Ask a packed pub who is/was the biggest band, singer or musician from Manchester and chances are you will get more answers than you can count on one hand.  What you would notice though is that different generations will have different favourites. While many parts of the UK have had and still have an explosive music scene – online magazines like No Majesty often feature stories about the wider UK scene – the popular music scene in Manchester is one with a long history.

Here are some of the biggest stars from Manchester:

The Hollies

The Hollies were one of the most commercially successful pop music bands from the ‘60’s.  The group was formed by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash who had played together in previous bands, The Hollies first releases, early hits in 1963 being R&B covers.  Artistically, the group created a strong sound using distinctive, catchy three part harmonies. They were also not afraid to explore the popular music genre and released cross over songs from their pop roots into country, folk rock and psychedelic.  Throughout the ‘60’s the band had 17 UK hit singles and 6 in the USA. (Hardy P, Laing D 1990). Their first original hit was written by local Manchester songwriter Graham Gouldman who later went on to fame as part of 10CC. Gouldman wrote the Hollies Hit Bus Stop whilst riding through Manchester City Centre on the number 95 bus after seeing a girl he fancied at the bus stop.

Graham Nash says it was obvious to him that his time in the Hollies was coming to an end, Nash left the group and moved to LA where the super group Crosby Stills and Nash were formed.  Nash states that there were three reasons why he left, he’d written King Midas in Reverse that got into the top 30, but the rest of the band, used to top 10 hits were disappointed.  They were working on an album of Dylan covers that he did not feel was going the right way. He also says he’d written Marrakesh Express that they’d tried to record, but were just not into it.  See the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame interview here

Graham Gouldman

Graham Gouldman was a prolific songwriter before his 10cc days, writing hits such as For Your Love – The Yardbirds, Look Through Any Window – The Hollies and No Milk Today – Hermans Hermits as well as the huge number of hits as part of the group 10cc such as I’m Not in Love, Rubber Bullets, The Things we Do for Love.


The 1970’s brought us Punk Rock and right at the forefront of the movement were the band called Buzzcocks, famous for Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) which made number 12 on the UK singles charts in 1978 Also, for lending their name to long running television show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Never Mind taken from a Sex Pistols title and the two bands were considered equally influential.

The Smiths

Indie Rock Band The Smiths, formed in Manchester in 1982 and many fans saw them as an antidote to the pop music of the time.  The Smiths may have only lasted until 1987, but they were a hugely influential band who released four studio albums, a live album and three compilations that gave them 3 top 10 singles:  2 when the band were together Heaven Knows I’m Miserable now;   Sheila Take a Bow and the rereleased This Charming Man made number 8  in 1992. The band comprised: Morrissey on vocals, Guitarist Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, Bass and Mike Joyce on drums.  Those on the record for saying they have been influenced by The Smiths include Noel Gallagher and The Stone Roses’ John Squire. 

‘Marr’s guitar style was a huge building block for more Manchester legends that followed The Smiths – The Stone Roses, with their guitarist John Squire acknowledging the debt he owed to Marr.

And Noel Gallagher is another major star admitting The Smiths as an influence, and Marr in particular. ‘

(Dowling S, BBC, May, 2003).


Originally formed in 1990 when Guy Garvey and Craig Potter met at Bury College, originally under a different name, Elbow have brought us gems such as One Day Like This and Magnificent (She Says).  Elbow are still going strong and their English Rock sound won them a Mercury Prize in 2008.


…and so to Oasis,  formed in the early ‘90’s original line up was guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs,  Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan Bass Guitar, Tony McCarroll on Drums and of course Liam and then Noel Gallagher covering vocals and also guitars.  It is little wonder then that Oasis has a big guitar sound.

Oasis gained an enviable 30 industry awards and over 70 million album sales from their 8 albums that are ranked here. These albums spawned a staggering 22 consecutive top 10 singles. Debut single was the EP Supersonic in April 2014.  Wonderwall with over 1.34 million copies sold remains the biggest selling single.

Their influence on the Manchester and wider UK music scene continues today, but there is little doubt when listening to the harmonies and the style that Oasis can trace influence back to those 1960’s popular music pioneers.  


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