The Stone Roses’ Made Of Stone was given it’s UK premiere last night, here’s Getintothis‘ verdict on the eagerly-awaited Shane Meadows documentary.
‘The Stone Roses were a once in a generation band,’ said The Clash‘s Mick Jones from the red carpet of the Made Of Stone film premiere at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.
But for most fans of The Stone Roses they’re a once in a lifetime band.
And Made Of Stone is a fitting testament to the kind of idolisation the Stone Roses have acquired. Made Of Stone is a film made by a super-fan for super-fans. In Shane Meadows, they have a director who revels in every nuance of the reformed Roses and is playing out his ultimate fantasy of sharing in their live resurrection.
While Meadows concedes early on in the film that he is ‘not a documentary film-maker’ it is clear why it was he that Roses frontman Ian Brown chose to call up (from ‘the back of a taxi while making a film about cycling’) and ask to direct the piece. For, in Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England, Meadows is not just the mastermind behind two of the finest UK films in recent years, he also knows how to unravel a tale – and most pertinently, as exemplified in the latter, knows how counter-culture, music and fashion shapes not just a generation of people, but is intrinsic to lasting friendships.
And central to Made Of Stone is a simple tale of friendship.
The friendship of Ian Brown and John Squire – and how that bond was born, flourished and broke down before being reignited through ‘two telephone conversations,’ as revealed by the latter at the band’s reformation press conference in 2011.
Early footage of the duo showing a kinship for making scooters while messing about with instruments is touching, and it’s this and a wealth of unseen archive footage which makes the first half of the film work a treat. Early gigs as The Patrol depict guitarist Andy Couzens and original bassist Pete Garner moodily thrashing in gaudy costumes as Brown, all shocking blonde crop, mopes around amid the metallic garage nose.
Mani‘s entry into the band signifies a new-found gang mentality and the rise of the band, replayed over the giant screen, is positively euphoric as we’re taken on a whirlwind reminder of how, in the blink of an eye, they went from playing concrete warehouses to selling out vast clubs by sheer word of mouth.
Meadows doesn’t simply play events out chronologically though, interspersed between footage from the early 90s, we’re brought back up to speed to a secret location, ‘somewhere between Liverpool and Manchester’ where the band have assembled in what looks like a working man’s bunker for the director to familiarise himself with his leading men.
And it’s here, in a small, humble rehearsal room, that perhaps the most enlightening moments of the film are played out – as we’re given unique access to the band rehearsing for their Heaton Park shows. A blackboard indicates a setlist (just one, tantalising unnamed ‘newie’ is scrawled, pointing towards an unknown future) and it’s Mani’s undulating bass throb which kicks off Something’s Burning which marks the films first foray into something special.
‘Chemistry’ is an over-used word in the context of musicians, but the tangible connection between the four as they wink, smile, gesticulate and joke in between takes of a scintillating Waterfall is magical; pure raw emotions built over years of togetherness.
From the confines of the rehearsal room the shift turns to the countdown of those eagerly-anticipated Heaton Park shows as the band jet off to Europe taking in Barcelona, Lyon (including an appreciative, and impressively bearded Eric Cantona) and finally Amsterdam, and that infamous incident as Reni refuses to return to the stage for the encore leaving Brown to take the flack from a disdainful crowd.
The moment provides a suitable caveat for Meadows to briefly explore the band’s downfall and break-up back in October ’96 – it also proves the weakest element of the film. Where in June 2012 as Reni jumps ship (apparently his monitors were faulty resulting in no encore and an unhappy Amsterdam crowd), Meadows plays the dutiful fan by packing up his equipment and returning home, offering a straight-forward to-camera piece saying he doesn’t know what will follow. Similarly, while reflecting on the making of The Second Coming we’re offered mini vignettes from Squire and little more on what droves Reni out of the band (an argument with Brown over new management is cited as the reason).
Whatever the case, Meadows is clear and direct on how Made Of Stone and the Stone Roses’ tale should be told – not through investigative journalism or a series of insightful interviews, but by adoration for a band, and their music.
And as quick as Reni was bundled into the back of a car after storming off in Lille, we’re brought back up to speed and in Warrington for their memorable comeback gig at Parr Hall as fans of all ages race from their homes, work or in one case building site – ‘I’ve knocked through a house, and not had time to board it up, sorry if you’re watching Richard, I’ll make it up to you,’ comes the workman’s excuse as he races to the box office for a ticket.
What follows is I Wanna Be Adored and just over a thousand people uniting in possibly the ultimate fan gig. A fan gig that finds celeb uber-fan Liam Gallagher insisting that he’s here to watch the best band ever – ‘the best band from Manchester’.
And Manchester is where Made Of Stone closes, inevitably at Heaton Park. Meadows could have chosen a number of tracks to close the film with, but he chose a clever one in Fools Gold. While there’s no doubting it’s majesty and classic status, at Heaton Park it evolved into something else, something which resonated with that chemistry from a gang of mates who became one of the finest bands the world will ever know.
Fools Gold at Heaton Park was stretched out beyond its 9.53 recorded length into a sprawling beast which showcased every facet this glorious group had to offer; Reni’s wizardry timing and delectable talent round the kit, Mani’s infectious groove and playful verve, Squire’s fizzing guitar skills which combine rhythm and lead with momentous dexterity and Brown’s lyrical bite, hushed champion vocal and in taking to the front row of the crowd – a natural showmanship lapped up by the masses. This was a band reborn and burning with intent.
And like the best rock and roll bands, the film closed making you want more. Indeed, being a super fan of The Stone Roses we learnt little new from Made Of Stone but we were able to relish in a film celebrating a special tale from one of the finest bands of this, or any generation.
Further reading on Getintothis
Top 10 Stone Roses tracks.
Stoned Alive: Standing Here and falling in love with The Stone Roses.