Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust.
– The Clash
The Clash? Just a band.
– Scroobius Pip
Last week’s announcement of new dates by what is usually described as (take a deep breath) ‘seminalManchesterindiedancecrossoverband’ The Stone Roses caused a predictable backlash in certain quarters. You can always rely on the Daily Mash to tell it like it is…
While I will happily confess to quite liking some of The Roses’ songs, and can even listen to a couple off the almost universally loathed ‘Second Coming’, it is difficult to find much to argue with in this, from the Guardian’s Sam Wolfson:
The Stone Roses… are Primal Scream in need of editing; a band with a couple of nice songs that go on too long. Their real legacy is this huge show on an island that wasn’t an island that everyone who was there says sounded awful. They are a live band most famous for being shit live.
And let’s face it, if you wanted to hear a terrible, off-key rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ being played over a crappy sound system, you could wander into most karaoke bars at a certain hour of the night. There seems to be little need to fork out £55 plus booking fee to see the now haggard originals, unless you are incredibly keen to pretend that it is the early nineties again. Even John Squire, quoted in popbitch, seems unsure:
“I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses” – John Squire, 2009
“We’ve rehearsed, we’ve written songs and in some ways it seems like 15 years ago. It’s quite strange” – John Squire, 2011
Perhaps this mythology-building seems particularly hard to countenance for anyone with a passing acquaintance with dance music’s early years, because the way the rock legends were built up into untouchables was something that house – like punk before it – promised was going to be done away with. The amount of samples and varying influences being thrown in to the mix meant that it was possible to appreciate the past, while never losing the joy of the new. I believe this blend is at the heart of the love of music, yet if one exists without the other you end up mired in your own glory days or recklessly running from one new trend to another. Balance is key.
Music moves pretty fast at times, and few other than the professionally fanatical have the chance to keep up. In the mad scramble, bands and tunes that might have become loved are often lost, so that there is no shame in revisiting past sounds which may have been overlooked. To avoid doing so could mean missing out on discovering a new favourite, a real tragedy.
But the relentless backwards gaze becomes damaging at the point at which the adulation for the past chokes the airways of the new. If everyone paying through the nose to watch Mani and co amble through the classics could also be persuaded to chuck in a fiver to watch some unsigned bands, perhaps we wouldn’t be doomed to a chart full of nostalgia-peddlers and end-of-the-pier talent show winners. Maybe.
It is also hard to get away from a feeling that The Roses had their moment in the sun. They had all the attention that a band could wish for and – if we are honest – fucked it right up. Choking under the pressure to perform was largely what they did best (worst?) Now, older and wiser, they are seeking to seal the legacy and earn one last great payday, but such an attempt to rewrite their history must be doomed to failure. At the first sign of arguments or no-shows the music press will be clicking Ctrl+C on the old headlines again. Perhaps their cause would be better advanced by packing the headlining slots full of up and coming bands who can only dream of such exposure.
But always remember. The Stone Roses? Just a band.