“We’re Going To Rule The World Again. It’s Happening”.
The words of Ian Brown, published in The Sun this morning. The Stone Roses are officially back ladies and gentlemen, and they have unfinished business at Reading Festival.
Why now? Well who knows, last time we heard from John Squire and Ian Brown they told us we’d have to wait for Manchester City to win the Champions’ League before the boys would get back together. Given City’s resources it may only be a matter of the time, so perhaps the boys decided to jump the gun, maybe they were just bored.
We’ll find out in the coming weeks when NME and Q magazines do their inevitable splash pieces, but for now, why don’t we all remind ourselves why this is such big news, and consider whether we should actually be all that excited.
Simply put, The Stone Roses released one of the greatest debut albums imaginable. In 2003 NME named it the greatest album of all time, and in a strangely consistent move they also named it the Greatest British Album Ever in 2006 beating The Queen Is Dead, Nevermind The Bollocks and Definitely Maybe to the top spot.
As an album it was an acid-pop masterpiece. Formed of beautiful simplistic and yet somehow timeless sentiments, Brown’s vocals felt nonchalant and cocksure even when the sentiments he expressed were earnest and heartfelt. Musically The Stone Roses embraced a burgeoning drug fuelled dance culture, not as overtly as some have suggested, but the rolling rhythms, the trippy 60s playback effects, insidious bass lines, and of course, John Squire’s gorgeously layered guitar work helped create an air of acid.
But for all of the rave posturing (and let’s face it Reni looked more like a raver than a rocker) The Roses had far more in common with the Merseyside psychedelia of the 60s than pulsating D-I-Y dance of the 80s. There’s a lovely misty feeling to their work, and the band’s core trippiness derives as much from the shapeless haze of their sound as it does from their locked in rhythm section.
Of course underneath the nonchalant murk lay some of the greatest and most infectious pop songs ever penned, and many of the band’s finest works (“Fool’s Gold”, “Sally Cinnamon”, “Elephant’s Stone”), like The Smiths before them, were non-album singles. That’s not to say the album’s were devoid of their best material, The Stone Roses eponymous debut gave the world the unforgettable “I Wanna Be Adored”, the enchanting “She Bands The Drum”, “Waterfall” complete with it’s killer riff, my personal favourite “Made Of Stone”, and the career defining centerpiece “I Am The Resurrection”. Even the decidedly hit and miss follow up Second Coming gave rise to the gorgeous “Ten Story Love Song” and the mammoth riffage of “Love Spreads”.
As an influence The Stone Roses dominated Northern indie and laid the foundations for a generation of genre bending experimentation and simplification (not all good). Oasis have wore their love of The Roses on their sleeve, and even today, it’s not hard to spot Brown’s bravado and Squire’s infusions in the work of Kasabian.
Reading Festival and The Live Reputation
The Stone Roses wrote songs that simply have to be heard live; huge touching anthems, stadium filling riffs and intensely danceable rhythms, they made music that was born to be experienced. Unfortunately, The Roses proved completely inept at performing their finest works, and became known for deflation rather than elation.
Part of the problem was internal tension, as the band fell apart at the seams, the once fruitful Squire and Brown partnership became unworkable, and Reni disappeared become British rock’s great lost drummer. The band soldiered on with a Simply Red guitarist and a Rebel MC drummer but it was clear that neither Brown nor the Roses faithful were at all interested in the band anymore.
They cancelled Glastonbury in 1995, and played Reading and Benacassim in 1996 without Reni and Squire, where they were booed and bottled. Quickly becoming a laughing stock.
Today we point to Razorlight as Reading’s the worst headliner, and we cringe at the underwhelming Red Hot Chili Pepper’s performance of ‘07, but these bands were passable, they did their thing in an uninspiring fashion: they disappointed, The Stone Roses were shameful. The Roses were the worst Reading headliner of all time, without question. The fans weren’t just unhappy with the replacements they hated what they were hearing.
I strongly recommend you search out “Sally Cinnamon Live At Reading”, it’s an atrocity; it doesn’t just sound bad, it’s painful, it hurts to hear. You feel embarrassed for them. It was a set that was endured, and never enjoyed.
Sadly, the bad perfomances weren’t left in the past. Despite being named a God Like Genius courtesy of the NME awards, and pulling off a blistering set at Glastonbury 2005, Ian Brown has become a parody of himself. Putting in a listless performance at the Isle Of Wight in 2007, where he turned up late, sang inaudibly poorly, and pleaded for the crowd to dance and react, instead they shook their heads in silence (those who stayed to watch that is).
Reading 2009 was no better. The feedback resounded loud and clear: We love the Roses, but we don’t want to have our memories, or their legacy, tarnished.
It’s hard to be excited. The music is still inspiring, and more than a little majestic, and we know Mani still has it, but what of Brown and what of that pathetic finale? Well it’s hard to say. I think everyone wants them to pull it off. There is a bottomless well of goodwill, but no one wants to see one of their heroes embarrass themselves either.
It’s a tough call, and I for one, am not sure whether the words The Stone Roses a top a Reading Festival poster would will me with terror or delight.