Stone Roses

Stone Roses

The Stone Roses’ debut album heralded a seismic change in British music, but its impact was far from immediate. The self-titled record was released in May 1989 and barely scraped the Top 20 in the UK albums chart. Beyond a small cache of diehard fans in the music press, it was met with the sort of lukewarm reviews that cause most bands to start considering alternative career options. Not The Stone Roses, however. From the moment recording sessions for their debut were complete, their belief was absolute. They were going to be massive. It wasn’t always that way. The Manchester quartet had been in operation since 1983 and had wondered if their chance would ever come. It all changed with the addition of bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfield to the line-up in late 1987, his fleet-footed funk grooves adding a new dimension to the mix of indie and psychedelia honed by vocalist Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire and drummer Alan “Reni” Wren. But still, only in-the-know locals cottoned on to the fact something was stirring. Producer John Leckie was an early convert and coaxed the band into London’s Battery Studios to begin album sessions. Here, working through the night and never in the daytime, they nailed definitive versions of future classics such as “Made of Stone”, “She Bangs the Drums” and “I Wanna Be Adored”, with other sessions following at Rockfield Studios in Wales and Ray Davies’ Konk. Everything had been meticulously planned and rehearsed beforehand, from the incessant, rhythmic drive at the start of “She Bangs the Drums” to the frenetic wig-out that brings final track “I Am the Resurrection” to its conclusion. Today, it’s hard to fathom how The Stone Roses didn’t immediately stop everyone in their tracks upon release. One of the great debuts of all time, it captures the essence of late-’80s Britain as it morphed into the ’90s at the same time as still sounding entirely fresh. It is the sound of cultures converging, the chiming guitars of ’80s indie meeting melodic ’60s pop and the euphoria of the dance floor—a mixture that would come to be defined as the “Madchester” sound. It’s soulful too, a record where yearning coexists with bolshie antagonism. With the record out in the wild, a bigger story began to emerge. The band’s era-defining gig at Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom signalled the arrival of a new youth movement via an army of fans in bucket hats and baggy jeans, and it became a full national phenomenon when the group appeared on (legendary UK music show) Top of the Pops a few months later alongside fellow Mancunians Happy Mondays. A sea-change was afoot. The song they were playing? “Fools Gold”, a one-off single that compressed everything that was great about The Stone Roses into four and a half glorious minutes (or nine and a half, if you got the 12-inch version): the cockiness, the pulsating sway of their rhythm section, the lithe riffs, the sheer charisma of a nonchalant vocal. The song was added to non-UK versions of the album. By the time the Roses’ legendary Spike Island gig took place in May 1990—the band playing to a crowd of over 30,000 on a man-made island in Widnes—The Stone Roses had re-entered the charts five times. Its success goes way beyond chart placings, however—the further you get away from it, the more important it seems. It’s an album that planted the seed for Britpop, an album that gave Liam Gallagher the notion that he could be a singer in a band one day too, that inspired people to dream. The Stone Roses would never recapture its greatness again, and they wouldn’t need to. Here, they were caught in perfect alchemy.

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