The Stone Roses

30 years of the iconic debut album

Thursday 2nd May 2019

The Stone Roses formed in Manchester, in 1983, with the echoes of punk and mod revival still ringing in the ears of Britain's youth. The band had released three singles culminating in 1988's 'Elephant Stone', co-produced by Peter Hook, by the time that the classic Stone Roses line up of Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni and Mani had settled.

A new countercultural movement was making its influence known in the form of Acid House and Rave with its exotic new rhythms and beats, famously finding a Manchester home at The Haçienda. Despite the prevalence of Factory Records in Manchester at the time, it was Silvertone Records, an otherwise fairly unremarkable rock label, that signed The Stone Roses and ultimately put out the self-titled debut in 1989.

Though now regarded as one of the most important British albums of all time things got off to a shaky start for 'The Stone Roses'. The LP was heralded by the release of lead single 'Made Of Stone' two months earlier, resulting in the band's debut television appearance on the BBC's culture conscious Late Show. Despite a promising start, the performance was famously cut short by a power cut, leading to Ian Brown's famous rant over Tracey MacLeod's link to a feature on fellow Mancunian and photographer Martin Parr.

Though the like of NME and Melody Maker were won over by the album from the start, Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley described it as "godlike" in a piece in Melody Maker, some critics were more eager to point out that the album drew too heavily on 1960s guitar pop and psychedelia for their taste.

In hindsight, most would probably agree that the comparisons to 1960s bands were both short-sighted and off the mark. The album was produced by psych royalty in the form of Pink Floyd producer John Leckie, so a likeness to albums of the period is hardly surprising. It also didn't require too much further listening to see that Ian Brown's disaffected vocal delivery seemed to owe more to the swagger of the recent punk movements more than it did to 1960s jangle.

Along with the punk influence, 'Fool's Gold', originally a non-album single, was the band's most definite nod to dance music's rising cultural significance. Its funky drumbeat and bassline juxtaposing with the other elements to created a new sort of psychedelia for a new experimental generation, frustrated with the later days of straightlaced Thatcher's Britain.  

Likewise, 'I Wanna Be Adored' and its rewound sibling 'Don't Stop' luxuriated in the new texture's and production of the era in a chilled state, a rock song that could hold its own in the changing UK club scene or cassette car stereos and teenage bedrooms alike.

The Stone Roses' songs were somehow more accessible than the Manchester alumni whose influences could be heard on them. The legacy of Peter Hook, Johnny Marr, Mark E. Smith and others are all evident across the album in one way or another, but 'The Stone Roses' was its own breed of LP, belonging to, if not kickstarting, the Madchester scene. 

The album closed with what was perhaps the invention of the indie anthem, or certainly one of the contenders for the honour. 'I Am The Resurrection' showed if nothing else, The Stone Roses' ability to connect with listeners on a level rather than intellectualise and condescend to them like some bands before them.

It was this anthemic quality that was carried over into the next wave of bands, most famously of course with the Gallagher brothers drawing greatly on The Stone Roses' legacy, among others, to form Oasis, who in turn went on to become one of the driving forces of the Britpop movement.

30 years after its release the album remains an iconic piece of British subculture. It's difficult to imagine that it could have come from any other place or time with its distinct combination of so many elements, brought together in such a way as to appeal to a generation on an almost universal level. The album's public success quickly led to a change of critical opinion too. Though The Charlatans, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets were also working in the same spaces, it's The Stone Roses' debut that has become regarded as the seminal album of the period.

Famous gigs at the Haçienda and later Spike Island have been likened to The Stones' Hyde Park gig or even Woodstock in terms of cultural significance. Not to mention John Squire's album artwork, which has become an icon in its own right, with its lemon slices becoming the unofficial logo of Madchester, much like the red white and blue roundel became associated with the mod revival.

From Shane Meadows' 2013 film 'Made of Stone' to the Flaming Lips recreation of the entire album (titled 'The Time Has Come to Shoot You Down… What a Sound') for Record Store Day in 2013 the album has developed its own life long past the band's split. From the guitar bands who've cut their teeth playing its songs across the UK to worldwide bands such as Jagwar Ma who continue the Madchester spirit of ignoring the boundaries of dance and rock, 'The Stone Roses' changed Manchester – then changed the world.

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