Top 50 UK Towns and Cities: 15 - Sunderland

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31 mars 2007, 9h50m

15.Sunderland

Population: 177,739
Festive Fifty bands/artists: 3
Chances of someone from Sunderland producing something good: 1:59,246

Sunderland’s a lot smaller than the cities that have appeared in this list thus far, which means it’s only needed three appearances from bands from that city to get in. Just as Sunderland’s city status is a relatively recent thing, so is its relevance to any festive fifty statistician. In fact, the far north east of England in general hasn’t exactly been fertile ground for the chart. Newcastle and Middlesbrough have only produced one entry apiece (in Middlesbrough’s case, only the recent placing of Das Wanderlust in the Dandelion chart has warranted a namecheck), while County Durham gave us Prefab Sprout and nothing more. Without stoking any further local rivalries in that area of the world, Newcastle’s single entry came as early as 1978 in the form of Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” and, let’s face it, Knopfler and the boys were never likely to follow up on that.

But when Sunderland arrived, it was with a pretty loud bang when Kenickie beat off some pretty strong competition to wrestle their way to the top of the pile in 1996 with “Come Out 2 Nite”, the shortest festive fifty number one of all time and one of the rare occasions when the band that made it to the top spot did so in their only year of appearance. It should be said, however, that while this list includes Neko Case, Bang Bang Machine and, for the moment at least, Tall Pony, Kenickie also managed to place a second track in the same year, their celebration of all things lo-fi “Punka” making number four in the same chart.

Since then, Sunderland has had two further chart entrants. The Futureheads’ “Hounds of Love”, it may be noted, featured in some of the unofficial festive fifties that have been knocking about in recent years, but their sole official entry was with “First Day” and in their case it may be that their relative commercial success (along with their association, rightly or wrongly, with a mass of bands emerging with a highly developed Gang of Four fixation) has counted against them since. Another single entry came the way of neighbours the Golden Virgins, with “Renaissance Kids” in 2003, and this would, for what it’s worth, get my vote as the finest of Sunderland’s contributions to the chart’s history.

Not that there have been that many contributions, as this entry will already have made clear: four entries spread among three different bands. Still, it’s a relatively recent thing, and Sunderland can at least lay claim to be the north-east’s most productive urban centre in terms of the emergence of good music if the festive fifty is anything to go by (which it clearly is). And they do have a beach.
KenickieFutureheadsGolden Virgins

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