Wirral Libraries on Spotify

Listen to music from and about the Wirral, take a trip into Birkenhead’s past and maybe even find a new favourite artist with our playlists.

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Select a playlist from the list to read more and listen on Spotify: 

  • Wirral Artists
  • Wirral Connections
  • Baby Bounce and Rhyme
  • New Brighton Rock 
  • Sounds of the Tower Ballroom
  • Sounds of the Argyle Theatre
  • Silence in the Library
  • Wirral Libraries Christmas mix

Wirral Artists (click to listen on Spotify)

Find your new favourite artist with our collection of tracks from Wirral-based and Wirral-born musicians.

Wirral Connections (click to listen on Spotify)

A collection of tracks with interesting connections to the Wirral. Find out about them below.

OMD: Red Frame/White Light

In the early days of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, they used a red telephone box in Meols to book their gigs. ‘Red Frame/White Light’ was written as an ode to that phone box, and the phone number is even mentioned in the lyrics. The phone box has since been restored and decorated by John Petch (who designed the cover for the band’s album The Punishment of Luxury). You can visit it at the junction of Birkenhead Road and Greenwood Road.

Duffy: Rockferry

As many Wirral residents likely suspected when ‘Rockferry’ was released, this single does refer to Rock Ferry on the Wirral. The reason? Duffy’s grandmother lived there. Despite the ‘Rockferry’ sign, the station on the cover of the single and album is actually part of the Ffestiniog Railway in Porthmadog.

Elvis Costello: Little Palaces

Elvis Costello moved to the Wirral at the age of 16 and lived here for a few years before returning to London. His song ‘Little Palaces’ references the Moreton Cadbury factory and the brown trains of the company’s railway fleet.

Aphex Twin: On

Viewers of the video for this early Aphex Twin single would be forgiven for thinking it was shot in Cornwall. Aphex Twin famously grew up there, and many of his tracks reference the county. In fact, co-directors Jarvis Cocker and Martin Wallace shot the video at Hilbre Island, off the coast at West Kirby.

Beija Flo: Waiting for the Sun

Beija Flo is well-known in the local music scene, and a fixture at Future Yard. Regular appearances at the venue aren’t her only connection to the Wirral. She was the first act to play live at Birkenhead Central Library in 2018, and the video for single ‘Waiting for the Sun’ was shot in Birkenhead.

Forest Swords: Thor’s Stone

This track by Wirral musician Forest Swords is named after Thor’s Stone in Thurstaston Common. There are many myths about this large rock. It is incorrectly assumed to have given its name to Thurstaston (actually meaning 'Thorsteinn's village '). It is also said to have been thrown by the Norse god Thor. The site has a more mundane geological explanation, but still has a special atmosphere that has attracted generations of locals. If you visit, you can see decades’ worth of graffiti carved into the soft sandstone.

Deaf School: Rock Ferry

Duffy isn’t the only person to immortalise Rock Ferry in song. Half Man Half Biscuit also mention it in their song 'This One's for Now'. Liverpool band Deaf School get points for the most creative pronunciation though, rhyming 'Rock Ferry' with 'beret'.

Charlie Landsborough: What Colour Is the Wind

Local legend Charlie Landsborough is known internationally in country music circles. He started writing songs when he was a teacher at Portland Primary School (now Co-Op Academy Portland) on Laird Street. His music career took off in 1994 with the song ‘What Colour Is the Wind’. In May 2022, local artist Paul Curtis created a mural celebrating Landsborough on the side of Birkenhead North train station.

Vangelis: Titles (Chariots of Fire theme)

We’re now used to seeing the Wirral and Liverpool crop up in famous films. 1981’s Chariots of Fire is a reminder that the local area has long been used to portray other places. Based on the story of two British athletes at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, the Oval Sports Centre in Bebington stands in for the Colombes Olympic Stadium. Woodside Ferry Terminal also makes an appearance, pretending to be Dover.

Half Man Half Biscuit: Oblong of Dreams

Is there a song which contains more references to the Wirral? It seems unlikely but, if there is, it’s probably also the work of legendary Birkenhead band Half Man Half Biscuit. ‘Oblong of Dreams’ imagines a walk around the peninsula and mentions several locations, including Leasowe Lighthouse, Thor’s Stone and Woodchurch. It also more obliquely references Wirral science-fiction author Olaf Stapledon (who lived on Caldy Hill and set sections of his novel Star Maker there) and Wilfred Owen (the line ‘move him onto his side’ deliberately evokes ‘move him into the sun’ from Owen’s poem ‘Futility’).

The Boo Radleys: New Brighton Promenade

Wallasey band The Boo Radleys had a string of successful releases in the mid 90s. Their 1996 album C’mon Kids (which influenced Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers) features a nostalgic song about New Brighton Promenade and the happy days spent there in 1983.

The Smiths: What She Said

This song appears on Manchester band The Smiths’ acclaimed 1985 album Meat Is Murder. The lyrics describe an intellectual young woman whose otherwise empty life has left her feeling depressed. It takes a "tattooed boy from Birkenhead" to show her another side to life.

OMD: Julia’s Song

Before forming Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were in a band called The Id. They sometimes rehearsed in the room above the old Greasby Library on Greasby Road, where Clovelly Court now stands. This is where their friend Julia Kneale wrote the lyrics to ‘Julia’s Song’. The track was released on Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s self-titled debut album.

The Libertines: Radio America

This early Libertines track sees the narrator sing about how far they would go for their love, be it Africa, China, Australia … or New Brighton.

Echo and the Bunnymen: Going Up

Liverpool band Echo & The Bunnymen are one of the defining post-punk acts of the 1980s. Their song 'Going Up' features in the 2008 film Awaydays, based on the book by Birkenhead author Kevin Sampson. Among the recognisable Wirral locations in the film is the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. The laboratory stood on Bidston Hill until its demolition in 2013.

Bellowhead: Roll Alabama

This 19th Century sea shanty is about the CSS Alabama, a Confederate ship during the American Civil War. Britain was officially neutral in the conflict so Birkenhead shipbuilder John Laird built the vessel in secret. To evade neutrality law, the ship was built without guns. She was armed in the Azores and had success as a raider until she was sunk off France by the USS Kearsarge. Laird (erroneously referred to as 'Jonathan' in the song) was also the first mayor of Birkenhead.

George Harrison: Party Seacombe

Although famous for being a Liverpool band, The Beatles have many interesting connections to the Wirral. They played at New Brighton’s Tower Ballroom an impressive 27 times. Ringo Starr made his debut with the band at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight. Their first stage suits were designed by Walther Smith at Beno Dorn’s on Grange Road West. They first wore them at the Barnston Women’s Institute in Heswall. Given the many links, it’s fitting that George Harrison named a track on his debut album Wonderwall Music after an area of the Wirral. The reason he chose Seacombe specifically is sadly unknown.

Bill Ryder-Jones: Two to Birkenhead

Bill Ryder-Jones is best known as one of the original members of The Coral, but has embarked on a solo career after leaving the band. The song ‘Two to Birkenhead’ loosely describes a time when he was with a girl from Liverpool who wanted to know about Birkenhead. More importantly, he says, “people from Birkenhead can sing along” when he plays it live.

Les Glover: Rockferry Fox

During a late night walk in Rock Ferry, Les Glover saw his first urban fox. Inspired by the encounter, he wrote this song.

Mike Post: Theme from The Rockford Files

Since the late 1970s, Wirral football club Tranmere Rovers have walked onto the pitch to the theme from American detective series The Rockford Files. Many theories have sprung up to explain the odd choice of music. Writer Ryan Ferguson discovered the truth in 2016. In 1978, public address announcer Keith Shillinglaw was looking for a piece of music to play at the start of matches. As a fan of The Rockford Files, he thought the theme tune would work well. The fact that it was instrumental was a boon, as he could easily lower the volume to announce the team without interrupting any lyrics. You can read more about The Rockford Files and Tranmere Rovers at Ryan Ferguson’s site here.

Wirral Classical (click to listen on Spotify)

Classical music related to the Wirral and pieces performed by Wirral musicians. Find out about them below.

Granville Bantock: Chanson de mai

Sir Granville Bantock was born in London in 1868. In 1897, he became the conductor at New Brighton Tower. Although initially commissioned to perform music for ballroom dancing, he convinced the managers to allow him to perform classical concerts on Fridays and Sundays. The repertoire included his own compositions. Lacking time to practise, he began to have the orchestra perform classical pieces when they were meant to be playing dance music. This lead to the managers cancelling the classical concerts. Bantock continued to compose a large number of works and died in 1946. This 1930 piano piece had not been recorded until this 2018 performance.

Cyril Scott: Two Pieces, Op. 47: Lotus Land and Columbine

Born in Oxton in 1879, Cyril Scott was a prolific composer, writer and poet. He was highly regarded in Europe in the early 20th Century for his modernist compositions. He later fell out of favour as tastes changed and he was no longer considered avant-garde. ‘Lotus Land’ is Scott’s most popular piece and has been arranged for many different instruments. Scott died in 1970.

Ian Stephens: Timepieces: No. 1, Domesday Song; No. 2, Our Bias; No. 3, Funeral Blues

Born in Sidmouth in 1974, Ian Stephens is now a Wirral resident. ‘Timepieces’ is a setting of three W.H. Auden poems for alto saxophone and mixed choir.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Adagio and Rondo in C Minor

This Mozart composition is performed by Sir Stephen Hough, who was born in Heswall in 1961. A winner of the piano section on the 1978 BBC Young Musician of the Year, his prodigious talent has led to him winning several awards and becoming a prominent soloist and composer. More recently, he has also written a novel.

Ronald Settle: Shadows

Ronald Settle was born on the Wirral in 1909. He was Musical Director at the Liverpool Playhouse from 1944–1970 and wrote music for over 250 productions. ‘Shadows’ was originally written for Australian soprano Joan Hammond. On this recording, it was performed by another Australian soprano–Cheryl Barker. Settle died in 1988.

Alan Jones: Three Times Five: I. Concert; II. Choral; III. Fugue

Wirral resident Alan Jones was born in Liverpool in 1935. During his career in administration at the University of Liverpool, he was active as a violinist with the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra. Though he has composed music for years, this 2021 recording is the first time one of his compositions has been released commercially.

Ian Venables: Caprice, Op. 35

Liverpool-born Ian Venables is particularly known for his art songs, and was a student of Ronald Settle (who appears earlier on this playlist) in the 1970s. This piece is performed by Graham J. Lloyd, who was born on the Wirral in 1963. He has specialised in recording the work of Venables, and both the compositions and their performances have received critical acclaim.

Cyril Scott: Sonata Lirica: I. Allegro moderato; II. Andante tranquilo; III. Allegro vigoroso deux préludes

Believed to be lost until this 2007 release, ‘Sonata Lirica’ is a melodic piece for piano and violin.

Erik Satie: Gnossienne No. 5

This well-known Satie piece is performed by Anna Markland. Born in Wallasey in 1964, in 1982 she was both the first female winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year and the first pianist to do so. In addition to being a pianist, she is also a soprano.

Thomas Bateson: The Nightingale

Thomas Bateson is believed to have been born on the Wirral around 1570. He was the organist at Chester Cathedral from 1599, before moving to Dublin in 1609 where he was the organist and vicar choral at Christ Church Cathedral. He held this post until his death in 1630. He is primarily known for his madrigals, of which this 1604 composition is an example.

Benjamin Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66: I. Requiem aeternam b. What Passing Bells for These Who Die as Cattle?

Benjamin Britten was commissioned to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in 1962. Given free rein to compose what he wanted, he created a pacifist work that intersperses the poetry of Wilfred Owen with the Latin Mass for the Dead. Wilfred Owen was born in Oswestry in 1893 and moved to Birkenhead with his family in 1898. While there, he attended Birkenhead Institute. The family moved to Shrewsbury in 1907. Owen was killed in action at the end of the First World War, a week before the conflict ended in 1918. This part of the War Requiem uses the words of Owen’s 1917 poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

Granville Bantock: Cello Sonata in F Sharp Minor: I. Allegro con anima; II. Lentamente – Allegretto expressivo; III. Finale. Con moto non troppo

This sonata for cello and piano was completed in 1945, towards the end of Bantock’s life. It had not been performed until this 2001 rendition.
Benjamin Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66: II. Dies irae i. Lacrimosa (Move Him into the Sun)
This section of Britten’s War Requiem sets the words of Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Futility’ to music.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca, Act II: Vissi d’arte

This recording of ‘Vissi d’arte’ features soprano Rita Hunter. Born in Wallasey in 1933, Hunter became famous for her performances of Wagner. She died in 2001.

Franz Schubert: Ellens dritter Gesang (Ave Maria)

This performance features Wallasey-born harpist Sidonie Goossens. Born in 1899, she belonged to a famous Belgian musical family. She was encouraged to learn the harp from a young age and became the first harpist to be broadcast on the radio in 1923, as well as the first broadcast on television in 1936. She was a founding member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and played with them for 50 years. In 1991, aged 91, she became the oldest performer at the Last Night of the Proms. She died in 2004 aged 105.

Baby Bounce and Rhyme (click to listen on Spotify)

Learn the songs from our Baby Bounce & Rhyme sessions and entertain your little ones. See our upcoming sessions and book here.

New Brighton Rock (click to listen on Spotify)

In 1984, Granada staged and broadcast a massive concert at New Brighton’s open air bathing pool. This is a recreation of the setlist as shown on TV.

Sounds of the Tower Ballroom (click to listen on Spotify)

Relive the glory days of the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton. Many local and international stars played there, with The Beatles appearing 27 times. All these acts appeared there from 1961–1965.

Sounds of the Argyle Theatre (click to listen on Spotify)

Take a trip back in time to the heyday of Birkenhead's Argyle Theatre. All these artists played at the Argyle, and many were personal favourites of manager Dennis J. Clarke.

Silence in the Library (click to listen on Spotify)

Conjure up the ambience of the libraries of yesteryear with our silent playlist.

Wirral Libraries Eurovision Mix (click to listen on Spotify)

To celebrate Eurovision 2023 taking place across the Mersey in Liverpool, here are our favourite British and international songs from the contest.

Wirral Libraries Christmas mix (click to listen on Spotify)

Enjoy a collection of festive tunes selected by staff at Wirral Libraries.


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