Manpool, the musical

Harmony and counterpoint on the Lancashire Plain


  • Richard Witts Edge Hill University



Burtonwood, Eric’s, ethnography, ethnomusicology, the Fall, Haçienda, Liverpool, Manchester, north-west England, Oasis, popular music studies, post punk, Simply Red, UNESCO City of Music


Since 2015 Liverpool has been designated a UNESCO ‘City of Music’. Not so its neighbour Manchester, which has nonetheless been hailed in the press as the ‘capital city of music’. They remain globally valued as two of the chief cities identified with the development of popular music in the second half of the twentieth century. As de-industrialised centres seeking new engines of growth, they have invested in these cultural reputations in order to attract for themselves tourists, university students, the conference trade and foreign business. Yet across the past decade numerous claims have been made in a range of journalistic outputs that Liverpool and Manchester are cultural rivals. These claims appear to be predicated principally on sport and music, key meeting points of commerce and leisure. There are certainly differences between the two conurbations – the industrial site of Manchester grew at the interstices of three rivers while Liverpool evolved as an Atlantic port. Yet the major transport initiatives in the area (the 1830 Manchester-Liverpool Railway, the 1894 Manchester Ship Canal, the 1934 East Lancs Road, the 1976 M62) were constructed in order to accelerate connections between the two cities. Most recently urban strategists such as Andreas Schulz-Baing have fused the diarchy by describing them as a potential polynuclear metropolitan zone, a megalopolis. From this the businessman Lord O’Neill has popularized the union as ‘Manpool’. Taking this as its cue to correct the music history of the ‘adversary’ cities, this chapter examines three diverse examples of musical figures associated with one city who played in vital, but forgotten, part in life of the other.

Author Biography

Richard Witts, Edge Hill University

Richard Witts is Reader in Music and Sound at Edge Hill University. He is the author of the biography of the German chanteuse Nico (1993, revised edition 2017), a study of the music of the Velvet Underground (2008), and a history of the Arts Council (1999). He has contributed many articles for journals, including recently The Musical Times (Summer 2015) and Popular Music History 7/3 (2012). His contributions to BBC radio include the documentaries 1968 in America and The Technocrats where he discussed pop music with Stockhausen.


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How to Cite

Witts, R. (2017). Manpool, the musical: Harmony and counterpoint on the Lancashire Plain. Popular Music History, 10(1), 10–29.




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