The Stone Roses Biography

A classic case of an overnight success stretched over half a decade, the UK band Stone Roses evolved through a motley collection of Manchester-based non-starters such as the Mill, the Patrol, and English Rose before settling down as Stone Roses at the start of 1984. Acclaimed for their early warehouse gigs, at this time the line-up comprised Ian Brown (20 February 1963, Warrington, Cheshire, England; vocals), John Squire (b. 24 November 1962, Broadheath, Greater Manchester, England; guitar), Simon Wolstencroft (drums), Andy Couzens (guitar) and Pete Garner (bass). Reni (b. Alan John Wren, 10 April 1964, Manchester, England) replaced Wolstencroft in August 1984.

In their home town, at least, the band had little trouble in working up a following, in spite of their predilection for juxtaposing leather trousers with elegant melodies. In July 1986 guitarist Andy Couzens left, later to form the High, and Pete Garner followed a year later, allowing Mani (b. Gary Mounfield, 16 November 1962, Crumpsall, Greater Manchester, England) to take over bass guitar. By this time, the band had already made a low-key recording debut with the uncharacteristic ‘So Young’, a conventional indie 45 produced by Martin Hannett. Garner also appeared on the band’s second single, ‘Sally Cinnamon’, released in May 1987 by FM Revolver Records. The single marked the first appearance of the trademark Stone Roses sound.

By the end of the year the reconstituted foursome was packing out venues in Manchester, but finding it difficult to attract attention in the rest of the country. A recording contract with the Silvertone Records label in 1988 produced ‘Elephant Stone’, and showed its makers to have grasped the essence of classic 60s pop. A year later, they had carried it over the threshold of the independent scene and into the nation’s living rooms. When the follow-ups, ‘Made Of Stone’ and ‘She Bangs The Drums’, attracted media attention, the Stone Roses’ ball started rolling at a phenomenal pace. Their debut album was hailed in all quarters as a guitar/pop classic, and as the Manchester ‘baggy’ scene infiltrated Britain’s consciousness, Stone Roses - alongside the funkier, grubbier Happy Mondays - were perceived to be leaders of the flare-wearing pack. In November, the funky non-album single ‘Fools Gold’ reached the UK Top 10.

By the close of 1989, the Stone Roses had moved from half-filling London’s dingiest clubs to playing to 7, 500 people at Alexandra Palace. The following year they organised their own festival at Spike Island in Widnes, with over 25, 000 people attending the outdoor gig on 27 May. Having achieved such incredible success so quickly, when the band vanished to work on new material, the rumour mongers inevitably came out in force. In 1990, ‘One Love’ reached the UK Top 5, but aside from this singular vinyl artefact, the media was mainly concerned with the band’s rows with FM Revolver, who had reissued ‘Sally Cinnamon’ accompanied by a video made without the band’s permission. This resulted in the band vandalizing the company’s property, which in turn led to a much-publicized court case. As if this was not enough, the Stone Roses were back in court when they tried to leave Silvertone, who took an injunction out against their valuable protégés. This prevented any further Stone Roses material from being released, even though the band eventually won their case and signed to Geffen Records for a reported $4 million. At the end of 1991, their eagerly awaited new product was still stuck somewhere in the pipeline while, in true Stone Roses fashion, after their live extravaganzas at Spike Island, Glasgow, London and Blackpool, plans were afoot for a massive open-air comeback gig the following spring. It never happened that year, or the next. In fact, the Stone Roses’ absence from the limelight - initially through contractual problems with Silvertone and management squabbles - then seemingly through pure apathy, became something of an industry standing joke. Had their debut album not had such a huge impact on the public consciousness they would surely have been forgotten.

Painstaking sessions with a series of producers finally saw the immodestly titled Second Coming released in December 1994 (the single ‘Love Spreads’ reached number 2 the previous month). It was announced in an exclusive interview given to The Big Issue, the UK magazine dedicated to helping the homeless, much to the chagrin of a slavering British music press. Almost inevitably, it failed to meet expectations, despite the fact that the US market was now opening up for the band. They also lost drummer Reni, who was replaced within weeks of its release by Robbie Maddix, who had previously played with Manchester rapper Rebel MC. Promotional gigs seemed less natural and relaxed than had previously been the case, while Silvertone milked the last gasp out of the band’s legacy with them to compile a second compilation album (from only one original studio set).

The tour the Stone Roses undertook in late 1995 dispelled any further gossip about loss of form or break-ups and nudged them back into the minds of critics who were beginning to see the band in a less than favourable light. In interview, it was clear that Squire was becoming disenchanted; he would not always show a united front, admitting that they had lost much by having such a gap between releases. It was, therefore, not too great a shock when he announced his departure in April 1996. Squire’s carefully worded official statement read: ‘It is with great regret that I feel compelled to announce my decision to leave. I believe all concerned will benefit from a parting of the ways at this point and I see this as the inevitable conclusion to the gradual social and musical separation we have undergone in the past few years. I wish them every success and hope they go on to greater things’.

This left Ian Brown and company faced with deciding on a concrete plan of action or becoming another memorable rock legend. They chose the former and only commented on Squire’s departure at the 1996 Reading Festival, where they were headlining. Speaking positively, Brown said that Squire had been a barrier for the band playing live. With new members Aziz Ibrahim (b. Longsight, Manchester, England; guitar) and Nigel Ipinson (keyboards/vocals), they planned to be much more active. The press reports were a different matter. Most sources confirmed that Brown’s vocals were so off-key it was excruciating to have to listen. They made the right decision in October 1996 by announcing their demise. Mani joined Primal Scream full-time and ex-guitarist John Squire was retained by their record company Geffen, going on to form the Seahorses. Brown, meanwhile, embarked on a solo career. Too much was against the Stone Roses to survive together either creatively or socially.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.