The 10 best Happy Mondays tracks

29 November 2020, 16:00

Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays in 1989
Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays in 1989. Picture: Peter J Walsh/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Thinking about getting into some classic Madchester tunes? Here's where to start with Salford's finest.

Happy Mondays started life as a weird indie band out of Salford who came to the attention of the legendary Factory Records. Little did Shaun Ryder and his brother Paul realise, but their group would become one of the pioneers of what became the "Madchester" or "baggy" sound.

Mixing guitar riffs with loping drum beats, the Mondays' early tracks soon embraced club culture and their preference for a "loose fit" trouser started a wave of fashion that swept the nation at the start of the 90s.

But aside from the stories of scandal, decadence, bad behaviour and Bez, what about the music? If you wanted to create the ultimate Mondays playlist, where would you start? Here are our suggestions.

  1. Step On

    Begin with Happy Mondays' biggest hit, a cover of John Kongos' 1971 song He's Gonna Step On You Again, this is the perfect way to kick off the playlist.

  2. Hallelujah (Club Mix)

    Originally part of the Madchester Rave On EP in November 1989, complete with the much-missed Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals, this tune was reworked and remixed by Paul Oakenfold and Andy Weatherall to become one of the key dance tunes of the baggy era. Just brilliant.

  3. Wrote For Luck

    Another track that later had the remix treatment (as W.F.L. by Erasure man Vince Clarke), but we prefer the off-kilter original, taken from the band's second album, Bummed. It contains a line Shaun adapted from the David Essex film, Stardust: "You were wet, but you're getting dryer."

  4. 24 Hour Party People

    The Mondays' first EP for Factory was in 1985, and it wasn't until two years later that they released their stupidly-titled debut Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out). Surprisingly, the title track 24 Hour Party People wasn't on the LP, but when one song was dropped for legal reasons, this storming tribute to hedonism was inserted in its place. It also gave its name to the rather excellent biopic of Factory Records.

  5. Do It Better

    One of the best tracks from the Martin Hannett-produced Bummed album in 1988, this tune captures Happy Mondays perfectly before they hit the big time, complete with Ryder's combination of gibberish and urban poetry.

  6. Kinky Afro

    Taking Labelle's disco-era hit Lady Marmalade as its inspiration, this matched Step On in terms of chart success and gave new recruit Rowetta a moment in the spotlight. Includes the greatest opening line ever: "Son, I'm 30. I only went with your mother, 'cos she's dirty."

  7. Loose Fit

    Taken from the album that made the band's name around the world - Pills N'Thrills And Bellyaches, this is a tribute to the roomy jeans that the thrifty Salford lads turned into a fashion statement in the Madchester era - and coined the term "baggy".

  8. Freaky Dancin'

    Factory Records boss Tony Wilson was a shrewd man and enlisted the production skills of New Order's Bernard Sumner for this 1986 standalone single, ensuring that the music papers took an interest in Shaun and co. It's a great example of the quirky early Mondays sound, undoubtedly inspired by the weird moves of permanent member Bez.

  9. Tart Tart

    One of the Mondays' early singles, this 1987 tune is a prime example of Shaun Ryder's lyrical tales of people that he came across in Manchester. The first verse is reportedly about the troubled record producer Martin Hannett, who'd worked with Joy Division and ended up at the desk for Happy Monday's second outing Bummed. The second verse concerns a regular at the Hacienda who the band knew well.

  10. Judge Fudge

    A one-off track released after the Pills N'Thrils album, this tune made Number 24 in the UK charts in November 1991, before the band headed off to Barbados to record their fourth allbum, Yes Please! The resulting commercial failure was one of the reasons Factory Records went bust...