Feel Every Beat: “Manchester Sound: Happy Mondays & Friends at Cities In The Park”

By on November 7, 2018

In the summer of 1991, a two-day concert called “Cities in the Park” was held Manchester, England’s Heaton Park, the last and largest event ever to take place that would feature bands like A Certain Ratio, New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Durutti Column, Cabaret Voltaire, the Buzzcocks and Happy Mondays, among others.

A home video, Manchester Sound: Happy Mondays & Friends at Cities In The Park, featuring highlights from both days (Saturday, August 3rd and Sunday, August 4th) was released later that same year, and we now have these special concert performances streaming for subscribers on Night Flight Plus.

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“Cities In The Park” was a two-day open air concert event, running from noon to 10pm on both days, the first such large-scale event at Heaton Park since John Paul II had been there nine years earlier, becoming the first Pope to visit Britain.

Camping was available for those who had purchased weekend tickets to the event, with ten percent of profits from ticket sales going to charities like African Famine Relief and the Kurdish Trust Fund.

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Q Magazine‘s review of the event said that the highlight of Day Two was “….the bizarre and somehow charming stage invasion by small children during Happy Mondays’ encore, perhaps signalling a new era of Benetton-style love and peace in the world.”

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The lineup for Day Two was partly to pay tribute to Factory Records producer Martin Hannett, who had died four months earlier, in April.

An introductory message (the grammatical errors have been corrected below) says:

“Martin Hannett was one of the founding fathers of the new musical movement and significantly influenced popular musical culture in Manchester and eventually the entire world from the late ’70s until his untimely death in 1991. He was best known as a musician, producer and wit, and to quote his Mancunian friends, ‘The best thing about Martin Hannett was that he didn’t give a bugger for convention.’ In 1991, Manchester held its first ever outdoor music festival, dedicated to Martin.”

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The full list of the live concert performances available on Manchester Sound: Happy Mondays & Friends at Cities In The Park are as follows:

A Certain Ratio (“Wonder Y”), New Fast Automatic Daffodils (“Fishes Eyes”), Durutti Column (“Fado”), Ashley & Jackson (“Come Alive”), Ruthless Rap Assassins (“Why Me”), Cabaret Voltaire (“Don’t Walk Away”), Natural Life (“Strange World”), the Buzzcocks (“Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” Adventure Babies (“My Only Way”), Revenge (“Bleachman”), the Wendys (“Suckling”), Electronic (“Feel Every Beat”), and four by Happy Mondays (“Kinky Afro,” “God’s Cop,” “Denis & Lois,” and “Wrote for Luck”).

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The first day featured alt rock bands from all over the UK, including the Wonder Stuff, the Beautiful South, the Soup Dragons, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Cabaret Voltaire, the Buzzcocks, the Railway Children, Ruthless Rap Assassins, Paris Angels, Ashley and Jackson and Amok.

The second day — dubbed “Factory Day” since nearly every band had been a Tony Wilson & Factory Records roster act — was headlined by Electronic featuring a guest appearance by Pet Shop Boys.

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The Factory line-up also featured the Durutti Column, Revenge, Adventure Babies, Cath Carroll, A Certain Ratio plus De La Soul and New Fast Automatic Daffodils.

Read more about “Cities in the Park” below.

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Here are some choice excerpts from David Quantick’s August 10, 1991 review of the show as published in New Musical Express:

Frank Sidebottom introduces the Buzzcocks and, whilst you may sneer ‘punk rock cabaret’ this, for sure, was one of the highlights of the day. Gone is punk’s studied ennui — the Buzzcocks, dapper in their mod suits, now play these songs like pools winners on Bolivian ‘go faster’ powder. Nostalgia doesn’t come into it. It’s simply that if rock ‘n’ roll has three better minutes than ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ or two better than ‘Get On Our Own’ I haven’t heard them.”

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“Onstage the other best of both worlds is imminent. It is the bloke who wasn’t glum in The Smiths and the bloke who didn’t have a beard in New Order and they are fab. Perhaps suffering a little from being a teeny bit of a, how can one put this, album-to-listen-to-in-the-car sort of band, Electronic seem so far to find it hard to make their funky grooves stand up and spit in the live arena, but stuff like ‘Feel Every Beat’ was monster legwork frenzy.”

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“Night draws its curtains across the plump and matronly form of the day. Men who look like no other men take the stage. They are Happy Mondays — motto “Look at us — we’re always headlining festivals and we do bugger all else ever” — and they are excellent. Their many months of being a dance studio band have not withered their ability to be a proper live band (and, since today was in memoriam Martin Hannett, it’s apposite to say that ‘Bummed’ was one of the most exciting and flaming original records of the last ten years).”

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“Tonight they do all the hits and more in the popular funky style. Shaun [Ryder] displayed the Wildean wit that makes him an ideal Penthouse editor by introducing ‘Step On’ as ‘a song written by some sort of African cripple or something.’ Obviously the Oxfam banners around the arena saying ‘DON’T FORGET AFRICA’ had moved his caring conscience. Or not. Otherwise all was top and funky.”

Watch Manchester Sound: Happy Mondays & Friends at Cities In The Park on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.