City Hosted a Decade of Smash Hit Gigs

by | Jan 27, 2018 | 1980s, Music

Many of Manchester’s most historical gigs took place in the 1980s. iNostalgia finds out what made the decade so special for live music in the city

Variety really was the spice of life for the Manchester music scene of the 1980s.

Home-grown talents The Smiths and New Order packed the Hacienda while super-groups Queen and Pink Floyd played to thousands at Maine Road.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the Happy Mondays sold out the GMex, while Madonna made a rare early appearance in the city in 1984.

Throw in the likes of Duran Duran, Boy George and Manchester band James – and almost the whole musical spectrum was covered!

A focus for much of Manchester’s brand of music was the Hacienda nightclub. Opened in 1982, it hosted many of the city’s most memorable evenings.

It also provided a platform for many of the city’s up-and -coming bands – including The Smiths.

Many fans will have treasured memories of the group’s gig at the Hacienda on November 24th 1983, just a year after they formed.

Singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr were yet to become household names, but the band had already released their first single – Hand in Glove – on Rough Trade Records.

The Smiths, whose line-up was Morrissey, Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, went on to be described as the most influential guitar group of the decade.

The four albums they produced in the 1980s, including The Smiths (1984) and Meat is Murder (1985), all made the UK Top Five.

The Smiths, whose cult following is still as strong as ever, broke up in 1987. They’ve turned down several offers to reform since.

Morrissey from Manchester band The Smiths

Morrissey, lead singer of Manchester group The Smiths.

Another global artist to grace the Hacienda at the very start of her career was Madonna. She had just released her third single Holiday when she played the club on January 27th 1984.

Although it’s hard to believe now, Madonna was hardly known outside New York where she’d steadily built up a following since going solo in 1981.

Madonna’s Hacienda gig was recorded for the influential Channel 4 TV programme The Tube – it was her first live performance in the UK.

Madonna performing live

Madonna performing live.

Duran Duran were at the height of their fame when they gave a memorable performance at the Manchester Apollo in December 1983.

The sell-out audience hung on to every note as lead singer Simon Le Bon strutted around the stage.

Duran Duran on stage

Duran Duran at Manchester’s Apollo.

Boy George and Culture Club picked up a selection of cuddly toys from fans when they played a one-night gig in Manchester in April 1983.

The group were already global names as their third single – Do You Really Want to Hurt Me – had gone to Number One in the UK in late 1982 and had rapidly become an international smash hit.

Boy George holding teddies from fans

Boy George weighed down with cuddly toys from fans.

Queen played live at Maine Road on July 16th 1986 as part of their international Magic Tour – a year after their electrifying performance at the London Live Aid concert.

Formed in London in 1970, the band were catapulted to worldwide fame when the ground-breaking single Bohemian Rhapsody was released in 1976.

Queen live on stage

A live performance from Queen.

Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood were four years past the notoriety of their debut single Relax when they appeared before a sell-out audience at Manchester’s GMex in January 1987.

Released in 1983, Relax was banned by the BBC even though it topped the UK singles chart for five weeks. It ultimately became the seventh best-selling UK single of all time.

Frankie goes to Hollywood at the Gmex

The massive audience for Frankie Goes to Hollywood at the GMex centre.

Pink Floyd were well into their Momentary Lapse of Reason world tour when they appeared at Maine Road in August 1988. Led by Dave Gilmour, the band sounded as good as ever – even without Roger Waters who left three years earlier.Formed from the demise of Joy Division in 1980, Manchester group New Order became the flagship band for Factory Records and the Hacienda nightclub in the 1980s. They even used revenues from their records to fund the club.

The band’s record Blue Monday, released in 1985, became the biggest-selling 12-inch single of all time.Finally in our round-up, we come to the Whalley Range band James, formed in 1982. One of the band’s early gigs at the Hacienda caught the eye of producer and impresario Tony Wilson, who signed them for Factory Records.

The group, whose hits include Sit Down and Come Home, supported The Smiths on their 1985 Meat is Murder tour.

Tim Booth from the band James

Tim Booth of Manchester group James.

Many more memorable images of the past can be found in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Manchester in the 1970s.