AS Hunter S. Thompson once gloriously wrote, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

The Happy Mondays seem to have lived their career by this perfect quote and their current touring machine embraces it with a very pro take on those fantastically weird times when the unlikely lads came out of Salford and changed British pop culture for ever.

The band kicked-off the late-80s culture shift by marrying the dance floor to the guitar and embraced an open-ended, no rules musical vision that could somehow shoehorn Can and Chaka Khan into the same song and must have been the inspiration for their label boss Tony Wilson’s great quote about Manchester kids having the best record collections.

The band stumbled into genius without realising it and Tony Wilson gave them the space to run amok.

Tonight they come to Oxford with a greatest hits package that soundtracks the wilder excesses of the times and offers a portal into just how glorious and life-affirming great pop music can be.

The Mondays have survived all the rock ‘n’ roll excesses to emerge unrepentant and with a live show that has an added level of professionalism as they celebrate those hits that are now generational signposts and examples of just how gloriously off-kilter British pop can be when it’s left to the mavericks and not the accountants.

In 1989, the Happy Mondays kick-started a musical revolution; they married the dancefloor to the post-punk end of indie rock, they were at the front line of the culture, hanging-out in the Hacienda. They were the core of the new ecstasy culture that would change the city forever, with its 21st century hi-rise confidence and vibrant city centre tracing back to the Happy Mondays’ table in the dark corners of the famous nightclub. They gatecrashed the Top Of The Pops fancy fashion threads with their Salford street smarts and brought a new vernacular into the corridors of pop culture.

They lived fast and they lived hard and their frontline of Shaun and Bez became folk heroes for Generation E. Bez - the deceptively gonzoid dancing bear whose face freeze-framed just what is was like to be high in every rave in the UK, and Shaun, the singer with his poetic leering genius capturing the times in shards and snippets of dark poetry and black comedy snapshots.

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They not only wrote the soundtrack but they walked the walk and they talked the talk, and when you look at their history it’s hard to imagine how they not only survived but how they managed to get themselves back together for this live celebration of their classics.

Now 56, Shaun Ryder has not only lived to tell the tale but is doing it better than ever, as he details what fans can expect from the upcoming tour.

"Rock & roll. We are better than ever live and when I listen to the old records – like when we took Bummed out and I listened to the album for the first time since 1988 – I said to myself: pat yourself on the back, lad.”


The Mondays have survived to put their house in order and deal with a creative burst that started in 1987 with their more experimental debut album ‘Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)’, which was the coolest album in the city, soundtracking strange late night parties for the then much smaller scene of faces in the city. It bobbed around in the no man’s land of post-punk Manchester after being released on Tony Wilson’s Factory Records, then forging into a new era with New Order as their prime band.

The Mondays may not have fitted in anywhere, and when we used to see them at the Boardwalk rehearsal rooms, kicking a football around whilst getting slowly stoned in the broken back streets of a very different and long-lost Manchester, it was hard to place just what they were.

Tony Wilson was about the only person in town who saw it, as Shaun recognises.

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“Tony thought there was an art in the way the band ganged together and the way we huddled when we talked. He could see the art in all that. I could see an art in the way we dressed, how we looked and how we talked to each other, but I would never make a big deal out of that.”

The 1988, follow-up album Bummed was a manifesto release. Produced by Martin Hannett, its spacious sound was modern psychedelia with a Motown bass line groove. With Shaun’s brilliant stream of consciousness lyrics and the band riding a perfect rolling groove, it was infectious and brilliantly odd all at the same time. The band’s new trip was about to be copied all over the UK, and as they slowly caught on you could feel a revolution coming to every town.

The next move even caught out their ever-generous boss Wilson, as Shaun went for the dancefloor.


“People don’t know this – and to squash any rumours – when I first went to Tony and Nathan McGough and said I wanted to work with Paul Oakenfeld they said ‘Who’s he?’. Don’t forget, Oakenfeld wasn’t what he is now. He had never ever made an album before, just that Jibaro single which only sold about ten copies. The only people that knew who he was were trendies in London, a few heads in Ibiza and people who read London DJ magazines. I loved that Jibaro single and also loved the way he would mix the indie guitar of The Woodentops into beats when he was DJing. I thought: this is it.

“A mate of mine gave Oaky a grand for his record collection in Ibiza and Oaky thought, “Great! I don’t have to lug it home”. We played all of his collection in the studio and it changed things. Nathan and Tony said, “He’s a DJ, he can’t do an album!” - but they never said no to any wacky ideas we came up with.”

Their ‘Madchester Rave On EP’ changed music. The two until then mutually exclusive scenes of indie and dance were merged into a perfect whole.

The Mondays’ third album ‘Pills and Thrills and Bellyaches’ further explored this brilliant new amalgamation – and very few bands in the UK didn’t have a go at the new magic alchemy. The Happy Mondays were the best, though, and their natural aptitude to a lollopping groove was underlined by the new E-drenched dance floors.

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Can there ever have been a more perfect moment than ‘Hallelujah’? A song so perfectly wonky and yet danceable - both perfect pop and plain odd - that listening to it to this day takes you back to that magical moment when it all fitted together.

Ironically, they are now studying your lyrics on courses. Tony Wilson was right about you being the best lyricist since Bob Dylan.


“As a songwriter, my job is to write songs and tell stories from phrases that pop up, like ‘twisting my melon man’, or Bez will say something like ‘I’m having a spam snack.’ I grab these phrases and it’s then a question of how do I turn that into a story? In a song, with each line, I want to send a picture into someone’s head. I can see this picture with every line I do and I want the listeners to get the pictures as well from what is a lot of different things that are not connected and make them fit into a story.”

The band are still doing a great service to the anthems of a wild time when everything was possible and you felt like you would be young and wild forever and the rising dawn was an eternal horizon.

“Between me and you, the Mondays onstage now are better than ever,” he says. “We are adults now and everyone can see the truth. We worked out how to be a band. We all get to the gig differently and show each other respect…and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are brilliant!

“I’m not an artist and I don’t say I come alive on stage. When I walk on stage I feel naked and I feel like I’m dying. I’m not a proper artist. I come alive when I come off stage and I’m with normal people and I can be Shaun. I don’t have to be off my nut any more. I’m happy with who I am. I know from doing TV that I can just go and act, play the part.”

Happy Mondays play the O2 Academy Oxford tonight. Tickets from