It’ll be twenty years in March since “The Stone Roses” was released. I’m guessing there’ll be a bit of coverage of the anniversary around that time, so I kinda want to get it done now so that I’m not influenced by everything else that’ll be out there.
I listened to it all the way through yesterday afternoon, lying in bed. It was the first time I’ve listened to it in quite a while cos, well, I’m nothing if not an iPod tinkerer; never listening to a whole album all the way through. It’s one of the stunning things about great music, how you can forget all the negative connotations you associate with it when you just listen. Not that there are too many negatives, but I have that snobbish thing in my head, that I can’t quite shake the association of all the laddish Oasis fans that also like The Stone Roses.
1989 was a glorious year. The NME was still good, and there were decent alternatives in the Melody Maker and Sounds. Even though there were only four TV channels, if you set your video to record at the right time, there were a couple of good things to watch: Snub TV being what I still think of as the best music show I’ve seen, and there was another decent show that I forget the name of, that was on at about 2am on ITV. (The place, if I remember correctly, where this deliciously surly Ian Brown and John Squire interview was broadcast: Part 1 2 3 4.)
There were a couple of decent record shops in Lincoln. Our Price was a superb shop back then, back before chain stores lost all sense of individuality, and a couple of people that I knew ordered the indie stock. And Nottingham was just a couple of quid away on the train, where I could spend many hours just looking at stuff in my teenage Mecca: Selectadisc.
In my life, I’d just finished my A levels, and was looking forward to beginning my two-year course at the Lincolnshire College of Art and Design. I’d enjoyed the sixth form, and during that time had a partner in crime when it came to music. Looking back, it’s impossible to underestimate how important to my life that my friendship with Simon was. We got into U2 and Simple Minds around the same time. We went to see U2 together at Elland Road, Leeds in 1987. The support acts that day were the Fall, the Mission, and the Pretenders. After that, while we still liked U2, we saw that there were different avenues that we wanted to explore. He’d buy Melody Maker, I’d buy NME. We got into the Mission, Sisters of Mercy, and Fields of the Nephilim. We started listening to John Peel; taping the Fall, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Belgian New Beat, and acid house stuff, and ignoring the African stuff. And the sense of humour that I have now would be a lot different if we hadn’t have been friends. We egged each other on, being more and more sarcastic, and joking about things that shouldn’t be joked about.
The summer of 1989 was the last summer that Simon and I were as close as that. He went off to university in Nottingham, I went to off to be a ponce at art college. But, in the Wonder Years narration of my life, the summer of 1989 was pretty much the high point. I had money in my pocket from a part time job (with union wages) in the warehouse at Asda, and an extra long summer holiday. It wasn’t all fun and sunshine, cos it was impossible to not notice – as a Briton, a football fan, and specifically, a Liverpool fan – that 96 Liverpool supporters died in an entirely preventable stadium disaster. And there were, of course, very important things happening in the Eastern Bloc. But, sad to say really, I’m the centre of my life, and when the summer came along, all I really had on my plate was doing drawings of the same still life in twenty different styles that was my pre-art school homework to be shown on the first day of term. The rest of it was fun.
I went to Reading Festival. New Order blew my mind, as did downing a big bottle of cheap cider in the afternoon before watching the Butthole Surfers. Life was sweet, and its soundtrack was “Doolittle” by Pixies, “Playing With Fire” by Spacemen 3, “Technique” by New Order, “Bummed” by Happy Mondays, and the belated purchase of “Life’s Too Good” by the Sugarcubes. Having got this far, typed this much, I kinda realise this whole thing could easily be about each and every one of those albums. But it began by being about “The Stone Roses” and that’s how it should continue.
It’s just ace, isn’t it? No point in going through song by song, cos this isn’t an album review, and I’m not a music journalist. I really just wanna say how beautiful the guitar on “Waterfall” is; how confident it was to follow that by the same song backwards; how perfect an end to side one “Bye Bye Badman” is; and those last three songs on the album… Man, it doesn’t get better than that. “Shoot You Down” makes me melt; “This Is The One,” to me, is what being nearly nineteen years old sounds like; and “I Am The Resurrection.” Have you listened to it recently? Fuck, it’s perfect. If the previous song sounds like what it’s like to be nineteen, this sounds like you’re gonna be nineteen forever. It still astounds me how anyone else might’ve stopped three minutes and forty seconds in, thinking, “Yep, we’ve got a belter here.” But they didn’t, and the bass and drums made us shake our provincial indie hair like we’d never really felt like doing before, and four minutes of beautifully crafted guitar soloing, including enough distinct melodies to form the basis of a whole other album carry us along to the end where it quietens down and fades out, leaving me – and one assumes, a lot of people – thinking, that last little funky bit could’ve gone on and on and on. But that would be greedy.
All the praise that this record (and to me it is a record; a piece of vinyl with a side one and a side two) has gotten over the years may well be revisited in the next month or so, and quite likely, it’ll be written about in a far better way than I’ve just done. Maybe someone else can sum it up better, but for me, it was the sound of a wonderful summer, the first post-school summer. All previous structure in my life had finished. I was setting out on a different road now, the first road that I’d really chosen to take. I’m lucky to have been that age at that time, and have this album be at the heart of that summer’s soundtrack.