of the great post-punk bands. This was their epitaph, released after the death of singer Ian Curtis aged just 23.

  3. Oasis - Acquiesce

    The B-side of Some Might Say, this is an anthemic celebration of friendship.

  4. Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)

    A wry Mancunian punk classic from the pen of Pete Shelley in 1978.

  5. Oasis - Slide Away

    One of the Gallaghers’ most underrated songs, this was an attempt by Noel to emulate the beauty of the mundane that characterised the music of The Smiths.

  6. The Charlatans - The Only One I Know

    Although formed in the West Midlands, the band became honorary Mancs when they relocated to Northwich and enlisted the talents of frontman Tim Burgess, of Salford. Their first hit, from 1990, put them firmly at the centre of “Madchester”.

  7. Elbow - One Day Like This

    The classic Elbow song from The Seldom Seen Kid, an inspiring ode to a beautiful day.

  8. Happy Mondays - Step On

    The song that took the Mondays from quirky indie underdogs to genuine pop stars was a cover of the 1971 John Kongos hit He’s Gonna Step On You Again.

  9. Ian Brown - F.E.A.R

    Brown hails from Warrington, but grew up in Altrincham and, of course, fronted one of the most iconic Manchester bands of all time, The Stone Roses. Each word in every line of this 2001 song starts with the letters F.E.A.R.

  10. Inspiral Carpets - This Is How It Feels

    Written by former Radio X DJ Clint Boon, this 1990 classic is a succinct slice of life and mortality. "This is how it feels when your work means nothing at all."

  11. New Order - Blue Monday

    The band continued their adventures into electronica with this tribute to New York’s clubland. The stylish sleeve helped ensure that the song became the biggest-selling 12” single of all time.

  12. Joy Division - Atmosphere

    Recorded in late 1979 and released as a very limited edition in France, this graceful ballad later got a wider release and became famous for its stylish Anton Corbijn video.

  13. The Stone Roses - Sally Cinnamon

    A 1987 for the Roses, this was a more straightforward indie ballad and appeared on the label FM-Revolver. When it was re-released in the middle of Roses-mania three years later, the band were not happy.

  14. James - Laid

    James drafted in producer Brian Eno and created a more experimental sound on their fifth album Laid. The title track remains one of the band’s most recognised songs.

  15. Oasis - Champagne Supernova

    Taken from the mega-selling (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album, this mellow meditation on life features one of Liam Gallagher’s greatest performances.

  16. The Stone Roses - Waterfall

    Lilting, shuffling guitars and floating vocals, this album track was later issued as a single in its own right.

  17. Oasis - Wonderwall

    The ultimate Oasis song: concise, memorable and anthemic. It made Number 2 in the UK charts, being kept off the top by TV hearthrobs Robson And Jerome.

  18. New Order - True Faith

    A standalone single designed to promote the 1987 compilation Substance, this excellent tune was accompanied by a bizarre but memorable video directed by Philippe Decouflé.

  19. The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?

    An unusual song in the Smiths canon, this hypnotic 7-minute ode to shyness was a showcase for Johnny Marr’s guitar pyrotechnics and was only originally considered as a b-side.

  20. The Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored

    The track the opened the Roses’ 1989 debut album: slow build, then a pure statement of intent from Ian Brown. “I don’t have to sell my soul / He’s already in me.”

  21. Oasis - Live Forever

    An antidote to the dourness of grunge, this instant classic was written by Noel Gallagher while skiving off work and was the band’s earliest anthem.

  22. The Stone Roses - I Am The Resurrection

    The lengthy, peerless final track on the debut Stone Roses album, this is really two songs in one - Ian Brown’s verses… followed by an epic solo from John Squire.

  23. The Smiths - What Difference Does It Make

    Steven Morrissey (from Stretford) met Johnny Marr (from Wythenshawe) and a classic songwriting partnership was born. This was taken from their self-titled debut album and was one of their most memorable early singles.

  24. Oasis - Cast No Shadow

    Dedicated to Verve man Richard Aschroft, this is a quieter moment from the million-selling (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album.

  25. Courteeners - How Good It Was

    A bittersweet classic from Liam Fray, taken from the band’s 2014 album Concrete Love.

  26. The Stone Roses - Love Spreads

    The Roses’ big comeback single, after the lengthy sessions for their album The Second Coming: “Let me put you in the picture / Let me show you what I mean / The messiah is my sister / Ain't no king man she's my queen.”

  27. Oasis - Half The World Away

    Best known now for being the theme tune to the TV comedy The Royle Family, amazingly this acoustic masterpiece was only a b-side.

  28. The Verve - Lucky Man

    Hailing from Wigan in Greater Manchester, The Verve made a huge impression with their third studio album Urban Hymns.

  29. The Stone Roses - This Is The One

    A hugely anthemic track from The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut album, the track spent some time being used to introduce Manchester United at Old Trafford.

  30. Oasis - Talk Tonight

    Another great song that was only released as an Oasis b-side, this song was inspired by Noel’s high-profile flounce after a disastrous gig in LA.

  31. Elbow - Grounds For Divorce

    Formed at Bury College in 1990, Guy Garvey and co had a huge hit in 2008 with the album The Seldom Seem Kid… which was actually their fourth album.

  32. Oasis - Cigarettes And Alcohol

    The absolute anthem for 90s “laddism”, Noel Gallagher once claimed this song was pure “social comment”.

  33. James - She’s A Star

    Taken from the 1997 album Whiplash, this underrated classic featured Line Of Duty’s Keeley Hawes in the video.

  34. New Order - Temptation

    Following the dissolution of Joy Division, the remaining members regrouped and started to experiment with electronic music. This 1982 hit was later included on the soundtrack to the classic movie Trainspotting.

  35. Courteeners - Take Over The World

    Liam Fray formed the Courteeners in 2006 and his stirring lyrics are served with a heavy dose of Mancunian wit. This classic is taken from their second album, Falcon, in 2010.

  36. Oasis - Don't Look Back In Anger

    The first Oasis tune to feature Noel on vocals, this legendary track pegged the Gallaghers firmly as kings of Britpop in the autumn of 1995.

  37. The Verve - The Drugs Don’t Work

    This song was number 1 in the UK charts the week Princess Diana died and is a tribute to Richard Ashcroft’s late father.

  38. James - Sit Down

    Originally released as a seven minute single in 1988, Sit Down was re-released three years later and saw the band included as part of the “Madchester” scene.

  39. Oasis - The Masterplan

    Wonderwall’s b-side uses a brass section to create another mini-masterpiece.

  40. Morrissey - Suedehead

    Following the split of The Smiths in late 1987, singer Morrissey went solo and enlisted the help of fellow Mancunian Vini Reilly (of The Durutti Column) to collaborate on this, his first single.

  41. Inspiral Carpets - Saturn 5

    Featuring one of the most memorable keyboard riffs of all time, this song was written after seeing a re-assembled Saturn 5 rocket at the Johnson Space Centre.

  42. 808 State - Pacific State

    808’s Martin Price ran Manchester record store Eastern Block and formed this instrumental acid house electronica quartet. Originally released on the album Quadrastate in the summer of 1989, Pacific was later reissued in a re-recorded form.

  43. The Charlatans - North Country Boy

    A tribute to the lads of the North from The Charlatans’ excellent 1997 album Tellin’ Stories.

  44. Doves - Catch The Sun

    Nestled on the edge of Manchester in leafy Wilmslow, Doves are brothers Jez and Andy Williams, plus frontman Jimi Goodwin. They started life as Mancunian dance act Sub Sub, but changed their name in 1996.

  45. Electronic - Getting Away With It

    Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr collaborated with New Order guitarist Bernard Sumner for this Mancunian supergroup in 1989. And who’s on backing vocals? Only Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys… who is from Tyneside.

  46. Blossoms - Charlemagne

    One of the best new bands to come out of the North West, Stockport’s Blossoms have a huge future ahead of them.

  47. The Verve - Sonnet

    The final single to be released from the Urban Hymns album, Sonnet is another peerless ballad from the pen of Richard Ashcroft.

  48. The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again

    Designed to signal a comeback for the band after the long wait for their third album The Queen Is Dead in 1986, this humorous track was written by Morrissey as an attempt to apologise for his own troublesome comments.

  49. The 1975 - Chocolate

    The quartet met Wilmslow High School in Cheshire as teenagers and quickly established themselves as one of the Manchester area’s hottest young bands. This 2013 song made the UK Top 20: “Now we run run away from the boys in the blue, and my car smells like chocolate.”

  50. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - The Ballad Of The Mighty I

    Noel Gallagher, joined by Johnny Marr. Perfect. “The colours around me are fading away / And I'll be waiting, come what may / I'll find you.”


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