My choice for the album that cemented my music tastes before “I left home” was easy. It had to be The Stone Roses’ first, and some would argue their only album. If any record defines a moment in my life it was this one. Manchester was a kind of mythical place for me. I was born there, my dad worked there and one half of my family was from there. But there was nothing to draw me other than that. Growing up in a village outside Crewe didn’t really define me by my birthplace, and then along came The Stone Roses. I suppose many people, north-south-east-west of the country would pretend to be “Mancunian” because of this album, but that’s because it made you want to belong, to something great. After this came out I definitely wanted to go back. It would be nearly 10 years before that happened, but that’s another story….
The band themselves came out of nowhere, and history about them would only be filled in retrospectively. Such was their impact on the scene with this album. Well actually there was no scene before they came. They laid the road out before them, and defined a scene with just this one record. Originally a “goth band”, inspired by the melodic 60s overtones of Primal Scream’s “Velocity Girl” they ambushed us all with a new sound, having released a few poor selling singles prior to this (such as So Young). Remarkably, they only had a very local Manchester following at this point as well. Then came this album was released in May 1989. I was 16 years old…
People often compare them to the Byrds, but I think their music, on this album, transcends even the definition of 60s inspired indie pop. There’s much more to them than that. From the opening bass line of “I Wanna Be Adored” gives you anticipation, a feeling that something great is about to happen….and then the power chords of Jon Squire’s guitar sailing majestically across and trickling down with beautiful finger picking. There’s rock influence, but it’s not too overpowering (unlike the second album), and there’s even the brooding goth in there. Much underrated (I feel) is Reni’s drumming. There’s deeply complex rhythms in there that no other band at the time was attempting, changes in pace and subtlety. The merging of tribal dancing and rock is beautifully displayed on ‘Waterfall’ and ‘She Bangs the Drums’. Throughout the album it’s just one majestic track after another, but they were not afraid to slow it down and make introspection the theme of the day (‘Shoot You Down’ is sublime). The lyrical conent is also sufficiently vague to make you want to know more. Who, what, where? Drawing you in piece by piece. Pulling you to them, their places. In that way they deviate hugely from other bands who would definitely follow in their steps (Oasis springs to mind here), and those of their contemporaries. But that was it. This one album. The strange thing is that it barely sold at the time, and actually there was very little knowledge of it outside of a localised scene (or so I thought at the time). But it changed everything. People instantly dressed differently. They grew their hair longer and wore baggy jeans. There was an attitude that this album brought then enabled confidence in my youth and allowed me to be part of a real scene, a movement. It was a time when I could truly say “this is my time, happening now”. This movement danced in harmony with the rave scene, shared the apparel and boosted Manchester into something that could compete with London and knock it off its pedestal. The North was better and everyone wanted to come there and be a part of it.
When I thought of what to bring along for this meeting there was no doubt. When I looked for it however I couldn’t find it. Disaster! I had bought an original copy back in ’89. I even remember the day when I purchased it in Crewe. I started dreaming that I had seen it in my collection. After a bit of social media posting and some frantic accusations around the house (sorry to my wife for this) my brother admitted that he had it. It caused so much fuss in the house. But then it would. It is that special to me. Despite it being special to me I didn’t listen to it for nearly 20 years, and only very recently bought it again on CD. In some ways I couldn’t listen to it because it was so “of its time” for me. Now I feel I can go back to that time. Back to the summer of ’89 and pretend I am a ‘manc’, swagger around the living room and dance like a monkey to it when it gets played at a wedding disco. I guess there is a whole generation of us that feel this way. It was a very definitive signpost in my life, pointing me towards my hometown, drawing me back to my roots. When I listen to it now it makes me want to go back again “where the streets are cold and lonely, and the cars they burn below me”. My eyes are filling right now…
Rob listened: In the context of a Devon Record Club evening, ‘The Stone Roses’ turned out to be something of a curate’s egg. It’s a ‘grail’ record, one that all five of those in attendance own, and that’s surprisingly rare. It’s also a record that we all agreed had made a big impact on us when we first heard it. It’s clearly a landmark of one sort or another. So why then, did we also have to admit that in 89 previous evenings of discussing the intimate nooks and crannies of each of our lives with music, this band and this record have barely been mentioned, if ever at all?
We concluded that ‘The Stone Roses’ is a total one-off. The band were never able to come anywhere near repeating its mercurial success and, as such, it stands alone now, captured in aspic more than 25 years since the echoing opening of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ first seeped into the public consciousness. Nor was it able to have any genuine lasting impact on the music that followed it. It may have been a singular achievement, but it was not one that other musicians were able to build upon any more than the band themselves. If you disagree, feel free to list the significant artists whose music was unmistakeably influenced by The Stone Roses in the comments so we can tell you you’re wrong.
And so, unique, unrepeatable, alone, it stands forgotten, I would argue.I confess that at the time, although I lived closer to the epicentre than did Steve, and was in and out of Manchester throughout, The Roses never really and truly caught a grip of me. Already several years under the sway of The Fall, Joy Division, PiL and The Smiths, The Stone Roses seemed exquisite at times, but largely unsubstantial. I wish I’d gone to some of the gigs with my mates, but even back then, I wasn’t that bothered about this lot, and the years have only served to confirm that. I suppose the thing I love most about The Stone Roses is the devotion they inspire in those who were and remain completely smitten by them. It’s a heartening reminder of the way music can light a fire at the centre of your life.
Graham listened: I still adore this album and listen to it regularly. Often while cooking, which I’m sure the band had in mind when recording. It, and they, are unique, they got it so right, just the once. The reunion should be a source for joy, but leaves me feeling the memories might have been best left alone.