One of The Stone Roses’ most popular songs is Sally Cinnamon. But it has an unusual history—its launch in 1987 a wild change in direction for the band.
And one that launched it to stardom. Whilst also plunging it into a bizarre and protracted period of flying paint and court cases. Lovely stuff!
The Story of Sally Cinnamon
Released in May 1987 as a single, Sally Cinnamon (written by the band’s singer Ian Brown) tells the story of unrequited love.
It’s a simple but fabulous song that marked an astonishing musical shift for the band.
The above is actually the second recording of this single (more on the first one further below). But you can clearly hear the band’s musical shift from their previous post-punk noise that had dominated their songs since 1984.
Mainly as it shows the appeal of the band in 1985 was drummer Reni, whose astonishing abilities had people turning up just to see him play.
But that wasn’t enough to sustain the band. And after the four members recorded Garage Flower in 1985, they decided not to release it as they found it sub-par.
An incredibly mature decision for a bunch of young men in their early 20s. And after that, they went off and worked on their sound.
A big influence there was Love’s album Forever Changes (1967). It had a massive impact on the four members and they were listening to it on a constant loop—upbeat psychedelic stuff, you know?
And so, in 1987, The Stone Roses returned with Sally Cinnamon. Immediately you can hear it’s a much more uplifting number than the band’s moody early ’80s efforts.
It was them their Angry Young Men stuff behind and channelling their personalities into something far more creative.
Sally Cinnamon soon came to define The Stone Roses’ music with life-affirming and memorable hooks from guitarist John Squire, who used this opportunity to go on and create one of the era’s most distinctive playing styles.
Squire rarely gets enough credit for his brilliance. We’ve never seen him included in a Best Guitarists Ever list, despite his genius. It’s quite ridiculous.
But you can see in Sally Cinnamon a total change in approach to his earlier work. Just a total about-face!
Ian Brown had also been working on his lyrics as the main songwriter and had some beautifully verses penned:
Until Sally I was never happy,
I needed so much more,
Rain clouds oh they used to chase me,
Down they would pour,
Join my tears,
Allay my fears.
He also altered his singing style to move away from the angry yelling he had been doing, instead utilising the innocent and hushed qualities of his voice.
Brown doesn’t have an incredible singing range, but he did realise the best way to take advantage of what was available.
Sally Cinnamon also introduced Reni’s backing vocals for the first time. In the band’s earlier songs and gigs his singing is notably absent.
But the band had worked out at some point he’s a brilliant singer and began taking advantage from Sally Cinnamon onward.
And, well! It may seem like a simple love song, but there’s a little twist at the end. As the closing lines make clear:
Then I put the letter back in,
The place where it was found,
In the pocket of a jacket,
On a train in town,
Sent to her from heaven,
It’s a punch pop number that ends on the note of a woman being the love interest of other lady.
The band was pro-LGTB and even went on an anti-section 28 march in 1988 against Thatcher’s Tory government, who essentially tried to block homosexuality from public discourse in section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.
In February 1988, the march against this took place in Manchester city centre. The Stone Roses members (not famous by that point) were all in attendance. Similar marches also took place in London.
This was a very successful campaign that quashed Thatcher’s policy and set the groundwork for greater LGTB equality across the country.
By that point, Sally Cinnamon had been a minor hit for the band.
Released as a single, it did well in the UK indie music chart spending 39 weeks in there with a highest position of #3.
When the band suddenly shot to fame in 1989, off the back of the exceptional eponymous debut album, Sally Cinnamon was re-released for the UK singles chart and reached #46.
However, it didn’t grace the band’s debut album.
In fact, many of the band’s incredible singles never actually reached an official album. They were all stuffed onto The Complete Stone Roses in 1995 by the band’s former Silvertone record label. Although the band had no input on this album.
As for Sally Cinnamon, it’s a beautiful song. No doubt. And became one of The Stone Roses’ most iconic numbers. Ian Brown still performs it during his solo shows.
It has the qualities of something such as Help! by The Beatles. It’s just a perfect song. A clear indication of the level of talent the band was rapidly approaching.
However, for such a charming little number it didn’t half cause a lot of bother! We’ll get to that in a moment.
Sally Cinnamon’s 12″ Vinyl Release
Just to note, Sally Cinnamon was recorded as a single twice. The first effort is above, which shows a band a bit nervous about the new sound.
This would have been very early on with the new approach to make they were all taking, so they don’t sound as assured and confident as the more popular version.
The 12″ single release actually features a short outro, plus an acoustic guitar section.
When performing Sally Cinnamon live, the band preferred to keep the outro in the performance. This was something of a speciality, as tracks such as Waterfall show very clearly.
It also included the B sides Here It Comes and All Across the Sands. The latter also features one of Brown’s most impressive vocal performances.
The shorter 7″ single was launched in 1989 and again in 1992, this time with only Here It Comes as a B side.
In terms of preference, we like the 7″ shorter version more as it’s a more accomplished recording and shows the band in full stride.
And it’s that level of confidence that led the group to get involved in one of its most notorious incidents.
The Stone Roses Trash FM Revolver’s Boss
The Stone Roses were a chaotic lot with a troublesome history.
A very poor band for much of the early years (and even into its successes), they were plagued by sound problems due to cheap equipment and had many unusual incidents.
Several of their early gigs in the 1980s ended in riots, such as one in Preston.
They also managed to infuriate the population of Manchester in 1985 by spray painting the band’s name across the city centre (due to annoyance over being ignored by the city).
But once they hit stardom, they became darlings of Manchester. And also hot property for former record labels.
And so, in January 1990, Paul Birch of the FM Revolver re-released the band’s single. Birch also produced a short music video featuring images of Manchester.
Now, that video really pissed off the band.
And to show their distaste they turned up at Birch’s property and began chucking buckets of paint all over everywhere. Including over cars, the house, the studio owner, and his wife.
That resulted in a court case and landed The Stone Roses a £6,000 fine.
Although they did get a lot of free publicity from the event, further bolstering their rapid rise to stardom in the UK.
Notable Live Sally Cinnamon Performances
Arguably the best performance we’ve come across for the song is from the Finland 1990 gig.
Although getting any live footage of the band from that time is difficult. Unfortunately, they just weren’t recorded very much.
Brown is pitch perfect (his voice often affected by his smoking at other shows), Squire is magnificent, and drummer Reni is godlike.
You can see just how effortless his genius was for him in the above clip. Fluid, dextrous, perfect in his timing, and his backing vocals.
The very best drummers are always holding something astonishing back and you can see that here at the 2:30 mark. Reni unleashes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fill that 99.9% of drummers can only dream of.
It was always a part of his playing. He’d be drumming along like that and suddenly he’d launch some physics defying moment of genius, casually reminding everyone of the reserves he had in store.
Unfortunately, there’s no footage of his performance at the Spike Island gig in 1990. However, a journalist at the time recorded his savage onslaught during the song’s solo as “unnerving”.
In June 1990, the band played at Glasgow Green in what’s gone down as their greatest ever gig.
Glamorous it was not, though, taking place in a giant tent. Kind of like the Haçienda club in Manchester (see 24 Hour Party People), it was so hot in the thing sweat and condensation were apparently dripping from the roof. Lovely!
Although the recording is very poor, it’s interesting to note this amateur capture of the Blackpool Empress Ballroom gig in August 1989.
There’s an official, high-quality recording of this show. But Sally Cinnamon and Standing Here were cut from the official release (for a still unexplained reason).
It mas a mainstay in The Stone Roses’ reunion gigs, of course, and we saw this one live with the band twice.
Very happy memories for all concerned. Band and fans alike! A magnificent number and one all born out of a need to redefine themselves.
And it’s led to this over 30 years later. The band are legends! And this is a classic song and something of an unofficial anthem for Manchester.