With our Top 10 Happy Mondays songs list, we look at another one of the most prominent bands from the Madchester scene of the late 80’s who were formed in Salford in 1980. The band were fronted by charismatic frontman Shaun Ryder whose brother, Paul Ryder was the bassist. In addition to this was Mark Day on guitar, Gary Whelan on drums and keyboardist Paul Davis. In 1990 Rowetta Idah joined as a backing vocalist. Last but not least, there was Mark Berry otherwise known as “Bez.” His role in the band was described as “dancer and percussionist” which basically meant he danced in bizarre way at the side of the stage while shaking a pair of maracas!
More so than their peers in the Stone Roses, the Mondays were instrumental in combing indie rock music with the then-flourishing British rave scene. Their commercial peak was during the late eighties and early nineties before they disbanded in 1993, after which Ryder and Bez formed Black Grape, which they had considerable success with. Since then they have got back together several times and are currently still performing since their most recent reformation in 2012.
# 10 – Total Ringo
This song is taken from the band’s fourth album Yes Please! Released in 1992, it was their first album to be released through Factory Records. However, it led to label to go bankrupt due to its high production costs and failure to perform commercially. The band went in a different direction with this album musically, veering away from the acid house influence into a more synth pop style. Despite it not being their finest moment, this is a very well-made track.
# 9 – Grandbags Funeral
Next is a track from the band’s third album, 1987’s Pills Thrills and Bellyaches which was their breakthrough record. It saw the Happy Mondays reach their commercial peak and is considered to be one of the crucial albums of the Madchester movement along with The Stone Roses’ debut. This track was not released as a single but would have been worthy as one, as it has all the catchiness and space in sound that make up all of the Monday’s classic tracks.
# 8 – Freaky Dancing
This next track was the Happy Monday’s debut single released in 1986. The song is a very funky number, having an almost world music influence via its use of tribal drums and Asian sounding guitar. However, this is somewhat contrasted with Ryder’s vocals, which are wonderfully out of key and give the track a feeling that is carefree in the sense that the band are not afraid to mix things together that do not sound like they should work. Bez would later name his autobiography after this song.
# 7 – The Egg
This next song was the B side to “Freaky Dancing” which was remastered in 2019 where it was given its own animated music video. This was to coincide with its re-release on the compilation The Early Ep’s released that year. That was a compilation of several of the band’s early recordings during their early pre-album period. With it being early material, it has a raw sound to it and it is a little more experimental than it’s A-side.
# 6 – Tart Tart
Up next is the first single from the first album Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out). The B side to it was “Little Matchsticks Owen’s Rap.” The first verse of the song is apparently about producer Martin Hannett who would go on to produce their second album Bummed . “Tart Tart” was, according to Bez, the name of a woman who used to frequent the legendary Hacienda club in Manchester which the band were closely associated with.
# 5 – Wrote for Luck
This track is from Bummed released in 1988 and, as previously stated, produced by Martin Hannett who produced both of Joy Division’s albums. During the recording of the album, the band were using drugs very heavily. When the album was released it was critically acclaimed and this track in particular was one of the songs that had several popular remixes during the Madchester era. It was remixed twice, first as “WLF”, then as “Wrote for Luck (Think About the Future Mix.)
# 4 – Mad Cyril
Here is another track from Bummed . Like the previous entry, this track was also remixed. The remix for this track was titled Mad Cyril (Hello Girls Mix).” Remixes of both tracks as well as others were included on the 2007 reissue. Hannett’s production on this track is amongst his finest moments, with this having a distinctive wall of sound that makes it a very powerful track. Ryders lyrics here are also brilliantly witty and somewhat surreal at the same time.
# 3 – Performance
Here is yet another track from Bummed which was named after the 1970 film that was a massive influence on the band during the making off this album and something which they sampled on “Mad Cyril.” As well as taking copious amounts of LSD, the band were also watching repeated viewings of the film ( which stars Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger) whilst they were recording in the studio.
# 2 – Step On
This track is quite possibly the band’s most famous song, however it is actually a cover of a John Kongos song released in 1971. It was their highest charting single, reaching number five in the UK album charts and it was of their few tracks that charted on the U.S. Billboard charts reaching number fifty-seven. It was originally intended to be a song recorded for a compilation celebrating forty years of Elektra Records. However, they decided to release it a single for themselves.
# 1 – Kinky Afro
At the number one spot is the second album from Thrills which was their biggest hit in the US, reaching number one on the Billboard. It also charted high in the UK reaching number five, making it their highest charting single as well as “Step On” which as previously stated, reached the same position. The song is an indie-disco dance-floor classic. The chorus paraphrase’s that of the song “Lady Marmalade.”