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June 27, 2013

Book Notes - Simon Spence "The Stone Roses: War and Peace "

The Stone Roses: War and Peace

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Simon Spence's The Stone Roses: War and Peace is the definitive account of the band's short, meteoric, and turbulent existence.

The Sunday Times wrote of the book:

"A comprehensive, no-holds-barred account of a...shambolic, chaotic, mercurial and self-destructive band. Spence details, with steely, forensic precision, the story of the group's ascent, heyday and spectacular implosion. All the triumphs and disasters are here."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is Simon Spence's Book Notes music playlist for his book, The Stone Roses: War and Peace :

Writing the book I listened to what they listened to: it's as simple as that. From 1977 to 1995 it all went into the melting pot of what the Roses were – and not just John and Ian's influences but Reni and Mani (and Andy and Pete and Robbie too). I rarely listened while writing but I would listen and then write.

The process was hugely enjoyable. At the end of it I was asked, for promotional purposes, to extract from my research (and what did make the book) a list of over 150 key tracks that the band had drawn inspiration from. Of them at least 50 had got me out of my chair and jigging. I mostly did the research on YouTube although I did buy the debut – and only – Empire album, Expensive Sound, that was a heavy influence on the Roses in 1983. The band's guitarist Bob 'Derwood' Andrews had been in Generation X, another favourite of the early Roses, and was a major influence on John Squire's guitar style.

I have to come clean and declare I've already done a couple of Top 10 style features for English publications: one made up of obscure Roses' gems and another gleaned from the list of 150. In the former I included "Trust A Fox," from the Roses 1985 album Garage Flower (produced by the late, great Martin Hannett), "Standing Here" and "Guernica," B-sides in the band's 1989/1990 heyday, and "Ride On," one of the final Roses songs, a B-side circa 1994's Second Coming. From the list of 150, I chose an Empire tune, "May This Be Love" by Hendrix (commonly referred to as "Waterfall" – there's your clue), "Open My Eyes" by Nazz (Todd Rundgren's 1960s breakthrough act), the only cover the Roses ever did and "25 O'Clock" by The Dukes of Stratosphear, produced by John Leckie (who produced the Roses 1989 album) and a song with a vocal melody that heavily influenced the Roses single, "Made Of Stone."

Those tunes are certainly worth searching out but here I've chosen a fresh soundtrack, one that will hopefully provide enjoyable and informative listening for any Roses fan – old or new.

Slaughter & The Dogs – "Cranked Up Really High" [1977]

Squire, Brown, original bassist Pete Garner, and band co-founder Andy Couzens devoured punk as teenagers. As well as The Clash, the Sex Pistols, The Damned and Generation X, local Manchester punk acts The Panik [It Won't Sell] and Slaughter & The Dogs were also firm favourites. Brown sprayed 'Cranked Up Really High' on his Vespa scooter and the band played this song to the producer of their first ever demo to indicate what they were looking for. Celebrated Joy Division producer Martin Hannett produced "Cranked Up Really High" and when he came to produce the Roses debut 1985 album [that lay un-released until 1996] the band surprised him by being keener to talk about Slaughter than Joy Division.

Last Resort – "Stormtroopers In StaPress" [1982]

I love this track because it is so un-Stone Roses and so dumb but great. This is the sort of unvarnished music Brown and Squire liked in the early 80s. It's from the album, >Way of Life - Skinhead Anthems and is a fine example of later-period Oi! Again, Brown sprayed the title of this song on one of his scooters. After punk and the Mod revival, Squire and Brown got heavily in to the largely unloved Oi! movement. Their first band The Patrol covered the Cockney Rejects' songs, "Blockbuster" and "I'm Not A Fool." Brown was also a roadie for the other great Oi! band, Angelic Upstarts. One of the Roses' early press champions, circa 1984/5, was Sounds journalist Garry Johnson who was known as the 'Poet of Oi!'

Deep Purple – "Black Night" [1970]

Reni joined the band in 1984 after original drummer Si Wolstencroft left. Reni came from an entirely different music background to the rest of the band. He was firmly into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene. One of his best friends, drummer Simon Wright, had joined AC/DC in 1983. Reni counted Ian Paice of Deep Purple as a key influence on his style and listed bands such as UFO, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Van Halen as favourites. He was, said Brown, a 'proper rocker'.

The Misunderstood – "I Can Take You To The Sun" [1966]

The band knew their 60s classics: Stooges, Dolls, Velvets, Stones, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Ronnettes, Byrds and Beatles but they also dug deeper into 60s psychedelia. They wore out their then manager's copy of Love's Forever Changes and studied bands such as Nazz and Creation. The Misunderstood was a particular favourite. I didn't focus too much on drugs in the book but around this time their pals would be swapping speed for acid and weed, tripping out on albums such as Steve Miller's Sailor and Todd Rungren's Something/Anything.

Green On Red – "Red Gravity Talks" [1983]

The Roses interest in 1960s psychedelia led them to fall headlong into the early/mid-80s American Paisley Underground movement. The Three O'Clock, Rain Parade, Husker Du, REM, BoDeans, Long Ryders, Plan 9 and Chesterfield Kings were all on the menu. In Manchester, many of these bands would play at a venue called The International that was owned by the Roses new management team. They band also invested time in the back catalogue of Green On Red's label Slash records including X, The Germs and Burning Spear.

The Jesus And Marychain – Psychocandy [1985]

The whole album was a big influence on John Squire. He said, 'They really opened my eyes. We had no pop sensibility in our music until I heard the Mary Chain: they showed me there was a way of combining what I loved about punk rock and what I loved about the Beach Boys.' The Marychain influence also stretched to the sartorial and saw both Brown and Squire wearing leather trousers. Other UK bands the Roses looked to in the 1980s were Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order, and the Happy Mondays, who Brown called 'the best band in Manchester'.

Osiris – "War on the Bullshit" [1986]

Ian Brown, in particular, was inspired by the American dance and electro tracks he was starting to hear at the Hacienda. In 1987, while releasing Sally Cinnamon, Brown was already talking about working with a dance producer. Despite being perceived as an indie guitar band, he proclaimed, 'We're not an indie band, we should be a dance band and we should be trying to bring in those kinds of elements.' Brown already had that vision. Other influential dance tracks in this period were by Blaze ("Whatcha Gonna Do"), Johnny Kemp ("Just Got Paid"), SOS Band ("Just Be Good To Me"), Change ("Change of Heart") and Adonis ("No Way Back").

Parliament – "Tear The Roof Off the Sucker" [1976]

When Mani joined the Roses in late 1987 he noted that Northern Soul was a major influence on the band; black America soul music, usually obscure, by acts such as Little Anthony And The Imperials or Tommy Hunt. Brown liked to dance to the music while Squire looked for bass lines to pinch. Mani also said, upon joining the band, that Reni introduced him to Funkadelic, Parliament and Miles Davis. Between 1985 and 1987, the Roses did little but explore music and rehearse. It was clear their tastes were turning more rhythmic. When Mani joined Reni called him 'my perfect rhythm partner. 'I got tighter on the drums and bass links got funkier,' he said.

A Guy Called Gerald – "Voodoo Ray" [1988]

The Happy Mondays and the Roses became the two bands most associated with the Acid House movement in the UK. 'Pop music was the saved by the advent of acid house,' said Brown. Voodoo Ray was an acid anthem in the Hacienda club as 1988's 'Summer Of Love' played out. A full year before the term 'Madchester' was coined the city was experiencing a musical revolution. The band were converts – Brown wanted DJ Pierre, who produced early acid records as Phuture, to produce the band. The Roses now eschewed support acts in favour of DJs warming up their crowds at gigs. The impact of this new form of dance music would be felt on Fools Gold but the band rode the look and atmosphere of rave/acid house all the way to their peak at their Spike Island gig, essentially a rave for almost 40,000 when the band came on stage to a loop of "Small Time Hustler" by The Dismasters.

Led Zeppelin – "Black Dog" [1971]

During the recording of Second Coming, after signing to Geffen Records, Squire's listening tastes reverted to guitar music and blues acts such as Mississippi Fred McDowell. The Roses began recording the album with the Rolling Stones' Mobile Studio that Led Zeppelin had used to record the bulk of their 1970s material. Squire talked of creating monster-riffs like Zeppelin and there was even talk of asking Zeppelin's infamous manager Peter Grant to manage the band. Squire pursued his vision so single-mindedly he alienated the rest of the band. In particular, he became estranged from his songwriting partner Brown, who now preferred rap and reggae. By the end of the Roses, the one-time best pals were not even travelling on the same tour bus – Squire tuning into a new band Manchester guitar called Oasis as Brown blasted out aggressive rap from Biggie Smalls and Thug Life.

Simon Spence and The Stone Roses: War and Peace links:

the book's website
excerpt from the book (at The Arts desk)
excerpt from the book (at Gigwise)
excerpt from the book (at PopMatters)

Financial Times review
Guardian review
Independent review
Kirkus review
PopMatters review

Spinner interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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