Kissing The Cotton Clouds

Shari Denson, friend of mine I’ve never met but know on Facebook, is a photographer and has taken loads of great pictures of bands playing in and around Manchester. Last year she put on a one- off exhibition in a slate park under the Mancunian Way which I missed but looked really good. A week ago on Facebook she posted this picture, a shot taken at Cotton Clouds festival a couple of years ago. Shari asked ‘does anyone recognise either of these gorgeous folk?’

It is a stunning photograph, a moment in time caught. I don’t know which band the couple are watching, it looks like daytime so presumably a band lower down the bill. They’re a good looking couple, photogenic and sexy and they embody that freedom you have when you’re young. He is caught up in the performance happening to the left of the picture, she has noticed the camera and glanced at the shutter, looking straight at us. Both are in the moment, together but with a different focus. Some of Shari’s friends said the woman looks a bit like Madonna and the man like Jeff Buckley. Another suggested it could be from an 80s film, this one maybe…

Shari said that if she were her, she’d want the picture printed and on the wall, ready to show her grand-kids in several decades time. This generation have so many photographs of themselves, they document themselves and their lives constantly almost without thinking about it. I’ve got very few photos from my teens or twenties. We only really started taking photographs regularly when we had children. Selfies weren’t really a thing until phones and cameras became brought together in one object.

Since the original thread a week ago I think the man has been identified but on the night she posted it another friend Karen said that in some ways she hoped they wouldn’t be found, that she liked their anonymity, she didn’t want to know who they were- ‘Mystery is everything sometimes, right?’ In some ways I agree- without names they are a kind of every couple, young and unfettered.

Karen said that when the couple who were in the famous photo in Times Square at the end of World War II were named and their stories known it ruined the photo for her. Both lived into their nineties. The woman, Greta Friedman, said that the sailor, George Mendonsa, didn’t ask to kiss her, he just grabbed her. According to Greta it wasn’t romantic, more a drunken celebration, and today that strikes a very different tone.

Times Square: Sailor and nurse kissing in iconic WWII photograph ...

More happily, the couple from the sleeve of the Woodstock album were found forty years later and happily were still together.

It also made me think of this photo taken in New York in the mid- 1940s,a snapshot of Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs near Columbia University. One of the books I’ve read about the Beats, it might have been Carolyn Cassady’s autobiography, wrote about this picture and said that the only person who is in the moment is Jack, meeting the gaze of the lens. Hal is looking at Allen, Allen has his eyes closed, frozen slightly, Burroughs too. Jack is there, alive and looking back at us, tuned it. Shari’s photo is similar- a better photo too- him intensely looking elsewhere and her looking down the camera at us.

Cotton Clouds takes place, or took place, at Saddleworth near Oldham and has been played by The Coral, Sugarhill Gang and Nick Heywood in 2017, Sister Sledge, Starsailor and The Orielles the following year and Peter Hook, Alabama 3, The Wailers and Tim Burgess last August. I think the promoters have since gone into administration and it probably wouldn’t have happened this year anyway.

I’m assuming that Cotton Clouds was named after the line in Elephant Stone, a song that is one of The Stone Roses finest moments. I’d take Elephant Stone over the entire Second Coming album, it’s unaffected, weightless and heady-

‘Burst into heaven
Kissing the cotton clouds
Arctic sheets and fields of wheat
I can’t stop coming down’

Elepahnt Stone is a technicolour burst of northern psychedelic, the words and guitars in a rush to unfold and Reni’s drums driving everything on, the sound surfacing only for a breather with the ‘seems like there’s a hole/in my dreams’ before diving back in again.

Elephant Stone 12″ Mix

 

Gold Road’s Sure A Long Road

It’s amazing how the internet throws things up- this clip is The Stone Roses performing Fools Gold on Dutch TV in 1989. We’ve all seen the the famous Top Of the Pops performance, some of us many, many times, but until the other night I’d never seen this clip before. I didn’t know it existed. Ian, John, Reni and Mani at the height of their cool, all four giving it the insouciant, hair growing out, swagger that was a massive part of their appeal. The crowd, considering this a mimed performance, are going for it too. Dutch kids clearly knew the score.

Audrey Witherspoon

I mentioned the remixes Andrew Weatherall made his name with yesterday. In the early 90s remix culture became the big thing, record companies throwing thousands of pounds at club DJs to stick dance beats underneath a song. Weatherall’s remixes never took the easy road, were never formulaic. In most cases the remixes were better than the source material and he was still producing superb remixes until recently.

Primal Scream have put out several Best Of/ Greatest Hits, one only last year. The one they haven’t released and would be the contender for the best Best Of would be the one that compiled Weatherall’s work for the group. The AW/PS compilation wold start with Loaded, a remix so groundbreaking and gigantic it created an entire scene and gave the Scream a career. Andrew’s remix of Come Together is monumental. I once said here that there are days when I think it is the single greatest record ever made and I don’t see any reason to argue with myself.

‘Today on this programme you will hear gospel and rhythm and blues and jazz. All these are just labels, we know that music is music’

The rest of Screamadelica that Andrew produced would be on this Primal Scream Best Of too- Inner Flight, Shine Like Stars, Don’t Fight It Feel It (and the amazing Scat Mix where Denise Johnson’s voice is chopped up and scattered over the track) and the Jah Wobble bass of Higher Than The Sun (A Dub Symphony In Two Parts). Then this, ten glorious minutes of slow groove, horn driven spaced out house, from the Dixie Narco e.p.

Screamadelica

His knob- twiddling on the other two songs on the Dixie Narco e.p. brought two other classics Stone My Soul and their cover of Dennis Wilson’s Carry Me Home, one of the very best things Bobby Gillespie and co ever did. Primal Scream’s follow up was their Rolling Stones record. Weatherall produced remixes of Jailbird. Trainspotting from Vanishing Point. The far out Two Lone Swordsmen remix of Stuka. The pair of productions he did on Evil Heat- the gliding shimmer of Autobahn 66 and the mutant funk of A Scanner Darkly. The fifteen minute remix of Uptown, a signpost in 2009 that Weatherall was back at the remix peak. The remix and dub version of 2013. That’s the Primal Scream Best Of.

In the early 90s his remixes broke genres, chucking in the kitchen sink, its plumbing, the work surface and all the white goods too. His dub remix of Saint Etienne was a moment of clarity for me, the doorway to another world, the two halves glued together by the sample ‘the DJ, eases a spliff from his lyrical lips and smilingly orders ”cease!” ‘

Only Love Can Break Your Heart (A Mix Of Two Halves)

Andrew’s remixes from this period are full of little moments to raise a smile, samples from obscure places, huge basslines, sudden changes in pace or tempo, piano breakdowns and thumping rhythms. Almost every single one is worth seeking out and almost every single one has been posted here at some point. In no particular order- S’Express’ Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, Forget ‘Em, The Drum by The Impossibles, a mad pair of remixes of Flowered Up’s Weekender, the magnificent The World According To… for Sly And Lovechild, his work for One Dove (that produced some career high remixes in the shape of Squire Black Dove Rides Out and the Guitar Paradise version of White Love and his production work on the most beautiful and most lost of the lost albums of the 1990s Morning Dove White), his remix of My Bloody Valentine’s Soon, on its own a justification of remix culture and two reworkings of The Orb’s Perpetual Dawn that take his and The Orb’s dub roots into pounding new places. Roots music.

Perpetual Dawn Ultrabass I

Perpetual Dawn Ultrabass II

Add to all these his remixes of Jah Wobble, three versions of Visions Of You, spread over twenty five minutes of vinyl and two remixes of Bomba that have to be heard to be believed. Decades after first hearing this one I found the source of the madcap intro (Miles Davis) when it had been there in the title all along.

Bomba (Miles Away)

His remixes of The Grid’s Floatation are also sublime. As a fan of The Stone Roses the moment when he drops John Squire’s guitar part from Waterfall into the ending of the track brought things together for me perfectly.

Floatation (Sonic Swing Mix)

There are so many more. The speaker shattering thump of Fini Tribe’s 101. His long tribal workout of Papua New Guinea. The sweet smell of didgeridoo on Galliano’s meandering Skunk Funk. Indie, ambient, house, dub, everything from the fringes of music’s past, ready to sample and plunder to make something new, with a sense of possibility and openness. This would all be mere nostalgia were it not for Weatherall’s continual left turns and about turns in the following years. His remixes from the last decade, again almost all posted here at some point, are of a similar high standard but he rarely if ever repeats himself. There are similarities in tone and palette but always with an eye looking forward and perpetual motion. The remix of MBV’s Soon and his remix of Fuck Buttons Sweet Love For Planet Earth seem somehow linked to me, the manipulation of noise and the intense melodies found within over crunching dance floor rhythms. I’ve not even begun to touch on his remixes with Sabres of Paradise, the treasure that lies within Sabres own records (Sabresonic, Haunted Dancehall, Theme, Wilmot, oh man, Wilmot- we were at Cream once waiting for ages for Weatherall to arrive and eventually word came through that he was delayed, wasn’t going to make it. Resident DJ and owner Darren Hughes played on and dropped Wilmot, unheard by us at that point, the whole back room skanking to those wandering horns).

Then there was Two Lone Swordsmen whose remixes were harder, purer somehow, more focused, less obvious. It took time sometimes for them to reveal themselves. The TLS albums from The Fifth Mission onward, the stoned hip hop grooves of A Virus With Shoes, the double album of juddering bass and London machine funk of Tiny Reminders, Swimming Not Skimming. My favourite of the TLS albums from this period has become Stay Down. Released on Warp from its cover art, a painting of a pair of deep sea divers, to its memorable song titles (try Hope We Never Surface, Light The Last Flare, Spine Bubbles, Mr Paris’ Monsters and As Worldly Pleasures Wave Goodbye for starters- that last one has just made me gulp) it is a self contained mini- masterpiece. Stay Down is an abstract album of short tracks, weird, rhythmic, minimal ambient music, sounding like it has been submerged and then recovered from the deep, humanised analogue IDM. Never standing still, always moving forward.

Light The Last Flare

Twenty One

Today is our eldest’s 21st birthday. Isaac was born on 23rd November 1998 and, as some of you will know, from that point on has had a complicated and difficult time. Diagnosed with a serious, life limiting condition at eight months, multiple operations, deafness, physical and learning disabilities, all compounded by meningitis at ten years old (a result of the refusal of his immune system to grow back following two bone marrow transplants in 2000). Along the way he has refused to stop or slow down and brought joy and laughter to almost everyone he meets- questioning them about the motorways they use, the day their bins go out, the tram or train stations they use and the supermarkets they shop at. He is now in his second year at college and loves it (his college in Salford integrate the young adults with additional needs with the mainstream students on one campus). He goes out with his adult social services group, a service that has somehow survived repeated cuts by the Tory government and council over the last ten years. Things have been on a fairly even keel in recent years but you can’t ever really take things for granted with him (his immune system is still shot to pieces) so twenty one is an achievement, a marker, especially for a young man who more than once while in hospital wasn’t expected to survive the night. Happy birthday Isaac.

I only twigged recently that this event was also on the 23rd November, nine years earlier. The legendary night in 1989 when Top Of The Pops was gatecrashed by Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. At the time in ’89 I remember sitting in my student house, finger poised over the record button on the rented VHS machine. Happy Mondays came on first, miming Hallelujah, the lead song off the Madchester Rave On e.p. Hallelujah on the 12″ is a colossal, six minute piece of grinding Mancunian funk, produced by Martin Hannett pumped full of pills the Mondays gave him, not the kind of song to make the nation’s favourite chart show. The 7″ featured a Steve Lillywhite mix (The MacColl Mix) slightly smoothed out with Kirsty on backing vox. It still sounds like a groovy, out of sync, unholy racket, Shaun William Ryder wanting to ‘lie down beside yer, fill yer full of junk’.

Kirsty joined the band for the TV appearance, dressed down in double denim and trainers. The Mondays had been to Amsterdam before the show for some ‘shopping’ and were all Armani-d up. As the cameras began to roll Shaun asked the nearby cameraman ‘does me knob look massive in these strides?’ Bez apparently remembers nothing of the day at all.

The Stone Roses appeared shortly after having ridden into the top ten with a double A-side, Fool’s Gold and What the World Is Waiting For. The forty date spring tour and debut album saw them grow and grow, bringing more  and more fans on board, hair was lengthening and trousers widening. Fool’s Gold was a step on completely from the album, nine minutes fifty three seconds of liquid, ominous funk, John Squire’s guitar circling round and round, helicopter noises and wah wah bedlam, Reni and Mani were locked in tight. Over the top Ian Brown whispers about greed, the hills and the Marquis de Sade.

Thirty years ago today and still sharper than the rest.

River Splashes Against The Rocks

There’s yet another thirty year anniversary taking place today. Three decades ago today The Stone Roses played Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom, a summer jaunt to the coast by a group then riding the absolute crest of the wave. The gig was the first of the group’s one off specials, an attempt to stage gigs that were out of the ordinary, to give fans something special. The Empress Ballroom, part of the Winter Gardens, is a beautiful room with Victorian coving, a sprung floor, balconies and glass chandeliers. The band spent the day of the gig larking abut on the seafront for the NME’s photographer before playing a perfect show. A Dave Haslam DJ set warmed the crowd up (not they needed it, everyone was more than ready and in the mood). Ian took to the stage with a flashing yo-yo and a cry of ‘Manchester, Manchester, international, international..’ and then it was take off- most of the debut album plus Where Angels Play and Mersey Paradise.

Mersey Paradise

Thirty years on from its appearance as the B-side to She Bangs The Drum and the penultimate song played at Blackpool, Mersey Paradise became the song of our summer holiday this year. My daughter, a slowly growing interest in Manchester’s musical history, suddenly declared that the song was her new favourite. It’s one of mine too, full on psychedelic pop- Squire’s fast, circling, chiming guitar riff and Reni’s brilliant drumming (and backing vocals) power the song onward through it’s two minutes forty-four seconds. Ian surfs on top, the words tumbling on top of each other, occasionally bubbling up for the listener to singalong- ‘she doesn’t care for my despair’, ‘river cools where I belong’.

It turns out that I’ve been singing the wrong words for nigh on three decades- ‘river splashes against the rocks/ A slow escape and hope the tracks won’t/ lead me down to docklands/ it’s all places where we fall to pieces’ has been my version since 1989. According to all the lyric sites it’s actually-

‘River splashes against the rocks
And I scale the slope, I hope the tracks won’t
Lead me down to dark black pits
Or places where we fall to bits’

Can’t see me changing that habit now but you live and learn. Thankfully I’m much better with the second verse.

‘As I stare an oil wheel comes
Sailing by and I feel like
Growing fins and falling in
With the bricks, the bikes, the rusty tin cans
I’ll swim along without a care
I’m eating sand when I need air
You can bet your life I’ll meet a pike
Who’ll wolf me down for tea tonight’

There’s a lack of guile and a real pre-fame sense to the words to Mersey Paradise, lyrics that they couldn’t have written later on. The Mersey runs through south Manchester, forming a southern border to Chorlton, where Ian and John lived at the time most of the first album’s songs were written and it’s easy to imagine the song being written following a walk in Chorlton Waterpark. The words hint at something darker too, a drowning, love, heartbreak and despair on the banks of the river. A song they put on the B-side of a summer single too along with the much longer, majestic, Hendrix pop of Standing Here. Who’d have guessed that within in a year it would be all over? Or that a B-side from a 12″ single in 1989 would still be turning kids on to the band in 2019?

Take A Look Around There’s Something Happening

Drew pointed out on Twitter at the weekend that today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Stone Roses debut album, 2nd May 1989. I’ve thought about this fact a bit in the days since. At first I thought I wouldn’t post anything about it as a) I’ve covered The Roses fairly extensively here and recently too with three posts about their backwards songs b) posting about album’s birthdays runs the risk of falling into a nostalgia trap which I try to avoid maybe not always successfully and c) I wasn’t sure I had anything to add. Drew asked me how the thirtieth birthday made me feel? Old, Drew, mainly it makes me feel old.

In May 1989 I was a couple of weeks short of turning nineteen. Two days after the album was released, 4th May 1989,  I saw them play in the Haigh Building at Liverpool Poly. I don’t think when I went to the gig I realised the album was out, being less well informed than we are now, pre-internet. For the record the gig cost £3.50 and I still have the ticket somewhere. The album came out with little fanfare to some lukewarm press reviews but began building a word of mouth buzz during the course of the long tour they undertook to promote it and some increasingly breathless live reviews in the weeklies. The Haigh Building was a small venue and rammed the night they played. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band that had the effect on me that The Roses had that night, playing a set of songs many of which I hadn’t heard before but which fried my brain. Of the eleven songs they played I’d heard four- Sally Cinnamon, Here It Comes, Elephant Stone and Made Of Stone. There was virtually zero audience interaction- at one point Ian stopped between songs to ask who’d thrown the lemon on stage- but they had charisma and a diffident confidence, John’s fluid guitar, Mani’s rumbling, melodic bass and Reni’s effortless drumming and harmonies. Ian swayed and bobbed at the front, eyes half closed and microphone in hand, calmness lost in the swirl of song around him. They started with I Wanna Be Adored and finished with I Am The Resurrection, just under an hour on stage, no encore. Head spinning psychedelic songs, 60s inspired but with enough of the late 80s in them to avoid being just retro or revivalist, and judging by the audience, hair starting to grow out and clothes starting to get baggier, fervently mouthing the words to the songs, something was stirring, something was about to happen. I got the album the next day.

I was going to go through the record song by song but you don’t need me to do that and I’ve written about most of the songs on it before. In the middle of side two, before the glistening, heart stopping dynamics of This Is The One and the full on arrogance plus freak out of I Am The Resurrection is Shoot You Down, a full band song with smoky, late night vibes, softly sung vox and brushed drums, guitars by Hendrix if he’d been from Chorlton-cum-Hardy not Seattle.

Shoot You Down

This one was recorded for the album but didn’t make it, was played live all the way through the tour and at Spike Island just over a year later. It finally saw the light of day on a cash-in 12″ released by Silvertone years later, the label the band were in dispute with and taking to court to get rid of. A minor classic, rolling drums and bass with droplets of guitar, the sound of early summer, freshly mown grass and rain after sunshine.

Where Angels Play

There’s an audience recording of the gig at Liverpool Poly here. They used to sell these bootleg cassettes, often terrible recordings with shonky home made covers. I bought quite a few before I learned my lesson. This one is good though and shows Ian’s vocal issues weren’t always a problem.

In an internet coincidence I came across these on Twitter, songs from the album re-imagined as Penguin book covers (done by Barrabas Youngblood). I love the This Is The One cover, taking the ‘girl consumed by fire’ line as its starting point, and the way the art for Waterfall and Don’t Stop are inversions of each (as the songs are too. Waterfall’s lyrics tell of a girl getting out of her home town and dropping LSD on the cross channel ferry, ‘lifting the lids of her eyes’, an archetypal 80s Roses lyric). Bye Bye Badman is superb too, the cover depicting the song’s Paris ’68 riots theme (also the origin of the lemon motif, an antidote to the effects of CS gas according to an old man they’d met in a pub).

The opening line of the second verse of Waterfall asks the question ‘now you’re at the wheel/ tell me how, how does it feel?’ Thirty years on it makes me feel old Ian, there’s no getting away from it, but listening to the songs (and hearing my 15 year old daughter singing them round the house) they make me feel young too, not as young as I was in May ’89 maybe, but young enough.

Untitled And More

Stop me if you think I’m going too far with all of this but my investigations into the backwards songs The Stone Roses released as B-sides in the late 1980s has taken me further into new territory. Two weeks ago I started with the official releases- Full Fathom Five, Guernica and Simone- which paved the way for the giddy, trippy backwards version of Waterfall that is Don’t Stop. Last week I got sucked into a backwards wormhole with the vinyl version of Full Fathom Five which when reversed gave us the Peter Hook version of Elephant Stone. I also found the intro music, the backwards version of She Bangs The Drums that is I Am Without Shoes.

Delving further I was reminded of a Silvertone re-release of the debut album, an anniversary rip off edition, where they stuck some ‘new’ backwards tracks out as to entice fans in (along with the album on a USB stick that was shaped like a lemon). There were five of these untitled songs, all versions of songs off the album, played backwards. Presumably Silvertone went through the tapes and found the bits Squire and the rest abandoned once recording was finsihed. This one is Untitled 4, some of the guitars and bass from I Wanna Be Adored, with a lot of extra noise and feedback.

Simone was an extra track on an import 12″ single, the U.S. release of Adored- I posted it two weeks ago- but this fan made video for Simone is worth a watch, capturing something of the spirit of the backwards songs and the times (Belinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine and the Soon video is present too, drifting through the washed out visuals ).

Going deeper now. A Youtube user named Zouch has reversed Don’t Stop.

Don’t Stop backwards is Waterfall forwards but there’s a lot more than just that going on here, with forwards and backwards vocals and John’s guitars playing in both directions.

Incidentally, there seems to be a difference between analogue and digital backwards. Analogue backwards songs are true backwards, playing the notes from back to start. I’m guessing there’s a difference between playing tapes backwards and vinyl backwards too. Digital backwards reverses the bytes but plays them forwards. I think- if you can confirm or contradict this or know more, feel free to let me know. This would help account for the difference between the vinyl and CD single release of Full Fathom Five possibly (of which more below).

Lastly, for the moment, a Youtube user called Bryan has put together twenty three minutes of Stone Roses backwards songs played forwards (these are backwards versions of digital releases- this is made clear by the first song, the CD single version of Full Fathom Five played backwards, to give us a disjointed version of Elephant Stone, as opposed to the backwards 12″ vinyl version which if you recall gave us Hooky’s Elephant Stone). This first track makes it clear that the backwards songs were worked on, not merely the tapes reversed, and had parts added and taken away. It is followed by reversed versions of Guernica and Simone (Made Of Stone and Where Angels Play, both floating around in swirly rushes with the song surfacing ever now and then and then fading into the whirlpool). Bryan has then stacked up Untitled songs 1 to 5, the ‘new’ backwards tracks now played forwards to give us an alternative version of Where Angels Play, two scrambled versions of She Bangs The Drums, the version of Adored posted above and then the return of She Bangs The Drums). Are we done yet?