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on 20 October 2000
As a New Order fan from high school onward, Manchester was always this mythical, hallowed ground which dictated pop culture and produced the best bands, best fashion trends, best clubs...When I finally made it to Manchester, I was not disappointed in the least. But I could not explain just how Manchester achieved that status, nor why I felt more connected as an American to Manchester, whereas London was more foreign. Then I read Dave Haslam's absolutely outstanding "Manchester, England." I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Haslam details Manchester's interest and delight in popular culture from the Industrial Revolution onwards. Of course, the clubs, fashion, music, and social problems of the last three decades feature prominently. But as an American, what I found especially enlightening was Manchester's long history of absorbing American pop culture, and then refashioning it into something of its own. It was only when I read this that I began to understand my own connection to the city.
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on 16 October 2003
This book was a real surprise, originally bought for my Manchester styled headonist boyfriend, i began reading this myself, as it was recommended reading for a social science course i was taking.
The last thing i expected was an extemely well written, and well researched study into the history of Manchester's music and club scene, stretching back to the start of the industrial revolution, and taking into account the social conditions and politics of the day.
This book is not a superficial, single-opinioned coffee-table read. I honestly expected something more along the lines of Tony Wilson's '24 hour party people', what i got was an indepth and well researched study into the social, political, and economic development of Manchester.
At times it seemed a little slow to get going, but on the whole a gr8 book.
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on 26 July 2010
If you think you're going to get a run through of the lively excesses of a music mad city, then you'll be (a little) disappointed. If however you want an evocative and lyrically contextualised assessment of why Manchester is the way it is, and where its music emerged from, then get this book. Dave Haslam has the authority not only of a good modern historian and first-hand witness, but also a participant in the shaping of the post-industrial music city. There are a few good reads about Manchester music out there - Kevin Cummins, John Robb, Mark E. Smith for example - but this is the definitive read, and re-read, because it gets under the skin of the Manchester attitude that made everything happen, rather than just celebrating the fact that it did.
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on 3 August 2000
I'm not a great reader, so I wasn't mad keen when somebody bought this book for me for my birthday but it is sensational. It's so well written, almost like poetry, which I didn't think it would be because I didn't think DJ's could write!
Dave seems to love and care for his subject, so even the bits you don't think will interest you come alive. The club coverage is good, but the way he tells the Manchester story is amazing. It almost makes me wish I had done history at school.
I live in Manchester and I since telling everyone about this book everyone says they've read it too. It must be on everyone's shelf. Its like the story of our lives; that's what I keep telling people. You can really feel the city.
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on 17 July 2000
Manchester: Pop Cult City describes exactly why I never want to move to London. It captures the excitement, melancholy, hysterical laughing sob and plaintive din of this most musical city. The city is alive in Dave Haslam's writing, something rarely found in academic urban texts; different places and times, stories and events sampled, woven in, interrupting, layered, pulsating explosively. The effect is immersion in, rather than a 'best of' Manchester.
A triumph for music writing, this book is never trite, repetitive, simplistically heroic, pretentiously esoteric or gratingly anecdotal. Avoiding reduction, it covers much; global and local politics, economics, memories, failures, dreams, hopes and fashion (mistakes), but never sounds out the music. Haslam shows how Manchester's music has long been a symptom and expression of its frustrated, marginalised state, its tragic smile the sociable face of its pent up radicalism.
As a geographer, I am enthralled by Haslam's record of how the city has made and been shaped by its cultural life, and would go so far as to say that it is one of the best books on this account. From his fascinating research into popular cultures in the early 20th century to sensitive listening to life in Moss Side, Haslam astounds with breadth and quality of coverage. He doesn't allow his expertise to authoritatively dictate the score, his passionate enthusiasm, like the best music educators, guides the potential musos through, enabling them to perform/listen in their own way.
My main criticism is Haslam's unfortunate dismissal of classical music, he underestimates the extensive borrowing and overlap of 'classical' and 'popular' musics. Too readily he accepts cliched images and shuts his ears to remarkable sounds, including world class orchestras, music schools, colleges, contemporary composers, and thriving amateur and informal groups in Manchester. He ignores the significance of this emotionally significant music making to many people's lives, and the similar daily struggles classical musicians face to other artists. Many jazz, classical, folk and underground scenes share musicians, many involved in what he identifies as the most creative and cutting edge sounds. More photographs, particularly from the past would have been nice, although this may have been an oversight on the publishers part.
On the whole however, this book sounds like Manchester to me, it whispers in the heart and bashes in the head. Required reading for anyone interested in music, cities or social life. I hope Dave Haslam writes some more books, I await them like a second album. Manchester: The Pop Cult City sounds magnificent; I'll keep on listening.
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on 19 March 2007
I expected to be reading an interesting book about a period of 15 years in Manchester. What I actually read was a fascinating book that transported me from Manchester 200+ years ago through to the end of the Millenium. The book tracks social history in Manchester over the last 200+ years (it touched briefly on the Romans at Castlefield!) Most of all, it gives the history of places and people that would suprise many Mancunians (I am a Manc, by the way). I wish that we had been given this book to read at school. I might have been better informed about my city of birth. Buy this book - you will love it!
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on 13 December 1999
As a compatriot, Mancunian and sometimes Dj partner of Dave Haslam, i should perhaps declare my connections with the author himself, but believe me when I say that this actually made me read this book with a more critical eye than most. This book is not just required reading for anybody involved or interested in any part of Manchester's musical history, but also for anyone who wants to see how the nature of a city is reflected in it's leisure pursuits, culture, music and its music makers and consumers. More than a rushed hack job (this book was five years in the writing), it is the first publication that i know of to really tackle some of the difficult and delicate issues of how the complex and diverse nature of Manchester, the City, from it's role as a major part of the Northern Industrial revolution right through to the beginnings of Acid House and "Madchester", created some of the best-and worst!- music the 20th century has seen. It also made me realise for the first time , how much of my own musical tastes have been shaped by what went on within the city boundaries, and how that music and the people involved,spread out to the rest of the UK, europe and the world. Dave could have easily just regaled us with tales of The Hacienda, Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses,(all of which he had some involvement in along the way) but instead. he shuns self-aggrandisment in favour of recognising and crediting some of the unsung heroes of music, clubs and youth culture. never less than brutally honest and painstakingly researched, this book is a joy, and education and a lesson in how when good things get too big, they can suddenly self implode. I read it through in one 5 hour sitting and I can only urge you to buy this book, read it and then listen to the music....
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on 13 August 2016
I've been meaning to read this for a while, along with a couple of other books on the origins of dance music. Haslam is a fantastic writer and is able to speak with authority on all things to do with Manchester culture in a serious/academic tone, interspersed with funny asides. It makes for a very readable style.

Contrary to some of the negative reviews, the book goes well beyond a back slapping dissertation of the Madchester era of dance music though. Haslam takes in pre-industrial beginnings, 19th century monkey parades, music hall, cinema, Thomas De Quincey, jazz, blues, universal suffrage (Chartists, Pankhurst, the Anti Corn Law League), the beginnings of DJ culture and a whole chapter dedicated to the ups, downs, drugs, violence, music and failed social policy of Moss Side. Well worth a read, excellent.
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on 27 October 2007
Haslam takes on a big project here. He could've stuck to his niche and just covered more recent developments on the music scene but he digs deep, really deep, and the book is so much richer for it. If you love Manchester you love 'Manchester, England'.
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on 8 September 1999
Dave Haslam, the Hacienda's former resident dj (and now at Home) has written this book on Manchester and its bands, writers and artists. All the people you'd expect are in there; The Stone Roses, the Mondays, Morrissey, Mark E Smith, the rise and fall of the Hacienda etc. But it's also about the way pop music and pop culture have thrived outside London and become part of the everyday life of the people who live and work in the big industrial cities. I think this is a fantastic book - a "pop" book that's brave enough to talk about things other than who played bass for The Smiths etc. etc. Really readable and really bright - and the Moss Side chapter is the best thing I've read for years. BUY THIS BOOK!!
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