48 Thrills?

Today is my 48th birthday. I suppose I have to face facts that I am now late 40s rather than mid-40s and that 50 is bearing down on me. Age may well be nothing but a number but also you have to come to realise that you are not a young person anymore, you are in fact middle aged and increasingly so as each year passes by. There aren’t many songs with 48 in the title- but there is this one which promises me 48 thrills this weekend. Maybe.

48 Hours

Due to a pile up of other events and commitments this weekend my initial plans have not come to fruition. Andrew Weatherall and A Certain Ratio shared a gig at the Hebden Bridge Trade’s Club last night (which I wanted to go to but couldn’t). Steve Cobby and Darren Emerson were DJing at Band On The Wall last night too (which I wanted to attend as a back up to the ACR/Weatherall gig but couldn’t) and tonight Weatherall is doing a Wrong Meeting event at the Golden Lion in Todmorden but I can’t attend that either. So without any of those plans coming off I shall have to take it a bit easier and be a bit more local, a bit more sedate and a bit more middle aged about my birthday.

Kiyadub 45

I don’t remember being consulted about the aristocracy holding their wedding on my birthday either. A member of the British royal family is marrying an American. I will not be watching it. I believe the royal family should be abolished and that having a monarchy is not just undemocratic but anti-democratic, that we can never really even pretend to have a goal of a fair and just society when we have a monarchy. I am quite cheered by opinion polls that suggest a majority of people are at best ‘politely disinterested’ but also, y’know, stuff your street parties and the idiots with union flags camping out on the streets of Windsor, cheering on an institution that does not care about them a single jot. Rant over, as Drew says.

Elizabeth My Dear

Actually, rant not over. The FA Cup Final is on today as well, kicking off at 5.30 between my club, Manchester United, and Chelsea. My opinion, seeing as I’m giving them out today, is that Jose Mourinho is a bad thing, an outdated, negative, narcissist who wants the praise for himself when they win and blames the players when they lose, a man who thinks spending massive sums of  money is a substitute for coaching. I didn’t want him to get the job 2 years ago but we’re stuck with him for the moment and obviously I’ll still be wanting United to win.

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Now So Much Waste How We’ll Be Teased

It is the 50th anniversary of the events of May 1968 where students and workers in Paris staged a series of strikes and demonstrations that very nearly brought the government down, tapping into and inspiring a year of revolution and turmoil. Back in May 1988 it was the 20th anniversary and I remember watching an excellent Channel 4 documentary about it and reading various articles and features while I was supposed to be revising for my A Levels.
A year later, May 1989, The Stone Roses released their debut album which was peppered with references to May 68 (along with a regicide fantasy) which made The Roses seem like a political band, revolutionaries maybe, a view of them that has been lost over the years. On Bye Bye Badman Ian Brown sings about the smoke and choke of tear gas and the neutralising effect citrus fruit has on  CS gas (something an old man told them in a pub according to interviews). The lemons on the album cover and T-shirts repeat this. ‘I’m throwing stones at you’ Ian croons, to the policeman in the picture above, the cobblestones of the streets of Paris underneath which would be found the beach. Ian would return to May 68 on solo songs (Corpses In Their Mouths was a Situationist slogan of the time).
The song on that sparkling debut album that precedes Bye Bye Badman is the one I can keep coming back to, that hasn’t become over familiar. Don’t Stop is Waterfall backwards. It’s an easy studio trick, reverse the tape and see what happens- trippy whooshing sounds, stoned, Satanic vocals and a 60s vibe. But Don’t Stop is much better than merely a lazy studio mucking about session. John Squire’s backwards guitar riff is a joy, sucking the distortion and lead lines into new shapes and Reni’s new rhythm track puts it in touch with another revolution, the one of 1988-90 that was taking place in nightclubs, warehouses and fields. For the words John listened to the backwards Waterfall vocal and then wrote down what the lines suggested, resulting in something close to poetry.
‘Don’t stop, isn’t it funny how you shine?
Here the sea spray give
I was with her
We’re under the ship so get me over
Now that was me, listen
Now she fishes now, listen
There was no one out there we used
There is the news for me useless
Now so much waste
How we’ll be teased
Don’t stop, isn’t it funny how you shine?
Don’t stop, isn’t it funny how you shine?
Oh won’t you just ask me you’re an imbecile
What’s the matter for everyone I feel
Pain, blues singer
He’s playing just a guitar from the top
I wake I still look I feel loose
We’re all here now who’s the first ease into my heart
He must be one of us’

And May You Always Have No Shoes

With No Shoes, the opening song from the Charlatans 1997 album Tellin’ Stories, has been buzzing around my head recently. It’s a song that is blatantly in thrall to mid 90s rock ‘n’ roll, a post-Britpop shuffle and with Gallagher-esque vocal tics. It opens with some harmonica and a burst of wah-wah guitar and then drum loops supplied by a Chemical Brother (Tom Rowlands I think). Stoned and groovey. The album was released following the death of Rob Collins but he played on much of it.

With No Shoes

I’m sure I read somewhere that Tim’s lyrics were inspired by The Stone Roses legendary 1989 intro tape, a trippy and slightly menacing piece of music- a rolling bassline, lolloping drum loop and screeching sound (all sampled from a 1987 hip hop record, Small Time Hustler by Dismasters). It apparently also contains a voice whispering ‘with no shoes’. It is a valuable addition to your ever-growing mp3 collection.

The Stone Roses 1989 Intro Track

Small Time Hustler

Which also gives me an excuse to post this picture of Ian, Mani and Reni on that tour of 1989, when they were capable of blowing ecstatic heads wide open and also of turning up to play to audiences of a couple of dozen.

Top Of The World

The Christmas edition of the NME used to be a big thing. Now the NME is given away for free by the doors in Top Shop but it was always a big deal back in the day. Double sized (88 pages!), albums and tracks of the year, alternative rock stars and indie bands in fancy dress, Shaun and Bez pissed and stoned… enough to keep you going through the long hours when there’s nothing to do at a family Christmas.

In 1989 The Stone Roses were the NME’s band of the year and it flew them out to Switzerland for photographs on top of a mountain. That year they had done a nationwide tour picking up converts on a daily basis, put out their debut album plus 3 singles, and played two era-defining gigs (at Blackpool in August and Ally Pally in November, plus Top Of The Pops). The two album based singles had B-sides that were as good as most of the album tracks (Made Of Stone in March had Going Down, She Bangs The Drum in July had Standing Here and Mersey Paradise). In November they put out the double A-side of Fool’s Gold and What The World Is Waiting For, a game changer if ever there was one. They would never be that good again and in some ways 1990 would do for them- they stalled and lost the lightness of touch and sureness that in 1989 had put them on top of the world.

This Is The One

A year later NME’s writers crowned Happy Mondays as the band that made 1990 tick. In the summer Step On made them pop stars. In November they put out Kinky Afro, produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne, a move that found them with a sound perfectly suited for the times and with a lyric that is unmatched. The extended Euromix (by Oakenfold and Osborne) made its way onto various releases (the USA and Australia both got the Euromix). My mp3 version is from The Factory Tape that came with Select magazine in 1991.

Kinky Afro (Euromix)

I’ve not posted Low’s Just Like Christmas yet this year, something I have done most Decembers at Bagging Area. It is a delight, from the rattling drums and sleigh bells to the sweetly sung words describing the band travelling from Stockholm to Oslo in the snow while on tour.

Just Like Christmas

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas, whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it. See you in a few days for the post-Christmas lull.

We All Get Hurt By Love

In 1994 Kylie went for some credibility- not that she needed it, everyone loved Kylie anyway- but she was fed up with feeling like a puppet in the SAW production line. Brothers In Rhythm were on board to provide some dance productions skills and she had signed to DeConstruction (then a pretty hip dance label). Confide In Me is a slow burner, opening with violin and piano. Sweeping Arabian strings and a didgeridoo join in with the indie-dance drums. Kylie does her thing.

Confide In Me (Master Mix)

I’ve posted this before but it’s worth a repost while I’m in Kylie territory, a Go Home Productions mash up of Kylie’s Slow and The Stone Roses’ Beggin’ You. Slow is a great, sultry pop song and was co-written by Emiliana Torrini, an Icelandic singer who has graced these pages before. It looks like The Stone Roses have called it a day again- the poor reception given to the two singles and Ian’s frustration with the others not wanting to do much work is one reason that was whispered about. Another is the ever present tension between Ian and Reni. To be frank, after the Etihad shows it looked done to me anyway. This mash up is good fun.
While I’m here, I always thought this 2010 single was a really good, classy piece of electro-pop too.

One Love

Just up the road from us later on today a concert will take place at Old Trafford cricket ground, where Ariana Grande and a host of pop stars will perform with all the proceeds going to the families affected by the bombing at the arena two weeks ago. The One Love Manchester concert has shown the best side of human nature- fair play to Ariana Grande for coming back so soon and bringing so many people with her- and also some of the worst- ten thousand people applied for tickets either they weren’t entitled to (free ones for those at the arena gig) or to sell on at a profit. The line up includes Pharrell Williams, Justin Bieber, Take That, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry.

A smaller scale fundraiser is taking place at the Deaf Institute on the same day including Marshall Jefferson, Mr Scruff, Graeme Park, Steve Cobby, Dave Haslam, Peter Hook and The Light, ACR, Denise Johnson, Badly Drawn Boy.

This city has shown what it’s made of in the last two weeks (and I’m sure any other city would have done the same) and it’s moving and heartwarming to see. I’ve been moved to tears I don’t know how many times during the last fortnight.

Burn Me Out Or Bring Me Home

This picture is the Bagging Area eye view as I Wanna Be Adored kicked in on Sunday night and the rain continued to fall, Mani playing that two note intro and Reni thumping the kick drum. After those few seconds most of song, occasional bits of guitar aside, was inaudible. The crowd drowned it out. We were down on the pitch, jammed in tight, a sea of hands in the air and multiple arses sitting on the shoulders of others. Flares and coloured smoke all over the place. This is the gig as event, as spectacle. The following few songs were bellowed equally loudly- Elephant Stone, Sally Cinnamon, Sugar Spun Sister, Bye Bye Badman, Mersey Paradise, Where Angels Play. These songs aren’t really built for stadiums, they’re made for bedsits and back rooms, and playing them to 55, 000 people inevitably pulls and stretches them about as much as they can take.

It’s difficult to pin down exactly why this particular group have struck such a chord. The Heaton Park gigs four years ago were mainly attended by the thirty to fifty-somethings. This one and the three nights before it were half-full with kids, wide eyed at their parent’s heroes. There are groups with bigger back catalogues and with better singers. The Stone Roses are pretty uncompromising and unhelpful- no press, no concessions to the game- and surly with it. Ian speaks barely a word to the crowd all night except for a late dedication about father’s day and three words to introduce All For One (‘All For One’ he says). If they hired an open topped bus and drove through the town centre I’ve no doubt thousands would turn out to cheer them. I can’t think of another band so geographically defined who inspire so much adoration, the crowd willing them on at every turn. They’ve got some indefinable quality and the crowd fully expect to play their part. At times the scenes on the pitch are close to mayhem, the air thick with all kinds of smoke. But the PA is too quiet and the crowd too boisterous to really listen to the band- you can enjoy it, be part of it, soak it up and have a party, but not really listen. It seems much of the time we have paid £65 to listen to the people around us sing. The only song that gets anything close to an audience shrug is Begging You- and its a wild, squally live version well worth sticking with. On the other hand the visuals are stunning. The massive screens show close ups the band and crowd shots with Squire’s artwork dripping and sliding over the top, trippy and brilliantly clear.

The band- John, Reni and Mani- are super tight and locked in. Squire in black jeans and leather jacket, hiding behind long hair and beard, peals off riffs, solos, chords and notes, switching from rock to funk to psychedelia but with hardly a flicker of emotion. Reni is like no other drummer on earth. Mani stands still, occasionally grinning. Ian’s vocals are low in the mix and he sings fine, only really going astray on Made Of Stone. Most of the time, the crowd sing for him and with him. There are some real peaks musically- Fool’s Gold is shimmering funk with a jawdropping extended section. Shoot You Down shows exactly how subtlety can work in a stadium, Reni and Mani’s shuffling rhythms overlaid by Squire’s restrained Hendrixisms and the crowd allowing the vocals to be heard. Waterfall is everything it should be, liquid and joyous, a moment in life turned into song. It segues into Don’t Stop, the backwards psychedelia spinning out into the masses. During She Bangs the Drums I actually get a little choked up, a song about the beauty and confidence of youth being sung back by a mixture of the young and less young. Breaking Into Heaven is heavy and menacing, the difference between the lightness of the first album and the darkness of the second obvious. This Is The One is the highpoint- Squire hits the opening, chiming notes, the band totally in tune with each other and Ian in the groove, a song that shows that they wrote some affecting street poetry back in the late 80s. It really is The One. After that, as expected, it’s I Am The Resurrection. Reni plays an introductory drum solo, rolling round the kit before hitting the opening beats as Mani joins in. The versus and choruses are once again inaudible as the crowd takes over. Then the wig out. The band take a bow, hug and join hands at the lip of the stage, finally departing as fireworks explode, a little limply, behind the stand. To our right a man drops down on one knee, produces a ring form his inside pocket and proposes to his girlfriend. The band have gone. Beautiful Thing rings out over the sound system. The lights come on. She accepts. Everyone nearby cheers and offer handshakes and pats on the back. That kind of night.

In truth I thought Heaton Park was better (and I’d far sooner see them indoors, in a much smaller room like at Warrington in 2012 or Halifax last week). I’m not sure I’d go to see them at this kind of gig again, much as I would hate to not go. As I said at the start, there’s something about many of these songs which is the opposite of stadium rock. They’re personal, little jewels that shine brightest when the subtleties can be heard. But they were ripped off first time around, still making not a penny on that first album, the one their entire reputation is built on. Who can blame them for wanting an easy payday? There will be 16, 17, 18 and 19 year olds last night who got their heads re-assembled in a new order, seeing things differently today. There are forty somethings who missed out who got their chance. And there’s something about the late 80s sense of togetherness and optimism that has survived, briefly resurrected for two hours in the rain in a run down corner of East Manchester.

Breaking Into Heaven