Band on the Wall, Swan Street
The George & Dragon opened in 1803 when it was a ramshackle old four-storey pub and in 1858 when the Smithfield markets were built, it became a main market boozer. In 1897 McKenna's Brewery bought the next door property on Oak Street and turned it into a large vault which still forms the performance area in today's Band on the Wall. By 1937 the George & Dragon had became nicknamed the ‘Band on the Wall’ due to the jazz bands and Italian performers that sat high up on a stage built into the wall. Around this time the place was run by Ernie Tyson, a tough landlord who wouldn't hesitate to punch any troublemakers out "on the cabbages". It was popular with servicemen during the war, as well as the local Italians, boxers and gangs of Ancoats, despite it being quite upmarket with table service on offer.
1975 saw the place reborn as the Band on the Wall officially by local jazz fan Steve Morris and his partner Frank Cuisick. Up-and-coming Manchester bands of the late '70s also played here as well, including Buzzcocks, The Fall and Joy Division. The Band on the Wall closed in 2005 and looked to be doomed for a couple of years but was awarded a £3.2m Arts Council grant plus lottery funding to re-open. Re-opening night in September 2009 featured Mica Paris was soon followed by a triumphant gig from the magnificent A Certain Ratio.
George & Dragon (Band on the Wall). © www.electricroulette.com.
Band on the Wall. © MEN.
Band on the Wall. © Aidan O’Rourke.
Cyprus Tavern, Princess Street
The Cyprus Tavern is a famous old Manchester institution and was opened in 1967 by Takis Kitromilides, brother of the locally famous Denos Kitromilides. In the '70s and '80s it was the late-night drinking home of many of the local youngsters particularly at weekends, and patronised by students during the week. To the uninitiated it was considered a rather daunting place to go, particularly during the football season, when the blue or red halves of Manchester would frequent it every other weekend, and battles would often ensue. The Cyprus Tavern hosted various music evenings, both by DJ and by live local bands such as The Passage, Crispy Ambulance and 808 State. It re-opened as The Granby in the early '90s, attracting local celebrities such as Steve Coogan and Mark E Smith of The Fall. It was the first late-night bar of its time, and can be considered the forerunner of Manchester's thriving bars-cum-music venues scene today. It still survives – although renamed – as a restaurant.
Cyprus Tavern. © Yiannis Kitromilides.
Cyprus Tavern. © Yiannis Kitromilides.
The Ranch, Dale Street
The Ranch is often mentioned as the true home of Manchester punk (Buzzcock Pete Shelley is being carried out of The Ranch in this snap!). It was beneath Foo Foo's Palace and connected to Foo Foo's by a door behind the bar. As well as playing the staples of Bowie and Roxy Music, The Ranch also was host to bands like Buzzcocks, The Fall and The Distractions. Manchester photographer and one-time young punk, Aidan O'Rourke remembers "non-stop cutting edge punk records played at a deafening volume until 2am every night. The toilets were absolutely disgusting. There were 'punkettes' in their fish net stockings, big hair, heavy make-up a la Siouxsie Sioux and ripped shirts.” The Ranch is long-closed but it’s still there, a tiny door shuttered up, waiting for someone to reinvent it, now it’s in the ‘Northern Quarter’.
The Ranch. © Kevin Cummins / Getty.
The Ranch today. © Google 2012.
Castle, Oldham Street
The Castle’s Kays Atlas Brewery brown tiled facade is unchanged, but it’s fair to say this pub has more than reinvented itself. Dating back to 1776 as the Crown & Sceptre, then the Crown & Anchor and the Clock Face, the Castle closed in the mid-‘00s as a Robinson’s house when Kath the landlady passed away. Legend has it that her ashes were plastered into the wall so that she could remain here for ever. At one time, many a gig was held in the small back room for up-and-coming bands, so it’s pleasing that this continues today under new owner, Rupert Hill, who used to be in Coronation Street. However, the renovated gig space is almost church-like where trendy bands regularly perform these days. A cave-like side room contains a piano, and the old-school feel of the Castle is rounded off with Manchester Eggs on offer on the bar (the black pudding instead of sausage meat around a pickled egg).
Castle Hotel (gig venue). © http://thecastlehotel.info.
Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford
This imposing, listed building just over the river into ‘Old Salford’ is one of the gems of Manchester’s closest neighbouring city. A real ale haven that has recently been taken under the wing of ex-Housemartin and Beautiful Southerner, Paul Heaton, has a great gig space upstairs where the Studio Salford Theatre group are based. This part of Salford is undergoing a slow but noticeable rebirth, with the nearby Eagle Inn being taken over by the team from the Castle, the Black Lion reopening (also with a gig venue), and the well-established New Oxford and the Crescent (see live bands here too).
Kings Arms. © http://www.salford.gov.uk
Kings Arms (upstairs). © Neil 101 at flickr under Creative Commons.
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