Thursday, 30 June 2016

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Second Coming

As I mentioned on my previous post, the summer of 1990 had started on a positive note. Having bought my 12 inch copy of "One Love", a song which featured on most of my summer mix tapes of that year, the future looked bright: We could look forward to more brilliant music from The Stone Roses in the months and years to come. Unfortunately, this was not to be. We had to wait until 1994 for new material to come out. This was in the form of the "Love Spreads" single. I remember seeing the video on MTV Europe and confusing its intro with the one from Beck's "Loser" which was also playing on MTV in the same period. It did not exactly sound like The Stone Roses but it was a good song anyway. As it turned out it was a typical example of the second album which under John Squire's influence sounded more like Led Zeppelin than like The Stone Roses. (What's funny is that because of this, "Second Coming" would probably appeal to classic rock fans who normally would not touch anything "indie" or alternative with a ten foot pole... or a selfie stick nowadays!). Anyway, I bought the single but not the album at that time and this had to do with the way I was handling my limited budget for buying records back in the 90's. I would buy the singles first, because these would be deleted after a while and as for the albums, well, these would always be available so I could buy them later. This of course meant that I delayed in buying some albums that I wanted to buy for several years, but this is not exactly what happened with Second Coming.
So let's go back in 1995 when the second single from the album came out: "Ten Storey Love Song". This sounded exactly like The Stone Roses, this was in fact what I had been waiting for since the summer of 1990. I was delighted.
In late 1995 (in fact on the same day as "Wonderwall" by Oasis as I read somewhere), the third single came out: "Begging You". I bought it without hearing it first. Well after all, I had all the other Stone Roses singles, and these were after all The Stone Roses so it could not be bad could it?. It did not have any b-sides just a few remixes. And by the time I put the needle on the record (or more precisely the laser beam on the CD since it was a CD single) the Roses were no more. They had split up. And to add insult to injury, the song was horrible. Just a constant "begging you begging you begging you" and not much else seemed to be happening. By the time I reached the 4th remix (which was the last song on the single anyway) I had had enough. "Put a sock in it Ian, I'm begging you to stop" I thought. And that was it. When the CD finished I took it out of the player, put it back in its digipak case which I then placed on the shelf... from where I never took it down again for the next 20 years! I was through with The Roses. And due to this traumatic experience I never bought the second album...
...Well I did, in 2001 along with "The Complete Stone Roses" when my interest in the band was re-awakened by the 10th anniversary edition of the first album. But still I refused to listen to it. I just put it on the shelf, probably somewhere closer to "Begging You".
And so the years passed until I finally got tickets to see them in Manchester this year. "I should really listen to the second album before going to Manchester" I thought. So I took it down from the shelf, opened the booklet... and almost placed in back on the shelf when I saw the duration of the first song: 11 minutes and 18 seconds. "This is going to be another nightmare" I thought. "Breaking Into Heaven" however is one of the best songs on Second Coming and one of the few they are more likely to play live from that album. "Driving South" is not really memorable but then comes the masterpiece (imho): "Ten Storey Love Song". I would probably not have paid much attention to "Daybreak" which comes next, but it is segued with "Ten Storey Love Song" so it forces you to listen to it more closely. But it's the following track that is a little gem: "Your Star Will Shine", followed by "Straight To The Man" and "Begging You" (and do you really want my opinion on that one again? Still it sounded better after 20 years. But only a little bit). Things slow down on "Tightrope" and continue to be slow on "Good Times" which surprisingly picks up after a while. They slow down again fo "Tears" (which is a very nice song actually) but the real surprise is the next one. "How Do You Sleep", its title bringing to mind John Lennon's song of the same name, is my favourite song on the album (after "Ten Storey..." of course) and makes you wonder what these guys could have achieved if they had stayed together. And finally the album closes with the well known "Love Spreads". Closes? Well, not exactly. "Love Spreads" is followed by 77 tracks of silence, each lasting 4 seconds (the minimum duration a CD track can have) and then, if you have left your CD player running all this time your senses are attacked by what is known as "The Foz", which is funny, but it is also quite good (in an.. ahem "funny" sort of way). This is followed by 9 more silent 4-second tracks, bringing the total to 99, the maximum number of tracks a CD can have.
And there you have it: An album review that is more than 20 years too late. Not a bad album, actually it's quite good, certainly better than the average Britpop album (are you paying attention there at the back, Noel?), but not good enough for The Stone Roses. Let's wait to see what their 3rd one (if there ever is one) will sound like. You never know. After all, if we all join hands we'll make a wall...

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

My 27 year love affair with The Stone Roses

I first noticed The Stone Roses when "What The World Is Waiting For" entered the UK charts. Yes, that's right, this was the original A-side of the single. But then some people turned it over and thus the world discovered "Fool's Gold" which was probably what the world was waiting for, something that did not sound like anything else we've heard before, from an indie band anyway. And we were stunned by the visuals when MTV Europe kept on playing it in 1989-90. My thoughts? It was "nice one, certainly one of the best of the Madchester era" of which my first experience was "Wrote For Luck" by The Happy Mondays (followed by "Hallelujah" and "Step On" of course). Indie bands you could dance to. But The Stone Roses were more than that as I was soon to discover thanks to the greed of their record companies, current and former. What happened? Well, after "Fool's Gold" huge success their company started re-releasing their previous singles. "Elephant Stone" was re-released and went in the top 20 and while it was still in the top 20 "Made Of Stone" was re-released and both singles were suddenly in the top 20 at the same time. And that's when I really took notice. "Made Of Stone" was awesome. "This song is featured in a movie, isn't it?" asked one of my fellow students. It wasn't, but it sounded like it was. So I went and bought both. Could they have written more brilliant songs? Yes they could, and I realized that when "Sally Cinnamon" was re-released by their previous record company to capitalize on their success. A re-release that sparked their famous court case when the band went and vandalized the company's offices. But "Sally Cinnamon" was probably one of their best songs ever! I bought that and then "She Bangs The Drums" followed by the American 12 inch of "Fool's Gold" on yellow vinyl to complete my collection. "You're missing one though" said one of my friends. Yes, "I Wanna Be Adored" proved a little bit more difficult to track down but once again I managed to find the American 12 inch. And just before I left for Greece for my summer holidays "One Love" came out and this was my latest addition and the one that made me think that yes, the summer of 1990 is going to be a great summer and the following years are going to be even better with more brilliant music coming from The Stone Roses...
And that's where I was wrong. The band went into a period of inactivity while caught up in another court case trying to get out of their contract and there was nothing from them. Meanwhile we would sit with my other fellow students to listen to the album and one of them concluded that "This Is The One" was probably the best song in there. A few months later my roommate came up to me and said "You like The Stone Roses? Well, you should listen to Waterfall, now that's a good song". Funnily enough, a month later "Waterfall" was released as a single in a remix that did not change the structure of the song, just added a drum loop to it. That was in 1991 I think and then a year later there was a remix of "I Am The Resurrection" in a shorter version again with a different drum loop. And then nothing. No second album.
Until late 1994 when "Love Spreads" came out. The second album did materialize then but before we knew what was going on, the band had split up.
I came back to the first album in 2001 though when along with the newly released "Remixes" album, I picked up the 10th Anniversary Edition of the first one which featured the non-album singles of that era plus some videos and more interactive material. 

Once again, I confirmed to myself that "This Is The One" was their best song, but I had the chance to rediscover others that would be my favourites, more importantly "Shoot You Down". And since at that time I was working in a record shop I finally bought "Second Coming". Why was I so late to pick that one up? Well, that's a whole different topic for discussion for my next blog post. Finally I bought "The Complete Stone Roses" to complete my collection. You see, there have been several compilations issued over the years but "The Complete Stone Roses" features all the singles (even their very first one "So Young" which I had found back in 1996), their b-sides, basically everything that was not featured in an album from their first era. So if you want to have everything by The Stone Roses you only need to buy 3 albums: The standard version of "The Stone Roses", "Second Coming" and "The Complete Stone Roses". That's it. Of course some people will mention "Garage Flower" a collection of demos from 1985 I think which the band did not want released, but you'll need that only if you are a completist.

But I would once again come back to the first album in 2009 when its 20th Anniversary Edition came out. Well, I had the 10th Anniversary edition why would I need the 20th one? Well, it was a box featuring 3 CD's (The album , the Extras-singles and B-sides, and some demos), 3 vinyl albums (The album and the extras), a live DVD plus a USB stick in the shape of a lemon that featured most of the above and more. I think it was the USB stick that did it for me and made me buy it. I remember I was abroad following Bruce Springsteen on his Italian tour of that year and when I came home I found the box waiting for me.

When I sat down and listened to the whole package in one go in the new year I said to myself "Now this is a band I would have liked to see live". This would probably seem like a wild dream, but with band reunions being in fashion it was a possibility. Confirmation of which came one year later when The Stone Roses announced they were coming back. However because of the Bruce Springsteen concerts I attended around Europe in these couple of years I wasn't able to see them in 2012 and 2013 when they played live (although I picked up this NME SPECIAL SERIES magazine from a newsagents during one of my visits to London in that period. I knew it would come in handy one day).
In the autumn of 2013 "Made Of Stone" the film documenting their reunion was shown at the Athens International Festival of that year. I watched it with my girlfriend and we made a promise to each other that the next time they would go on tour we would go and see them. We had to wait until November of 2015 when suddenly posters with lemons started appearing in Manchester...

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Rockwave Festival 2016 - The Last Shadow Puppets, Dropkick Murphys, Suede, The Subways and more...

When The Last Shadow Puppets and Dropkick Murphys were announced for this year's Rockwave Festival this gig had already started to look tempting. But when Suede were added to the list it started to look challenging! However, I had already planned another gig for this summer, and I could not afford a ticket. And there were several of my friends who were pestering me to go with them. Luckily, a daily newspaper came to the rescue offering a "buy 1 get 1 free" deal, so I took advantage of it and (nearly) split the cost with one of my friends. That friend (and most of the others) wanted to see Dropkick Murphys. But he also brought a friend of his who wanted to see Suede. And if my girlfriend had come she would have wanted to see The Last Shadow Puppets! As for me, I wanted to see all three of them. The Last Shadow Puppets because as an Alex Turner side project this is the closest we'll ever get to seeing The Arctic Monkeys in this country. Dropkick Murphys, well if you need one reason (amongst many) is that they have collaborated with Bruce Springsteen. But I guess that it was Suede that clinched it for me. 5 years ago when I saw Pulp at this very same venue, Suede were due to (and did) play live a few days later in Athens. But it was mid summer and they played at an indoor hall and I ended up not going. So 5 years later, this was the perfect opportunity! Now, Suede and The Last Shadow Puppets were appearing at the Terra Stage, while Dropkick Murphys were appearing between these two at the Vibe Stage. So that meant we would have to do some moving towards the end of the night - twice! As for the Greek bands supporting them, I was looking forward to seeing (also on Terra Stage) The Callas. I had heard a lot about them and Jim Svlavunos has produced them. But I was to be proven - pleasantly - wrong...
Wrong because the best Greek band on that day proved to be Whereswilder which I had never heard before!

As for The Callas, they were good, but probably not what I expected...

The Subways were the second suprise of the day. Powerful and up-tempo it was exactly what we needed at that moment and it was the first time that day that we started dancing!

Not only that, but they also knew how to move the crowd, when they organized their very own mosh pit (which went extremely well)...
...but also when the singer crowd surfed (which went even better!). They left us, with "Rock 'N' Roll Queen" their big hit, which has also been used in an advert.

And now it was time for what I've been waiting for: Suede! Brett was in top form and yes I did get to hear my favourite song of theirs "Trash".

Another frontman who knew how to work the crowd. And they had the cheek to come back for an encore even though they were the third band on the bill!

After the encore was over it was time for a quick run to the Vibe Stage where Dropkick Murphys were performing. I missed the first song on my way there, but I certainly wasn't prepared for what I encountered when I got there!
My first impression was that I was in a football field, with all the flares being lit.

Not only that, but the band were playing were on top form and everybody was dancing like there was no tomorrow! Well, that's the Irish spirit for you (best experienced with lots of beer!!!)
Towards the end they brought most of the girls who were at the front onstage!
Now considering that most people that night had come to see them and the energy that was unleashed at the gig, this is a band that deserves to be invited back to Greece for their own gig in the future!
The Last Shadow Puppets were probably the best ending for that great night. After all the mayhem during the Dropkicks' set, we needed to cool down. As there were no VIP tickets issued fo that day, we went to see them at what is normally the VIP area where we could sit down and be able to see the stage.
And I myself, was more than happy that they opened their set with a Beatles cover "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
"We love you too much to go away" they told us at the end. And as we ourselves were going away, we passed by the Vibe Stage and witnessed what was left of the big party Dropkick Murhys had thrown for us a while ago...

And as a final thought, here is a note to the organizers: Next time why don't you bring over the Arctic Monkeys themselves for a gig?