Made of Stone: The Stone Roses’ Shamanic Masterpiece

The Stone Roses - Made of Stone art
Innit.

Amongst The Stone Roses’ masterpieces such as Waterfall and Shoot You Down, we’ve never really mentioned Made of Stone.

This track was one the band never really managed to play well live. But in the band’s top five songs, this one is very possibly the best. Arguably. Maybe. Let’s see if it’s made of stone.

The History of Made of Stone

Flat out, we have to say Made of Stone is one of the greatest songs ever written. It’s also one you probably don’t know.

Off The Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album, it sits as track eight following on from the mighty Suger Spun Sister and was made publicly available on 6th March 1989.

It’s an eerie, moody, thunderous number with an anthemic chorus. John Squire’s guitar work is the highlight, with a brain melting guitar solo of the highest calibre.

Singer Ian Brown is also magnificent with his hushed vocals, almost Jim Morrison styled shamanic whispering of capitalism and its flaws.

Brown, famously, would often wear a t-shirt with dollar bills around its neck (see below) in1989.

The band’s exceptional rhythm section is also working flat out to tie the song together, with drummer Reni’s jazzy fills and precision just perfect throughout. His backing vocals are also glorious.

Made of Stone’s lyrics are actually inspired by the death of Jackson Pollock in 1956. He died after crashing his car into a tree whilst drunk. That adds clarity to the frightening nature of the lyrics:

Your knuckles whiten on the wheel.
The last thing that your hands will feel.
Your final flight can’t be delayed.

No earth just sky, it’s so serene.
Your pink fat lips let go a scream.
You fry and melt, I love the scene.

Guitarist Squire (who’s also an artist) created the Pollock inspired artwork for the band’s album covers.

The song was first released in 1989. But it went on to have a haunting quality the band could never have predicted. Here’s the chorus:

Sometimes I fantasise.
When the streets are cold and lonely.
And the cars, they burn below me.
Don’t these times fill your eyes.
When the streets are cold and lonely.
And the cars, they burn below me.
Are you all alone?
Is anybody home?

The nature of the lyrics, after the 2001 September 11th attacks in America, took on an entirely new dimension.

The band’s eponymous debut was an attack on capitalism. But Made of Stone just happened to represent the collapse of the two buildings at the World Trade Centre.

But as a piece of music it sits there on the band’s outstanding debut album as a towering moment of genius.

Journalist and musician John Robb (who wrote the The Stone Roses’ insightful biography) had followed the band’s career up until 1989.

After their musical shift in 1987, and hearing Made of Stone for the first time, he remarked he couldn’t believe the band had just landed such a masterpiece.

That’s credit to Brown and Squire, as the songwriters, who gifted this to the world and also created for themselves something of a dilemma.

How the hell do you go on to write something better than that? Well, the band had other songs just as good. But Made of Stone is extra special.

The Stone Roses on the Late Show

To understand The Stone Roses’ difficult career is an insight into life in England in the late 1980s, following on from the horribleness of the Thatcher government.

It does make you wonder why we keep doing this to ourselves in England, voting for these odious, corrupt Tories over and over.

Back in 1989, The Stone Roses’ career had been stymied by working class difficulties and just how generally unpleasant life could be in Manchester.

The band had a nightmare getting any press recognition, but word of mouth led to their sudden rise to stardom.

At the start of 1989, they’d had a gig in London where about 20 people turned up. By the summer they were selling out huge venues, such as the Blackpool Empress Ballroom.

Whilst the British press latched onto the hottest band of the moment, it did lead to the disastrous (and hilarious) appearance on the BBC’s Late Show in September 1989.

As you’ve already seen, it didn’t go well. Depending on who you listen to, the band ramped up the sound too high (or the studio got it wrong) and a live performance became something else.

Tracey MacLeod was the presenter. And she, awkwardly, had to deal with Brown’s famous chant of “Amateurs! Amateurs!” while live on TV. Lovely stuff!

Anyway, the appearance wasn’t a disaster. More another talking point about a curious band on an incredible ascendency.

The band never did warm up to the press. Even with the 2011 reunion (as unexpected as it was), there was one interview during that time. That’s it. In the last 30 years, The Stone Roses have provided (at tops) a handful of interviews.

And nothing else ever again after. Even after the band split again, there was no official announcement. These boys did not like media attention.

Notable Live Made of Stone Performances

One of the odd things about Made of Stone is the band often struggled to work out how to play it well live.

On many occasions they nailed it, such as with Glasgow Green in 1990. And the punchy performance at Tokyo in 1989 is also excellent.

However, there are also a lot of strangely bad performances of it. The Blackpool 1989 effort, for example, is a bit of a mess.

And after the band’s 2011 reunion, the general performances of it weren’t terrific.

This is all just part of The Stone Roses lore and all that. The band was absolutely fantastic live, but also occasionally terrible.

For example, Brown (never the most natural singer) would often smoke too much and ruin his voice. Some of his live performances are awful.

But when he was on it, the man was a legend.

As were the band in general. The Stone Roses, lots of stone. Lots of flowers. And songs of a mighty stature.

10 comments

  1. “Guitarist Squire (who’s also an artist) created the Pollock inspired artwork for the band’s album covers.”

    I had never noticed that, but I can totally see that inspiration now. It has always been quite clear, but I never caught it.

    “Tracey MacLeod was the presenter. And she, awkwardly, had to deal with Brown’s famous chant of “Amateurs! Amateurs!” while live on TV. Lovely stuff!”

    Coincidentally, I watched the video of that performance a few days ago.

    “To understand The Stone Roses’ difficult career is an insight into life in England in the late 1980s, following on from the horribleness of the Thatcher government.”

    Many neoliberals here in Brazil look at her as a symbol nowadays. I have even seen some wearing shirts with her face on it. Well, it is not too surprising since they are neoliberals, so they naturally admire what she did over there. But I guess it goes to show we down here have a fondness for importing old and terrible political ideas from first-world countries.

    As for Made of Stone, I agree that it’s a hell of a song. I just don’t say it’s my favorite because I am the Resurrection beats it in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aye, well the Tories are very good at spinning their propaganda to make themselves look competent and effective, when their policies are actually largely vile and help only the rich. They’ve done a good job at brainwashing much of the nation, it seems. But a lot of people just love them. My former colleague thinks she’s the best Prime Minister we ever had. The millions of people who had their lives destroyed by her policies probably don’t agree. And we’re still feeling the effects of Thatcherism now, unfortunately, it’s a relentless legacy she’s left.

      As with Brazil (and with Trump in the US), I just find it so bizarre people vote for these governments who are so disastrous.

      Here The Stone Roses’ music went a long way to combat the unpleasantness of all that with something inspiring and uplifting. I need to review Resurrection soon as well, seems I’ve set myself off to review everything from the debut album. Innit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In a way, it’s similar down here. Since their policies help the rich, they have plenty of funding from big businesses to spread their propaganda. Here, in recent years, for example, workers had a lot of their rights revoked with promises of more jobs and reduced government spending which would theoretically lead to more investment by the state. Some people bought into that idea and even took it to the streets in favor of these measures. Now, five years have passed since then and unemployment is still as high as ever and the government still constantly claims it is short on cash when it comes to social demands. =P

        As for our president, I find it bizarre as well. Here, his election was partially a mixture of fascist-like folks who were hiding in closets around the nation (it’s estimated that’s about 15% of voters) and frustration with the previous government. Although I understand the latter point, seeing someone like him as an answer to that problem could only be a result of total political ignorance.

        But anyway, as for the Stone Roses, I am looking forward to what you will say about the other songs from the debut.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I’ve loosely followed the situation in Brazil and it’s another example of things going very wrong. I hope it picks up for you guys. My sister loves Brazil and spent a lot of time there around 2004.

          It is a bit of a depressing situation. I try to do my bit by running this blog and spreading the word of silliness. Do join me in this journey!

          And listening to The Stone Roses… well, I’ve always found that very uplifting as well.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks! I hope it gets better too, naturally.

            It’s good to hear your sister loves the country. It’s a great place with a lot of beauty and nice people, but it has had a staggeringly high rate of falling victim to a lot of terrible politicians throughout its history. In a way we are to blame for a lot of that, because we have been choosing them freely for nearly 40 years now.

            And I agree! Both reading your blog and listening to The Stone Roses are very uplifting activities. =D

            Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife has this consoling thought. The more Tory that England gets the better the quality of music they produce. It’s what keeps the humans of your country going. – greetings from the Peoples Republic of Caledonia 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • Save yourself. It is but a theory. Not all music was Wondrous under the wicked witch. For every ‘Town Called Malice’ there was a ‘Nobody quite like Grandma’ or ‘Shadapayaface’. For every Jam a Renee and Renato.

        Oh … and I tasted another brand of Vegan bacon this morning. Quite surprised. They say that humans taste like pork but I had assumed that with their different diet Vegans would be different.
        Knocking up some Vegan black pudding and a huge hot pot ( cauldron) just now and saving the best bits for Trio of Vegan as tonight’s special 🙂 nom nom

        Liked by 1 person

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