We’ll be publishing (fingers crossed) six new books in the series sometime around March. One of these is about The Stone Roses, and is written by Alex Green. There’s a quick extract from it (unedited, uncorrected, etc) coming up.
Reading Alex’s manuscript took me back to the spring of 1989, when I went out and bought the album on the strength of the NME‘s review. Not that it was a great review, by any means. They gave the record 7/10, and Jack Barron declared, in his normal flowery prose, “This is quite good. Just.” (I must have had a lot of spare cash in those days.) What I don’t remember reading is Bob Stanley’s euphoric review in Melody Maker (from which the title of this post is taken). He concludes, “simply the best debut LP I’ve heard in my record buying lifetime. Forgot everybody else. Forget work tomorrow. Forget the football on telly. Leave it all behind and listen to The Stone Roses. Once. Twice. Then you’ll know why I’ve made such a fuss. You’ll understand. This is the one, this is the one, this is one…” I think Bob got it right.
Anyway, here’s Alex Green, on the Roses’ infamous Late Show TV appearance:
In November of 1989, The Stone Roses were set to perform on BBC2’s The Late Show where they were slated to play “Made Of Stone.” A perfect vision of coiled greatness, the band stood blurry behind host Tracey MacLeod ready to strike. Brown, locked in a cold stare was crouched in a catcher’s stance on the ground; Squire posed loose and languid over his guitar; Mani, his hair tied back in a ponytail, wore a bright red sweatshirt and held his Pollacked bass thoughtfully, while Reni, clad in a leather jacket and matching leather beanie sat relaxed and assured behind his kit. The band were in fighting shape and “Made Of Stone” was a straight-up pop suckerpunch, so the stage was set for the kind of melodic mastery that would only reinforce the growing reputation of the band.
MacLeod, whose black blazer, white blouse, big earrings and suburban blond haircut made her look like a sexy school principal, summed up the Stone Roses’ recent groundswell by explaining their recent sellout of the 7,000 seat Alexandra’s Palace the week before came “purely on the strength of word of mouth.” She went on to say, “Seemingly Manchester’s The Stone Roses have overnight made the leap from promising cult band to the hottest musical phenomenon of the moment.”
Then the band kicked in and they sounded great. Squire got things going with a dreamy chord progression; Reni snapped to life with light play on the cymbals; Mani’s lone bass sprouted the trail leading to the vocals, while Brown, though a bit off key, tore right in. Prancing in place during the first verse, by the time he got to the second you could feel the chorus about to break like a runner set to kick into a new gear and pass everyone on the track.
Inexplicably, midway through the first chorus the power in the studio went dead and, aside from Reni’s sheepish grin and light laughter, the band looked stunned. Especially Brown, who stood there, dumbfounded. “What’s happened?” Brown asked, holding the microphone with both hands, clearly not about to let it go. Pissed and pacing back and forth like a prizefighter waiting for a decision, he is the perfect picture of patience dissolving. Turning to what appears to be a cameraman, Brown exclaimed, “You’re wasting our time, lads.”
Although the flustered MacLeod promised, “We’ll do it, we’ll sort it out,” she followed that by moving on to the next segment—a doubtlessly riveting piece on English photographer Martin Parr—and it appeared to have dawned on Brown that the moment was ruined whether it was sorted out or not. Now visibly angry, Brown started having a conversation with someone off-screen, presumably one of the technical crew; unsatisfied, he then stood on Reni‘s drumkit and, hands cupped to his mouth, chanted, “Amateurs, amateurs.” What is most striking about this scene is not Brown’s outburst, but that The Stone Roses have all the appearance of unfed, circling sharks; hungry, predatory and loaded dangerously with energy.
It depends who you talk to, but the story goes that The Stone Roses were playing far too loud and blew the circuits out in the studio. A spokesman for the band at the time suggested they knew this was a possibility but also were aware of a red light warning (which for some reason never came on) that would allow them a quick period of time to turn things down. The BBC wrote a story which quoted an unnamed source from The Late Show as saying, “What happened was that power circuits blew because they were playing too loud. My own notes say ‘… too many decibels here.’”
It’s not clear if the technical problems would indeed have been sorted out, but The Stone Roses didn’t stick around to find out and left the set immediately. At the end of the program a video for “Fools Gold” was aired and that was that. But Gareth Evans, the band’s manager at the time, still maintains the whole thing was rigged and that he had come up with the idea as a publicity stunt meant to come off like the Sex Pistols’ infamous profanity-laced appearance on Bill Grundy’s Today program in 1976. Thinking The Late Show was too middle-class and stuffy for The Stone Roses, Evans claims he tried to give it a jolt and in the process, create a moment that people would still be talking about years later. Reni’s knowing laugh does have a certain conspiratorial look to it, but Brown seems positively shocked and clearly fuming, so it’s difficult to tell what the truth is. Maybe Evans did set the whole thing up, but if The Stone Roses were too cool to appear on the program, one wonders why they agreed to do it at all, because even orchestrated sabotage doesn’t change the fact that they were there in the first place.