Arts & Culture

The Town of Music: Six famous songs that were made in Altrincham

By Lauren Wood at

From the Stone Roses to half of The Smiths, Altrincham has spawned more than its fair share of music legends. But which tunes were actually created here?

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle – The Smiths (Released 1984)

The product of Steven Morrissey and Johnny Marr’s first rehearsal – and widely regarded as their first ‘real’ song – The Hand That Rocks The Cradle was born in 1982 in the Bowdon attic-room that Marr rented from Granada Reports news anchor Shelley Rohde, and recorded for the first time on a three-track cassette player. The sum of music and lyrics they had created separately, following a failed effort to create a tune to accompany Morrissey’s Don’t Blow Your Own Horn, the melody to their first successful attempt at composition was inspired by Patti Smith, whose 1978 Manchester concert had briefly brought them together several years before their first real meeting at 384 King’s Road in Stretford, in 1982.

You can read more about how this song came into being in our exclusive Johnny Marr interview here

Getting Away With It – Electronic (Released 1989)

Getting Away With It, the debut single of Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner’s (Joy Division, New Order) band Electronic, was written and recorded in Marr’s Bowdon studio with the help of The Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennent, who joined them after hearing that the pair were collaborating in order to ‘recuperate’ following The Smiths’ much-publicised split. Following the success of the single- which spent over two months in the charts, peaking at number 12- the band’s self-titled album was recorded entirely in Marr’s home studio before being released in 1991 by Factory Records.

Sexuality – Billy Bragg (Released 1991)

Sexuality was co-written Billy Bragg and Johnny Marr and recorded at the latter’s Clear Studios in 1990, with backing vocals provided by Kirsty MacColl and a video directed by well-known comedian Phill Jupitus. The single made it to number 27 in the UK charts (faring better in America, where it reached number 2 in the US Modern Rock charts) and Bragg largely credits Marr with its success, recalling how he took the early incarnation of the track to his Bowdon studio and came back with a ‘beautiful, shining pop song.’

Shakermaker – Oasis (Released 1994)

Oasis’ 1994 single ‘Shakermaker’ was the first single to be performed by the band on Top Of The Pops and reached number 11 in the UK Top 40. First recorded at Out Of The Blue Studios in Ancoats, it was then mastered and re-recorded at Johnny Marr’s Clear Studios in Bowdon after legal action by The New Seekers forced them to rewrite the lyrics to the final verse. According to Noel Gallagher, the replacement verse was written in the back of a taxi en route to the studio after passing a familiar record store and was recorded in only ten minutes.

Golden Gaze – Ian Brown (Released 1999)

The music for Ian Brown’s (The Stone Roses) Golden Gaze began in the Osborne Road home of ex-Fall drummer and local legend ‘Funky’ Si Wolstencroft (a nickname he reportedly acquired from Johnny Marr of The Smiths, having spent time playing drums for them at the beginning of their career) who also provided drums for the track. NME hailed the album as Brown’s “best work for a decade” and, although the single peaked at number 29 in the UK Top 40, the album ‘Golden Greats’ spent eight weeks in the UK Album Charts.

Panic – The Smiths (Released 1986)

The Smiths’ 11th single Panic is one of their biggest radio hits, reaching number 11 in the UK charts. The lyrics are often considered an attack on 1980s pop music and were conceived in April 1986 in the kitchen of Marr’s Bowdon home (which would become the band’s main bolthole) when he and Morrissey were listening to news of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. As soon as the news segment ended, established Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright began to play Wham’s ‘I’m Your Man’ and Marr recalls how disgusted the pair were at the ‘inappropriateness’ of the song choice, leading to the infamous line, ‘hang the blessed DJ.’