Wars of the Roses
They’ve come a long way from Madchester – DEAN VAN NGUYENcharts The Stone Roses’ rocky journey to the Phoenix Park
NOTHING FIREBOMBS a great rock’n’roll band like achievement. In the pop music industry there’s something poisonous about success. Between the strain of celebrity, pressure of expectations and damaging effect of drug experimentation, friendships evaporate and egos almost always triumph. In the best cases, alliances hold firm for long enough for their potential to be fully mined, transformed for example into the 200-odd compositions that bear the names “Lennon-McCartney”. Then there are those who crumble almost instantly, like The Stone Roses, who on the back of their debut album proclaimed themselves to be the most important band in the world, before pushing the big, red self-destruct button.
For the Roses, the road to the Phoenix Park – venue for the Irish gig of the band’s reunion tour – has been lengthy, arduous and dramatic. They’ve had to overcome 16 years of bitter squabbles, media pot-shots and lengthy bouts with no communication. And that’s just post-break-up; tame when compared to the fierce arguments the band got into when still together.
They never quite made it to the heights of “world’s most important band”, but their 1989 self-titled debut was a stunning album. Drawing from 1960s guitar pop and mixing it with baggy, 1980s Manchester drumbeats, it made them one of city’s most beloved bands forever more. Long-time friends John Squire, the reserved guitar maestro, and Ian Brown, the charismatic if sometimes unhinged frontman, proved a formidable songwriting team. Energetic drummer Reni and well-travelled bass player Mani completed the band’s classic line-up, and songs such as I Wanna Be Adored, Waterfalls and I Am The Resurrection defined a city and, later, a nation, as the Roses’ provided the most significant launch pad for the Britpop movement that would come half a decade later.
But even at their best, the band seemed dead set on self-destruction. Poor management lead to them signing one of the worst record deals of all time with the Jive/Zomba subsidiary label Silvertone (one that stipulated that the band didn’t get paid on the first 30,000 records sold). The subsequent legal wranglings contributed to five barren years as the Roses plotted their second album. Further legal troubles came when one of the band’s previous labels, FM Revolver, re-released the single Sally Cinnamon, with a new unauthorised video. Angered, the Squire-led foursome visited the label’s offices, vandalising the premises and attacking boss Paul Birch with tins of paint.
But internal tensions between Roses members proved the most destructive. Recording sessions for their new album, titled Second Coming, were arduous. Squire, now heavily on cocaine, fiddled with his guitar endlessly, alienating the rest of the band as he recorded section after section of complex guitar lines. Brown disliked the new hard-rock sound his partner was pioneering, and spent most recording sessions in a marijuana-fuelled haze. It became all too much for Reni, who left the band after a heated argument with Brown.
The record did eventually come out, to mixed reviews, and John Squire left the band on April 1st, 1996, releasing a statement describing his departure as “the inevitable conclusion to the gradual social and musical separation we have undergone in the past few years”. Brown, Mani and stock recruitments limped on for another six months, but after disastrous performances at the Benicassim and the Reading Festivals, the band that had promised so much was finished.