MM’s top five… Manchester music scene’s golden oldies of the 60s and 70s

By Tom Dyson

Let’s go back in time to an age of innocence, freedom and flower power and then travel 5,000 miles from the west coast of California to the cold climate of Manchester.

Don’t let the ‘grim up north’ image cloud your judgement of the fine music which has emerged, The Smiths and The Stone Roses to name but a few, but rewind half a century when space rock and psychedelic music became a catalyst for the music we know and love today.

Having a passion for music, I made the difficult decision to find the top five ‘golden oldies’ of Manchester.

5) Freddie and the Dreamers

Formed in 1963 and comprising of Freddie Garrity, Roy Crewdson, Derek Quinn, Peter Birrell and Bernie Dwyer, this group fell into the Merseybeat category of sound which hails back to the rock ’n’ roll rhythms of the late 50s.

Not entirely my favoured style but nevertheless iconic and they entertained the ear with catchy, light-hearted lyrics as heard on You Were Made For Me and I’m Telling You Now.

They were part of the British invasion of America and certainly suited the time with their music forming a smooth ‘easy listening’ sound.

Garrity and drummer Dwyer died in 2006 and 2002 respectively.

4) Herman’s Hermits

Formed back in 1963 in Urmston, this group marked the beginning of popular music development after mildly experimenting with R’n’B.

Lead vocalist Peter Noone, who went to Stretford Grammar School for Boys, was a mere 15 years old when he became part of the group.

The other original members included Keith Hopwood, Karl Green, Alan Wrigley and Steve Titterington.

Herman’s Hermits had huge success in America and formed some stiff competition for The Beatles in the charts.

I’m Into Something Good and There’s A Kind Of Hush were among the songs which contained a basic structure but still retained their rock ’n’ roll roots.

They also took on several covers but enhanced them to give them a more harmonic edge.

Dynamic, young and cheerful, this group lasted a solid amount of time but musically declined after Noone’s departure in 1971.

3) Barclay James Harvest

This group is certainly the crème de la crème of prog rock.

Just listening to the song Mockingbird, this encapsulates everything about the subgenre. With its mystifying vocal sound of front man John Lees and a contrasting orchestral passage, the song opens up many doors inside the imagination.

As with many of the Oldham-based group’s material, the lyrics stand firm in poetry but occasionally flirt with fantasy.

Originally consisting of Lees, Les Holroyd, Stuart Wolstenholme and Mel Pritchard, the latter two having sadly died, the group broke boundaries just as any other prog rock musician would do.

Songs were generally longer than the average three minutes and included long guitar solos, wind trios or string quartets.

BJH’s trademark sound was the mellotron which was first used by The Moody Blues. The 1977 song Poor Man’s Moody Blues is a tribute to Nights In White Satin and more or less contains the same bass line.

More than 15 albums later the group have now gone their separate ways but Lees has his own BJH and Holroyd has his own as well so luckily for many, there are two of them around touring.

2) 10cc

I don’t like cricket but I love the classic reggae sounds of 10cc.

Based in Stockport, this art rock group consisted of Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.

They aren’t exactly as much of a golden age as the other groups in the top five as they dip into the neighbouring decade of the 1970s but Godley and Creme proved to be a hugely successful songwriting duo.

From the controversial Rubber Bullets to the deeply mellow I’m Not In Love, there is something for everyone.

10cc experimented and varied their styles as the years went on, slowly becoming romanticised but retaining their syncopated rhythms and you can’t get any more Bob Marley-like than the 1978 single Dreadlock Holiday.

They were a great live band and are still touring today but several break ups have resulted in Gouldman being the only original member remaining and somehow they lost that great vibe of the early 70s.

1) The Hollies

This group has to be the winner by far.

Formed in 1962 and making more than 20 albums, The Hollies have achieved huge commercial success.

Originally formed by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, The Hollies are known for their tight vocal harmonies and upbeat melodies.

They’re not your average rock ’n’ roll band but they have a unique way of singing and songwriting, even including 10cc’s own Graham Gouldman adding his touch of class within the realms of psychedelic rock.

They gained huge popularity such as touring with The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, performing at the Cavern Club in 1963 and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

The harmonies of the group really stood out and provided a rich flowing sound.

They had international hit singles, many of them making the UK charts. Carrie Anne, On A Carousel and the ballad He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother are songs which will never die.

After Nash left in the late 60s, the group still flourished even going as late as 1977 with Air That I Breathe which was a widely-covered song.

The Hollies still tour but without Nash and Clarke, as with other ageing contemporaries, the music these hippies grew to love has moved with the times but The Hollies still remain one of the greatest bands of all time, not just in Manchester.

Image courtesy of the BBC via YouTube, with thanks

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