Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent

The Stone Roses made some middle-aged people very happy today, by announcing that they will play Heaton Park in June 2012.

Stone roses are common in Manchester, because the city lay within the county of Lancashire, and Lancashire’s emblem is a red rose.

When, during the ’80s, a band emerged called ‘The Stone Roses’, I imagined some boys wandering round town (stoned), obsessing about architectural details.

The opening shots of this video show some local buildings as they were in the late ’80s, in particular Exit on Oldham Street (opposite Afflecks Palace) and The International, Anson Road, Rusholme, where the band had a residency:

The Stone Roses – Sally Cinnamon (1987)

But then, one night, someone wrote ‘The Stone Roses’ on buildings all along Oxford Road, and there was general outrage across Manchester. The graffiti wasn’t New York subway-style – it was toilet-wall-scrawl; not all that big… but obvious, because the walls which had been targetted were otherwise completely clean.

Everyone seemed quite sure that it was the band who had done it… although I’m not sure how people knew this.

So suddenly, the boys who delighted in architectural detail (as The Stone Roses existed in my imagination) had become building-defacers! It was a shocking U-turn!

The name ‘The Stone Roses’ sounded so similar to ‘The Rolling Stones’, that it was like a tribute-band name. So I was unsurprised to discover that many of The Stone Roses’ lyrical ideas seemed to come from ‘Sympathy For The Devil’… both the Stones’ song, and the film of the same name: “I don’t have to sell my soul, He’s already in me”, etc.

During the mid-80s, The Smiths’ Morrissey perfected his messiah-act, setting himself up as the patron saint of the lonely and dispossessed – baring his skinny torso, Christ-like, on national TV and singing about the martyrdom of Joan Of Arc, with added irony, of course.

The Stone Roses clearly wanted to create a similar effect, but they weren’t coy and sophisticated like Morrissey… they couldn’t be bothered with hints and suggestions. So they just blatantly lifted words straight out of the New Testament…. ‘I am the resurrection and I am the light.’ It was a lazy, air-headed approach… but it was also honest and simple: ‘I want to be adored.’

I don’t remember many of my friends being impressed when the first album came out in 1989, in spite of the universal acclaim which it reportedly received. But some did go to the concert at Spike Island in 1990… because the event was unusual and much-hyped.

Spike Island, Merseyside – May 1990

Spike Island was a chemical industrial park which was abandoned and reclaimed as a green space… so it was an appropriate destination for the e-crowd… the chemical escapists. I should have been tempted to go along… but the prospect of paying money to be stuck on an island in the middle of the Mersey with a load of people who liked the Stone Roses was very unappealing.

When I asked friends what it had been like, one complained bitterly, at length, about an unknown girl who had let her boyfriend have a good grope in front of everybody. Also, apparently the sound wasn’t very good. This was all I learned about Spike Island, apart from seeing some pictures of crowds in the papers. So, at the time, I had no sense of having missed out.

From ‘Live Forever’ A Documentary about Spike Island

A friend (a Roses fan) remarked recently that Liam Gallagher is a parody-baffoon-version of Ian Brown, and that the Stone Roses set the stage for Oasis; this excerpt from the Spike Island documentary seems to prove his point.

The Roses’ second album took too long to arrive after the first, and was a big disappointment for many people… arguably because of the huge build-up. Now the Roses have made people wait even longer for a reunion; have they made the same mistake again?

The concerts may turn out to be a much-needed exorcism of emotional baggage… a mass expression of multiple mid-life crises… unleashing forces arguably more powerful than mere youthful revolt! Or they could be a bit of a let-down.

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  1. ‘I should have been tempted to go along but the prospect of paying money to be stuck on an island in the middle of the Mersey with a load of people who liked the Stone Roses was very unappealing.’

    exactly how I felt about it at the time… really enjoyed the article !

  2. Ursula

    I remember being at college 6th form & wondering around Manchester early morning & seeing Stone Roses scrawled on Central Library – I had no idea what it was

    I wondered if anyone else remember this & it seems yes

    Was it clever marketing, I have never decided.


  3. scherben

    A minor point, but it’s a mistake I see made over and over: the New Testament quote is ” I am the Resurrection and I am the Life.”

    No quibble with the rest of the article. I really like the Liam Gallagher description.

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