Tense Tory Love Songs, The Stone Roses’ Second Coming. Or, Great Gestations.

I’ve written a couple of posts about The Stone Roses before, and they’ve mainly been celebratory which is right because they were important to me at that formative age.  I’ve mentioned that I might write about how I went off them but I’ve been putting it off because, well, it seems a bit harsh.  You know, I got enough out of what they did from 88-90 to last a lifetime and expecting something similar from the same people might be a bit much.  I mean, yeah, The Beatles.  But you’re not going to compete with them, are you?  If anything, The Beatles are underrated.  Perhaps I could balance out what’s going to be a fairly big moan here by writing something about how The Beatles are under appreciated.  Anyhow…

The Stone Roses. I do love ’em.  Even now.  Or at least I love them in terms of the mental image that I choose to retain of them.  I love what they stood for, I love their songs (apart from a lot of Second Coming‘s, for reasons I’m going to go into in quite some depth) and I love the sound of them playing together; there really was nobody else to touch them when they’re on.

I’ve written about how I used to go and see them a lot in 1989 – an awful lot.  They were great.  I went to the first Second Coming show (at Bridlington Spa, the location of my first concert, Gary Glitter) and that was it for me.  I know a lot of people were delighted about the reunion, but I didn’t want to go to any of those shows, either.  So I didn’t.  I have paid attention to YouTube clips and, while I wouldn’t have picked up on the atmosphere, and recordings on people’s phones aren’t the ideal thing to go on, there’s also the film – Made Of Stone, which had higher fidelity footage of them, so I do have some idea of what it was like.  Watching it didn’t make me regret my decision.

To my mind, the elements of the reunion that stick in my throat a bit are nothing but a remnant of what went wrong during Second Coming.

Which is to say…

1. The guitar playing.

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John Squire playing guitars: left: 1989, right, 1995.  Everything about 1989 is right, everything about 1995 is wrong.  The guitar, the hat, the shirt, the leather tassels on his wrist.  I couldn’t even bring myself to put a photo of him in one of his sodding waistcoats, but you get the drift.

The first album – Squire’s said that, in his opinion, what was wrong with the first lp was his approach to the guitar playing; “…The sound of a two guitar band, which we weren’t”. He says he “completely reconstructed what (he) played live”. He says it didn’t have “…The stamp of a real guitar player on it, except a couple of the solos”. What he liked best was playing Bye Bye Badman, because he hadn’t worked out exactly what he was going to play.

In short, on an album that a lot of people, not least me,  would describe as largely, if not totally, flawless, John Squire would not. Because of the guitar playing.

My perception is that he got the playing exactly right on the first lp. What he played propelled, complemented and improved the vocal melodies.

The songs’ construction on the first lp was, by everyone concerned, meticulous.  Ian Brown has spoken of how he and Squire would agonise for days over a single word, because it was important. Squire would spend all his time working out guitar parts, locked in a room with a portastudio. There are numerous accounts of how he devoted his life at that time to writing guitar parts. Not practising, but working out specific parts for specific songs. Ian Brown has spoken of writing vocal melodies on a keyboard. That’s fairly unusual for a guitar band. Their meticulousness set them apart from their peers. “The Stone Roses never winged it, because (they) never had to,” Brown said.

At the time of the first lp, people liked one hell of a lot of different things about The Stone Roses. They were the whole package. In 1989, with apologies if I miss anything, the songs, the playing, the hair, the shoes, the trousers, the hats, the accent, the politics, the interview approach, the Pollock thing, the French student revolt thing, the films they liked, the books they liked, the religious element of the lyrics, funk and the 70s revival beginning here after years in the wilderness, the manager being entertaining by himself, the anti-rock stance, the instruments themselves, the anti-monarchy attitude, the anti-laddism, , the anti-Americanisation stance, the gang-mentality, the druggy angle, the psychedelic wig-outs, the lack of showbusinessness about them, their unwillingness to jump through hoops, their art terrorism towards FM Revolver, and I’m sure there’s more, but that’ll do for now.

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The Stone Roses: left, 1989: PG Tips Chimpanzees with guitars. Right 1994.  John’s rocking a British Rail t shirt, Ian a shit cap, Reni’s got one of my dad’s jackets on and Mani is modelling himself on John Motson.  Pfff.

Even when they didn’t have any records out, all of those things still stood because they’d not blown it. They might have bottled it, but no-one could prove anything.  And from that, perhaps Second Coming’ could never have been anything but a letdown. Fair dos.

What could they do? Repeat the first lp, basically. Same again wouldn’t have been a Roses thing to do.

However, what they did was to ditch absolutely everything.  The baby was chucked out with the bathwater.  Some of it had to go, otherwise, it would have been the same thing again – maybe.

For me, and I’ve said it before, Squire’s entire philosophy changed at some point. He’d been asked at the Spike Island press conference (1990) if he was the best guitar player in the world and he’d said he was. I agreed with him, but whereas I believed it, I don’t think Squire did.

My idea was that I liked the parts being worked out. I can see how people might not rate Squire in 1989; he wasn’t capable of playing the end of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ – almost at all. He wasn’t fast enough. He needed to get the hang of that bit, I can dig that. The effects did cover up certain weaknesses in his approach, it’s a fair cop. He was great in the studio, but live, he had his wobbles, just as Ian Brown did. I would say that Ian Brown’s singing, live, covered up almost all of Squire’s inadequacies, by virtue of it being much worse, much more often than Squire’s playing.

At some point during Second Coming‘s gestation – possibly before (m)any songs were written at all – Squire sat down and learned how to play the guitar properly. Meaning, learning how to jam. Live. Making it up as he went along and staying in key and it all sounding like it works. It might be inspired and it might not. He learned how to ‘wing it’. Playing a generally distorted Les Paul covers up a multitude of sins. Lots of harmonics coming off it. A bit lazy: the opposite of the meticulous approach of 1988-9.

The songs that followed were, to my ears, shoehorned around guitar parts that Squire improvised to loops. It’s a fine distinction between improvising and writing guitar parts. There is overlap, for sure. But once an idea has begun, it’s what he did with it next that changed. Reni described the recording of Second Coming as loops, great basslines (to which Squire would then say, “No, you’re doing this here”) and then Squire would doodle loads of messy guitar onto it. That’s the total opposite of him sat in his room, working out guitar parts.  Meticulously.

It’s been described as a cocaine album.  Squire reputedly had his nose in a bag a lot of the time.  If this record doesn’t put you off twat powder, I don’t know what will.  The title of this post is a bastardisation of the song on it, ‘Ten Storey Love Love Song’ and the reason I’ve written ‘tense’ and ‘Tory’ is because of the cocaine element of it.  Cocaine strikes me as a Tory drug – you know, it’s all about me, me, me.  And it makes people tense.  My favourite quotation about cocaine is from Jarvis Cocker who said – and I’m paraphrasing, “You never hear anyone saying, “Oh, he was a right nobhead before, but since he’s started taking cocaine, he’s really come out of his shell, you know, he’s turned out great, thanks to cocaine.”‘ Which I entirely agree with.

I mention his guitar playing because that’s what I spent most time thinking about later on – working out how they were put together, learning how to play it so I could understand it better.  I’m implying, so far, that Squire’s guitar playing is the main problem with the album – a popular viewpoint, and an immediately obvious one.  But, like Brown’s wobbly vocals covered up some of Squire’s hobby playing live in 1989, Squire’s Second Coming guitar approach distracts us from the many other problems that are there.  Many of them are still Squire’s fault, if you ask me…

2. The Lyrics.

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Left: Waterfall lyrics: great.  Right: Good Times lyrics: markedly less great.

Let’s start, logically, at the beginning with Breaking Into Heaven

The title is ‘Breaking Into Heaven’, but the chorus is “I’m going break right into Heaven”. John Lennon said that ‘just’ was a bullshit word in a song. It was just a filler word to let the melody work. In this case, ‘right’ is a bullshit word and one that would never have made it onto the first lp. ‘Breaking Right Into Heaven’ sounds shit. In 1989, they would have sorted that out.  From spending days finding the right word in 1988 to this?  Pfff.

I mentioned the ‘right’ bit to a mate one and they said,  “Right’ adds a touch of brutality” – but I think the opposite of that. Have you seen ‘Brasseye’? When Geoff Boycott is telling young offenders that they have to get right out of bed, not halfway out of bed – but right out of bed. That’s what it sounds like to me. What’s the alternative? John’s Squire’s going to partially break into Heaven? What? Bend the porch door a bit? The ‘right‘ fills up the meter of the lyrics. I accept that Lennon was good at dishing it out and less good at taking it.  He might have done it, but The Roses wouldn’t have in 1988-9. They might have in 1990: the ‘One’ in the chorus of ‘One Love’ is an earlier example of the sloppiness creeping in – stretching a one syllable word over two syllables just doesn’t work. ‘One Love, we don’t need another love’ – it’s shit. It’s unnecessary. It’s going along the lines of the “Spanish Inquisition” sketch, needless description of something already made clear – “One Love, we don’t need another love. The initial love is ample. Adequacy has been achieved by the introduction of the primary love. Further loves would be fatuous, once a love has been encountered, that is sufficient, loves that follow are needless adornments to the first, functional and filling love, previously described”. We get it. One Love. No more, no fewer.  What happened to economy?  Fucking melisma, that’s what.

John Squire is (was) a man who evidently values hard work. Hours being put in and what have you. It’s what worked for him. All the old stories about his life spent on his own with a guitar and portastudio, you know. It was how he managed to come up with his guitar lines and melodies. It was about honing and refining and his (then quite) limited palette that resulted in the first lp and songs around that time.

Reni, on the other hand, is a person who could come up with the goods and, probably irritatingly to Squire, he could come up with them spontaneously

Everyone speaks of him never playing a song the same way twice, John Beckie, the producer of the first album speaks of him constantly wanting to try ideas – percussion, backing vocals, etc.

Take ‘Something’s Burning’, Reni plays the vibraphone. It’s great, and it’s Reni pulling it all together and giving it the atmosphere that it depends on. It’s a great record, but it’s not a great song, so to speak. That’s down to Reni. Probably straight off the top of his head.

And Squire has spent hours, days, weeks even going over and over the same bits, getting them just so.

It’s going to piss you off, isn’t it? It’s enough to make you sick.

Reni worked in a totally different way to Squire because, let’s face it, he had natural talent in spades. Squire’s talent was his patience and he applied it to songs first and then guitar playing. Reni’s way didn’t suit Squire and the other way around, too.

I daresay Brown and Squire no longer worked well together after a while, but when, specifically? When John got really good on the guitar.

I think they had a really delicate balance that worked perfectly around about 1988-89. After that, John’s radical improvement on the guitar and controlling the drums by playing to loops and writing Mani’s basslines as usual meant that he was in control.

I don’t know whether he did it on purpose or if he even planned it – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually a lot less contrived than it might sound like. I think his intentions were pure, myself. How could getting better at your instrument be bad? It makes no sense, does it? Not logically, but Gareth Evans, their manager until Second Coming understood it – to give him credit. It’s the weaknesses that give bands their character. John was far from weak in the guitar department, but he wasn’t the best guitarist in the world in 1989. The point is, he was the best guitar player that The Stone Roses could have had. And The Stone Roses were the best band in the world because they were the best mix of players and people at the right time.

But what about the actual best band ever?  The Beatles.  Paul is shit hot on bass, guitar and piano. Not to mention singing. John was a singer with a voice that connected with people. It rang true. As a guitar player, he wasn’t going to win many awards, but you knew it was him when you heard it. George, again, like Squire, not a natural, but meticulous in his planning and playing. Not the best guitar player in the world, but he was the best player The Beatles could have had. Although, yes, Paul played a lot of it later on. Ringo? Much maligned. Again, exactly the same thing that applied to Squire and Harrison – perfect for The Beatles.

It’s how the ingredients work together that makes the magic. There are a million guitar players better than Keith Richards, but none of them would be half as good in The Stones as he was.

If Keef suddenly turned into some shredding maniac and applied that to Satisfaction, would it be better? It wouldn’t, would it?  It’d be shit.

Logically, you’d think that ‘better‘ guitar playing would make the band ‘better’, but it doesn’t. Not when you get past a certain point. The great guitar players sound like nobody else. Squire sounded like nobody else in 1989, but by 1995, he sounded like everyone else. A million kids working in guitar shops can’t be wrong, can they?

The guitars (still) are distorted and heavily reverbed. And there are lots of them.  Too many.  They don’t serve the song, the song is a platform from which Squire can show everybody how good a guitar player he is now. Which doesn’t bode well for the songs, does it? Or the other members of the band. Mani – playing “…incredible stuff”  was being told what to play instead.  Reni being replaced with loops (specifically ‘Zulu’ during the intro of this, or someone else at certain points) and Ian Brown being left to scrape what he could out of his marijuana scorched voice. It’s the John Squire Experience alright, and the only thing meticulous about any of it is how he made sure it was all about him and nobody else.

More generally, lyrically, Ian Brown has to sing ‘baby’, like he’s an American, about meeting the devil at the crossroads. ‘Tightrope’ is quite good in places and horrendous in others. ‘Good Times’ takes the worst parts of ‘Tightrope’ and turns them up to 11. ‘Tears’ continues the mawkish, cliched, self-pity of ‘Good Times’ and, against the odds at this point, does it perhaps even worse than that. ‘How Do You Sleep”s slight and ‘Love Spreads’ has its moments of being very good and, again, moments of being very bad.

So, to attempt to separate the baby from the bathwater, I’d argue that the ‘baby’ part was, largely, the meticulousness of the construction of the first lp – probably as a result of Squire’s singlemindedness and his limitations on the guitar at that point in time. The care that had been taken over every single element of that first lp was gone. Replaced by adequate, faster but generic, guitar playing that meant Squire could look good. And, basically, not give that much of a shit about anybody else.

When ‘Love Spreads’ came out, I thought that probably, that wouldn’t be the best thing on it. There’d be some brilliant songs on it and at least a couple of ‘I Am The Resurrection’-esque (ie – funky, as opposed to guitarolympics) instrumental bits. Well, ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ was sort of a bit like the first lp. As was ‘How Do You Sleep’, but less good.  ‘Love Spreads’ turned out to be the closing track – which made it doubly disappointing as a first single – imagine putting ‘I Am The Resurrection‘ out as the first single from The Stone Roses – sounds alright, but the last song on the album as the first single makes for an anti-climactic lp. Oh, and the ‘I Am The Resurrection’-esque funky instrumental sections turned out to be the guitarolympics.

Some of it was shockingly bad: ‘Straight To The Man’, ‘Good Times’, ‘Driving South’, ‘Daybreak’ and ‘Tears’ are bloody awful.  Absolute travesties.  Lyrically, musically, harmonically, melodically: the whole package.  ‘Begging You’ was, at least, trying something a bit different – the sort of sounds that Public Enemy were using a couple of years previously.  Different to ‘Waterfall’, I suppose.

3. The Drumming.

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Left: Reni and kit, 1989: four piece kit, painted by Squire, couple of cymbals.  Nice hat.  Right: Reni and kit, 2013: Double kick drum, clear drums, about eight cymbals, God knows how many toms.  Shit hat.

I’ve mentioned how Mani’s contributions were nixed in favour of John Squire being in charge and saying what went, but that’s not even the worst of it.  To be fair, some of the bass playing is, by far, the best part of the whole album.  However, I don’t even think Reni’s drumming on a fair bit of it.  Obviously there are loops.  Equally obviously, these loops don’t all emanate from the sticks of Reni.  Some of them probably do but you listen to ‘Good Times’, at leastand tell me that’s Reni, because I don’t think whoever it is plays anything like Reni.

Speaking of which, I thought Reni was – possibly – the biggest problem on the reunion tours  and not just because he seems like he falls out with people quite a lot.  I don’t like double kick drum kits and I didn’t like how he played either.  Where once his drumming had swing and invention, the reunion shows, er, showed a powerhouse drummer who no longer had any interest in jazz drumming.  He was practically a heavy metal drummer.  And no, I’m not into John Bonham either – gasp.

4. The Gestation and the Expectation.

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Syd Scarb’s bag: sound service.  Clever.

The day it came out, yet again there I was, standing at the counter of Syd Scarb’s watching the assistant open the box up to sell me the first copy.  I wanted to like it so very, very much.  The Stone Roses were my band.  Other people had drifted away, or revised their opinion of them as time diminished their appeal for them.  I took it to my folks’ house where they had a better record player than the one I had at Desmond Avenue so I could get the most from from it – and tape it as I did.  Whereas The Stone Roses floored me from the first listen, alarm bells rang straight away.  I’d heard ‘Love Spreads’ and thought, ‘Ah, first single, there’ll be better stuff on the album,’  To a far lesser extent, years later, when Oasis – who I never loved – brought out ‘Go Let It Out’ as first single from whatever album that was on, my ears pricked up.  I thought it was really good and I was surprised.  I still believed that the first single from an album tended not to be the best thing on it and, to be fair, ‘Love Spreads’ wasn’t the best thing on ‘Second Coming’, but ‘Go Let It Out’ shone like a diamond in a rancid heap of shite.  On the way home from my folks’ house, I saw Balf and Ploggy walking down Beverley Road and they shouted to me, “Is it any good?”  I gave them the thumbs up even though I didn’t like it and I was worried about it.  ‘I’ll put the work into it and get there,’ I’d told myself.  Well, I put the work in, but get there, I didn’t.

For a bit, I managed to persuade myself that I did like it.  I was known as being borderline fanatical about them.  I’d been the one who went to all those gigs on my todd when no bugger else was interested.   I was the one who’d spent the time thinking about every last aspect of the The Stone Roses – and everything else they put out, I was the one who’d worked out how to play the songs on the guitar.  I’m not saying it was my entire raison d’être, but I am saying that, among our crowd, I was our resident The Stone Roses looney.  If I thought it was crap, what would that mean for me?  That I’d been wrong for so many years.

And that was the other thing:  it was a long time between the albums.  Five years.  I’d seen all the great gigs before I went to university, had the album before I went there, One Love had come out about three months before I started.  The odd cash in Silvertone single with unheard b-side recordings came out while I was at York.  What I’m saying is that I spent the entire time at university waiting for that second album to come out.  As there was no internet then, I used to get the music press – NME and Melody Maker every Wednesday morning and comb them for any slight tidbits relating to their progress.  Often, there was something, but it tended to be unsubstantiated tittle-tattle.  In my third year, whilst revising for my finals, the NME put them on the cover.  This would be late spring 1993, by which time I was in need of some good news, what with my girlfriend having dumped me from Italy, my dog having died, having some virus that laid me up for weeks, my having taken a great big shit in my own nest because I’d two timed two girls who lived in the same house as me and they’d found out about it – unsurprisingly – and broken fingers from having to be in goal because I was too ill to run around at five a side.  The article was about this journalist hunting them down and asking them what was going on.  It was fairly lengthy but also insubstantial.  The album wouldn’t come out for another 18 months, by which time my fingers had healed, I wasn’t throwing up left, right and centre, the dog was still dead although my folks had gotten themselves another one, I just ran away from the girls I’d treated so badly and my girlfriend had dumped me again a couple more times, the last time for good.

I was quite prepared to go with them to pastures new, but I suppose that my personal prejudices – not shredding on guitars, not Americanised lyrics from English people… I mean, what about ‘Waterfall?’ A song about how the Americanisation of English towns was a very bad thing?  With a painting on the inner sleeve to illustrate it, for Christ’s sake.  What happened there?  Was the Americanisation of English things alright now?  Baby?   What happened?  Great songs supported by great playing, not the other way around…

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Left: ‘Waterfall’ painting, illustrating the creeping Americanisation of Britain.  Right: the cover of ‘Love Spreads’, a photo of a cherub a bridge in Wales with a fag shoved in its mouth.  One of these illustrations has had thought put into it, the other appears in the dictionary under the definition of, “I can’t be arsed, will this do?”

The art on the sleeves was significantly worse, too. Ian’s hair was crap shorter, Mani had too much to say for himself in interviews, Reni left, John started wearing waistcoats, for fuck’s sake, and leather shit around his wrist, leaning back and busting guitar hero moves – the opposite of what he stood for in 1989.

And that’s the problem – I don’t mind change, I don’t want the same thing over and over from artists, but doing the polar opposite of everything you stood for previously isn’t the same as making a progression. ‘Fools Gold’ bore no resemblance to anything on The Stone Roses. People took a little while to get used to it, it was a departure, but it was great. It wasn’t the opposite of what went before, it was a progression. ‘One Love’ was the same sort of thing as ‘Fools Gold’, but not as good. ‘Something’s Burning’ was another progression. Meticulously put together.

Since the reformation, I have to hand it to them, I suppose. They appear to have learned lessons that really needed learning last time, although some of the organisation at Heaton Park sounded a bit cack-handed. Perhaps it’s inevitable that 75,000 people are going to be hard to serve that well and still make a profit. They warmed up well, they recognised that the Second Coming material is greatly inferior to the earlier stuff and they kept a lot of the things that people liked about them from the first time that they’d chucked out with Second Coming.

They’ve not disgraced themselves by any stretch of the imagination. The shows sounded like triumphs. Perhaps in no small part, due to the meticulous planning that’s gone into the shows.

But… I think it’s possible to sometimes do the right thing without knowing why it’s the right thing. I think that John Squire knows that everyone likes The Stone Roses and Second Coming a bit less. I’m not sure if he knows why this is the case. The reworkings of ‘Where Angels Play’, ‘Sally Cinnamon’, ‘Fools Gold’ and, most horrifically, ‘Something’s Burning’ didn’t fill me full of confidence for new songs – the subtleties of 1989-90 had been entirely lost, to be replaced with bloody fucking noodling.

To me, Something’s Burning – on the reunion – does sound bluesy. Not BB King bluesy, not Robert Johnson bluesy, more sort of Jimmy Page, frankly. A bit Hendrix, maybe in places.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcv2mHor … 01AA4AF069

This is from Dublin.  For instance, the distorted chords at the start aren’t anything you’d find in about 1990 coming from Squire. The first four seconds of this brief clip are all I need to hear to think he’s playing bluesy rock. He’s not crap at it, it’s just not my thing. It’s not Fleetwood Mac, it’s not Peter Green, Peter Green had chops and taste. And plenty of both. Well, plenty of taste, anyway, which is the more important of the two, in my opinion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbZ8Ogmpl0M

This is Something’s Burning from 1990, Stockholm. It could be Michael Caroli (Can), but with a bit more swing. By this point, he was well on the way to becoming the guitar hero he is understandably seen as now. He wasn’t quite there, but this is one of the few songs that they did a lot better back then than now. And it’s down to Squire. The 1990 one has dynamics and it’s the sound of a band playing together. What’s going on now isn’t that, it’s Squire winging it, lazily. Playing it like he is now is, ironically, lazy. In terms of the lyrics and Squire’s general work ethic. Learning to play like he does now and doing it fast sounds like hard work to me and I don’t like what it sounds like on this and in bits of other songs. It’s like putting the work in now so that you don’t have to later, sort of. It sounds sloppy and the distortion doesn’t work for me in the slightest.

And that was borne out by the total bilge that was ‘All For One’ and, to a slightly lesser extent, ‘Beautiful Thing’.  

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Against all odds, the sleeve for All For One is even worse than the Second Coming covers.

On some level, John Squire still has something to prove, in terms of his guitar playing. What he has to prove, to my mind, is that he can still apply that rarest of qualities to his guitar playing: restraint.  To be fair, in 1989, he didn’t actually demonstrate any restraint at all because he just wasn’t capable of doing anything ostentatious. Since he has been able to do it, he’s mainly failed to display any signs of restraint whatsoever. Why would he suddenly start now? My guess was that he wouldn’t.  And I don’t think he has.

In terms of getting back together, I wondered if they’d addressed any old wounds, or just preferred to ignore them and just start again. I don’t know.  It’s harder to address issues, but it’s generally better in the long run if you do.   Obviously, what went wrong is open to debate, but when it went wrong is not. That happened during the making of Second Coming, everybody knows that.  As it evidently all went tits up and Brown fell out with Reni (again), it would appear that either they didn’t address any of their issues or, if they did, either new ones surfaced or the old ones just reared up again.

The Stone Roses never took the easy way out in 1989. Then, they always took the easy way out from the writing and recording of Second Coming onwards.

To draw a final analogy, when you’re renovating a room, it always looks worse halfway through ripping the old decor to pieces than before you started. You could just paper over the cracks, but you’re only going to have to do it all over again soon. It’s better to get to the root of the problem and sort it out, however messy it might be – the end results could so much better if you do.

So, why was it so bad?  I’ve mentioned that Squire had, it turned out, absolutely no idea at all what was so good about the first album, but it wasn’t just that.  Reni lost it, Ian lost and Mani was the bass player.

I think, if there’s a glib explanation for something, I’ll probably find it and this is my glib explanation for why The Stone Roses had and then lost it.  Which happens to everyone, doesn’t it?  I mean, Aretha Franklin who died recently.  A lot of her sixties stuff is as good as anything ever committed to vinyl.  On the other hand, ‘Who’s Zoomin’ Who’ in the 80s.  Her cover of ‘Jumping’ Jack Flash’.  They’re, if anything, even worse falls from grace than The Roses’.

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Left: Aretha Franklin, 1967.  Right: Aretha Franklin, 1985.  You don’t need to listen to the records to realise which one is fucking great and which one is a load of crap.  Just look at the pictures.  Mind you, 1985 was, as I’ve said before, the worst year in the world for sartorial elegance.

Anyhow, the glib answer is that, after the first album, they were just too old.  Even in 1989, they were all about 28, even if they looked younger.  By the time the hoo-hah from 1989-90 had settled down – and yeah the court case didn’t help, dragging it out as it did – they were in their thirties, married with kids, living miles away from each other whereas previously, they lived in one another’s pockets, rehearsed every day and were, in a lot of ways, everything good about being in a gang.  A nice gang.  A creative gang, you know.

When they moved away and into houses with their partners and started having kids, their priorities changed and fair enough: it’s not reasonable to be running around acting like you’re ten when you’ve got babies to look after.

Cyril Connolly said, “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”  and I think there might be an element of truth in that.  For some people, at least.  Certainly it fits for The Roses.  Cyril Connolly was a critic, but he had some good quotations, apart from that one, which is probably the most famous, he also said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  Which I, at least can get behind.  He had a good turn of phrase, did Cyril.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 17.23.06.png
Left: Cyril Connolly.  Right: Gareth Evans – The Roses’ manager.  Ever seen in the same room together?  I doubt it.

But, ultimately, I think that their age was also a big part of their success.  Had they made it in their early twenties, when they were, more or less, a Spear Of Destiny tribute act, I don’t think they would have come up with what we know as their first album.  It’s a mature work with no negative elements that come with a bit of maturity.  The time was perfect.  Much later or earlier, and I don’t think it would have worked.  Which their manager, Gareth Evans understood, even if he ripped them off.  Second Coming is just dross.  I don’t think there has ever been a time when a record like that would grasp the imagination of the public the way that The Stone Roses did.

Yeah, it would have been nice to have had more than one great album and, to be fair, an album’s worth of exceptional b sides, but I don’t think it was ever on the cards, really – a great second album.

When it became apparent that the reunion’s wheels had fallen off and Reni and Brown’s old animosities had surfaced once again, Ian Brown said, “Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened,”

And I am glad they got together again, even if I didn’t want to witness it.  I’m pleased they got a big payday, which they never had before, due to the Silvertone contract.  But most of all, I’m pleased they created The Stone Roses because, even if none of them ever make anything remotely as good again – and they won’t – it doesn’t matter and I’m not sad because it won’t ever be over, because it’s a record and that’s what records are – a record of a certain time.

Long live The Stone Roses.

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