As The Stone Roses tickets go on sale for their Manchester City Etihad Stadium dates, Getintothis’ Peter Guy reflects on why he won’t be joining the thousands waiting in line.
The Stone Roses are my favourite band. Their debut album is my favourite record. And the first time I saw them ranks as one of my most memorable live gig experiences of all-time.
I can distinctly remember the first time I heard The Stone Roses. Aged 14, having just finished my first ever work experience stint at an old fashioned printers on a red-brick business estate in West Lancashire, I walked briskly into our town centre on a mission. In one hand I carried a freshly-inked poster of a half naked woman advertising a newly-opened gym, the other, two tokens for Woolworths. Fifteen quid on records and soft porn. Friday evening, for this teenager, was boxed off.
Two hours later, and lying on my bed, I cracked open (steady on) the first of the two albums which had been carefully selected: Suede‘s Dog Man Star. It lasted barely half an hour on the relatively new Technics stack-system; my last ‘big Christmas present’ from my parents bought the previous December. Though Bernard Butler‘s scything guitar struck a chord, my patience was tested, and I wouldn’t return to the record until weeks later to fully appreciate it’s chilling grandiose magnificence. It would be the second album which would prove more fruitful.
For a kick off, that cover artwork was far more inviting, and from the moment those industrial, mysterious rumbles ushered in like broken freight trains on a dusky early morning, my ears were drawn to band forever. There were innumerable moments; Waterfall‘s ribbons of cascading guitars, Shoot You Down‘s layers of harmonies amid a vocal line which seemed to tickle your tummy, This Is The One‘s effortless rhythms which built to a champagne finish, Bye Bye Badman‘s nursery rhyme lyrical savagery and ..Resurrection‘s off-the-scale finale… There was simply so much to take in. Effortless on the ear, yet magisterial. The musicianship, the delivery, the liner notes depicting four of the coolest looking musicians I’d ever seen, the lines: “Kiss me where the sun don’t shine, the past was yours but the future’s mine…” It was all there. And more.
A week earlier, I’d innocently taken a handful of CDs into this nondescript printers to bring some life to proceedings: Led Zep, Prince, Arrested Development and most notably Nirvana‘s Nevermind – it was Kurt Cobain who more than any other artist had shaped my early teens – but this journey to Woolworths meant I found the band I’d unconditionally fall in love with forever.
The irony of the timing was profound: Kurt died in April 1994 – six months later The Second Coming (a record I still feel is wildly underrated) would charge out of nowhere and months later my best friend would snaffle up two tickets for the Roses‘ eagerly-awaited comeback at Liverpool’s Royal Court. Truth be told, by the time the gig came around, almost a year after buying the album, our excitement had dissipated amid a fug of despairing GCSE revision and bullying at school. Yet, that night at the Royal Court cemented what The Stone Roses were all about: a movement, a force, a gang, a band, a belief, a community, a faith. Something way more than just music.
Years later, my love for The Roses hasn’t diminished a jot. University days were spent tearing it up in Leicester’s Princess Charlotte and indie rave cave The Fan Club to their tunes, bootlegs were acquired from The Bluecoat record fairs, gigging trips all around the country were sound-tracked by their albums while innumerable solo live outings of Ian Brown and Mani in Primal Scream (including a signed Roses bootleg t-shirt at a Manics gig just weeks after that Royal Court show) meant the Roses spirit remained alive and well – despite that acrimonious split in ’96.
Push forward to 2011, and everything’s a little different. No, not the love, that’s still there. In fact, when the rumours of the reunion resurfaced, my adoration for the band perhaps reached another peak – revisiting records, searching out stories, digging out those old tapes – I may have even played a Seahorses track (definitely maybe…). One thing was clear, after their riotous Warrington Parr Hall show, it was nailed on I was going to see The Stone Roses again – and this time, it would be the full band. For that Royal Court gig, despite it being, monumental, (“If you die tonight,’ said one baldy fella as the intro to Breaking Into Heaven wafted over the plumes of dense weed smoke inside The Royal Court‘s battered, flaky walls, “At least you can say, you’ve seen the second coming of The Stone Roses“.) there was no Reni. Where he was, and what he was doing, who knows, but fair play to Robbie Maddix as he was bob on.
And so it was, at Manchester’s Heaton Park on Sunday 1 July 2012, myself and a small crew of mates got to see the band once again – all four, the full hit, the full set – all glorious – nearly two hours of magic. Word for word, guitar line after guitar line sung back in unison. Sure, the day was complete carnage but it was a day to remember – and it felt special. The Heaton Park reunion shows were necessary. It was unfinished business. The break-up was a mess. The prolonged demise lapped up by snarky quarters of the press eager to chastise the band. Yet, here they were emerging victorious – and complete. Best friends playing the best music imaginable amid their congregation. Watching it back during Shane Meadows‘ beautifully crafted and supremely pitched documentary Made Of Stone seemed like a fitting closure on a triumphant chapter.
Three years on, and everything’s a little different once again. No, not the love. But, this time, it’s unequivocally the state of play – we’re in the same position as 2011. And here we are, on the eve of The Stone Roses new ticket fanfare. More homecoming Manchester stadium offerings, a headlining festival date at T In The Park. New hype, fresh hope – but for what?
I can’t help but reflect upon the recent Ride gig which Bido Lito! editor Craig Pennington condemned in his recent magazine editorial. While, I’d go a little easier on Ride‘s Nowhere show, Craig, similarly to myself, has little time for nostalgia and wrote of a band who were cashing in, somewhat phoning in a performance – and no desire to play new material. Sure, the over-40s fellas lapped it up – and good on them – but that’s not what interests myself. And, on a similar level, I’m beginning to wonder what The Roses – my favourite band – are actually about to offer.
Whispers suggest an album is in the pipeline – but then, those close to the band said the same thing three years ago. If there is an album done and dusted, when is it likely to see the light of day – because it’s hugely unlikely before next June’s dates. If it isn’t – what can fans expect? A handful of new tunes – at best – which in that environment will be
hard impossible to digest. “The past was yours but the future’s mine…” – I don’t need to spell out the irony. The promise of a new taste of gold dust from one of the world’s most gifted foursomes is is truly great, but for now, I’m content to sit and wait.
The point is: if there’s no new album then the band should follow the advice of a certain John Squire and “have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses.”
- * Peter got tickets for the opening night of The Stone Roses gigs.