Stone Roses on the cusp by ian Tilton
Stone Roses on the cusp by ian Tilton

Stone Roses on the cusp by ian Tilton

Set In Stone photo exhibition is at manchester Photographic Gallery- details here 


Perhaps the most photographed band of their generation the most classic shots of the Stone Roses have been pulled together for an exhibition called ”ËœSet In Stone’ in Manchester city centre that was launched last night and will run all summer.

The shots, by Ian Tilton, are part and parcel of the whole story. They helped forge the band’s identity in their pre fame days and gave them a sense of who they were. Ian Tilton worked closely with the group on the pictures and over his 14 sessions with the band was their main photographer for a few years. These pictures are the tip of the iceberg. there are hundreds of classic shots and I’ve seen them all- a fantastic archive.

Often a band has their picture taken and that’s that but these photos are a key example of what happens when a band with a clear idea of what it wants to look like works closely with a great photographer. You can trace the emergence of the Roses in these shots, and the honing down of their look that would influence a generation of musicians from the early sessions in Ian’s home studio to the psychedelic painted glass shots in Gareth Evans garden to the Granada TV 1988 session to backstage at Blackpool- every perfect moment on the band’s rise caught perfectly.
It’s a great example of the art of photographer and the art of looking good and has left a series of iconic shots that tell you everything you need to know about the band and their personalities.

The photos are to be printed into a book that will come out over the summer that looks brilliant.

Anyone interested in not just the Roses but the symbiotic relationship between photographer and band should come to this exhibition, like Astrid Kircherr’s classic shots of the Beatles in Hamburg in the late fifties you can see a band morph in front of your eyes aided by that easy going relationship of trust that is so crucial to great photos which is here for all to see.

The walls of the exhibition tell their own story. Fresh faced and staring out at the world, the Stone Roses are caught in various stages of development before the big breakthrough. These are classic shots of what is now the biggest band in the UK before that whole story unfolded through the decades.

I grew up with Ian, we lived a few houses apart on the same road in suburban Blackpool. He was 6 years younger than me, his brother Mark played in the band I was in, the Membranes. We were 19/20 when he was 13/14 and he was the little sprog hanging out with us but smarter than his years and like his brother with a very obvious artistic talent. I spent a lot of time round his parents listening to John Peel and records and writing songs with his brother so we knew eachother well.
The Membranes were the subjects of lots of Ian’s early photo sessions and his easy going style and enthusiasm were great. We were learning together, punk and DIY had inspired us, we all wanted to do something artful, I was making music and doing my fanzine, my brother was a photographer as well and so was Ian- Ian took it all the way to the top and quickly developed his own style. You could tell very early that he was a long way ahead of the rest of the pack.

In the eighties we worked together on the late and great Sounds music paper. We started there at about the same time and it was great to work together again with my old Blackpool buddy- we did some great jobs like the Roses and Nirvana and loads of other stuff and it was always a great laugh with the feeling that we were right on top of the game.
Quite a few of the Stone Roses shots in the book and exhibition I’m standing just off shot. By then he was on the way to the top and it was great to see.

Wandering around the exhibition is like a trip to a different time and of a band that already look like they knew they were going to the top. They are photogenic and steeped in pop culture history, they knew the moves and how to make those moves their own. Even at the time I remember looking at those early shots and knowing that the band was going to be massive. It’s half the battle isn’t it? if you get the music right and you look great you can’t be stopped and like getting a get producer to help get your sound right, getting a great photographer to help define what you look like is also crucial.

Ian Tilton and the Stone Roses were so tied together in the mythology and the photographic process that it great to see it all underlined in this exhibition. The posed shots a re brilliant and the backstage at Blackpool stuff is classic- you get no better idea of the Roses at their peak that these pictures- they tell the whole story in a way that no-one else can.

This is an exhibition that is a must for anyone into the Stone Roses but also into rock n roll and pop culture. It’s also the meeting place for the hordes of Roses fans coming into town from the nearby Piccadilly Station and will be a stopping off point for Heaton Park and this very Mancunian summer.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.



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