We love digging up little glimpses of the old world and nuggets of what Greater Manchester used to be like back in the day, but unearthing a song all about how wonderful Stockport is might just be up there with one of the best things we’ve ever come discovered.
Yes, we fully appreciate how surprising and potentially funny that sentence alone might be to a lot of you, but please just bear with us.
We’ll confess that finding this gem of a track came from nothing more than a stroke of sheer luck and the whims of the YouTube algorithm during one of the late-night scrolling on our phones, at which we point we stumbled across what appeared to be an ode to the town of Stockport.
Simply entitled, ‘Stockport’, the song was performed by Liverpool-born easy-listening star and all-round crooner, Frankie Vaughan, who was a big recording artist throughout the 1950s and, without further ado, here’s what it sounds like. Are you ready?
Yes, that is a real single that was genuinely recorded in the old Cheshire borough back in 1983, and not at the legendary Strawberry Studios as you might have expected, but in the equally iconic Plaza Theatre located in the town centre.
Believed to have been recorded as a bit of a wink and a nod by Vaughan and lyricist Geoff Morrow, a songwriter and businessman from London, the tune came about as a response to an article by the Mail on Sunday which essentially dragged Stockport’s name through the dirt.
While the details surrounding exactly how that article led to this collaboration are equally muddy, it’s thought that the Mail set up a competition for someone to write about how great the area was as a kind of apology — i.e. giving the locals a chance to paint it in a better light like no one else could.
However, perhaps because SK residents weren’t overly keen to shout about the region themselves, it turned out Morrow asked Vaughan to do it as the two were friends and (tongue firmly in cheeky, we expect), the 60s/70s cabaret singer gave it his full big band best. It was a big story at the time, too.
The result is an almost Sinatra-esque soliloquy all about the place that has gone on to be dubbed ‘the new Berlin’ by some and was voted Greater Manchester’s town of culture in 2023, but we dare say few would have expected it to have such a reputation today — including the blokes who created it.
From the almost Coronation Street-like opening second or two, to Frankie Vaughan’s insistence upon occasionally letting loose a laugh at the end or even sometimes in the middle of a lyric, there are moments when this song very much feels like a bit of a parody, but I guess we’ll never know.
As someone born in Stockport myself, I feel I have some authority to assume that lines like “there’s nowhere that can beat it”, “the houses seem to say ‘come in'”, and “there’s nowhere finer” were sung at least a little bit sarcastically but, regardless, we’re very happy to have pulled this love letter out from the very back of the Manc music draw.
Nevertheless, in all seriousness, the Stockport of the mid to late-20th century is very different from the one we’ve come to know of today, boasting plenty of new cultural hotspots, highly-regarded restaurants and bars, not to mention a new wave of local artists like Blossoms, Fuzzy Sun, Findlay and more.
Fellow Stopfordians might smirk at the suggestion of their town being “where it’s at”, as Frankie Vaughan puts it with such questionable sincerity, but the honest truth is that it’s still one of our favourite places to go in and around Manchester and has a special place in our hearts.
The only difference is that we’re fairly sure our love comes from a very different place than the songs did. Exhibit A through Z.
Featured Images — Helder Rock (via YouTube)/Stockport Library Archive Footage/The Manc Group
Hello Cosmos wow Stockport on a night where the venue shone just as bright as the music
We had the pleasure of going along to see Hello Cosmos play a special one-off show at none other than St Mary’s Church in Stockport town centre on Friday night, just the gig the building has ever seen and given how incredible an experience it was, we hope there’ll be many more.
Picture the scene: it’s a frosty Foodie Friday night in Stockport with people wearing beer jackets and sharing hot street food to keep warm as the tunes ring around the marketplace; then you spot some light off in the background and notice the windows of the old town centre church glowing.
Not only was that our signal to get a move on, finish our scran and head over to the intimate gig, but it was also a beacon of light for other punters to go and check out as they looked for any excuse to come in from the cold.
And that’s pretty much how it happened. Our three-man party was full of SK natives who wanted to see what it would be like to have a church we grew up with turned into a gig venue, so we were always on board, but plenty of other locals had the pleasure of simply stumbling upon tickets at the door.
We don’t think we’d be putting words in their mouths to say they will have been glad they did, as within a few seconds of walking into the oldest parish church in Stockport, we had never seen the already ornate and historical site look so stunning.
This wasn’t just a case of plonking some speakers and some drums near the altar like some half-arsed church fête, the roof, windows, pillars and various arches were all lit up by various multi-coloured projectors and strobes and it all felt pretty surreal.
If you’ve ever watched any kind of performance at Manchester Cathedral or a similar venue, you’ll know this kind of set-up is nothing new per se, but it did feel like something different for Stockport, especially when one of our party’s last memories was standing at the pulpit to read the Christmas story.
Then the music kicked off and we have to start by saying we were pretty impressed by the two support acts, Fondabath — fellow Stopfordians who were probably just as surprised to be in St Mary’s as we were — and Big Society, also local lads, both of which gave plenty of reason to go away and listen to more.
Then came the main event, Hello Cosmos, spearheaded by frontman and bass player Ben Robinson, who along with his jumpsuited bandmates wasted no time in transporting the crowd to what felt like a little pocket of space in some alternate reality.
Having had a few drinks and being given kaleidoscope glasses on arrival certainly helped, but it really was a truly audio-visual experience, from the various coloured jumpsuits and neon hula-hooping to the truly mesmerising light show that lit up the church throughout the set.
It all felt rather fittingly though when you take into account that Robinson is not just a musician but the founder of both Kendal Calling and bluedot Festival — I mean, even their sophomore album Golden Dirt has a glowing spaceman walking through a sea of sunflowers.
If you’ve never heard them before, think post-punk spoken word and almost Yard Act vibes, only if Christopher Ecclestone was on vocals instead. But their sound is truly sprawling, with ‘Fuse’ from their debut record giving the harder-hitting sounds and ‘Loud is Beautiful’ showing how they best intertwine electronics, keys and those oh-so-good horns from sax player Elara.
Be it jumping up and down in unison as the electric violinist played or Ben dropping to his knees to scream his head off, hopping off stage to walk around the crowd with a megaphone or releasing a sea of balloons from above for the big finish, this ‘Live at St Mary’s’ one-off special had a bit of everything.
It went from a little gig on a random winter evening in Stockport to an unforgettable one that SK-born gig-goers like us never thought we’d see in this particular borough of Greater Manchester whose culture and music scene are clearly thriving.
We really hope this is among the first of many — Hello Cosmos helped make it a success and we can seriously see the Live at St Mary’s series taking off if it continues to get the backing.