I really don’t think you could know that I’m in heaven when you smile.

October 18, 2011

… or, Why a Stone Roses Reunion Causes Me Trepidation.

Every time a major, or even an only-important-to-a-handful-of-asinine-music-snobs band reunites, there’s always some moaner who takes to the blogosphere and goes on about tarnished legacy and the ethics of cashing-in and why it’s stupid to believe that 50-somethings can recapture the spirit of their 20-something selves, so on and so forth.

Hi, my name is Paul and this is my blog.

Before we go any further, let me explain a couple things. This shall not be a tome on why the Stone Roses shouldn’t reunite or why my opinion and holier-than-thou opinion of my fandom matters anymore than any other journalist, blogger, Facebook poster or Twitter…er. It’s just that my emotions have been flung all over the place today and as I’ve pursued a career in writing, the act of writing itself usually helps me make sense of things. I’d bet that there’s a good chance I’ll be in full support of the Roses reunion by the end of this post. Of course, betting on chances, you know … dangerous.

If I recall correctly the reunion rumors started flying hard and heavy over the weekend. Actually, more than anything, they started flying hard and heavy in May when Mani’s mother passed away and both Ian Brown and John Squire attended the funeral. At a post-funeral celebration in a nearby pub, some chancer (either by pure chance or because he was smart enough to know what he was witnessing) grabbed this photo.

Now, if you go through the annals of interviews post-1996, you’ll find that Mani (center) was always the one who pulled for a reunion. Despite having the (arguably) steadiest career post-Roses as bassist in Primal Scream (where his credits included Vanishing Point, XTRMNTR, Evil Heat, Riot City Blues and Beautiful Future), he always seemed happy enough to talk about the Roses and suggest that one day the two men sandwiching him in that picture, Ian Brown and John Squire, would put their differences to bed and get back to making the music that made them so famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But Brown and Squire? That’s been 15 years of no contact, aside from Ian Brown’s 1998 imprisonment in Strangeways, when Squire reportedly sent him a box of Malteasers (a childhood treat of both theirs) and a note that said something to the effect of “I still love you.” While that kind of moment might conjure tears with an appropriate string arrangement in a movie, Brown’s heart was tough to thaw after John Squire left the Roses by fax in 1996 with nary a spoken word to his friend and longtime collaborator. Reading 15 years’ worth of interviews between the two, they seldom had nice things to say about each other (e.g. “Tuneless knob” and “He was once the greatest guitarist of his generation, now he’s pubrock sh*te”) and always inevitably ruled out the possibility of a reunion as they couldn’t even bring themselves to speak to each other.

So to see them in the same room in the above picture was enough of a miracle, let alone to see them both providing comfort for their grieving comrade. At the time, I posted the picture to my Facebook wall and wrote: “Honestly don’t care if they never play another note together again. Just happy that it’s 2011 and a picture like this can be taken.” I meant it. To see old friends get past the hate and just talk again always blows me away. I come from a family where some blood relatives haven’t spoken to each other in years. When you hear their reasoning, you go, “OK, but …” Inevitably you want to see a picture like that.

I smiled and thought it was done with. At least Brown and Squire could talk again. Maybe someday we would get a kickass DVD documentary of the Roses’ career with all four of them sitting around a table laughing and reminiscing. Honestly, that’s all I ever wanted. Then this morning, a press conference is announced. My music-loving friends are abuzz. There’s “…finally”s thrown about, rumors of a tour, and all the while I’m thinking, “For as much as I love this band, I don’t want this.”

That’s where you get into the legacy bit. No one’s going to argue with the band’s 1989 album The Stone Roses. It’s unimpeachable. But given the derision that befell the band when Second Coming arrived in 1995 (you can understand a music press and fans getting impatient when being made to wait 7 years for a follow-up), and the fallout that hit the band afterward … Reni (underrated is an understatement — finest drummer of a generation is more like it) leaves after the album, he’s replaced by a cheerleading drummer who yells at crowds to “aw yeah… get your hands in the air!,” Brown and Squire tour on separate buses, Squire crashes his bike and major gigs are cancelled (cocaine rumors abound), Squire leaves by fax, Brown and Mani soldier on to a final gig at the 1996 Reading Festival where the performance is so poor, you can’t even find fans to say good things about it …  it’s just amazing to think that anything positive would ever be said about Second Coming. But then it was spared during a makeshift zombie defense in “Shaun of the Dead,” and people thought, “Yeah, you know, I guess it isn’t such a bad album.”

And there you have the Roses legacy. Two albums, one perfect and one looking better and better with revision each passing year. Why mess with it? Hell, Ian Brown’s solo work is spotty at best, but you know with every album he releases there will be at least two tracks that will knock you out (seriously, if nothing else, get a greatest hits compilation of his solo work), Mani’s holding fort on excellent Primal Scream albums, and I may be the only one, but I really like John Squire’s 2 solo albums. Seriously. “Automat” is a good f*cking song. So is “Cape Cod Morning.” So is “Shine a Little Light.” His voice is odd, yes, but I can think of many down the pantheon of rock and roll of whom you can say that about. If Squire wants to paint now, let him paint.

And besides, Reni’s gone into hiding ever since the Roses breakup (I don’t think any of us can really count the Rub … was there ever a proper single released?), and you know Reni’s not going to be a part of this, so if Reni’s not involved how can it be the Stone Roses?

Then this picture leaks.

F*ck’s sake, that’s beautiful. It really is. It swells me up a little. And then the press conference? It’s hilarious! They’re joking around, their comic timing hasn’t changed. They’re overly complimentary to each other, but it always feels genuine (I swelled up even more when Squire–who said little of anything during the conference–said Reni “still has it” after Reni self-consciously went on about the dangers of a man approaching 50 trying to play a young man’s drum parts).

A world tour? New songs? Spike Island vets and long-lost indie boys had to change their pants, and for as much as I want to share their joy, alas, my pants remain unsoiled.

Should we pay mind to the years of scrutiny on Ian Brown’s diminishing returns vocally? What about the (believable) scuttlebutt that Brown’s been hit hard in a costly divorce and this is simply a vehicle to pay some ghastly court-ordered bills? Hardly should be the stuff that “Waterfall” soundtracks, right?

Liam Gallagher made a good point earlier this year that if the Roses ever did reunite, Brown wouldn’t have to worry about his vocals. The whole crowd would sing his parts for him anyway. And even if this is a cash-in to get Brown out of a post-marital cash drain, well, how can you poo-poo three of his oldest friends coming together to help him out of it?

I think my hesitation comes from an interview that Brown gave to Clash magazine in 2005 that hit very close to home. In 2005, a girl I’d dated for three years dumped me. It was unexpected and handled in a pretty cold and callous manner (2 a.m. on a cellphone … didn’t even have the decency to face me after three years). It sent me into a pretty crazy emotional tailspin. I’d lost one of my best friends in a car accident 3 years earlier, but by comparison, that rolled off me like water off a duck’s back. Thankfully, I was still in college and I had a roommate who sat me down and kind of policed me the following few nights. Every time I started talking crazy about wanting to call her or make desperate pleas to rekindle the relationship, he sat me down and willed me not to make contact. “This is a game,” he says. “This is the only thing you can win now. You’re wondering what she’s up to right now? Trust me, she’s wondering the same thing about you. It’s driving her crazy too, and if you call, she wins.” Suffice to say, I haven’t spoken to Allison in 6 years. And with every girl I’ve dated and split with in the years since, I’ve taken a hardlined stance to delete her contact information from my cellphone, computer, email accounts and address books. I let them know at the moment of parting that this will likely be the last time they will ever see me. Some people say it’s cruel and unusual, but it’s what works for me now. There are no drunk dials after the fact. No continuing petty dialogue of “Yeah? Well you were a bitch that one time we went to the city and…” No ways of finding out who she’s seeing or sleeping with now and the self-inflicted anguish that comes with that. It’s a clean break and although I by no means think it’s easy, it works.

So when Clash interviewed Brown in 2005 about reconciling with Squire, he said this:

“Say 10 years ago, you used to go out with a girl and you’d been going out with her for 10 years. She suddenly turns round and says, ‘I don’t want you no more’, but 10 years later phones you up and says, ‘I want you again’. What you gonna do? You’ve had 10 years of life, and might have had nine kids with five different women. You don’t just drop it and go back ‘cos they want it. So f*ck what he wants, I don’t care what he wants. He didn’t care what I wanted.”

It just made sense to me. I identified with it more than any lyric he ever sang (however, I did put ‘Stellify’ on a mix I made for my current girlfriend–yes, I still do mixes, shut the f*ck up). As much as I hated that Brown and Squire would never seem to make up, that analogy made all the sense in the world to me.

So now, there’s this. And a big part of my sense has been knocked out of whack. And I think about what people think about the Verve’s Forth album. And I think about how people moan that the Pixies have dragged this out a bit too long now. And I think about as much as I like “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” you just don’t put them in the same consideration that you do everything the Beatles recorded between 1962 and 1969, do you? And I think, God, this could be a disaster, it really could be.

And then I see a picture like this.

And GODDAMMIT I WANT THIS TO WORK SO BADLY. Make it so, boys. It’s on you.

Oh, and this doesn’t mean I’m calling Allison.

The Stone Roses – Standing Here
Everyone goes on about the debut album, but too many people have forgotten about the B-sides from that era. Seriously, if you think Oasis were the first band to make B-sides that made every single one of their releases worth purchasing, well, then you don’t know the Jam or Smiths and I don’t want to know you. But the Stone Roses’ B-sides get forgotten about too easily. Listen to this and tell me it isn’t as glorious as anything on the album. This was the B-side of “She Bangs the Drums” in 1989.


  1. Great post. Nothing can ruin the first album. Top five personal favorite. The Second Coming is really underrated, I think people just review the album based on the first three minutes of animal sound effects that open Breaking Into Heaven. The riff that opens and ends Driving South. Come on that’s killer. Begging You. Tightrope, Love Spreads. Tons of great tunes. The guitar wankery by Squire is so unabashed!

    But that first album. God, I remember where I was when I first put it in my car discman(!).

    I’d be interested in a tour, but since they were broken up years before I knew about them, I really don’t know what to expect. Probably a disaster. But you were at that Beady Eye show. The crowd went nuts when the pre-show music played Fools Gold.

    I’m only really familiar with Sally Cinnamon, so I’d like to see a post
    on their B-sides.

  2. I totally agree with your viewpoint and feelings on this Paul.
    This is so make or break, it’s scary! I’m pretty sure it means a lot to them to leave the legacy intact (I too think Second Coming is a fine record (nowhere near the first album though) so the pressure must be huge knowing how amazing they will have to be!
    Reni struck me as a bit of a knob in the press conference and the others were cringing because of him. I’m a drummer and I can tell you now that for a man who hasn’t played for 16 years or so to have to play the early Roses stuff is a MASSIVE ask!!!!!!! No wonder he’s coming across so negatively. So Reni, it’s down to you mate, please get in the zone and get the stamina up, stop being a knob and yes I’d like to see the hat on you too. Cheers for the blog.

  3. It was interesting watching the press conference, because I’d only heard the audio feed first. And with the audio feed, I thought, “God, they’re like 4 grade school friends reunited, this is so fun.” Then watching it, and (as I do) overanalyzing it, I thought, “Yeah, Reni’s kind of overcompensating here … there are some real nerves …” I don’t know. It’s a long time from now til June, so who knows what’ll happen. Maybe I’ll be posting something in March like “Well, who among us REALLY thought it would happen like we hoped anyway?” But for the moment, I got a few new pictures that I’m happy to see, and right now, that’s good enough for me.

    Plus, I liked Reni’s dig at his three United mates about doing the press conference in front of an Isle of Man banner with a City logo.

  4. Yeah, let’s just keep our fingers crossed and enjoy the ride as Ian put it in the conference, “Day by day” 😉

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