A Bad Year For The Roses
Whatever happened to The Stone Roses? 1990 should have seen the Manchester quartet poised on the brink of huge international stardom. Instead it became a year of traumas from the damp squib of their one live performance at Spike Island, the below par ‘One Love’ single and protracted legal hassles with both former and current record labels. Rage asks, “What went wrong?”
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THIS TIME LAST YEAR you could have asked anybody which band had the world dangling on a hook in front of them, who were most likely to topple the fat cats of International stadium pomp and save the world foryoung fresh rock and roll, and they’d all have said The Stone Roses.Twelve months on and how things have changed. Now the Roses seem constantly referred to in the past tense, while the bands they’ve influenced are filling the void for Roses-starved fans. Fame,as the cliche goes, is a fickle mistress.
But it wasn’t always so. The band started in a modest enough way. playing warehouse gigs years before they aquired the “rave on” connotations, slowly building up a live following in their native Manchester. The early Stone Roses were a strong Who/U2 mix of guitar power They were snotty ex-scooter boys who contrasted widely with the wimpy tomfoolery of then (ocal faves The Smiths. But were they a goth band? The accusations have flowed thick and fast from detractors eager to demistify the band’s achievements. Answers are not immediately forthcoming. “He always dressed a bit smarter than the rest of us,” reveals an old scooter pal of lan Brown’s. “There were always girls swarming around him!”
Goths or not, the band’s live following in the Manchester area proved a catalyst for their expansion beyond the usual plight of guitar bands. They were massive within 10 miles of The International nightclub but virtually unknown everywhere else. The summer of ’89 was to change all that.
To all intents and purposes, it signalled the start of a major upturn in the fortunes of British pop. The signal for the dam to open was the Roses gig at the massive Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. Thousands flocked over from Manchester for the day out: like football supporters following their team. many dressed in the flares and fishing hats uniform favoured by their idois. Soon after, the release of the band’s eponymous debut LP had the music press frothing at the mouth with barely containable glee. Here. at last, was a band capable of moving into the void vacated by The Smiths. For some they were considered ambassadors, ready to purge the charts of the dreaded dance music.
But the Roses themselves were having none of this. They may have been lippy and uncompromising, but they also liked dance music and the culture it embraced. They had. after all, done their first gigs in warehouses and, according to the Roses fanzine ‘Made Of Paper’, lan Brown had been spotted buying Italian house records in the Eastern Bloc record shop!
The release of ‘Fool’s Gold’, a track not included on the LP, cemented the idea that the Roses might be more than just another retro-fixated guitar act. Tricked up on a trippy tape loop of James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’, ‘Fool’s Gold’ was the record that sorted the men from the boys, smouldering into the charts to give the Roses their first real hit. Ever since lan Brown’s face has mooned monkey-like from the covers of countless magazines and newspapers.
For The Stone Roses, the roots of their current strife lay in their success. First up came the reissue of their ‘Sally Cinnamon’ 45 by former label FM/Revolver. The Roses maintained they had no objections to the reissue Itself, but took artistic offence at the cobbled- together video used to promote it. Their response is now legendary. One night they drove up from Rockfield studios in Wales to redecorate the FM/Revolver offices.
“If the guy had somehow insulted us in the same way In a pub, we’d have done him then,” claimed guitarist John Squire about the particular brand of justice they meted out to Revolver boss Paul Birch. The Roses were arrested and subsequently fined, but not before their final and most audacious act, the troubled open-air event at Spike Island near Widnes. With the exception of the lacklustre ‘One Love’ 45, it was the last we really saw of them.
Since then, all we’ve heard from the band are that they are desperate to free themselves from their recording contract with Silvertone. Having already successfully appealed against the first trial date, the legal fisticuffs now commence on March 4. Nothing new is expected from the band. but rumours have been rife around Manchester. One Journalist told me she’d heard the band had spent Christmas in a recording studio on the Shetland Isles trying to get new material together, but had returned empty handed. A radio deejay maintained they were currently rehearsing in Wales with plans to record a second LP in the autumn.
Many others reckon they’re just sitting in bed all day smoking pot. Whatever, they’re going to have to pull something special out of the hat if they’re to regain the ground they’ve lost in the meantime.
Notes: Also features a discography with images.