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Music Capital

Chapter 2

The Punkless Seventies

In the latter half of the sixties and the early seventies music seemed to sink into a slumber across Greater Manchester. There were bands that made an impact but unlike in the first half of the sixties and then from 1976 there wasn't much of a local music scene. Those groups that made it during this period did it on their own not as part of a Manchester phenomena.

The lack of a scene was probably due to the state of the nation at the time. As British cities started their long decline - not to be arrested until the late eighties, as unemployment grew and high rise developments accelerated the destruction of communites, music seemed to move away from the grasp of local youth. Didn't success belong to the Americans or to middle-class grammar school boys from the suburbs writing improbably long songs with loads of instrumentals?

10CC One exception was 10cc, Manchester's biggest locally recording band of the Seventies. The group as mentioned previously were all well-known Manchester musicians and their musical acumen enabled them to appeal to both an audience of pop loving teenagers and older folk drawn by the clever lyrics. As a band they became one of the most technically innovative of the decade, writing and producing 12 top-thirty hits from Donna in 1972 to Dreadlock Holiday in 1978 via Rubber Bullets, The Dean and I, Wall Street Shuffle, Silly Love, Life is a Minestrone, I'm Not in Love, Art for Art's Sake, I'm Mandy Fly Me, The Things We Do For Love and Good Morning Judge. Their biggest hit I'm Not in Love was written by Gouldman and Stewart and sung by the latter. The song showed the group at their original best with 256 overdubbed voice tracks as backing vocals recorded 16 times each. The group weren't going to release the song as a single until frequent airplay on radio forced their hand. Godley and Creme split from the band in 1976. Their biggest hit was to be in 1985 with Cry which again featured pioneering work with its video of constantly changing faces.

10cc were based at Strawberry Studios in the Greater Manchester town of Stockport. This recording venue on Waterloo Road was to be of great importance to other bands including Joy Division who recorded Unknown Pleasures there and to bands such as the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays.

The Bee Gees The other truly massive band with Manchester connections of the seventies was The Bee Gees. Barry, Maurice and Robin were born on the Isle of Man, but their parents were Mancunian and they all returned to the city in the 1950's. Music was in the blood, father Hugh Gibb was a big band leader and their mother Barbara was a singer. They lived in Keppel Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy in the city and the story goes that they began singing when Barry dropped the Everly Brothers' single Wake Up Little Suzy as they were on their way to the local cinema to mime to the record (other stories say the song was Tommy Steele's Wedding Bells). Without the record the boys had to sing and the manager saw so much promise that they were hired to perform again. The cinema is now the Cooperative Funeral Services building and any rumours that this is where The Bee Gees recorded Stayin' Alive are false. After Barry got into trouble with the police the family moved to Australia. Their first British chart success was New York Mining Disaster in 1967 but it was not until Saturday Night Fever in 1978 that they ascended to the top of pop heaven. This LP with thirty million sales worldwide remains the biggest selling film soundtrack ever. The trio have also written huge hits for Dolly Parton - Islands in the Stream, Donna Summer - Chain Reaction, and Dionne Warwick - Heartbreaker and Barbara Streisand - Woman in Love. Manchester bands Happy Mondays and Take That have recorded covers of Tragedy and How Deep is Your Love respectively. The boys, despite all their travels, still have recognisable Manc accents.

The only local group to climb on the band wagon of "progressive rock" was the Oldham based Barclay James Harvest with their folk meets classical style of music. They had middling success in the UK with songs like Mockingbird and LPs such as Gone to Earth, but became massive in Europe particularly Germany - which they continued to tour well into the nineties.

Elkie Brooks A more down to earth act was Elkie Brooks. Born Elaine Bookbinder this gravel voiced singer was destined, like the Bee Gees, to be a musician. Brother Tony led The Dakotas of Billy J Kramer fame and uncle Nat was a bandleader. The 1977 hit Pearl's a Singer was one of those songs which, whatever your musical tastes, stuck in the brain. Elkie later had hits with Fool If You Think Its Over and No More the Fool.

Sad Cafe fronted by Paul Young were another successful band in this period enjoying a hit in the mid-seventies with Everyday Hurts. Paul Young later went on to enjoy success with Mike Rutherford's band Mike and the Mechanics and the song Living Years. A wierd story about Paul Young appeared in the Manchester Evening News on the occasion of his birth in 1947. It was reported that the young and as yet unborn troubadour began to voice check before he had exited his mother.

Roy Harper Another local band with at least one major hit was Racing Cars with They Shoot Horses Don't They. At around the same time, Bury lad, Peter Skellern scaled pop's heights with the vaguely vaudeville but charming ballad You're a Lady. Finally, that difficult but talented character from the suburb of Rusholme, Roy Harper, enjoyed some success with his LP Stormcock and notably guested on the Pink Floyd LP Wish You Were Here, singing Have a Cigar.

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