I received a text last Saturday night telling me that The Stone Roses were reforming. I dismissed it immediately. As I had done every other rumour that seemed to circulate annually insisting that the band would be putting past differences aside to get back together to reclaim the title of ‘Best Band in the World’ that they relinquished about five minutes into their notorious headline slot at Reading festival way back in 1996.
When it became apparent that this time the rumours may well be true, I felt cheated. The Roses were supposed to remain part of that small club of truly brilliant bands who once they called it a day would never sully the memory with a half-arsed take-the-money-and-pretend-you-don’t-really-hate-each-other-anymore reunion. The Beatles, The Clash, The Smiths…ABBA(!)…they all maintained their integrity and left us with the music rather than tarnished images of aged millionaires going through the motions. The Roses were above all this, they’d said so themselves. Those of us who were there the first time around didn’t need it and they didn’t seem to need it, finding peace in their post-Roses lives. This wasn’t supposed to happen and I didn’t want any part of it. And yet…
And yet, when the moment came and the rumour became reality, seeing the four of them appear again on a stage together, taking on the world again in a nonchalant, cocky way that is one third of their broad appeal it felt maddeningly right. I tried desperately not to be excited about this. The past was theirs but the future belongs to someone about thirty years younger. Trying to reclaim former short-lived glories always threatens to soil the memory of the most important band of my generation bar none. In truth though, I’m ecstatic. Not because of what might be, but because of what seeing the four of them together reminded me of. It transplanted me back to 1989.
Back then I was a fourteen year old with a ravenous appetite for something that was once called indie music. My musical education up to that point had been rich and carefully constructed. An older brother with five years on me would often sit me down to play his latest vinyl purchases. The Smiths, The Cure, Simple Minds, Lloyd Cole, early U2 and R.E.M., New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, House of Love, Wedding Present, My Bloody Valentine…just some of the bands I heard every single day of my young life. We moved home in the summer of 1989 to a different part of the country, my brother staying behind, and so bringing an end to these jukebox sessions. When he left he gave me a C90 tape of new stuff he had been listening to. One side contained a selection of tracks by bands I had limited knowledge of…Primal Scream, The Sundays, Pixies, Wonder Stuff, James, That Petrol Emotion…and some I’d never heard of…Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets…while the other side was taken over with an entire album by another band completely new to me.
That album was ‘The Stone Roses’. It was an album that very quickly became my new best friend in a strange new world. It gave me a lift at a challenging time and it gave me meaning when I was struggling to come to terms with this new life. The fact they also looked like the coolest people ever to have trod the earth while talking of insurrection, being adored, smashing the (music) establishment and killing the queen just made me love them that much more. No band has ever made me feel the same way since. No band ever will. The Stone Roses didn’t save my life, but they radically altered it. As I said in one of my first posts, from the Roses grew a desire to listen to more music, read more books, see more films and open my mind to an alternative world view being pedalled by parents, teachers and a right wing press. To this day The Stone Roses’ debut is still my favourite album of all time. They mattered then; they matter now.
For some people, like this bitter chap in The Guardian, the hype surrounding the band is completely unjustified. The truth is though, if you weren’t there first time around you’ll never ‘get it’. It may sound terribly condescending, but if you can’t remember the breathless expectation that surrounded the wait for the release of Fools Gold/What the World is Waiting For, the legendary appearance on TOTP along with the Mondays, the iconic NME cover shoots and that live performance on ‘The Late Show’ as they happened then you were probably just too late to fully understand. Nothing since, not Oasis, Verve, Blur, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys or any of the other ‘bands of a generation’ have even come close to defining a moment in time as powerfully as the Roses once did.
So while I suspect this may all end in (glorious?) failure, despite the fact they’ve apparently just sold 220,000 tickets in 15 minutes breaking some kind of record, I no longer care. The Roses are back. And the world seems a better place for it. Now, where did I leave my Reni hat…