The Stone Roses in the Big Top: Glasgow Green June 9th 1990
As this summer’s run of Stone Roses gigs approaches Katie Clare shares more memories of being at their iconic, era-defining, gigs. Here she shares with us tales and exclusive images from Glasgow Green in the summer of 1990.
The Stone Roses highly anticipated Glasgow Green 2013 gig is now only days away. There won’t be any new tracks – if we are to believe John Squire’s red carpet statement. And there is no reason not to; apart from the fact these are The Stone Roses and you never can be sure their a foxy lot.
Does this mean they will play the same set list as 1990? Will they play Elephant Stone? Will this be Reni’s final UK gig for 22 years – again? With support announced from the start for Glasgow there was – is still plenty to speculate about. After all The Stone Rose at Glasgow Green 1990 is a music history legend – nowhere says 2013 won’t be too.
June 1990: The Stone Roses, having played the month before on a stage raised 15ft from the ground to an audience of around 28,000, were now to play in Glasgow in a plastic tent – named the Big Top – to just 7,000. Even the tickets, that were only available in Scotland, were glorious: green and white paint splashes and acid yellow lemons that screamed ‘get ready baby!’.The night was already taking on mythical status with us before it had happened.
In retrospect June 9th would also be Reni’s last performance with the band and in fact the band’s last concert for five years. If we had known then what we know now would we have done something different? Could we have captured the atmosphere in some way holding it close and drawing upon it to seeing us through the next two long decades? Actually I think we did in the only way we could have; in fractured yet exquisite memories and as a forever burning warmth in our hearts.
Thursday June 7th and a long train journey from the Midlands to Glasgow I and my two friends from Portsmouth met up at Glasgow Central Station and we walked directly to Glasgow Green. Unthinkable now but we only had a change of clothes, sleeping bags, a few snacks grabbed from kitchen cupboards and probably less than £10 each – at least this year we’d mostly ungraded from hitchhiking to taking the train.
Arriving at the site early evening we found just a single night watchman, he was concerned we were planning to sleep on the Green, we shared his thoughts. Unlike Spike Island Glasgow Green seemed, in the now fading light of day, a bleak area.
He showed us the stage, at the time this seemed like standing in the centre of the universe, in reality it was just wood and scaffolding it held no mythical powers – it was those that would perform there in two days that did.
We happily accepted the guards cups of tea and the offer to sleep on the floor of the Portacabin that was his security base. The lights in the cabin burned harshly bright and we failed to get any sleep, the change of guard in the morning meant an early disappearing act and we took ourselves off to a local sports centre where we were able to sneak in to get washed and change our clothes.
The area directly around the Big Top was uncomfortable and damp: completely uninviting. We were tired, restless and wandered around the local area. At lunchtime we enlightened the highly amused chip shop owner on what a ‘chip batch’ was and how best to make one, strange I remember this so well we had a long talk, he told us silly jokes and stories about Glasgow.
By mid-afternoon the weather was rainy and we were drained, wet, bored and fractious. Desperate to find something to fill the time we hit on the plan to ‘Find The Roses Hotel’ – by phone. Changing two pounds into 10p’s we found a payphone with a directory and started calling hotels pretending to be ‘Pennie Smith calling for Ian Brown’ the ninth or 10th hotel proved to be the winner.
Being put through to Mr Brown proved too much of a shock and shamefully we hung up without a word. We questioned passers-by about where the hotel was somehow we found it, arriving there in early evening. There was no question that these three soggy and scruffy looking teenagers would actually go inside.
Just as we decided to leave and address the more pressing matters of where we’d be sleeping that night we saw through the almost-street-level window Steve Adge, Cressa and Reni in the hotel bar. We waved and got a wave back – the rain had gotten heavier and we agreed if we could not be in the hotel standing outside it wouldn’t improve our chances at getting out of the rain.
Returning to the Green hoping the nice security guard would let us in to the dazzling yet dry Portacabin however our wishes were swiftly dashed – it was a different guy and this one would not even come out to let us ask him for sanctuary. We sat under the trees the whole night feeling pretty deflated.
Saturday June the 9th: It had thankfully stopped raining and we ran around to find a rest room to freshen up, buy something to eat and drink with the last of our money, returning to the Green as fast as we could. By mid-morning the fourth member of our little group arrived from Birmingham along with an increasing number of people all arriving for the concert. One lad we though looked just like Ian and we got someone to take a picture of us all – it is the only photo of us that came out. We could see the queue behind us getting longer and longer snaking out in the distance and realised we were in for a major dash to get to the front once the doors opened ~ how were all those people going to fit inside that little tent?
As they opened up entrance tickets were taken rather than torn, we tried to catch at an expected return section, but swiped fresh air instead (I think only one of us got a ticket stub returned). Then we ran! Hitting the front we found not a fence but wooden boards; they were so high, hooking your arms over the top ripped at your underarms and shoulder muscles. I ended up with more bruises from Glasgow Green than at any other concert since, my arms were black and purple from elbow to arm pit for two weeks after Glasgow.
Dave Booth was the DJ that night and as the music kicked in weaving its magic on the crowd we found our feet, found our highs and everyone started moving and swaying together – just at the right moment the wails and screams, that heralded the band, filled our ears reverberating in on itself as it speed around the tent.
Mani swayed his bass pounding out the opening to I Wanna Be Adored, the surge of the crowd at the back of the tent squeezed us on the front row till we could feel the boards groan and spider -like fractures in the wood tear across our chests and thighs, as Ian Brown languidly swaggered back and forth his mic aloft; we were in no doubt tonight was going to be extraordinary.
Pinnacles are often fleeting but Glasgow Green started right up in the heavens and didn’t relinquish its lofty abode, time moved at a pace and as we went through song after song, the audience seemed at one to be experiencing an emotional high: I couldn’t feel the pain in my black and blue arms and knees but I could feel the music and I could feel the heat as it rose from my ankles up. Everyone was soaked through and all of us in the front wore rainbow coloured halos of steam as the stage lights hit the mist rising from our heads. Reaching the ceiling the vapour had no escape condensing on the cool plastic roof – pooling till gravity won out and it sprinkled back down on us; there we were inside a giant plastic tent, dancing in the rain, having the time of our lives.
Spike Island was when even at the front you could only see the band as three toy figures, the sound insipid and intermittently windswept away. Here they were back to touching distance; their characters bill-boarded for us all to soak in. We could actually see Reni again who like ignited fireworks released in a steel room sparked, bounced and exploded time and time again. Such passionate focused ferocity has never been so mesmerising and beautiful.
As Ian held aloft his bongos to the final notes of I Am The Resurrection; a devastating realisation hit me like a bucket of ice water and I could feel my skin tighten and my knees begin to buckle – that’s it – it’s finished.
After main-lining this beatific intensity for nearly two hours everyone was hyper wound up and it felt like bolts of static electricity were being passed back and forth as everyone slightly franticly bounced off each other as we jostled to get outside. I and my friends re-grouped in the open-air rushing to share our experiences ‘Did you see that passed out girl get pulled over the barrier?’ – ‘Did you see Adge with a video camera too?’ – ‘Can’t believe that guy climbed the scaffolding, did he fall off?’ – ‘Cressa was dancing all over the stage he’s awesome.’ – ‘I want Mani’s sweater’ – ‘Ian had bongos!’ – ‘Did anyone get a set list?’
We hung around a short while agitated by the adrenaline in our bodies which soon sparked a heated few minutes of bickering – resulting in each of us marching off. I made my way to King Tuts were I was unable to get in with no ID. The exhaustion, lack of food during the past three days along with the dehydration from the hours in the Big Top was triumphant in its battle with elation.
I sat beside the River Clyde as the night slowly passed, listening to the sounds of the city and the river as the temporary gig tinnitus started to abate and at a snail’s pace I made my way to Glasgow Central Station ready for the first train in the morning. In fact each of us having been unable to get in to any of the various after parties had found our way there meeting back up after a few hours to ourselves.
It was a long journey home; little did we know what a long wait we’d have to endure till we’d got to do it again. Last year’s impressive live performances showed that things have not changed; when the Stone Roses get it right it’s breath-taking, mind-blowing and utterly unforgettable.
The Stone Rose will play Glasgow Green Saturday June 15th 2013. Those based in or around Glasgow or who will be in Glasgow the night before should check out a very special event on Friday June 14th 2013.
There will be a private viewing and book launch of SET IN STONE: Ian Tilton’s Stone Roses Photographs by Ian Tilton & Claire Caldwell. The event which takes place at STATIC Collective (82-86 Saltmarket Glasgow City G1 5LY) starts at 5.30pm with the talk and signing session from 7pm. There will be a licensed bar, DJs and much more, most importantly a chance to view stunning limited edition fine art prints of the Stone Roses as well as many photos of fans from the 1990 Glasgow Green gig. Tickets are just £3 a cost that covers entrance and a drink and can be purchased HERE. Over 18s Only.
Were you at Glasgow Green in 1990? Share you own memories of the gig in the comments section below.
All words by Katie Clare. You can read more from Katie on LTW here.