Who would have thought that two of the most memorable one-hit wonders of all time would come out of Manchester?
And that a children’s choir from a Stockport primary school would be heavily involved in both of them!
The two singles were There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, which was the Christmas Number One in 1980, and Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs which topped the charts in April 1978.
Singing their hearts out on the two records were children from St Winifred’s Roman Catholic Primary on Didsbury Road, Stockport.
Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs was a celebration of the life of local artist L.S. Lowry, written and performed by Manchester duo Brian and Michael.
The two men behind Brian and Michael were Michael Coleman and Kevin Parrott, who were originally members of soul band The Big Sound. Parrott then became lead guitarist for Manchester group Oscar.
After Coleman had written Matchstalk Men, Parrott borrowed £1,000 to produce it at Pluto Studios in Stockport. Pluto, which was in the same building as Strawberry Studios used by 10cc, was owned by Herman’s Hermits’ guitarist Keith Hopwood.
The song was recorded in three sessions in September 1977, accompanied by St Winifred’s School Choir and the Tintwistle Brass Band.
Several record labels turned the single down, but Pye eventually agreed to distribute it. It was an inspired decision. Matchstalk Men climbed to Number One in the UK singles chart on Saturday April 8th 1978.
St Winifred’s were at it again in December 1980 when they recorded There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, written by Gordon Lorenz.
Penned as an 80th birthday tribute to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, it touched the nation’s heart. Grandchildren bought it in their droves to make it the Christmas Number One on December 27th.
It stayed at the top for two weeks before being displaced by John Lennon’s Imagine, re-released after his untimely death three weeks earlier.
There’s No One Quite Like Grandma managed to hold the classic Christmas song Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie off the top spot. Its highest position was No. 3.
Many more songs about Manchester have made the charts over the years, most of them written by artists and bands born and bred in the city.
Herman’s Hermits released It’s Nice to be Out in the Morning about their home town in 1964 and former Monkee Davy Jones recorded Manchester Boy.
Take That immortalised the A57(M) and A635(M) urban motorway in their song Mancunian Way and Elbow recorded the song Great Expectations about the 135 Bury to Manchester bus route!
Prestwich band The Fall recorded four songs about Manchester, including Cheetham Hill, and Fit and Working Again, referring to the reception room at Victoria station.
The Stone Roses weighed in with Mersey Paradise – the river runs through South Manchester – and Daybreak with the lyrics ‘from Atlanta, Georgia to Longsight, Manchester’.
Songs from Morrissey and the Smiths include Rusholme Ruffians, Cemetery Gates, Suffer Little Children (about the Moors murders) and Miserable Lie.
Thin Lizzy wrote the song Clifton Grange Hotel about the Manchester hotel owned by lead singer Phil Lynott’s mother.
In May 1976, Thin Lizzy reached No. 6 in the UK charts with The Boys Are Back in Town about the band’s visits to Manchester.
One of the most memorable city songs ever recorded was inspired by the grimy streets of Salford in 1949. It was the classic anthem Dirty Old Town, made famous by the Dubliners in 1968.
Its writer was the poet, playwright and political activist Ewan MacColl, who spent the early years of his life scraping a few pennies together as a street-singer in Manchester.
Born in Andrew Street, Broughton, in January 1915, he was the youngest son and only surviving child of iron-moulder William Miller and his charwoman wife Betsy.
MaColl also penned one of the greatest love songs of all time – the hauntingly beautiful The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, immortalised by American singer Roberta Flack in 1972.
He wrote it in 1957 for American folk singer Peggy Seeger. He fell in love with her when she came to London to work on an anthology of folk songs.
Since 1957, the song has been recorded by no less than 120 artists, ranging from Bob Monkhouse to Edward Woodward and Elvis Presley.