Ian Brown was born in Warrington, England in 1963. While growing up in Manchester, he became friends with another teen that lived on his street, by the name of John Squire. after they teamed together to fight a bully. They bonded over having the same taste in music and began attending concerts together all over the north of England. They were both mostly influenced by early punk bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash.
Brown and Squire both went to South Trafford College in Manchester. After Brown was expelled and Squire quit school, they decided to form a band with Brown playing bass and Squire on guitar. They called their band The Patrol. They recruited a drummer in Simon Wolstencroft and a singer with Andy Couzens. While the band did not last long, it was the genesis of what would be The Stone Roses.
After the breakup of the band, Brown worked for a nightclub while Squire worked as an animator. In 1983, Couzens decided he wanted to put together another band and approached his old bandmate Brown about being a part of it as the lead singer. They called back Wolstencroft to be the drummer and recruited a new bassist named Pete Garner. The only piece that was missing was Squire, and after some cajoling, he agreed to join as the guitarist. Wolstencroft left to join another band. The band had auditions for a new drummer and chose Alan “Reni” Wren.
Reni found an advertisement for a drummer needed on a music store wall and answered the ad. The band members knew immediately they’d never find a better drummer. Even Pete Townshend said that Reni was the most gifted drummer he’d heard since the death of Keith Moon.
John Squire is the one that came up with the name The Stone Roses. Despite people’s assumptions that there must be some deep meaning to the band’s name or some toughts that it is some reference to The Rolling Stones, Squire merely thought of two words that contrasted and put them together, and the rest of the band thought it sounded good.
After several years of performing locally and gaining fame around Manchester, Brown and Squire became the main songwriters and co-leaders, which lead Couzens to leave the band. During this time they used graffiti to advertise the band’s name, which drew the ire of many Manchester residents, giving the band publicity.
The Stone Roses along with many other Manchester based bands such as The Happy Mondays and 808 State were all becoming popular and hitting their peak at the same time. The Hacienda nightclub became the center of the this new movement. This music scene was termed the “Madchester” scene. A mixture of rock and dance music along with the new popularity of the drug Ecstasy defined this new music scene.
In 1987, Pete Garner decided to leave the band and was replaced by another Manchester based musician, Gary “Mani” Mounfield on bass.
The foursome of Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni, and Mani would be the band that would record the band’s debut album.
The band had a few deals here and there with small record companies and released a handful of singles that didn’t go anywhere. They toured extensively and gained quite a bit a notoriety as a live band. Finally, in 1988 they signed with the music label, Silvertone and agreed to an 8 album deal. Recording began on their first album in late 1988 and the album was ready for release in April 1989 in the UK.
The Album Cover:
The cover was desgined by guitarist John Squire. No doubt inspired by the works of Jackson Pollock.
According to Squire, the cover is supposed to be his artistic interpretation of the Paris riots of 1968. A sideways French flag is painted on the left hand side.
The idea of the lemons came from the fact that they were used by the rioters in Paris to dull the effects of tear gas.
When I think of Paris 1968, the first thing that comes to mind is Tout va Bien, the Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin film starring Yves Montand and Jane Fonda, which deals with the aftermath of ’68, and has yet to not put me to sleep.
I’m waaaay off topic here, but this is the only chance I will ever get to link to Jean-Pierre Gorin’s ratemyprofessor page. Gorin is currently a professor of film at U.C.-San Diego and is pretty infamous amongst the film community for his yelling and cursing at his students for having the “wrong” opinions about movies.
Back on topic, the back cover is quite basic on the vinyl edition.
It has the band name in gold on black, with a black and white photo of the band performing with a track listing and band member credits. The CD version just has a track listing. The vinyl is rare and the picture above is the best I could find anywhere on the internet of it’s back cover.
I am reviewing the UK vinyl release of The Stone Roses, the track listing is slightly different than the American CD and cassette versions.
(Note: All song titles are linked to Youtube clips of the songs.)
The album opens with an almost otherworldly sound flowing into, “I Wanna Be Adored.” The song just gives you the feeling that you are about to listen to a great album.
I will now type every lyric that is used in this 5 minute long song:
I don’t have to sell my soul/ He’s already in me/ I wanna be adored/ You adore me/ I gotta be adored.
Even Paul McCartney’s “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” is impressed at the disparate lyric per minute ratio in the song. While it may not be “Tangled Up in Blue” lyrically, it is a perfect, haunting opening to the album.
“She Bangs the Drums” is very poppy, and perhaps is the song that would be used most often to exemplify The Stone Roses. It was the second single released off of the album. It’s a bass and drum driven track.
Apparently there is a music video of “She Bangs the Drums” but I personally don’t want to see it. Don’t get me wrong, I like music videos, but there is something about them that takes you out of the enjoyment of an album. You quit having your own personal experience with a song and start picturing the music video. The best example of that is The Foo Fighters’ “Big Me” which is a brilliant music video, but I lose interest whenever I listen to the song on the album since I can’t see the Mentos parody video.
Don’t get me started on the fact that “She Bangs the Drums” is one of the songs available to play on Guitar Hero III.
“Waterfall” is a beautiful piece of music. Reminds me a little of another great Manchester based band, The Hollies. A sweet song. It flows into “Don’t Stop” a very Beatle-esque sound, backwards notes and vocals that are reminiscent of “Rain.” The ending and fade out has an almost African beat to it. Those are back to back tracks that I compared favorably to two Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famers’.
“Bye Bye Badman” sounds like something from twenty years prior, not so much Beatle-esque this time, but a pure sound. It is what I think music would have sounded like in the 80’s if New Wave music had never happened. A very violent song, lyrically, but very peppy musically, an interesting dichotomy. I always like when songwriters do that. Reminds of the time my young nieces were happily dancing around to “ABC’s” by K’naan, a song about children in Africa living in abject poverty.
Side 2 of the album opens with “Elizabeth My Dear.” It is just a brief minute long track. It is basically the same tune as “Scarborough Fair” and is an anti-Queen song. I mean Queen as in Queen of England not Queen like Freddie Mercury.
That flows into “(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister.” I have no clue what the lyrics are supposed to mean, ex: “My hands are stuck to my jeans/ And she knows she knows what this must mean.” There are some nice harmonies on this track. Again, it is just terrific pop music
“Made of Stone” was the first single released off of the album. It went to #20 on the UK pop charts, and it did not chart in the USA. I guess the American public were too busy buying New Kids On the Block and Milli Vanilli cassettes to bother with, you know, actual good music.
“Shoot You Down” sounds like straight out of 1965. Only the flangering effects on Ian Brown’s vocals indicate this is something from 1989. I could see someone like Gerry and Pacemakers recording something like this.
“This is the One” is a quiet track, with a nice recurring guitar burst, that flows into some of the heaviest music yet. These are the awesome lyrics that open the song: “A girl consumed by fire/ We all know her desire/ From the plans that she has made/ I have her on a promise/ Immerse me in your splendor.”
The album closes on “I Am the Resurrection.” My personal favorite track on the album. I’ve heard every Billboard #1 song in history, and this has every earmark of what I would think would be a hit. Perhaps people blindly read the title and assumed it was a religious song? Personally, I think it is because the public had the absolute worst taste in music during the years 1989-1991.
“I Am the Resurrection” goes from beautiful pop and morphs into a hard driving guitar rock song midway through the track. I guess an anthem would be the accurate term for it. It then has a false finish, before going back into the guitar jam with white noise flowing in the background. The song keeps going for 8 minutes, but never drones on, it remains interesting throughout.
The Stone Roses much like so many other great artists were not destined to last, but what they did here is absolutely amazing. This was a band out of its time. They could have been The Beatles of the 1990’s, ushering in a new British Invasion (and technically, they sorta did due to their influence on bands like Blur and Oasis.) When I say they were out of their time, by no means to I mean that they were old-fashioned. I mean they sounded like they were from that time when pop music was at it’s peak of beauty and innovation.
I will say that this is an album that I feel should be enjoyed as a whole. I link the songs to the music clips to give a taste of what it sounds like, but that doesn’t give a full experience. I would most recommend the vinyl edition, but as of now it is quite rare and hard to come by in the US, but picking up the CD version is fine too, although it adds in the earlier single “Elephant Stone” to the album. It is a fine song, but doesn’t fit with the rest of the album.
The postscript to The Stone Roses is that the band immediately started having issues with Silvertone and wanted to get out of their 8 album contract with the label. Legal battle after legal battle kept them from recording for years. Then, finally, once the legal issues were over, personal issues starting delaying the recording. It was mid 1993 before any recording started. Once it it did start, the recording went at a snail’s pace. The follow up Second Coming was finally released in December of 1994 in the UK and not until mid 1995 in the United States.
Whatever the opposite of “striking while the iron is hot” is, that is what you would use to describe their sophomore effort.
Right after the release of Second Coming, band members started leaving. First Reni and then John Squire. By 1996 they were officially disbanded with only two studio albums the total of what they had under their belt.
For fifteen years that looked like that was all that we would see of The Stone Roses, but in 2011 Brown and Squire made amends, and in October they announced that they would do a short world tour, a documentary about the band, and as of this writing there are rumors of a possible new album.
In a way they reminds me of the great film director Terrence Malick, who in 1973 made Badlands, to much critical acclaim. Then took 5 years to follow it up with another masterpiece in Days of Heaven in 1978. He then disappeared from movies altogether for almost 20 years before releasing The Thin Red Line in 1997. Since then he has made two more amazing films, so perhaps The Stone Roses can do the same.
My take on Rolling Stone’s take:
RS: “For a few glorious moments, The Stone Roses looked like they might lead another British Invasion. Instead, they fell apart – but first they made this incredible album, highlighted by the ecstatic eight-minute-long “I Am the Resurrection.” It single-handedly launched Nineties Brit pop.”
My thoughts exactly.
Something I’ll only be able to say a few times during my reviews: this is a PERFECT POP RECORD. The fact that the album didn’t make the initial Rolling Stone magazine list and was only added in at #497 in the book version of the list (a least it didn’t get replaced in 2012 list like Head Hunters did, even though it did fall down one spot) makes me want to tell the Rolling Stone voters “c’mon hit your free throws.” They actually thought 4(!) Madonna albums are better than The Stone Roses?
New Musical Express, the UK based publication, voted this album the greatest British album of all time and Observer Music Monthly voted it the greatest album of all time. While I doubt I will agree with those publications once this journey through the Rolling Stone 500 is completed, it is the best album I’ve listened to yet from the list. I don’t feel like there is a bad moment on the album. It’s beautiful, catchy, rocking, and influential. I don’t think I could give it a higher rating.
5 stars out of 5, Perfect rating
My ranking of the Rolling Stone 500 that I’ve reviewed thus far:
1. The Stone Roses- The Stone Roses
2. Herbie Hancock- Head Hunters
4. B.B. King-Live in Cook County Jail