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Top 10 Manchester Band from the '80s

February 6, 2019

“Oh Manchester, so much to answer for…”

It’s a line from “Suffer Little Children,” one of the first tracks Morrissey and Johnny Marr wrote for the Smiths. While the song is about the grisly “Moor murders” that happened in Manchester in the early 1960s, it’s also an apt descriptor for the city’s musical legacy. A surprisingly large number of bands from the working-class British city are among the world’s most influential. From the ringing and poetic tones of the Smiths to the hard-driving electronic pulse of New Order, Manchester music from the outrageously fertile ‘80s decade covers a vast gamut of sound that influences bands new and established to this very day.

Here are the Top 10 Manchester bands of the 1980s.


The original punks. Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto were so deep in the mix that they promoted some of the earliest Sex Pistols shows. When it came to their own band, the cranked out a series of instant classics that still stand among some of the greatest the genre has ever produced: “Orgasm Addict,” “What Do I Get,” “Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn’t’ve”)—the band’s greatest hits collection, Singles Going Steady, is essential.

Happy Mondays

So you think you can party? There’s a good chance you’ve never partied as hard as Shaun Ryder and the rest of the Happy Mondays crew. They took partying to a level of high art. One of the band’s frontmen, “Bez,” was there just to dance. At the forefront of the psychedelic  late ‘80s “Madchester,” scene, the Mondays rolled out a string of hits in their drug-fueled wake. Singles like “Step On,” “Kinky Afro” and “Hallelujah” kept their rabid fanbase in a state of perpetual ecstasy.


Jumping on the “Madchester” bandwagon at the end of the ‘80s, James rode that momentum into the ‘90s, resulting in 1991 breakout single, “Sit Down.” The band would reach even higher heights in 1993 with “Laid,” which hit the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 61. James is also famous for playing Coachella 2012 while it was raining. Yes, raining. At Coachella. Imagine that.

Joy Division

The godfathers. One of the many bands that formed after seeing the Sex Pistols, Joy Division would quickly evolve into one of the most influential groups of all-time. From their iconic logo to such timeless classics as “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “She’s Lost Control,” Joy Division’s singular sound and vision would become building blocks for entire genres to follow. The band’s tragic demise after the suicide of singer Ian Curtis cemented their legend.


After the initial explosion that was the Buzzcocks, Howard Devoto would soon spiral out to form his own band, Magazine. Hitting the scene with the brilliant debut single, “Shot by Both Side” (co-written by Steve Shelley of Buzzcocks), followed by the influential album, Real Life, Devoto and company would crank out two more stellar albums: Secondhand Daylight (1979) and The Correct Use of Soap, which would boast legendary Manchester producer and notorious party monster, Martin Hannett, on the boards. After 1981’s Magic, Murder and the Weather, the band would split up, only to reconvene 30 years later for No Thyself, the band’s final full-length.