So, it finally happened. After 15 years apart, and almost the same length of time devoted to ‘Will they, won’t they?’ debates, The Stone Roses finally announced their reformation. All four members appeared at a press conference on Tuesday to announce headline shows at Headon Park in 2012, a tour and even a new album.
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s close to thirty years since the band originally formed. Singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire were childhood friends, and had several false starts before they named their band The Stone Roses in 1983. The band went through various line-ups with Alan ‘Reni’ Wren joining as drummer in 1984, and bassist Gary ‘Mani’ Mountfield joining in 1987. After releasing three singles that failed to chart, the band went into the studio in late 1988 to begin work on their debut album.
Working with producer John Leckie (who also produced Radiohead’s The Bends, and several other acts during the ‘Britpop’ era), they recorded what would come to be regarded as one of the greatest debut albums ever recorded. Opening with ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, The Stone Roses was a statement of intent, with Brown singing ‘Kiss me where the sun don’t shine, the past was yours but the future’s mine’ on ‘She Bangs The Drums’. The album was full of ideas, with many different sounds over the 11 tracks. One track, ‘Don’t Stop’ was in fact earlier song ‘Waterfall’ played in reverse, with different lyrics. The song closes with the epic ‘I Am The Resurrection’. Driven by Reni’s powerful drumming, the song builds as Mani adds bass, Brown starts singing, and then Squire’s guitars kick in. It teases a chorus, with the band twice stopping themselves from letting go, before Brown announces that ‘I am the resurrection, and I am the light’. It ends with almost 5 minutes of soaring music, with Reni, Mani and Squire seemingly unwilling to ever stop playing.
‘Made Of Stone’ and ‘She Bangs The Drums’ were released as singles from the album, but by the end of 1989, the band were already moving on, releasing the hugely influential ‘Fools Gold’. At almost 10 minutes long, it was a new sound for the band, almost a dance tune, with Mani and Reni leading the way with their bass and drum hooks. Squire makes full use of his wah-wah pedals to sprinkle the track various riffs. It became the band’s biggest hit to date, reaching number 8 in the charts, and has been critically lauded ever since.
In 1990, the band played what has become a legendary gig on Spike Island in Widnes. Over 27,000 attended what is known as ‘The Woodstock of the baggy generation’. In truth, it seems that the gig itself was not that special. The sound quality was poor, and the organisation was criticised, but in reality the event, not the music, was what felt important to those attending. It seemed like The Stone Roses were on their way to becoming on THE great British bands, but an increasingly bitter fight with their record label would stall their momentum.
The label in question was Silvertone, and the band were unhappy with how they were being paid by the label, and went to court seeking to be released from their contract. Silvertone was owned by Zomba Records, and in September 1990, they took out an injunction against the band to prevent them from recording new music with another label. In May 1991, a court sided with the band, releasing them from their contract, but Silvertone appealed, delaying work on a second album further. It would be 1993 before the band would begin work on what would become Second Coming. Lengthy recording sessions followed, with John Leckie leaving the project. ‘Love Spreads’ was released as the lead single from the album in November 1994. It was the first new Roses track in more than four years, and it was a different sound from what had come before.
Second Coming, released in December 1994, was not what most Stone Roses fans had been expecting. More guitar-driven than before, it’s certainly not a bad album, but with their debut album influencing a new wave of British bands and with Britpop flourishing, it seemed strangely out of step with what was going on around it. The album opens with ‘Breaking Into Heaven’, which begins with an extended four minute intro, before the song kicks in. It’s clear from the beginning that John Squire’s guitar work is going to dominate the album, but Second Coming has been somewhat unfairly criticised over the years. There are some dance influences on tracks like ‘Begging You’ and there’s still experimentation with different sounds. But less than two years after its release, The Stone Roses would be no more.
The next two years were nothing short of disastrous for the band. For reasons never fully explained, Reni would leave in March. A planned ‘secret’ come-back tour was scheduled for April, but cancelled after being announced by the music press. The band had been booked to headline Glastonbury, but were forced to cancel after Squire broke his collarbone in a mountain biking accident (they were replaced by Pulp, and their own headline show helped establish them as one of Britpop’s foremost bands). A tour was finally announced for November and December and sold out almost immediately. Squire left the band in April 1996, but Mani and Brown soldiered on, recruiting a new band as they prepared for headline performances at the Benicassim and Reading festivals. But the Reading show was a disaster. Reading crowds have never been known for their patience, and they booed and threw objects at the stage as Brown’s voice was painfully off key and the new band struggled to make an impact. The band finally split in October.
But the band members would have success in other projects. Although Reni seemed to disappear completely, Mani joined Primal Scream, and became a key member as the band recorded Vanishing Point and XTRMNTR, two of their best albums. Squire first formed a new band, The Seahorses (an anagram of which was He ‘Hates Roses’) and their debut album reached number two in the charts, and spawned four top 20 singles. After their split, Squire released two solo albums in 2002 and 2004, and has also held many exhibitions of his artwork, which was always used as cover art for the Roses singles and albums. Ian Brown had the most consistent success, embarking on a solo career and releasing six albums between 1998 and 2009. All of the albums reached the top 20 in the charts, and he had nine top 20 singles.
In the last five years or so, rumours of a reunion persisted. A 20th anniversary edition of their debut album was released in 2009, as Mani claimed that he wanted to get the band to reform to celebrate it. The sticking point was always Brown and Squire’s relationship, the childhood friends having little communication since the split of the band. In April of this year, it was reported that a reunion was close after all four members had attended the funeral of Mani’s mother. Although this was denied, rumours grew stronger, and speculation grew earlier this month, before Tuesday’s press conference was announced. Now The Stone Roses are back, and maybe it’s just what the world’s been waiting for.