Music is one of Manchester’s finest cultural foundations and exports. The mid-20th Century saw a deliberate shift towards the North as a cultural centre; a move that, by in large, can be accredited to the production of music. The 1950s and 1960s in particular saw the emergence of beat groups, giving rise to some of the North’s most successful and enduring musical figures – including The Searchers, and Manchester-based The Hollies, who would go on to have over twenty hit singles in the American charts as part of the so-called British Invasion.
While volunteering for the Manchester County Archives, I came across two items that were demonstrative of the bands’ enduring legacy.
This first document is a broadside, advertising a concert at Manchester’s Palace Theatre as part of The Hollies Spring Tour of 1968. It is strange to think that the theatre itself – one of Manchester’s most impressive – was threatened with closure in the 1970s. However, during the early-to-mid 20th Century, it was an extremely popular concert and show venue, playing host to a number of noteworthy acts – including The Rolling Stones, as seen in this image taken on Oxford Road in 1965.
It was during the latter part of 1968 that Graham Nash left The Hollies. He also collaborated with one of their support acts on this particular tour, Scaffold, who were a comedy, poetry and music group from Liverpool, and were also influential in the shift towards Northern art and music. However, The Hollies’ legacy remains, and their incredible success in the latter part of the British Invasion led to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
This second item – an advertisement for BBC Radio Manchester’s 15th Anniversary in 1985 – also highlights the importance of 1960s beat music on the musical legacy of Manchester. Not only does the poster advertise a 1960s-style disco, but the celebrations were headlined by The Searchers, who actively worked alongside The Hollies as part of the British success in the 1960s American charts. In fact, they were only the second group from Liverpool to have a hit in the United States (no prizes for guessing who got there first).
Both of these finds have enabled me to delve deeper into the history of Manchester’s musical heritage – something that I hope to do more of in future posts. While today, our city may be better known for the likes of Oasis or The Smiths, the beat groups of the mid-20th Century can be heavily credited with the emergence of a cultural pull towards the North of England – not only on a national scale, but globally.