Track two from The Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album sees the band at their energetic, youthfully ecstatic peak.
It’s one of their psychedelic songs, like it’s taken straight from Love’s Forever Changes. It many ways it epitomises the Madchester era—baggy trousers and ecstasy at the Haçienda nightclub with lots of youthful hedonism.
It’s a mighty song, which the band approached in markedly different fashion when playing live. Let’s bang that drum, man.
Embrace the Summer of ’89 With She Bangs the Drums
Written by singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, the track sprung into existence circa 1989. That was during a period of incredible creativity from the band.
It was the second song after Made of Stone to get a single release from the album, reaching #36 in the UK charts in July 1989.
The band was very irritated it only reached #36 in the chart, as they were rapidly in their ascendency at the time. They looked to record label Silvertone and blamed its lack of promotion.
The single version is different from the album one, with heavier guitar work and Reni’s backing vocals brought further forward in the mix. We have to say, we prefer this version.
Accompanying that were two music videos for the single.
The first is below and includes footage from the famous Blackpool gig in August 1989. The second has footage of the band arsing about whilst John Squire’s artwork sways about the place.
She Bangs the Drums is the band’s most accessible track. Indie fan, pop music enthusiastic, or casual chart follower alike can tap along to it.
The production for the song seems straightforward, apart for one thing.
According to the band’s producer, John Leckie, drummer Reni didn’t want to drum on the track until halfway through the song. Leckie had to convince him—he eventually agreed.
You can hear an earlier version here where he only kicks in just shy of the two minute mark.
It’s a curious performance from the drummer on every version.
What he did fits the song just fine, but it’s the most rudimentary bit of drumming he ever put to record. Perhaps as he felt his drumming wasn’t needed on it.
As we note further below, his live performances of it were pretty ballistic and showed off how he was the best drummer on the planet at the time.
To note, Reni also provided the pounding piano chords you can just about make out alongside Mani’s rumbling bass.
But the song is really about that uplifting guitar work and those lyrics—cocky, but uplifting and life-affirming (in a youthful sense; hedonism).
Brown and Squire were just on it with their lyrics at that point, pelting out classic after classic.
The band was far more advanced than writing simple love songs, often wrapping darker subject matter around upbeat, poppy, psychedelic numbers. It adds an extra layer to the band’s mystique and their intelligence as musicians.
Much of the eponymous debut seems to consist of love songs.
However, that’s a surface level overview. She Bangs the Drums may sound like a poppy love song, but its lyrics seem to suggest much more than that.
I can feel the earth begin to move,
I hear my needle hit the groove,
And spiral through another day,
I hear my song begin to say,
Kiss me where the sun don’t shine,
The past was yours,
But the future’s mine,
You’re all out of time.
Then into the second verse, where Reni’s backing harmonies kick in:
I don’t feel too steady on my feet,
I feel hollow I feel weak,
Passion fruit and holy bread,
Fill my guts and ease my head,
Through the early morning sun,
I can see her, here she comes,
She bangs the drums.
Some consider the lyrics to be a nod towards heroin usage—the needle hitting the groove and the feeling of invincibility heroin users report.
Lou Reed wrote a similarly charged, energised song for The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) that you could pontificate is pretty similar.
However, The Stone Roses weren’t part of a heroin era. The drug was seen as dirty, as was alcohol. The Madchester era of the late ’80s was all about ecstasy and pill culture. That and weed (which Brown smoked far too much of, often leading to dodgy live vocals).
There’s nothing to suggest from the band’s history they were into heroin. For us, She Bangs the Drums just seems a heady song about being out of it on something, loving life, and enjoying another day.
With, perhaps, a nod towards the lingering after-effects of that—a comedown.
But others are simply convinced it’s a love song.
Regardless of your take, it’s one of those songs that reminds us of long summer days. And its driving pace, upbeat sounds, and catchy lyrics were another way for the band to launch themselves to band of the moment in 1989.
Notable Live Performances of She Bangs the Drums
The band’s June 9th, 1990 gig at Glasgow Green is regularly cited as their best ever. You can hear them leather the living crap out of the number above. Ecstatic pop.
Live performances of She Bangs the Drums were faster paced than on the album version, making it an exhilarating number.
That included a far more thunderous approach from drummer Reni. It’s like he realised he’d half-arsed it on the album version and was making amends.
As it’s one of the band’s most recognisable songs, we think a lot of people hear that and then reach the conclusion he’s a mediocre drummer. People don’t go off and see what he was really capable of.
Reni had Keith Moon’s approach to drumming, really letting loose with his full range of abilities during live performances. As you can see from the Blackpool 1989 gig.
Squire was also always magnificent with this song.
He’d peak his guitar at a mightily uplifting crescendo. But he could also alternate around, holding back at 1:55 for a moment to let the rhythm section do its thing, before blasting in with his driving riff.
From that performance, you realise how subdued the album version is.
The Stone Roses weren’t delighted with their debut, with Squire describing it as “twee”. Their live performances often were heavier, channelling their post-punk roots.
And the Blackpool performance reminds us of The Who’s Monterey Pop Festival My Generation performance from 1967.
The same youthful energy and sense of anarchy, a ballistic drummer from another planet, and introspective non-macho guitarist giving it everything.
She Bangs the Drums was an essential inclusion for every gig the band did, from the Spike Island Festival for The Stone Roses through to their reunion gigs in June 2012.
But one curiosity we like is from 27th February, 1989, when the band played at The Haçienda. It captures them mere months before everything blew up and they were on their way to superstardom.
By August, they were selling out massive arenas and continued to do so in the years ahead.
It’s one of the final low-key, smaller venue gigs they did from that era. And features a beautiful closing segment from John Squire.
A rush for everyone in the audience, for sure, and as trippy as it gets for an era swathed in ecstasy-driven highs.