When word gets out that “a special press conference for a very important announcement” is to take place in the world of music, it usually means one of two things: the act in question is either about to split up or get back together. And so it was on Tuesday when one of the most important British bands of the past 20 years, The Stone Roses, confirmed a reunion tour after splitting up 15 years ago.
The band will play two shows at Heaton Park, Manchester on June 29 and 30 next year before embarking on a world tour. And while there won’t be a new album (when asked at the press conference if they were working on one, lead singer Ian Brown said, “We hope so. But we said that before didn’t we?”), they do plan on playing new songs. The news had been leaking for some time: Brown himself had reportedly texted a friend saying, “We are going to rule the world again. It’s happening.” Elbow frontman Guy Garvey claimed they’d been rehearsing over the summer while New Order’s Peter Hook told the BBC that he’d been “tipped off last week,” noting that “we’re all ready to celebrate the Stone Roses coming back because we all want to celebrate that wonderful, golden period in Manchester history.”
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Though they only flickered briefly, there can be no understating the influence and impact that The Stone Roses had on British music. Pretty much leading the “Madchester” scene of the late 1980’s, the Roses fused indie rock with a baggy dance beat that quickly won them plaudits from the press and a passionate fanbase. Their calling card was the double A-side single, “Fools Gold/What the World Is Waiting For,” which cracked the top 10 of the British charts and brought them into people’s living rooms via the BBC’s weekly music show Top of the Pops (many a critic would pontificate about a “cultural high-water mark” because their peers, the Happy Mondays, were on the same episode). As for their eponymous debut album, it really was as good as everyone still says: indeed, the (sometimes hyperbolic) music weekly NME has named it the greatest British album of all time, which is some claim when you consider the competition.
Their concerts never lived up to the record’s soaring sounds, with Brown’s vocal quality constantly called into question. But he was compelling to watch and John Squire’s guitar often saved the day. The best part of 30,000 people attended the “baggy Woodstock” show they put on at Spike Island near Widnes in 1990 though many more claim to have been there. Paying close attention were another set of Northern boys, Liam and Noel Gallagher, who have often cited the Roses as being an instrumental part of Oasis’s existence.
The Stone Roses couldn’t capitalize on their initial success: legal wranglings with their original record label tied them up and it took them until 1994 to finally release the ultimately bloated follow-up, Second Coming (though single “Ten Storey Love Song” is still a thing of beauty). By then and for some time after, as they limped through various commitments, the feud between Brown and Squire reached breaking point. “I’d rather live my life than attempt to rehash it,” Squire said after the band split. “Even if Ian and I were still double dating, as we did in our teens, then the prospect of a reunion wouldn’t interest me at all.” It couldn’t have been more apt that the band’s supposed swansong at the 1996 Reading Festival came amidst the rise of Britpop, a movement the Roses inspired without ever really being part of the party.
What changed Squire and Brown’s minds? First off, by meeting up at bassist Gary “Mani” Mountfield’s mother’s funeral earlier this year, they reportedly buried the hatchet. But there’s no escaping the one word surely at the heart of the matter: money. And the Roses would hardly be alone. You’d imagine it at least formed part of the inspiration for The Pixies getting back together around 2004. As for other comebacks of note, the Sex Pistols had the good grace to label their 1996 comeback tour Filthy Lucre and the Happy Mondays have admitted that their 1999 tour was undertaken to pay the bills. Indeed, Mondays lead singer Shaun Ryder has his own take on why the Roses are to bloom once again. He’s hinted that Brown was motivated by his recent split from his Mexican wife Fabiola Quiroz. “It has been coming for a while,” Ryder told the Daily Telegraph. “It’s amazing what a divorce will make you do.”
Tickets go on sale this Friday morning at 4.00 a.m. ET and demand is expected to be rather high. No doubt many will accuse them of selling out. If that’s the case, Brown and Squire could do worse than point people toward the track that may well open the tour, “I Wanna Be Adored,” for as its lyrics tell us, “I don’t have to sell my soul/ He’s already in me.”