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Living To Music – The Stone Roses ‘The Stone Roses’

ARTIST: THE STONE ROSES

ALBUM: THE STONE ROSES

LABEL: SILVERTONE

YEAR: 1989

On New Years Day at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2010/06/living-to-music/

As we enter 2012 I thought this would be the ideal Living To Music choice to kick off the year, especially given that the first Sunday in January is also the first day of a new year. This highly acclaimed and much-loved 1989 LP, which perfectly caught the mood of the times, provides us with the opportunity to re-visit the past, whilst looking ahead to the summer. When an announcement was made earlier this year, that The Stone Roses are to re-form for 2 shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park in June 2012 (with a 3rd later added), there was genuine intrigue and anticipation. This wasn’t a case of another comeback cash-in, but something more symbolic. If ever there was a band with unfinished business to accomplish, it’s The Stone Roses.

I first came across them in the summer of 1989. I was living in London at the time, sharing a house in Wembley with Brian Cannon, a young graphic designer fresh from his degree course in Leeds, who I knew from my time in Wigan (I’d first come across him in 1984 via a graffiti piece he’d sprayed on a Wigan wall). I’d brought him in to work on the Ruthless Rap Assassins, who I was managing and producing. The Assassins had signed to EMI, and the first of their 2 albums would appear the following year – see: http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2010/07/killer-album. It was Brian who brought The Stone Roses’ music into the house, initially 12” releases like ‘Sally Cinnamon’, ‘Elephant Stone’ and ‘Made Of Stone’, and then this wonderful album.

It was during the mid-late 80’s that my Beatles obsession was it its height and I eagerly absorbed everything I could that was associated with them. ‘The Stone Roses’ evoked that mid-60’s Beatles / Byrds sound, although, paradoxically, it didn’t feel nostalgic, but fresh, vibrant and here, now. It perfectly linked back to that long-lost 60’s ethos, whilst appealing to the Acid House generation, who might be dancing to repetitive beats in the clubs, but were likely to be chilling out afterwards listening to this inspirational long player. It also caught the moment when LSD temporarily re-appeared at the cusp of British youth culture – a far cheaper alternative to ecstasy, which was selling for between £15-£20, whilst acid was only a couple of quid for a spaced out 8+ hour trip (ecstasy was, however, regarded as far more conducive to clubbing, so once the price came down, acid soon disappeared).

By tuning me into The Stone Roses, and the Happy Mondays for that matter, Brian was, in a sense, reciprocating, for a few years earlier I’d sat him down to listen to my recently discovered big obsession when he came to visit me in Liverpool. ‘What have you got for me this time?’ he said, ‘The Beatles’ said I, ‘The Beatles?’ he repeated with a bemused expression that asked ‘have you gone totally mad?’ (it would be almost a decade before Oasis made it cool to be into The Beatles again). ‘Just sit and listen’ I told him. He did, and during the years ahead he’d absorb all the references that would serve him so well later down the line, when he hooked-up with another Beatles obsessive, Noel Gallagher, becoming the designer for Oasis, and a key member of the band’s inner-circle. He’d met Noel at 23 New Mount Street in Manchester, where I’d opened my Murdertone office on moving back up North in 1990, the Rap Assassins, of course, being from the city. Noel then worked for the Inspiral Carpets, who also had an office in the building, then, in many respects, the creative hub for Manchester’s small but vibrant music business. With the Rap Assassins album imminent, Brian took an office next to mine, he’d call his company Microdot, a name I suggested to him (it was a type of trip doing the rounds in Manchester at the time). Microdot, which later re-located to London, will be forever associated with the Britpop movement, with an in-demand Brian designing sleeves not only for Oasis, but The Verve, Cast, Suede, and others. Only last month he picked up Lifetime Achievement recognition for his work at the Annual Design Awards.

Just the other day, I was up in the loft rummaging around when I came across the cassette I made for Brian on that aforementioned mid-80’s night in Liverpool, which must have come back into my possession when we shared the house in London – a compilation called ‘My Very 1st Beatle Tape’:

Back to the Roses. It's easy to forget that this is an album that barely crept into the top 20 of the UK chart when it was first released back in 1989 - its peak position of number 5 not being achieved until 20 years later, in 2009. Back then, as Madchester was, for those of us fortunate enough to experience it directly, the centre of the musical universe, it felt like the Stone Roses were the biggest band in the land, when in reality this was all about the underground breaking gradually into mainstream consciousness. To consider the album in this context helps capture its essence, as an absolute breath of fresh air, which, although echoing the 60's, perfectly encapsulated the era in which it was made, with all its energy, ecstasy and experimentation.

Their implosion is the stuff of legend, as the band, and all the dreams wrapped up in them, slowly unravelled. In short, having taken 5 years to record the all-important follow-up album, ‘Second Coming’, they’d let the grass grow under their feet and the new kids on the block, Oasis, a group that readily cited their influence, rode off into the sunset of superstardom many thought was the destination the Roses had mapped out before them.

During the early 90’s I often worked out of Square One Studios in Bury, where the Roses were camped out, and it was clear to everyone that there were big problems. With the pressure of expectation acute, the muse was hiding away and the group dynamic became increasingly unhealthy. It was a negative spiral, and their producer, John Leckie, eventually lost patience and jumped ship, with the band subsequently re-locating to Monmouth, where the album was finally completed – unfortunately, about 4 years too late.

Despite only recording the 2 albums, they left a huge legacy, their debut album regularly coming high up, and even topping, the best ever lists here in the UK. Like many, my greatest personal memory of the group was the almost mythical Spike Island gathering on 27th May 1990 (I also attended their infamous press conference the night before, which was hugely entertaining). I spent the event in the guest enclosure in a suitably ecstatic state - it was a 'Go Bang' moment when it felt like I was with all my friends at once (certainly a wonderful grouping of them, including Brian Cannon, musician / journalist John Robb, who would later write a book about the band, and Ian Tilton, whose photographs adorn the sleeve of their debut album). I described the day in Sarah Champion's book, ‘And God Created Manchester’ (1990), as 'like being in the Garden Of Eden' – it was far out, as the hippies used to say;  the peak of that magical Madchester vibe that would soon turn sour.

I touched on this previously in the ‘Where Were You In 1990’ post in Oct 10:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2010/10/where-were-you-in-1990/

There’s a short piece about Spike Island here from 2003’s ‘Live Forever Britpop documentary:
http://youtu.be/7mpBD1Gi_0E

The Stone Roses will always have a special place in the hearts of those of us who lived those heady rave on days in the rainy city, when their music became ingrained into our being. In Dec 07 I was the final DJ, bar the residents, to play at Manchester’s now fabled Electric Chair – one of the city’s most important club nights in recent memory (more here: http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/10/manchester-vibes-in-the-area/). I wanted to finish off with a track that truly summoned up the spirit of Manchester, and settled on ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ – an ethereal anthem from an era that placed the city at the forefront of popular culture. Whilst ‘Fools Gold’ is obviously the Roses track most geared to the dancefloor, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ evoked the unity evident in that E’d up epoch, subsequently echoing through to the Electric Chair and still dearly cherished by those who experienced it first hand, whilst becoming a source of continued fascination for those who didn’t. Thankfully I can say ‘I was there’, and when I played ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ that night, 18 years on, I knew that the same memories resonated strongly with others - only a great album can be of its time whilst, paradoxically, remaining timeless, and ‘The Stone Roses’ certainly fits this description hand in glove and deserves all the adoration it generates.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

The Stone Roses Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stone_Roses_(album)

Living To Music Event Page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/162931570475471/

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20 Responses to Living To Music – The Stone Roses ‘The Stone Roses’

  1. Simon (@SimonJ68) December 22, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    A year long music project ended yesterday - and this was the winning album.
    Not without some controversy it has to be said.

    http://albummasterpieces.wordpress.com/

  2. Jason Pursley December 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Now that we R frothing @ the mouth for a lill slice of gravy,I mean Greggory; U may just have to bring me a Might nurse since U were sorely missed in LA! It's christmas time & it's s big bummer,I got Ur gift here Custome for my friend since I missed 2weeks ago:-( I'll save @ U since U&I&Harvey&Leonard&Lillyann r pals &all

  3. LeeMo December 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Greg wonderfully worded and I echo your sentiment on their first album. For me being a devout Mondays follower I always felt slightly underhand liking the roses for some strange reason. However their album is the only I have ever bought that I can recall the date I bought it...April 1st 1990 the start of the strangeways riots! The album blew me away and I listened to it over and over. The strength of the album is such that if you released it today to the kasabian crowd they would love it, it was that ahead of its time. I worry however that any new material will actually achieve nothing other than destroy the god like status that they have. I hope I'm wrong but my scepticism could be based on my dislike of groups and comebacks (I never went to the Mondays first second coming). There is no doubt that the impact of the roses album and almost mythical spike island gig will ensure that Djs around the north will continue to request Fools Gold and that is indeed well deserved.

  4. Jason Pursley December 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    Hey epitome of a cool guy,
    How do I get Ur Christmas gift to
    Address would help?

    I'll try to get u a picture of gift since u did no make L.A.:-(

    Miss U

    :-(. :-)

  5. M. Gehlert January 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    All and all I agree in the greatness of this album. I saw them live here in Copenhagen in 1990, and they were great. I mean they were 1 hour late to the koncert and only played for about 30 minutes, but the feeling started to build up, and we had a great time waiting for the Roses.
    Now a myth band, and we knew that allready then. ...

  6. Anon January 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Well here goes... I've intended to make time to Listen to Music before, many albums have been and gone that have been favourites but with this I really felt I ought to make the effort. I can't honestly remember who or what brought me to the Stone Roses (maybe that's a symptom of the times) but whoever or whatever it was, I'm indebted to them/it. I haven't listened to the album in its entirety for some time and really enjoyed the experience; it definitely took me back to when it was literally stuck in my car stereo on repeat. I Am The Resurrection kicking in after This Is The One was a proper hair standing up on end moment that took me back to the first ever time I heard it and it blew me away completely. That said there are no bad tracks on this album, it captured the Zeitgeist absolutely and anyone who lived it will be hard pressed to disagree I'm sure.

  7. Paul Wright January 2, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    Happy New Year!

    Absolutely loved hearing this album again!

    Great to read your intro on this Greg, I'd never really consciously connected the Stone Roses with the sixties Beatles/Byrds before. I knew and all loved all three yet didn't see the contemporary when it was right in front of me. My dad had actually offered me tickets to the Spike Island gig (he works up the road at Fiddlers Ferry powerstation), not knowing who The Stone Roses were at the time I foolishly cast it off as some 'mosh shite' and didn't go! Even crazier when I consider that I was at school in Lymm at the time, where Ian Brown was from.

    I got to know who they were over the next couple of years...concentrating more on what had gone before and dance stuff, they were still overlooked. When l I was 17 working at a pub glass collecting in Stockton Heath I remember putting on 'this is the one', on the jukebox, whacking it right up and the hairs standing up on my neck. This album, and the superb B sides that went with so many of these songs have brought sunshine for many years. When I 'revised' at Uni I would play this album over and over again so it was good to do it some justice again now and to listen properly.

    Singing away from start to end it was great! I hadn't realised the 60's sounds in this before, particularly the beatles (mad to think they auditioned 50 years ago!)....vocal harmonies on waterfall, reverse business on don't stop, Sun King/Albatross on shoot me down. I'm sure there's tonnes of others too! :)

    Sang my head off to sugar spun sister, loved the instrumental on I am the resurrection...really enjoyed hearing this again!

    All The Best!

    Paul

  8. TC January 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    Fond memories of a hazy summers day in 1989 listening to this album on Southport beach came flooding back and then another scorcher of a day in 1990 at the legendary Spike Island gig. The album's melodies are unforgettable and John Leckie's production as hazy as the summer days it brings me back to. The perfect after party, come down, bliss out listening.

  9. greg wilson January 3, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Never properly pondered this before, but listening on Sunday I was particularly struck by how the limitations of Ian Brown’s voice are used to maximum effect, its tonal qualities melding perfectly into the overall soundscape that John Leckie conjures up.

    I was a big fan of The Dukes Of Stratosphere, a Leckie produced XTC offshoot, which paid direct homage to 60’s Psychedelia – the similarity to what The Stone Roses would sound like a few years later down the line is clear to hear on one of their tracks, ‘Your Gold Dress’:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpKu5L-XyZM

    It was certainly a case of the right band with the right producer in the right place at a key moment in the course of British popular culture - everything stacked up right. This album could only be born of this alignment – and is certainly something I’ll always personally treasure as a gift from the good times.

    It’s little wonder they found it so difficult to complete the second album – as anyone around Manchester at the time will tell you, things changed drastically between the peak ‘Madchester’ years of 88-90 and those which followed (the city subsequently dubbed ‘Gunchester’ - the vibe shifting from technicolour peace, love and fun to something altogether more sinister and shadowy).

  10. Lou Lou January 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I didn't realise I was so familiar with many of the tracks on this album having never listened to it in its entirity. I particularly enjoyed the backwards waterfall - seemed so clever, wasn't sure if there were some forward vocals in there. Did they write this knowing how well it would play backwards?

    My overall feeling was how blissfully chilling the album was. I felt so relaxed and dreamy, I totally conjured up images of floaty summer days just doing nothing. Took me back to being 20 in macmillans in liverpool.

    Lovely album, beautiful vibes and one i shall definately be playing again when I need to feel good.

    Thanks G & T for your wonderful hospitality - here's to 2012 :)

  11. Jason Dodd January 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Wise thoughtful words as always Greg..........I have to admit I've had the album on cassette!!! in my car for at least ten years and I always come back to it....especially over the last 6 or 7 years. The Roses may not have gone on to be as successful financially as Oasis.....but this album will go down in the history books as a far more significant and influential LP than anything the Gallagher brothers ever recorded, and this I believe is far more important than "being the biggest band in the world" as Noel is always harping on about. I first remember playing the album to death at Glastonbury Festival in 1989 (...Didnt know who the hell they were but just loved the cover as I was studying Art at University in London and Jackson Pollock was my favourite painter).....Looking forward to seeing them in Heaton Park for the first of the three big gigs....I am intrigued to see if they can pull it off....I think they really can, as I believe as you say they feel that they have unfinished business......I'll buy you another double bourbon if I see you....Best Wishes Jason

  12. Jason Dodd January 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Oh and by the way - I am intrigued to know what tracks were on your first Beatles tape too !!?

  13. Bryan January 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    I got into the "Roses" when Made of Stone came out (still one of my favourites) and I had high hopes for the album, but I wasn't quite prepared for how good it was going to be. It was one of the first albums to blow me away on first listen.

    Can't wait for the Heaton Park concerts. Time to dust off the flares, and re-live the baggy dream!

  14. lec January 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I got into the Stone Roses at Uni (as a mature student) via someone who lived below me, in the same way that I got into Oasis because of the album playing constantly in the room next to me.
    This was the first time I have listened to a whole album though and at times, I lost the plot a bit.
    Like Loulou, there were more tracks that I knew than I thought I would and brought it out again for a New Years Eve sing-along...I bet the neighbours love me LOL!
    I will definitely play this more as I appreciate their melodies even more now, so thank you again. x

  15. BrianE January 13, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Enjoyed the production on this album and couldn't help wondering if the band would have been as successful as they were without Leckies influence. The big reverbs, and guitar effects on track 4 (very Beatles) etc to mention just a couple . The songs themselves were very much of the sixties and later on in the album I heard U2 influences and sounds (not sure if they come from Leckie or the Stone Roses although I would guess at the former). The last track is a pretty awesome groove. The songs themselves hark back to an earlier era whilst the production is more modern (given the time of recording). An interesting combination! Hadn't heard the album in it's entirety before and l was left felling more impressed with Leckie than I was with the Stone Roses, that's not to say I didn't enjoy the songs but a couple were derivative, rather than being influenced by.
    Had a great night listening to it as this was the first LTM of the New Year and the vibe was brill!

  16. red fork January 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Yeah. I remember Spike Island. Here's a take from the other side.

    A bit too young. A bit too skint. A bit too gash. I spent that day in May kickin me heels on Oldham St. It were fuckin dead. Like the whole city had fucked off somewhere else and forgot to invite me. I'm over it now, like, and I love all this shite. But the whole "you had to be there cos it was so fuckin transcendental maaaan" thing does my fuckin nuts in from time to time. Jus' sayin'

  17. red fork January 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    PS Love ur shit Greg!

  18. greg wilson January 28, 2012 at 1:12 am #

    Hi red fork - I feel for you mate. Fascinating Manc tumbleweed type scenario though.

    I remember missing Bowie's Ziggy Stardust tour when I was 13. I was just that bit too young to go over to the Liverpool Empire at night on my own - 12 months later and I'd have been there with bells on. Some older kids I knew went and we're buzzing on it right through the following summer. I was pig sick I missed it, all the more so because, at the end of that tour, he decided to kill off Ziggy at Hammersmith Odeon. That was the tour I wanted to see, a part of rock folklore now, with the Hammersmith gig (thankfully) filmed for posterity. I never had any desire to see him live after that, as I knew it could never be what Ziggy was.

    greg

  19. Matthew Fletcher June 3, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Nice piece Greg. Followed Louder Than War here. Just got back from the Roses' gig in Paris 3/6/13, which was, obviously, unbelievable. Also wanted to say cheers for mentioning the Assassins - I worked with Dangerous for a while and he's a top bloke. One Love and looking forward to Finsbury on Saturday!

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  1. Great blog on the Stone Roses | Louder Than War - December 23, 2011

    [...] was one of the first people to really get the Roses and he details all this on this great blogStone [...]

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