The Past Was Yours, The Future’s Fine – confessions of a Stone Roses veteran fan
The Stone Roses were one of those bands that changed people’s lives. In June 22nd 1989 Craig McAllister, who runs his own excellent blog, was one a handful of people who saw them play in at Glasgow Rooftops and it took him on journey. The band’s recent reformation brought all those memories flooding back…
Ian Brown live on stage at Glasgow Rooftops 1989[/caption]
Teaching a generation of frontman how to move – Ian Brown live on stage at Glasgow Rooftops 1989[/caption]
Photos of Stone Roses at Glasgow Rooftops 22.6.89 copyright & courtesy of Gordon Hay.
This time last week there were only vague rumours of a Stone Roses reunion and my Joe Bloggs knickers were in a right twist at the thought of it. Would they play Glasgow? Bet they only play Manchester. Would I get a ticket? Bet everyone gets a ticket except me. How much would they be? Bet the touts have all the tickets already. On Tuesday, once those rumours were actually confirmed, my mind went into giddy overdrive. Making plans. Scheming. Dreaming. Rewinding half of my life to the first time around. I’m already thinking about growing my hair again into that Paul McCartney ’65 mop that I fashioned from the decaying ends of my quiff in 1989. Will it look OK in grey? It should do, I’m telling myself. Will the reunion work? Do they ever work? Do I want it to work? I think I do, I’m telling myself. Out of the blue I get a text from my old pal Grant Canyon. I haven’t heard from him in years. Canyon and myself were the first to get into The Stone Roses. We were! A big deal when your band becomes everyone’s band. Veterans of three Stone Roses gigs, they were, for a brief technicolour summer or two, the most important band on our planet.
Canyon’s text is simple and to the point. “Manchester?”
That question mark is important. A lot has changed since the last time. Mortgages. Proper jobs. Children. Wives. The cost of living. Christ, the cost of loving. “Sweetheart, I’m just off with a few of the boys to Manchester in a vain attempt to relive my hedonistic youth. I’ll see you on Monday. Or Tuesday.” That doesn’t come for free, I can tell you that. There’s gonna be a lot of sucking up and groveling between now and then.
The memories are flooding back. Every time I hear Fools Gold I get a Pavlovian rush of the smell of warm chestnuts, cooking on a November London street on the way to the Ally Pally. The old bootlegs come back out and Glasgow Green sounds better than I remember. Their best ever gig, some say. I hated it.
The thumping intro tape, all drum loops and backwards guitar-as-siren had finished and through the blasts of rave whistles and shouts of excitable Scots, nerves taut with anticipation and expectation, the low rumble of I Wanna Be Adored began its fade in. The hi-hat (always the hi-hat) kick started that idiotic shuffle dance that most of us would continue for the next hour and a half. With bass and drums as canvas, a head down John teasingly splashed huge dollops of psychedelic feedback squall on top, reverberating to the back of the tent and returning twice as loud, twice as intense. And then, finally, the riff. Thousands of out of tune voices singing along, lost in our own wee world, lost in the right here and right now, in a tent in the East End of Glasgow, the most important place on Earth. This was brilliant! This was E times ten! This was”FUCK YOU! A punch. Right in the face. Right in my face. Right at the top of my nose.
Two eyes streaming with tears, dumbstruck and trying to work out what had just happened. One of my extended crowd, a friend of a friend who’d been on the train with 20 of us from Irvine, noticed me holding my face. “Who was it? Who was it? We’ll do him.”
As I shrugged in the negative and wiped the gunge from my face I saw the wee bastard slink his way into the crowd. Gone. He sneaked a half glance back, knowing he’d got away. My lot quickly got back to the main event. I couldn’t. This party was over. Here I was being soaked by the sweat of 7000 lunatics as it dripped from the roof of this massive tent, my own snot down the front of my brand new top and a throbbing between my eyes that pulsed in perfect time to every note coming from Mani’s bass. Second Summer of Love? Not for me.
Forget Reading in ’96, this was the day the music died. When our band became their band. Band of The People? The wrong sort of people if you ask me. Once, you liked The Stone Roses instead of Bon Jovi or Wet Wet Wet. Now the twonks that liked Bon Jovi and Wet Wet Wet also liked The Stone Roses. Them and the neds. Aye, The Stone Roses were now a ned band. The music snob in me knew this was wrong, wrong, wrong.
It wasn’t always like this of course. Just after the album had come out, Canyon and myself were returning from a record buying spree in Glasgow (Mega City 4’s Clear Blue Skies on 7” for me, if you’re interested). Going from 23rd Precinct Records back to Central Station something on a Renfield Street wall caught our eyes. A huge lemon poster advertising the album, underneath which someone had graffitied “Rooftops, 12th June.” Oh aye! We’d be there. We scrounged a lift from someone we barely knew who was going to see Birdland the same night ” “You’d like them” and joined the round the block queue outside Rooftops. Worryingly for us, Birdland was fast becoming the bookies’ favourite, but somehow we made it in, £4 on the door plus entry to the reggae disco after, no tickets or anything like that.
A support band. The Shy Reptiles. Pish. Hurry up, hurry up! A DJ. Love. The Beatles. Some anonymous acid house. Hurry up, hurry up! Orange Juice. Happy Mondays’ Do It Better goes down well. Then the volume rises a notch and the backwards intro tape starts. Place goes bananas. And there they are. John and Ian and Mani and Reni. We’re at the front. Now we’re at the side. In the middle. “Over here!” Oh. The front again. I’m right at John’s feet, watching it all. The guitarist in me realizes he can’t be making all these noises himself , he’s barely stomping on any of those pedals. And that’s when I notice Cressa behind the Messa Boogie. Not just dancing, Bez-like, but mixing it all together, a phaser here, a chorus flange there. The sonic architect. The unsung hero. The 5th Rose. He better be back next year too. I’m recording it all on my wee Dictaphone. There’s songs we don’t even know. Canyon gets the handwritten setlist at the end. A beautiful piece of pop art in itself. Now I can fill in the tracklist on my bootleg C90. That night, The Stone Roses became more than just my favourite band.
They were now The Most Important Band Ever.
A few months later and we’re off to Ally Pally. Three of us this time, full of gumption but empty of pocket. The all-night bus to London. Sleeping in doorways and floorways. A trio of wide-eyed tourists. Soho. Camden Market. Pizza at Piccadilly Circus. £3 a slice. A slice! Great pizza though. Negotiate the Tube. Bit tricky, that bit. Finally Alexandra Palace, up on the hill. Inside, a drink by the palm trees with a group of handy-looking Mancunians just back from seeing the band in Paris. Into the hall. Carpeted floor! Not like The Barrowlands at all.
No support this time. Just a brilliant DJ. Pacific State. James Brown. The Stones (“Woo-woo! Woo-woo!”) Some anonymous acid house. A laser show! We’re right at the front again. She Bangs The Drums. Mani gives us a big grin (aye!) and sticks his tongue out, Stones logo fashion as he swings his Pollocked Rickenbacker low over our heads. Gurn for the TV cameras (where’s the footage, eh?) and give one another static shocks doing that idiotic shuffle dance on the ridiculous carpet. This. Is. Amazing! Manchest-uh la la la, Manchest-uh la la la. It’s not where you’re from it’s where you’re at and that big inflatable globe goes bouncing into the crowd. Resurrection into Fools Gold and off into the night, spent in every conceivable way.
We need to do this more often. So we do. Trips to gigs in Manchester. We buy tickets for Spike Island in Eastern Bloc. How’re we gonnae get tae Spike Island? Where is Spike Island? We’ll manage! Then Glasgow Green is announced. We sell our tickets to two gullible fools at my work. Instant regret. Those two gullible fools can say they were there. We weren’t. We waited instead for Glasgow Green, and we all know how that turned out.
“Manchester?” My fingers poke at the keyboard on my phone as I re-read Canyon’s text. “I’ll let you know,” I reply. Now I’m off to sweet-talk the boss who doesn’t yet realize her plans for next summer’s family holiday might be changing”¦