Britain's most musical towns and cities
11 April 2021, 11:00
Which parts of the UK have had the most success when it comes to music? Radio X looks at the evidence.
Great Britain has a rich and varied musical history. As a collection of countries, we've led the way with innovative and hugely influential musical artists since the 1960s. But which cities in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have bred the most successful and iconic stars of recent times? If you wanted to visit the most vibrant musical places in the UK, where would you start? Radio X looks at the top contenders...
Although its North Western cousin has been coming up in the ranks in the past couple of decades, Manchester has a long way to go to ever beat the sales, influence and reach of The Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr have notched up over half a billion record sales and their music remains influential over half a century after they split. Their spirit runs through Liverpool and their presence can be felt everywhere. And that's not even counting the Liverpudlian acts that came along in their wake: Echo & The Bunnymen, The La's, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Zutons, The Lightning Seeds, The Wombats and countless others...
Seems obvious that the capital would be high on the list of most influential musical cities, but it's the diversity of the artists that have come out of London that make it special. Elton John and Led Zeppelin are two acts from Greater London that have sold a collossal number of albums, then there's Queen and The Clash from West London, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie from the South, Adele from Tottenham, Stormzy from Croydon... the list goes on.
Oasis have the fifth biggest-selling album in British history in (What's The Story) Morning Glory? and the city has a musical influence like no other. If you roll in the neighbouring city of Salford, plus all the districts in Greater Manchester, you can include artists like The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Joy Division, New Order, The Verve, Happy Mondays and Liam and Noel Gallagher. Manchester is bursting at the seams with great music.
Arctic Monkeys are the biggest act to come out of the South Yorkshire city in the last decade, but Sheffield has a rich musical history. In the 90s, the city gave us Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, in the 80s it brought us the synth pop of The Human League and the heavy metal of Def Leppard.
Cardiff-born Shirley Bassey has sold over 135 million records and performed at Glastonbury, but the Welsh capital and its environs have also spawned Stereophonics (from Cwmaman), Manic Street Preachers and Feeder (from Newport), Catatonia, Super Furry Animals and million-selling singer Charlotte Church.
The West Midlands didn't just spawn some great bands, it also created an entire genre. Thanks to Black Sabbath's pioneering work in the early 1970s, metal is now a world phenomenon. But Birmingham's influence doesn't end there: it's given us Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra fame, Ocean Colour Scene, Editors, UB40, Duran Duran, Mike Skinner of The Streets and more.
The Scottish city has a vibrant music scene, which has produced world famous artists from numerous genres. Creation boss Alan McGee grew up in Glasgow and one of his earliest signings was Primal Scream featuring Bobby Gillespie, from the Mount Florida area of the city. Other notable Glasgwegian names include Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, The Fratellis, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Simple Minds and Belle & Sebastian. Biffy Clyro come from nearby Kilmarnock.
The South Western city gave the world trip-hop, with artists such as Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky. The city also gave birth to one of the most influential post-punk bands, The Pop Group.
The Yorkshire city has given the world a wide array of music: from the synth pop of Soft Cell in the 1980s to the indie rock of Kaiser Chiefs, The Cribs, The Music and the Pigeon Detectives in the 00s. In the 80s, Leeds was the hub of the goth movement with artists like Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission.
Ireland's rich musical heritage is apparent in this Northern Irish city, which over the years has bred punk outfit Stiff Little Fingers and Van Morrison's original band Them. Musician David Holmes, who collaborated with Noel Gallagher on his Who Built The Moon album hails from the city and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody is from Bangor, County Down. Nearby Downpatrick is also the home of indie pop-punk band Ash.