The Steel City has a rich musical heritage, and it's not all just about Turner and Cocker. Check out this rundown of the top 5 you may or may not have heard of...
In the aftermath of the critically acclaimed Tramlines festival, Sheffield music has enjoyed a lot of attention over the last couple of weeks. With the ‘Free For All’ festival proving a national hit, it heavily showcases the city’s newest and finest talent. In this list we have a look back at Sheffield’s finest artists that aren’t the McCartney crushing Arctic Monkeys or Jarvis Cocker’s Brit pop throw backs Pulp…
5. Frank White
To tap into the source of Sheffield music then the best place to start is this fret-fucking finger genius. Pre-dating the infamous Esquire and Club 60 nightclubs (among the first in Sheffield with the latter still used as studio space), White is still on the circuit, showing his unerring importance to the musical heritage of the Steel City.
In the aftermath of Brian Jones’ death, it’s rumoured that White was the man The Stones wanted and it has often been said his wizardry on the axe eclipses that of the most famous blues artists on the planet, namely Eric Clapton. Still, the family man and former steel worker ignored the offers, rumours and lifestyle, choosing Sheffield as the location where his legend would live on.
Frank White has undoubtedly earned his local tag ‘the man who could have been king’ after a career that has touched the most important decades of popular culture.
4. Joe Cocker
It was in the early Sixties that local entrepreneur and one of the main founders of Sheffield’s music scene, Terry Thornton, was persuaded into allowing the-then-apprentice gas fitter Saturday night stage time.
Starting in local pubs with The Grease Band, Cocker became infamous on the local scene after his first few appearances at The Esquire.
Later hitting chart gold with his own version of The Beatles’ ‘I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends’ (featuring Jimmy Page on guitar)and his famous ‘Up Where We Belong’ duet with Jennifer Warnes , Cocker wasn’t just permanently written into Sheffield folklore and history, but the world’s. With a Golden Globe, Grammy and an Academy Award (oh yeah, he’s Joe Cocker OBE too), he has released 21 studio albums in his forty year long career and is the Godfather of Sheffield music.
3. Def Leppard
While Def Leppard didn’t make the ripples they did on the other side of the pond, they’re one of the UK’s biggest exports, selling over 60 million records worldwide. In 1987 the band’s fourth studio album, Hysteria, hit number one in the UK and America, seeing them join the elite band of artists to crack both markets simultaneously.
That’s not even the best bit – they’ve got a one armed drummer. Known as ‘Thunder God’, Rick Allen crashed his car while on the way to a New Year’s Eve party in 1984. His arm was severed and despite being reattached, it was amputated permanently after an infection broke loose. It didn’t stop him though and with help from front man Joe Elliot and Status Quo drummer Jeff Rich, Allen was gigging by 1986 on an altered kit.
Despite entering music’s murky waters in recent years, with an ill-advised covers album diluting previous classics into old man metal, Def Leppard are up there with the best in their field, the world over.
2. The Human League
Sheffield was left out in the cultural cold after punk took hold of the Seventies. But when the Esquire club was reopened as The Leadmill, the Steel City played host to the Electro revolution of the Eighties. With Cabaret Voltaire and ABC at their sides, The Human League’s smash hit ‘Don’t You Want Me’ defiantly stamped Sheffield back onto the musical map.
There were a string of international hits including ‘Human’, (Keep Feeling) Fascination’ and ‘Mirror Man’ and the band were on the forefront of the synth craze, despite the fact singer Phil Oakey couldn’t even play one when he was invited into the band in 1977. Later recruiting Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley, the League still tour heavily under the same line up and in 2011, released ‘Credo’, their first studio album in a decade.
Peaking at a lowly 44 in the UK chart and dividing the critics, it doesn’t take anything away their initial importance, originality and game changing sound.
1. Richard Hawley
Often dubbed as Yorkshire’s answer to Frank Sinatra, Richard Hawley is without a doubt one of the best things to ever happen to Sheffield music.
Nephew of Frank White and son of Dave Hawley (The Dave Hawley Combo/The Black Cats), Hawley comes from strong music stock. Growing up in with Elvis, Orbison and rockabilly on repeat, the sultry king of cool joined Longpigs towards the close of 1993, later joining Pulp after the Pigs disbanded in 2000.
It’s his solo career, though, that’s gives him the honour of number one spot, with albums such as ‘Lady’s Bridge’, ‘Truelove’s Gutter’ and the Mercury nominated ‘Coles Corner’ showing Hawley’s profligacy, consistency and excellence as a songwriter in his own right.
This year’s expansive ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ furthered Hawley’s direction. Once again working with long time collaborater Colin Elliot (rumoured to be doing Kylie’s next album), out of Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios, the album is layered with genius from top to bottom – with guitars, harmonies and slick dynamics propelling his work into different dimensions.
With other collaborations including Lisa Marie Presley and Duane Eddie, Hawley teamed up with Arctic Monkeys at the back end of last year, resulting in January’s release of ‘You And I’ trending on Twitter quicker than the man himself could spark a cigarette.
Take a bow, Rich.
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