In terms of popular music, the north-west of England has always been at the forefront when it comes to innovation, legacy and being able to create a scene. Between the cities of Manchester and Liverpool there have been countless new subcultures and genres.
Consider the pop and rock’n’roll of the Beatles, the post-punk pacesetters Joy Division, indie gods the Smiths, the rave and baggy culture of Manchester’s famous club the Hacienda and later bands such as the Stone Roses, to the Britpop years, which although often associated with London, gave us Oasis’s undeniably Mancunian Gallagher brothers.
If you are a big music fan and looking for somewhere to visit to pursue your passion, then forget about New Orleans, Memphis, Graceland or any other far-flung destination, because the north-west of England has just as much to offer. And, if you think about the number of artists associated with the region, it is perhaps the most influential place for music on the planet.
Where else to start? Liverpool is understandably Beatles obsessed. Every corner you turn around you will be reminded of the city’s favourite sons – be it John Lennon airport when you arrive in the city, the many shops and cafes that take on one of the fab four’s names, or even a tacky mask of John, Paul, George or Ringo in a souvenir shop.
Down at the beautiful, under-appreciated Liverpool Albert Dock, next to the Tate art gallery, is a museum called the Beatles Story, which attracts tourists all year round. This is certainly worth a visit and can be done in around an hour.
Super fans can take a tour around all of the band’s childhood homes as part of the aptly titled Magical Mystery Tour. As well as visiting where they grew up, you are guided through their schools, colleges and some of the most memorable places they spent their childhoods. You will finally top the tour off at the legendary Cavern Club.
There are plenty of places to stay in the city, and while you are there, you won’t have much trouble finding a Beatles tribute act to sing along to in the evening.
Manchester can offer numerous musical luminaries among its past and present residents. A good place to start in Manchester is perhaps one of the city’s organised walks, which last two hours and take you to many destinations and venues relevant to the likes of the Happy Mondays, the Fall, John Cooper Clarke and many others.
If it is a particular band that you are obsessed with, then you can go on a guided tour that is dedicated to that artist. There are speciality tours for Smiths/Morrissey fans, Oasis/Gallagher brothers enthusiasts, as well as outings for Joy Division/New Order fanatics.
It offers a fantastic location and affordable prices. When out for an evening’s entertainment, the Northern Quarter is where the current hip breed of kids drink and hang out, while you can still catch many of the legendary bands, with the Stone Roses performing sold out shows in the city this summer.
Although Liverpool and Manchester are the most recognised music destinations in the region, if you are going to stick around for a while, then there are certainly other places worth a trip. In recent years it may have slumped into a much-parodied Donk music obsession, but Wigan is the place most associated with the Northern Soul movement.
There are still nights held to showcase rare soul tracks, complete with idiosyncratic dance moves and retro fashion. If you fancy something different, consider Blackpool and a blast from the past with its ballroom dancing scene still thriving.
The current crop
Many popular modern bands hail from the north-west. The Lake District has spawned the falsetto-voiced buzz band Wild Beasts.
Manchester has new scenes popping up every couple of months, with hip-hop, indie and ambient currently in vogue, while the city also continues to play host to the old guard, such as Elbow.
Liverpool is also on the cusp on everything cool, with the Wirral’s dub-electro solo man Forest Swords currently receiving plenty of praise in the press.
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