Righto, we’re taking a look at this 1997 work from music journalist and singer John Robb. He coined “Britpop” and was a general busybody during the whole Madchester era.
His book documents the rise, fall, rise, and end of indie band The Stone Roses, who became the defining band of their era. But, unfortunately, struggled with all sorts of weird legal wranglings.
The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop
John Robb was a musician on the scene when The Stone Roses went supernova in 1989, seemingly overnight becoming the next big thing in England.
Major gigs at Blackpool in 1989 and a festival at Spike Island in 1990 are iconic for the “baggy” generation (everyone wore really loose fitting clothes and Reni hats).
Robb was friends with the four Roses, overheard many of their rehearsals as he was in another room with his band, and was able to document their rise from noisy post-punk band to soaring indie darlings.
Singer Ian Brown and artist/guitarist John Squire met at school in the 1970s and hit it off. They soon formed a punk band and worked menial jobs in the meantime.
By 1984 the band’s name was in place, but the first step towards stardom occurred when The Stone Roses were able to hire 20 year old drummer Reni.
Normally just getting a drummer in doesn’t mean much for a band. But to their disbelief, they’d landed a genius.
Their first gig with Reni was in London and The Who’s Pete Townshend was hosting the anti-heroin event. Blown away by the band’s drummer, he immediately offered the 20 year old a job on his solo albums.
Reni declined, ensuring The Stone Roses maintained a star attraction whilst the band’s music wasn’t quite up to scratch.
As this 1985 clip at the Hacienda shows, the post punk angry young men sound wasn’t anything noteworthy. People were turning up to their gigs to watch the drummer.
Relying on the guy behind a drum kit to bring in the crowds isn’t sustainable for any act. So the band, to their credit, had a significant musical shift.
Brown and Squire, as songwriters, had a rethink and channelled some of their other musical influences into their songs. Love’s iconic Forever Changes (1967) proved particularly inspring.
And that led to a remarkable shift from post punk noise to this in 1987.
Incredible singles such as Elephant Stone and Mersey Paradise followed, with the band suddenly finding genius form.
The Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album followed in May of 1989 and then the band really took offer, largely due to word of mouth rather than press interest. It’s now recognised as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Once the press got word then, in the space of a few months, the band went from an obscure group from Manchester to a defining moment for a young generation.
But on the cusp of international superstardom, it all went horribly wrong. Legal disputes between record labels led to a ban on recording and a loss of momentum.
A heavily delayed follow-up album didn’t arrive until 1994 in the form of The Second Coming. And the band promptly imploded, with Reni leaving in 1995 and the whole thing ending in acrimony a year after that.
This is everything Robb documents, but with startling access to the band. As he was really there for much of it, especially before they hit it big. For fans that’s unprecedented insights into their early years.
For example, several gigs around 1985 ended in riots. Reni triggered one inadvertently at a pub in Preston, kicking his drum kit over in frustration at equipment issues. And then the crowd took off.
Robb’s writing style is anarchic and punchy. Very Northern in its delivery, with random swearing and blunt language. No flowery stuff here, ladies and gentlemen, he gets straight to the point.
So if you’re a fan of the band it’s a must. Otherwise perhaps not, but certainly an important historical document of an inspiring time in Manchester’s history.
The Stone Roses did eventually reform in late 2011 and went on to tour the world. Robb provided an updated version of his book to document the unexpected return. Although the band called it a day again in 2017.
John Robb is was from Fleetwood in Lancashire but spends most of his time in Manchester. It’s common to see him out and about on his bike.
Litrerally, just the other week we saw him in the city centre cycling away!
He’s a cult figure and minor celebrity around the city. He still performs in bands as a singer, but also proides TED Talks at Salford University every now and then.
His status as a journalist in Manchester is renowned and he was able to interview Madchester luminaries such as Tony Wilson. A lot of that story was covered in the film 24 Hour Party People.
Along with that he launched the biggest vegan festival in the North West and is famous for his no nonsense attitude. He always speaks from the heart! Which includes landing plenty of profanity.
Cripes, he’s from bloody Lancashire what do you expect? Now 58 his influence continues on and he’s always a positive presence around the city.