Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Band on the Wall ............ magic memories, a venue with a long history and a trailer for the new book on Manchester Pubs

Now the book on Manchester pubs is available.*

A new book on Manchester Pubs
Unlike other pub books we want to tell the stories of the people, the building and the area they are situated in.

All of which has revealed some fascinating stories like this one from the Manchester composer Paul Mitchell-Davidson about the Band on the Wall on Swan Street.

So here is his tale of the pub which comes as an extract from the book.

This is a pub I have fond memories of but by the time I washed up there in the late 70s it had become the Band on the Wall which had pretty much been its unofficial name for decades having become popular in the 1930s and 40s as a place to hear jazz bands and Italian performers.

In its time the place has seen performers as varied as Art Blakey, Bill Bruford, John Cooper Clarke and the Fall and along the way many local musicians.

I can’t remember who I heard on the many nights I ended up there it was just enough to get that heady mix of live music, beer and an informal atmosphere which was all about just having fun.

Band on the Wall, 2016
I rather think this would have appealed to the Mckenna family who had acquired the old George and Dragon in 1854 and expanded the premise into the adjoining properties on Swan Street and Oak Street.

Having opened in 1975 as Band on the Wall it closed briefly in 2005 but reopened and continues that long tradition of music and good beer.

My only regret was that I missed its birthday party on August 4 2000 when the Manchester composer Paul Mitchell-Davidson performed a special birthday piece in big band style.

Reflecting back he remembers, “I have many happy memories of the Band. I was there from the very start and remember along with other Manchester musos helping Steve Morris move in.

Of course in those days it still had the 24 hour license left over from the market trading days
which I imagine made the process of getting a late drinking license easier, later.

All the local musicians used to meet at the Band before and after gigs.

Paul in 1975 
I played there countless times particularly during the 70's and 80's so I was very honoured to be commissioned to write the 25th anniversary piece 'Shouting On Swan Street'.

The title has obvious musical connotations but also refers to the less than social behaviour of some of us when leaving in the early hours!

Although essentially a jazz piece it is also a sort of tone poem charting the many and various types of music that have been played there from the 19th century onwards. I like to think that the whole fabric of the building is suffused with music.

As well as a 12 piece band of top professional players I also used some students from the Jazz workshop sessions at one point and also a small gospel choir from the vocal workshop sessions.

Paul back at Band on the Wall, 2000
They sang a tribute to my friend Steve Morris ' A small man, with a big heart....'

At the end of the continuous one hour performance there was a sort of stunned silence and then an amazing standing ovation which went on for about 10 minutes.

I have to say that in all my 53 years in the music profession that must count as one of my proudest and happiest moments.”

Now that sounds a good reason to visit Band on Wall.

Painting; The Band on the Wall © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

Pictures; Paul in 1975© Pete Johnson and Paul in the Band on the Wall, 2000, © Paul Mitchell-Davidson,

*Manchester Pubs is the story of our best iconic and most loved pubs.  It aims to tell the stories of the people, the building and the area they are situated in.  So less a pub guide and more a celebration of all things that make these pubs fascinating places to visit.  Manchester Pubs, by Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson can be ordered from 

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