The Stone Roses coming to NZ

By Scott Kara


The Stone Roses were cool, cocky, and chaotic to the point of dysfunctional. Yet almost solely off the back of one album, this motley, baggy- trousered Manchester lot - made up of tough, lippy singer Ian Brown, shy and sometimes stroppy guitarist John Squire, hard hitting funky drummer Alan "Reni" Wren, and goodtime bass player Gary "Mani" Mounfield - managed to be one of the most influential British bands of the past 25 years.


Without them there wouldn't have been the golden era of Britpop, which saw the rise of Oasis and Blur among others, and as ecstasy and rave culture took flight, they became the torchbearers of the "Madchester" movement; because the Stone Roses' self-titled debut from 1989 really was that good, thanks to songs like smouldering and soaring beauty I Wanna Be Adored, escalating epic This Is the One, and eight-minute finale I Am the Resurrection.


Later that year they also released non-album single Fools Gold, the (almost) 10-minute long psychedelic dance rock and trance tune, which is arguably the band's best song.


Of course, the Roses ended badly, with their infamous and prolonged legal battle with record company Silvertone, musical differences, bad blood (especially between old friends Brown and Squire), and drugs excess (Brown was permanently stoned, Squire a cocaine casualty), all combining to bring about the demise of the band in October, 1996, two years after releasing sophomore album, The Second Coming.


But more on the politics and personalities soon because it's the songs that are the most important thing here. The Stone Roses conjured up rock 'n' roll you could dance to with acid house, reggae, 60s psychedelia, soul, a punk rock attitude, and a deep love of the Beatles, all coming together to create something inspired and unique.


Like many children of the late 80s and early 90s, my carefree renegade student days in Wellington were lived to their soundtrack. To borrow a phrase from Primal Scream, whose 1991 album Screamadelica was hugely influenced by the Roses' debut, they created music you could get loaded to and have a good time.


They also had a deeper, agitating side that came through most explicitly on mid-album interlude Elizabeth My Dear, sung to the tune of Scarborough Fair, where Brown intones "I'll not rest 'til she's lost her throne".


And there was a chest-beating swagger to their music, which came as much from the band members' uncompromising will to be famous as it did from the singular sound of their songs, but without being aggressive and confrontational.


I've never seen the Stone Roses live, mainly because they never made it to New Zealand, and in many ways it didn't really bother me because a mate and I went halves on a VHS of a Stone Roses' concert back in the day. I forget where it was filmed, but the performance was awful because Brown couldn't sing. He struggled to hold the low notes, let alone the high soaring ones that I Am the Resurrection and I Wanna Be Adored command.


The good news is, judging by the reviews of their world tour, Brown is singing better than ever.


A few years ago, I interviewed Brown ahead of his solo show at the Coromandel Blues Festival. He was adamant there would be no reunion.


"I've got six solo albums. I've been round the world three times. I don't even think about the Roses."


But what do you know? After 16 years, they are back together, on a world tour, and there is even the likelihood of a new album.


Mounfield has always been the one most keen on a reunion and told TimeOut in January, 2011, before his other band Primal Scream played the Big Day Out, that it could happen.


"It just needs a few guys to patch up their differences," he said, referring specifically to Brown and Squire, whose personal and musical differences were beyond repair come April, 1996, when the guitarist finally quit. Although, there was also some patching up needed with Reni who left in early 1995 after an argument with Brown.


"It's always been my dream to [reunite]," said Mani, "because I didn't like the way the Roses finished, there was too much acrimony, there was a lot of bad shit going down. I still get people coming up to me and shaking my hand and saying, 'Thank you for that album'."


According to author Simon Spence's biography, The Stone Roses: War and Peace, published a few months ago, what led to the Roses getting back together started with Brown and Squire meeting for the first time in 15 years at Mounfield's mum's funeral in March, 2011.


"It was amazing," said Mounfield. "And somewhat bizarre. I've always wanted them to do it - even if the band never reformed, I always wanted them to remake the friendship."


Brown and Squire started the band in 1984.


Growing up, Brown worshipped Muhammad Ali, footballer George Best, and kung fu star Bruce Lee, so it was no wonder he was a feisty little fella. And he was into all sorts of music, from the Beatles and Love through to the Sex Pistols, Clash and Joy Division, later getting into reggae, soul, hip-hop and dance music.


He shared this love of music with Squire, a friend who lived on the same street and an artist whose distinctive, abstract paintings would adorn the covers of the Stone Roses' releases.


"In 1984 we didn't consider anyone around was making music [that] we liked," said Brown in TimeOut in 2008, even though there was another quite good Manchester band around at the time called the Smiths. In fact, early Roses member Simon Wolstencroft drummed in a band featuring Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke from the Smiths (he declined an invite to play in the Morrissey-fronted group because he didn't like his singing), and after leaving the Roses in '84 (to be replaced by Reni) he went on to play drums in fellow Manchester act the Fall.


But back to Brown and Squire, who were beavering away writing songs. With Reni now on board, they did a recording session with Joy Division producer Martin Hannett in 1985, out of which came primitive sounding first single So Young.


The bouncier and brighter Sally Cinnamon was the next single, and also in the mid 80s they penned album tracks I Wanna Be Adored and This Is the One.


An interview with Squire from Melody Maker in 1987 sums up the Stone Roses' attitude at this time: "We got together with the deliberate intention of composing classic songs and that's just about what we've done."


And it was those sorts of comments, as well as their disinterest and stonewalling of the media, that got them a reputation as being arrogant, uppity prats. And they were, but as Mani told British music magazine the NME in 2009: "That arrogance was 100 per cent self-belief - knowing what we were going to do and what we could achieve with it."


The thing is, they backed up their bravado with that first album, which also included the sing-along of She Bangs the Drum and the beautiful Waterfall - which, much like the rest of the record, still sound fresh and remarkable to this day.


"We knew once we'd finished the record it sounded different," Brown told TimeOut, "and we did expect success at that time, and we knew our own generation would pick up on it - but who would've thought that 10 or 20 years later people would still pick up on it?"


Who: The Stone Roses. Formed in Manchester, 1984; broke up October, 1996. Reunion announced October, 2011.

Classic line-up: Ian Brown (vocals), John Squire (guitar), Gary "Mani" Mounfield (bass), and Alan "Reni" Wren (drums)

Where and when: Vector Arena, February 26

Tickets: On sale Thursday December 6 at 9am, via Ticketmaster

Listen to: The Stone Roses (1989), The Second Coming (1994)

- THE AUCKLANDER

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 18 Apr 2014 17:31:42 Processing Time: 1496ms