Tonight, the band, reformed for the first time properly since 1995, and take on the task of three consecutive nights headlining Manchester’s Heaton Park, playing to an excess of 150,000 people, in preparation for the remaining Summer festival circuit- and one more stab at world domination.
Rumours of the reformation had been abound for the best part of the past decade, but had always been swept aside with a similar candour with which they were first conceived. Given the acrimony that existed between frontman, Ian Brown, and guitarist, John Squire; it would have beggared belief, not so long ago, that the two could even stand to share the same hemisphere.
It was, truly, a shame what became of The Stone Roses the first time around. The band had captured that special something that was in the air with their eponymous debut, The Stone Roses. 1989 felt like a revolution in the mind for all the young twenty-somethings, brow-beaten by Thatcher’s Britain, the Eastern Communist Bloc was crumbling, and thanks to the acid house scene, young people threw off the mind-forged manacles that went alongside the bomb and Mutually Assured Destruction- though it should be noted that this notion was supplemented with a doctor’s dose of sound, light, and pharmacy.
‘Fool’s Gold’ thrust the band right to the forefront of popular music’s consciousness. The Stone Roses were about to accelerate themselves to greatness on the winds of a changing world… Where did it all go so right?
Unfortunately, reality’s fist kisses much harsher than the fickle lips of fate. The Stone Roses found themselves swallowed within a series of legal wrangles of Dickensian proportion. First with their record label Silvertone- the band wished to push on further with the aid of a major label. The courts sided with the band when they were signed to Geffen in 1991, but Zomba – owners of Silvertone – unleashed an injunction on appeal, delaying recording of a follow up to The Stone Roses, with another label, by more than a year.
Around the same time, the boys from Manchester were also entangled in money matters with their manager, former Vidal Sassoon model, Gareth Evans. The band had felt that Evans had exploited the young naïveté of the band many years earlier, as their contract with Evans had left him with cuts from the band’s proceeds far higher, and off-kilter with what was to be considered normal rates within the industry. The dispute went so far as drive bassist Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield to promise to “Piss on Evans' grave” at the first possible opportunity.
The two cases had tuned The Roses’ momentum to squalor. When the time was finally allowed for the recording of a sophomore album, the band entered Rockfield Studios in Wales with no new material rehearsed, and what ensued was 347 days of expensive 10-hour-days and increasingly fractious relationships. The Second Coming in 1994 had lost the psychedelic chiming charm that had endeared so many, and its usurping blues rock curried mixed reviews across the board from the music press. The once tightly-knit band were beginning to unravel. Drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren quit the band in 1995 without explanation, though somewhat spurious rumours of heroin use had surfaced. Squire quit in April of 1996, leaving Mani and Brown little option but to end things permanently, six months later.
Of course, this is all part of the romance of tonight’s proceedings- it’s that opportunity to remedy the wrongs of the past- it’s that one chance for all those adoring Stone Roses cohorts to get the ending they feel they deserved; not the kick in the teeth that robbed them of their youth. And the reasons presented for getting the band back together are more than honest and erstwhile. The death of Mani’s mother, last year, brought the four band members back together for the first time in 15 years. Past transgressions between band members were atoned for, and now the stage is set. They said they’d never reform out of principle, but a little bit of silver can be forgiven if they really are The Stone Roses.
"For all the morals and principles that people have, you wave fucking £20m in front of somebody and they change their mind. You'll see how their philosophies soon change." Mani, June 2009
"I think it'll happen, I really do. There is more of a chance now than ever of them getting back together. Ian [Brown]'s just split with his missus and I bet she's hit him for a few quid.” Shaun Ryder, May 2011
Happy Mondays frontman, and fellow Madchester veteran, Shaun Ryder may well have been having a jovial barb, much in line with his character, but there is an unerring truth to the matter. The 21st century has seen a veritable cornucopia of other bands reform for that one last bang for a buck. Modern music culture and that portable MP3 library has left people just a button away from getting plump with everything they want, and nostalgia is no exception. Holding on to youth and exorcising regret is the new addiction and there are few better mediums for such catharses than the music of old. There are hardly any reformed bands whom have matched, let alone exceeded former glories; but they have been able to give people a good night out, and should be recompensed in kind.
"When it's just a get-together for a big payday and everyone gets their old clothes out, that seems tragic to me ... I don't see these rumours as special or flattering. It's a symptom of the times. People who can afford to waste money on gigs now are of a certain age and The Stone Roses fit their brief." John Squire, June 2011
At some point tonight, Ian Brown will surely sing ‘Elizabeth My Dear’, a short tale of regicide written in 1989. A man of political interest and intellect may well bring up the taxpayer costs of pseudo-jingoistic spectacles such as the Royal Wedding, The Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics beforehand, then compare them with government cuts and austerity measures facing working class people. It will get a fitting reaction of cheers from a crowd tinged with a touch of two of middle-aged spread, but it will only be the bray of a weekend contrarian. A band and its crowd are always one, but if it doesn’t have the same thousand yard stare, its effects are dwindling. Nostalgia can be nice, but it will always be an open wound that won’t heal.
"I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses 18.3.09" John Squire
If you are going to Manchester this weekend, I wish you the best of times, I just won’t be able to enjoy the prospect out of unerring doubt.
…Then again, if you do have a spare ticket, I’ll have it off you. But I’ll only take it at face value.