Top 10 books about Manchester music

Top 10 books about Manchester music

With news of the upcoming Johnny Marr and Morrissey autobiographies the Mancunian book shelf that is already creaking and groaning with weighty tomes looks set for more tales from the unexpected.

A city that is full of its own sense of it’s own mythology was always going to have a lot of books written about it, and with bands chock full of real characters and idiosyncratic frontmen was always going to be perfect for books.

Here is a top 10 list of books about the Manchester music scene. (LTW boss John Robb ordered me not to include his ‘North Will Rise Again- Oral History of Manchester Music’ book or his Stone Roses and Charlatans books)

‘Twisting My Melon’ by Shaun Ryder

As the old gag goes, ‘It’s a surprise he can remember anything at all…. ‘ But despite a rather wayward life, Shaun Ryder was always a smart cookie and his tumultuous career from the arse end of Salford to unlikely pop star to drug madness to I’m A Celebrity has seen him become a folk hero.

‘Renegades’ Mark E Smith

The scurrilous and dangerously mad autobiography of the Fall frontman gives a real sense of the world view of Manchester, albeit in a beer and spittle stained way.

‘Touching from a Distance’ by Deborah Curtis

There are plenty of books about Joy Division but somehow this one sits at the top of the pile. Perhaps because it was written by Ian Curtis’s wife it gives a sense of the mundane reality behind the myth and the gradual descent at the end of his life and the damage it leaves behind whilst giving a real understanding of what moulded the band’s iconic music.

‘The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club’ by Peter Hook

Hilarious account of the total mismanagement and madness that surrounded the Hacienda By Peter Hook who ended up working for security at the club whilst all his royalties were pumped into the staggering enterprise. As an idea the Hacienda was genius as a reality it was a nightmare as this book bluntly and humorously details with a series of great anecdotes.

‘The Smiths’ by Johny Rogan
This is the book that Morrissey despises but it’s the only weighty effort available on the band so far. Until Morrissey and then Marr’s own books come out this is all the serious fan has in terms of detail.

‘Manchester: Looking for the Light Through the Pouring Rain’ by Kevin Cummins
Kevin Cummings may not have lived in Manchester for thirty years but his photos still dominate the sculpting of the city’s musical image. This collection has all the classic images and a few you may have never seen before from one of the UKs best photographers.

‘I Swear I Was There’ by David Nolan
The oral history of those Sex Pistols gigs which may or may not have been the catalyst for everything that followed. Worth reading just for the endless petty discussion over who went to see the Sex Pistols in 1976- a hipster moment that no-one else on the city’s music scene ever cared much about.

‘Freaky Dancing’ Bez
Written in the street burr of the Mondays totemic dancing beanpole this is a funny and fairly mental rush through a life that defines rock n roll abandon whilst giving a real insight into the madness of an era that the Happy Mondays typified.

‘Breaking Into Heaven’ Mick Middles
The Stone Roses story told with a large amount of the band’s manager Gareth Evans.

‘Manchester, England’ Dave Haslam

Earnest account of the history of Manchester music in the context of the history of the city. The history stuff is particularity good.

The book that should be written…

Steve Adge story of the Stone Roses…
Adge is the Stone Roses legendary road manager and, by proxy, manager. He saw it all and his anecdotes, some of which can be seen on YouTube are hilarious. He has written some of the stuff down- we urge him to finish the book, this would be the only Stone Roses book worth having.

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  1. I agree with Mike, the North will rise again is a superb read. Maybe next it could be 10 books on North – West Culture such as Ian Hough’s Perry Boys, The Best Clubs are downstairs about Erics and other little gems.

  2. Good list. I’ve read a couple but not, I will be sure to give them a read though.

    I found ‘Who Killed Martin Hannet’ a particularly good read too!


  3. “24 Hour Party People” the book written alongside the film is pretty essential too, particularly as Anthony Wilson, writer of said book, was central to much of what was happening in Manchester at the time from THAT Pistols gig.
    “Touching From A Distance” is a must for any Joy Division fan.
    Fittingly, “Transmission” by Joy Division has just popped on the radio!

  4. C.P.Lee’s “When We Were Thin” should be on that list.

    A member of the legendary Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, the book covers Lee’s own experiences and those of the Manchester music scene in general in the 1970s – mostly the pre-punk 1970s where most official histories would have you think there wasn’t much going on here. It’s a fascinating historical document for anyone wishing to learn about the foundations of what became the punk/DIY scene; it’s also genuine-laugh-out-loud funny at times. And several of the funniest and most outrageous stories involve Bruce Mitchell, these days that nice elderly gent who drums for Durutti Column, but something of a rock’n’roll beast in his day…


  5. ‘The book that should be written…

    Steve Adge story of the Stone Roses’

    I’m total agreement with you John.

  6. Grew up with Adge and his brother Mark on Hattersley many happy days Hitchin up and down the country following City . Couldn’t wish for better mates very proud of what they have achieved come on Adge get that book on the go. Reckon mark could pen a goodun about his time with the Paris Angels.


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