The Stone Roses reunion hoopla is pretty much over, for the time being at least.
A handful of festival dates remain to be played and then we wait to see if the beast still lives thereafter. The gigs they’ve played have left a legacy that pretty much explains just why there is nothing quite like music to touch the soul and either ignite it or leave it stone cold. Those that went offer war stories of blissed out evenings, wandering down memory lane while simultaneously being thrilled by a band supposedly on fine form. Those who have only caught clips on youtube can only marvel at the never ending capacity of Ian Brown to fail to find a tune, even with the help of a SatNav.
I passed on the Roses this time, partly because the open air gig does nothing for me at my rapidly advancing age, mainly because I wanted to leave my memories of them intact. I was one of the lucky ones you see. On May 12, 1989, I saw them before the hype took over, in a tiny club, standing about twice as far from John Squire as you are from the screen you’re reading this on. The debut album was a couple of weeks old, ‘She Bangs The Drums‘ was still awaiting release as a single. They were getting attention, people were talking about them, but they were still a phenomenon waiting to happen.
There are plenty of bands who I listen to more often than them, bands who I’ve seen in the flesh more often, but even now, 23 years on, that gig remains one of my cornerstone musical moments. I doubt that Brown sang any better then than he does now, as a band they were possibly less accomplished than they are today after 20 years at their craft, but in that spit and vomit club with sweat dripping off the ceiling, there was no doubting that this was something incredibly special, that it was about to go overground, that nothing could stop the Stone Roses.
Except, perhaps, themselves.
The following day, I got up early and bought the album on cassette. I rarely did that, but I was driving somewhere and I wanted – needed – to hear that record and hear it immediately, an emotion that has only rarely been repeated since then. It didn’t disappoint, and it hasn’t since. It is a genuinely extraordinary piece of work, not necessarily in songwriting terms, although some of it is sublime, but in the creation of a sound, an atmosphere. Like all great bands, they created a place where they and their music existed, separate from the competition, however good their contemporaries like the Happy Mondays might have been. Madchester might have embraced them both, and plenty of others, but the Roses were always apart from it, because they were the special ones.
Not only were they good, very good, they had an inherent understanding of how important it is to create an aura, a mystique, a magic. They were ubiquitous for a spell in 1990, but even then, they kept a lid on it. The stunts at the BBC and the paint job at Revolver followed the bad boy blueprint of the likes of the Rolling Stones, but they were more than that. They penned songs with titles like ‘What The World Is Waiting For‘ and ‘I Am The Resurrection‘, when Brown spoke to the press it was to tell them that his band was the most important in the world, and they moved from clubs to events; Ally Pally, Spike Island, Glasgow Green. Above all, they had the music to back it up, but only together. There was something about that foursome, like Morrissey, Marr, Joyce and Rourke, that just worked to perfection, a blessing that they later took for granted as the band fragmented.
But for those 12 months, they were the greatest game in town and, had they called it quits before the trials and tribulations of ‘The Second Coming‘, they would be in the pantheon.
And that’s why I didn’t go this time and haven’t experienced a single pang of regret. In my mind, they are still that group from 1989, and that puts them up there with the very, very best.
That’s the way I’m keeping it.
(Dave Bowler – firsttouchonline.com)