Tuesday 12 December 2017

Are the reformed Roses still what the world is waiting for?

Banging the drum again:
Stone Roses John Squire,
Mani, Ian Brown and Reni
at this week’s reunion
Banging the drum again: Stone Roses John Squire, Mani, Ian Brown and Reni at this week’s reunion announcement

Will it be a good year for the Roses? The announcement this week that one of the most iconic and influential bands of the past 25 years are to reunite to play two outdoor shows in their native Manchester has set the music world in a tizzy.

At least those old enough to remember when Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni ruled the roost during the heady times of the Madchester scene. Their reputation has weathered time and tide despite only having released two albums -- their self-titled debut in 1989 and Second Coming in 1995. The former was one of the finest debuts in the history of rock'n'roll; the latter one of the most eagerly awaited.

Recording under the most intense media scrutiny, the band decamped to a remote studio in the Welsh countryside to get far from the madding crowd.

Inevitably, the band could never live up to such vaulted expectation -- the only way to go was down. When Second Coming did finally arrive, it was met with cries of 'this is not the Messiah -- just an overlong guitar album full of reheated Led Zeppelin riffs' or word to that effect.

By the time the album hit the shelves (yes, albums were once physically for sale in record shops!), the two main co-songwriters, vocalist Ian Brown and his old childhood friend, guitarist John Squire were no longer on speaking terms.

Not for the first time in the story of a rock 'n' roll band, cocaine had contributed to the deterioration in their working relationship, and after Squire quit the band in 1995, the group eventually called it a day. Sixteen years would pass before they would sit down and bury the hatchet.

"We're going to rule the world again. It's happening," is what Ian Brown reportedly texted to a friend a few days before the official announcement on Tuesday. The assumption is that the reunion is purely down to cold hard cash -- which is the reason behind, er, pretty much every band reunion.

Certainly, Squire had never given any indication that he would ever countenance the Second Coming of the Stone Roses -- on the contrary, he titled one of his metallic artworks 'I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses' and displayed it on his website.

Presumably, any minute now, he'll be unveiling his new piece: 'Scratch that, I'm quite happy to desecrate it for the sum of (insert concert fee here)'.

The news has sharply divided fans of the band. One blogger posted on the Guardian website: "It probably is best just left. The gigs would never live up to the legend of Spike Island, Empress Ballroom or Bridlington Spa," he wrote, referring to some of the incendiary shows the Roses played in the UK at their height in the late '80s/early '90s.

But another took a different view: "Jealous of you guys who were able to see them live first time around, but don't hog the memories. For those of us who were too young I really do hope they do a reunion tour."

This last post raises a fair point: why shouldn't the new generation who missed out on a band be given the chance to catch them in their later years?

After all, if the original fans are so stridently against the reunion, all they have to do is . . . not go to the show.

Or does the grubby money-grabbing reunion ruin that most mercurial, intangible quality of a band -- their legacy?

Shaun Ryder would beg to differ. In his autobiography Twisting My Melon, the Roses' fellow Mancunian defends his decision to get the Happy Mondays back together again by claiming that the fans have no right to claim ownership of his band.

He says that the fans' place is on the outside, going to gigs and buying the records and nothing more. Ryder argues that in these apocalyptic times for the music industry, when revenue streams are drying up faster than the Gobi desert in high summer, rock bands should be able to do whatever it takes to make a living without some precious fan bellyaching about how much they DON'T want to see their favourite band perform.

This last point is well made in the week when erstwhile platinum-selling chart-toppers UB40 announced that they have gone bankrupt.

The truth is that the demand for the solo work of the individual Roses is a fraction of the demand to see them recreate their past glories together.

It may be fool's gold, but the Roses can still take it to the bank and cash it.


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