The Stone Roses are an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1983. One of the pioneering groups of the Madchester movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the band’s lineup consists of vocalist Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Mani and drummer Reni.
The band released their debut album, The Stone Roses, in 1989. The album was a breakthrough success for the band and garnered critical acclaim, with many critics regarding it as one of the greatest British albums ever recorded. At this time the group decided to capitalise on their success by signing to a major label. Their record label at the time, Silvertone, would not let them out of their contract, which led to a long legal battle that culminated with the band signing with Geffen Records in 1991.
The Stone Roses then released their second album, Second Coming, which was met with mixed reviews in 1994. The group soon disbanded after several lineup changes throughout the supporting tour, which began with Reni first departing in early 1995, followed by Squire in April 1996. Brown and Mani dissolved the remains of the group in October 1996 following their appearance at Reading Festival.
Following much intensified media speculation, The Stone Roses called a press conference on 18 October 2011 to announce that the band had reunited and would perform a reunion world tour in 2012, including three homecoming shows in Heaton Park, Manchester. Plans to record a third album in the future were also floated. In June 2012, Chris Coghill, the writer of the new film which is set during the Stone Roses 1990 Spike Island show, revealed that the band “have at least three or four new tracks recorded”. In June 2013, a documentary about the band’s reformation directed by Shane Meadows and titled The Stone Roses: Made of Stone was released.
In 2016 they released their first new material in two decades. The band members continued to tour until June 2017.
Ian Brown (at the time the bassist) and guitarist John Squire, who knew each other from Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, formed a short-lived Clash-inspired band called The Patrol in 1980 along with singer/guitarist Andy Couzens and drummer Simon Wolstencroft. They played several gigs in 1980 and recorded a demo tape, but towards the end of that year decided on a change of direction. Brown had got a taste of being a frontman during the last Patrol show, singing Sweet’s “Block Buster!” to close the set, with the band’s friend/roadie Pete Garner standing in on bass, and Couzens wanting to concentrate on guitar. The band members lost enthusiasm in 1981, Brown selling his bass guitar to buy a scooter, and Wolstencroft joined Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke’s pre-Smiths band Freak Party. Squire continued to practice guitar while working as an animator for Cosgrove Hall during the day, while Brown ran a Northern soul night in a Salford club. Squire and Couzens started a new band, The Fireside Chaps, with bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfield, later recruiting a singer named Kaiser and drummer Chris Goodwin, and changing their name to The Waterfront (after the film On the Waterfront), their sound influenced by 1960s groups and contemporary bands such as Orange Juice. Goodwin left before the band recorded their first demo and, shortly after the demo, Squire asked Brown to join as singer. A meeting with Geno Washington at a party at Brown’s flat in Hulme, in which Washington told Brown that he would be a star and should be a singer, convinced Brown to take Squire up on his offer. Brown joined The Waterfront in late 1983, for a time sharing vocals with Kaiser.
Like the earlier attempts at bands, The Waterfront fizzled out, but in late 1983 Couzens decided to try again at starting a band, and approached Brown. They decided on Wolstencroft (who had turned down the job of drummer in The Smiths) as drummer and Pete Garner as bassist (despite his admission that he could not play anything but “Block Buster!”). They also decided that they needed Squire in the band, and when he agreed the band’s line-up was cemented. Leaving their previous bands behind, they worked solely on new material. Brown’s vocal limitations prompted him to take singing lessons for three weeks. After rehearsing for some time without a band name, Squire came up with “The Stone Roses”. Several stories later emerged suggesting that the band had initially been called “English Rose” or that the name was somehow linked to The Rolling Stones, but these were untrue, Brown explaining “No, I don’t know where that English Rose story came from. John thought up the name “Stone Roses” – something with a contrast, two words that went against each other”. The band rehearsed for six months, during which time Wolstencroft had been auditioning for other bands, and he left to join Terry Hall’s band The Colourfield. They got Goodwin to rejoin, but he lasted for only one rehearsal, so they advertised for a replacement and began auditioning, eventually recruiting Alan “Reni” Wren in May 1984.
After rehearsing and writing songs over the summer, they recorded their first demo in late August, making 100 cassettes, with artwork by Squire, and set about trying to get gigs. They played their first gig as the Stone Roses on 23 October 1984, supporting Pete Townshend at an anti-heroin concert at the Moonlight Club in London, Brown having sent the demo with an accompanying letter stating “I’m surrounded by skagheads, I wanna smash ’em. Can you give us a show?”. The show was seen by journalists including Sounds‘ Garry Johnson, who arranged to interview the band a few weeks later. The band received management offers and more gigs soon followed.
Howard Jones, who had recently left his job as manager of The Haçienda, producer Martin Hannett, and Tim Chambers agreed to work with the band on an album, setting up Thin Line Records to release it, with Jones taking on management of the band, although they had already made a similar agreement with Caroline Reed in London. The band got their first positive press in late December, with Johnson tipping them for success in 1985 in Sounds, with a feature on the band following in January.
The band played their first headlining gig on 4 January 1985, supported by Last Party, after original headliners Mercenary Skank had pulled out. The band had their first recording session with Hannett in January 1985 at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, aiming to record tracks for a debut single and an album. Further sessions followed in March, during which they recorded their debut single, the double A-side “So Young”/”Tell Me”. The band were invited to play a live session on Piccadilly Radio in March, for which they premiered a new song, “I Wanna be Adored”. By this time they had started to build a sizeable following in Manchester, and their first gig in the North of England at Clouds in Preston attracted a large audience, but descended into a riot after technical problems and friction between the bands on the bill.
The Roses embarked on a tour of Sweden in April, with their first gig in Manchester following on their return, at International 1, a venue run by future Stone Roses managers Matthew Cummings and Gareth Evans. A performance at a warehouse party on 20 July helped to build interest in the band, and in August they returned to the studio to record their debut album. Unhappy with the results, and with the band’s sound changing, it was shelved (it was later released as Garage Flower). The “So Young”/”Tell Me” single, however, was released in September.
Frustrated with the lack of attention they were getting locally, they engaged in a graffiti campaign, with Brown and Wren spraying the band’s name on walls from West Didsbury to the city centre. It brought them much negative publicity, but added to their increasing notoriety. In 1986 they began working on new material, including “Sally Cinnamon”, and the planned follow-up singles to “So Young” (“I Wanna Be Adored” and “This is the One”) were shelved. They parted company with Jones and took on Gareth Evans as manager, using Evans’s International 1 venue as their new rehearsal space. Around this time the band played several UK tour dates including 11 August 1986 at the Mardi Gras club in Liverpool with local promoter and record label owner Ken Kelly and his band Innervision at which several record company executives would be in attendance.
As Brown and Squire began collaborating more closely on songwriting, they decided that they should take a larger slice of the money than the other band members. Couzens and Wren left the band in protest, although they soon returned. Couzens played an ill-fated gig with the band at the end of May before being pushed out of the band by Evans after flying home alone while the rest of the band returned in their van. Although they failed to achieve further success in 1986, their repertoire expanded to include songs such as “Sugar Spun Sister”, taking on influences from bands such as The Jesus & Mary Chain and the indie-pop era Primal Scream (“Velocity Girl” being a major influence on “Made of Stone”), and they stopped playing the older songs.
In December 1986 they recorded their first demo as a four-piece, including the first studio recordings of “Sugar Spun Sister” and “Elephant Stone”. In early 1987, Evans negotiated a deal with Revolver FM for a one-off release on the specially created Black Records label. By the time of the release of the single, “Sally Cinnamon”, the group’s sound had changed considerably, with chiming guitar hooks and a strong melody, alienating some of their old fans, but attracting many new ones. “Sally Cinnamon” sold out its 1,000-copy run, but failed to make the desired impact.
In June, Garner announced that he had decided to leave the band, although he stayed until they found a replacement. He played his final gig with the band at the ‘Larks in the Park’ festival in Liverpool. Rob Hampson was Garner’s replacement, with Garner teaching him the bass parts before leaving, although Hampson lasted only a week. A more permanent replacement was found in the form of former-Waterfront bassist Mani (Gary Mounfield), who played his first gig with the band in November 1987. Brown recalled, “When Mani joined it almost changed overnight. It became a totally different groove … Straight away, everything just fell into place”.
In early 1988 the band played at Dingwalls in London, a show attended by representatives of Zomba and Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis, and both subsequently wanted to sign the band. Rough Trade even funded studio time to record a single, “Elephant Stone”, with Peter Hook producing. Hook was considered to produce an album for the band, but was unavailable due to commitments with New Order, so Travis suggested John Leckie. In May the band played a high-profile concert at Manchester’s International II with James organized by Dave Haslam to raise funds for a campaign against Clause 28. The band attempted to usurp James by putting up posters around town listing the Stone Roses as headliners, and delaying their start time to get the headline time themselves and limit the time that James could play for. In the audience was a sixteen-year-old Liam Gallagher, for whom it was the inspiration to form a band himself Noel Gallagher too has stated that he was inspired to the same by attending one of their gigs. Also in the audience was Glaswegian Roddy McKenna, A&R executive with Zomba, who later signed the band to the label. He asked if they could be transferred internally to Andrew Lauder’s newly created guitar-based Silvertone Records subsidiary. The band were signed to an eight-album deal, buying the “Elephant Stone” tapes from Rough Trade and releasing them as a single in October 1988.
In 1988 and early 1989 the Stone Roses recorded their debut album at Battery Studios and Konk Studios in London and Rockfield Studios in Wales, produced by Leckie. The first single for Silvertone, “Elephant Stone”, made little impact, and in early 1989 the band’s performances outside the north-west were still attracting small audiences. “Made of Stone” received more press attention and was picked up for airplay by DJ Richard Skinner on his late night Radio One show, but peaked at number ninety on the UK Singles Chart. The Stone Roses was released in April / May 1989, initially to mostly positive reviews, and entered the UK Albums Chart at number 32 in mid-May, the highest position it would reach that year. This was followed with the single “She Bangs the Drums”, which gave them a top forty UK hit, and a number one on the UK Independent Chart, and by that point they were receiving much greater press attention and were selling out shows across the country. The band gained widespread notoriety when, one minute into a live 1989 TV performance on the BBC’s The Late Show, the power failed, prompting Ian Brown to repeatedly roar “Amateurs!” at Tracey MacLeod. Later in 1989 the band released a double A-side single, “Fools Gold/What the World Is Waiting For”, which reached number eight on the UK Singles Chart in November. Originally intended as a B-side, “Fools Gold” quickly became the Roses’ most famous song and a performance of it on Top of the Pops cemented their national fame. It gave them their first top ten hit and the album rose to number nineteen in the chart early the following year.
We’re the most important group in the world, because we’ve got the best songs and we haven’t even begun to show our potential yet.
– Ian Brown – NME – December 1989-
Their biggest headline gigs in 1989 were to 4000 people at Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom on Saturday 12 August and to 7000 people at London’s Alexandra Palace on Saturday 18 November. The former of these was released as a live video in 1991 and later on YouTube.
The group won four NME Readers poll awards that year; Band of the Year, Best New Band, Single of the Year (for “Fools Gold”) and Album of the Year (for their debut album). The Stone Roses is now considered one of the great British albums, although the band themselves were unhappy with the sound on the album, Squire describing it as “twee” and not “fat or hard enough”.
The Stone Roses’ influences included garage rock, electronic dance music, Krautrock, Northern soul, punk rock, reggae, soul and artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, the Smiths, the Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Sex Pistols and the Clash.
The band were part of the Madchester music scene, a music scene that mixed alternative rock, psychedelic rock and electronic dance music.
The band went on to influence other artists, most notably Oasis, of which Noel Gallagher was quoted in an interview saying “when I heard ‘Sally Cinnamon’ for the first time, I knew what my destiny was”. Gallagher’s brother and Oasis’ lead singer Liam stated that they were the first band he saw live and that seeing them perform influenced him to become a singer.
- Ian Brown – lead vocals, percussion, bongos (1983–1996, 2011–present)
- John Squire – guitar, backing vocals (1983–1996, 2011–present)
- Mani (Gary Mounfield) – bass guitar (1987–1996, 2011–present)
- Reni (Alan Wren) – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1984–1995, 2011–present)
- Pete Garner – bass (1983–1987)
- Andy Couzens – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1983–1986)
- Simon Wolstencroft – drums (1983–1984)
- Rob Hampson – bass (1987)
- Cressa – dancing (1989)
- Robbie Maddix – drums, backing vocals (1995–1996)
- Nigel Ippinson – keyboards, backing vocals (1995–1996)
- Aziz Ibrahim – guitar (1996)