A music history like no other, Manchester England
comes complete with a recommended soundtrack for each chapter evoking aural memories as Haslam unleashes an assembled cast of artists, musicians, hooligans, writers, workers, students, entrepreneurs and poets playing out a unique history of a unique city.
Haslam is not the first to write on Manchester's musical heritage, but while many of his predecessors' overwhelming desire was to cry "me! me! me!", hoping to convince us that they were there and that, as such, they had something to do with the numerous mini cultural revolutions that have taken place in the city, Haslam's approach to Manchester is different. His meticulous style contrasts with the rough, eager spontaneity of his subject, yet the book works because of this. Mapping out the city's creative and industrial history from the early 19th century to the ecstasy-fuelled dance culture of the 80s and 90s, you begin to realise the profound extent to which the city has always been part of a cycle of cultural upheaval, innovation and desperation. A mix of immigrant cultures and classes at loggerheads: it's this cocktail of human influence that has enabled the city not just to survive, but to inspire its populous to innovate rather than imitate.
From "Immigrants, Merchants and Anarchists", via "Punk, Post Punk and the Punk Postman", to "Hard Times and Basslines", the headlines alone reveal the eclectic references uniquely brought together here, united not for the purpose of self-congratulatory navel-gazing but to enable an understanding of the city's past and its future. Haslam presents a completely holistic view of how Manchester has ended up, for better or worse, the city it is today. "We're living in an uneasy city in a very tough world ... but the so-called experts ... can't stifle the desire to break the silence", Haslam tells us, asserting that creativity in the city has always won out, not just in spite of, but because of the challenges that face it.
Manchester England is not simply about Dave Haslam flexing his academic muscle alongside his DJ-ing credentials. The book is absorbing, insightful and entertaining. There's been enough overblown hype surrounding this rainy Northern city. Haslam's earnest and intelligent approach betrays his quiet conviction that "on the third day", as the t-shirts used to shout, "God did create Manchester". --Tony Martin
* ‘About bloody time. The city that gave us every significant band of the lasty 20 years has finally made it into print. ****' Uncut
* A serious book about the city's pop heritage was inevitable and Dave Haslam's Manchester, England does the job admirably. Awesome.' NME
* ' Filled with a personal love of music and urban life and Saturday nights.' Andrew O'Hagan
* 'Excellent' Mojo