Tag Archives: British music scene

The Stone Roses – Divinity of Madchester

1 Mar

If there’s one band after the 1960s that captured the spirit of optimism and good times to be had, than it’s The Stone Roses whose debut album was treated as a ‘Holy Bible‘ by a generation of British rockers.

the stone rosesCover of their debut album ‘The Stone Roses’ (1989)

Kiss me where the sun don’t shine/The past was yours/But the future’s mine/You’re all out of time‘ (She bangs the drums); even before they gained their widespread fanatical following The Stone Roses were assured in their ‘role of saviors‘. This modest philosophy is evident in many 0f their songs from the debut album, in verses such as ‘I don’t need to sell my soul/He’s already in me/I wanna be adored‘ and ‘My aim is true/My message is clear‘ (Elizabeth my dear). Indeed, The Stone Roses gained a cult of followers despite having released only two albums, and paved the way for a new generation of Indie rock musicians, encouraging them to delve into the 1960s Psychedelia. Still, their success and self confidence brought a mass phenomenon of immense arrogance of some British bands who tend to behave like gods after only a few singles.

British music scene saw a decline in the 1980s. A nation that gave music so many legends (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Kinks, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, The Clash etc.) was in the shadow of American bands. The Smiths were there, providing a glimpse of light and hope in desperate times, but they split in 1987. Embittered and clueless, British music scene was in desperate need of someone who’d come up with a vision of salvation. The desperately awaited Resurrection came in a form of The Stone Roses. The new era of Manchester music was just beginning; Madchester was born.

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The Stone Roses (Ian Brown – vocals, John Squire – lead guitar, Mani – bass guitar, and Reni – drums) were part of a new wave of Manchester bands who’d give indie music a psychedelic twist. Their early sound captured that west coast psychedelia, a sense of The Byrds. Front man Ian Brown walked on the stage with a Mancunian swagger, and, along with equally cocky and cheeky musicians, he led the way on the Madchester scene. They believed they were born to do it, and that’s what they did. With their debut album of the same name, The Stone Roses gave indie music a completely fresh start.

1989 was the year the white kids woke up‘, said Ian Brown, and this can well and truly be applied to the Manchester scene at the time. Manchester’s bleak and gloomy image, based partly on the cold climate of north England, and over yet on the legacy of post-punk legends of Joy Division, was transformed in 1989. Rave houses such as Hacienda, along with the emerging new psychedelia bands, turned Manchester into Madchester, the mecca for the new generation of hedonists and 24 hour party people. Cheerful and hypnotic melodies from The Stone Roses’ debut album shone like a ray of sunshine over the once gloomy and industrial city of Manchester, now turned into a background for a never ending, optimism fueled Second summer of love.

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Workaholic materialism of the ’80s faded, at least for a moment, and youth culture blossomed in the dawn of the 1990s. Ian Brown remembers ‘…a feeling of community strength … coming out of a club at the end of the night feeling like you were going to change the world. Then guns come in, and heroin starts being put in ecstasy. It took a lot of the love-vibe out.‘ The Stone Roses themselves detached from the club scene as the time progressed, but it the early days a spirit of psychedelia colourised the city’s drab legacy and turned it into a place to be. Idealism pervaded the air once again. For the young people whose mindsets were tuned with the ones of The Stone Roses, Manchester’s rainy days and gray landscapes turned into psychedelic swirls and paisleys, the sky was coloured with melodies from The Stone Roses’s debut album released in April/May 1989. For a moment, Manchester was a living dream.

The magnificent thing about this album is that it perfectly captures that free spirited atmosphere and could easily stand as a soundtrack to those fleeting times, but it’s unbelievably timeless. The quality of the album itself has never been debated by true artistic minds, and the NME named it the greatest British album ever in 2006. Clever mixture of psychedelic sounds and dance beats proved a lasting influence on rock music, and set the tone for the Indie music in the 1990s. Liam Gallagher bought the album four times, not only because the record wore out, but as a way of showing respect to a band that has influenced him so much.

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As the time progressed, the album became even more critically acclaimed, gaining adjectives such as ‘godlike‘ (Melody Maker). However, the album’s popularity, which came almost over night, is not a coincidence. The Stone Roses owe credit to their success not only to the situation in UK at the time, but mainly to their artistic skills. Before venturing into their own playing, the band explored the 1960s music, wowing psychedelia of bands such as The Byrds into their own hypnotic guitar sounds.

On a visual level, The Stone Roses were influenced by Jackson Pollock in the same way they were influenced by The Byrds and ’60s psychedelia musically. Jackson Pollock, an American painter and a pioneer of Abstract-Expressionism, discarded the easel painting in favour of letting colour find its own way, spread freely and live a life of its own. He said ‘The modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.‘ The Stone Roses joyfully embraced Pollock’s philosophy in a way that they created a completely new ‘time and space‘, allowing their listeners to fall in a trance through their songs.

the stone roses 11Photo found here.

Album The Stone Roses is a magnificent combination of the ’60s psychedelia and Pollock’s vision of expressing feelings through colours. Most of the songs from their debut album (‘Waterfall’, ‘Made of Stone’, ‘This Is The One’, ‘She Bangs the Drums’) start with a slight drumming and psychedelic lingering over the guitar strings, over which Ian’s hypnotic voice spreads like colour, only to end in an explosive guitar storm.

The album cover is a Pollock-inspired artwork by John Squire titled ‘Bye Bye Badman‘, which makes reference to May 1968 riots in Paris. Lemons gracing the cover are connected to the latter event as well. Squire said ‘Ian Brown had met this French man when he was hitching around Europe, this bloke had been in the riots, and he told Ian how lemons had been used as an antidote to tear gas. Then there was the documentary—-a great shot at the start of a guy throwing stones at the police. I really liked his attitude.‘ Even the covers of their singles are pastiches of Jackson Pollock’s work.

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The summer of ’89 The Stone Roses began limiting themselves to spectacular gigs. First of these was the legendary concert at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. Outside of Manchester the band had struggled to fill venues holding just a couple of hundred people. Concert at the Empress Ballroom was a gamble for it held a crowd of over 3000 people. Mani said that the band have always considered doing gigs like walking on tightrope; you could fall at any time but you enjoy the danger. The Stone Roses wanted to see how far they could go. On Saturday August 12th 1989 they held a headline gig at the Empress Ballroom to a crowd of 4000 people. The moment was there. The world was ready for The Stone Roses. ‘We’re anti-trivia above all else,’ Ian Brown said in 1989, and the band’s shimmering guitar sound along Ian’s hypnotic voice have surely colourised many boring trivialities.

Later that year, the band released their legendary single ‘Fools Gold‘; a ten minute epic that gives an impression that it could last ten hours and still wouldn’t become boring. In ten minutes it sums up all important events of rock ‘n’ roll; from blues and soul to acid house. Ian Brown said in December 1989 ‘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.‘ (NME) In May 1990 some 27,000 people attended The Stone Roses outdoor concert at Spike Island in Widnes. Although the sound and organisation were bad, the venues became legendary, often called ‘The second Woodstock’.

the stone roses 12Photo found here.

What the world is waiting for‘ were The Stone Roses. However, caught in a web of contractual wrangling, their fortunes took a downward turn. Although the Roses would never recapture their early magic, their legacy is still considerable.

For me, listening to The Stone Roses album is like dreaming a really magical, magnificent and purifying dream in which everything is possible. And after the last hypnotic reverberating sounds of the song ‘I am the resurrection‘ ends, and I wake up from that dream, Ian’s haunting voice singing ‘I wanna be adored…‘ resonates throughout my head the entire day, week, month, eternity…

I WANNA BE ADORED

I don’t have to sell my soul
He’s already in me
I don’t need to sell my soul
He’s already in me
I wanna be adored
I wanna be adored…

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Pete Doherty – Musician, Poet, Artist, Babyshamble & Libertine

10 Sep

“I fall in love with Britain every day, with bridges, buses, blue skies… but it’s a brutal world, man.”– Pete Doherty

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Pete Doherty – an introverted, artistic, daring, kind and romantic Englishman is perhaps the most real person there is out there in the music business and that is one of the reasons the media portrays him as a substance user, bohemian lover and fake poet, at the same time neglecting and purposely ignoring the real Pete Doherty; a musician, a poet and an artist.

Pete Doherty is a product of a comfortable middle class family and though he showed an early interest in music when he started playing guitar in order to impress a school friend Emily whom he fancied, his primary interest was literature; at the age of sixteen he won a poetry competition. After achieving eleven GCSEs, 7 of which were A* grades, he was offered to study English Literature at Oxford; an offer he gladly turned down in favour of moving to his grandmother’s flat in London and working at a Willesden Cemetery where he filled graves. However, most of the time he spent reading and writing poetry while sitting on the gravestones; that really sounds atmospheric. He eventually did go to college Queen Mary to study English literature but he left the course after the first year. After leaving the university, he moved into a London flat with his friend, and a future band member, Carl Barat.

The Libertines is a band formed from a close friendship between Pete and Carl, a friendship Carl has described as having the obsessiveness and jealousy and all the things that come with first love. The Libertines had that kind of raw energy, spontaneity and liveliness so much needed on the British music scene in the first years of the 21st century. However, after the second album The Libertines the group split due to Pete’s increasing drug problems and all the unfortunate events caused by it. No one really sat face to face with Pete and told him that he was kicked out of the band, he had heard it on the radio, read it in the newspaper, and this left him feeling hurt and betrayed. What saddened him the most was the fact that Carl was his best mate and this left him contemplating what was the line people were prepared to go to in order to gain success or wealth. ‘I’d rather starve my guts than stab a friend in the back.’ he said. His response to this was a new band called Babyshambles.

It was in Babyshambles that Pete’s true artistic and poetic character came out of its shell and created an album Down in Albion filled with beautiful, dreamy songs. He did write songs in The Libertines but writing them with Carl has surely been different than writing them on his own. Various literal influences have come to the fore on many of the song featured on the album, most notably A Rebours (title taken from the same named nineteenth century novel by Joris-Karl Huysman). I can’t resist adding that A Rebours was the first song out of all Babyshambles’ that I fell in love with and is my favourite now still. I just can’t forget that line ‘…you ignore, adore, A rebour me..’

Sitting on the marble gravestones and reading books in the long Autumn afternoons, gazing at all those red and yellow falling leaves while the breezing wind brought anxiety and melancholy has surely been useful for Pete who listed his favourite novels as George Orwell’s 1984, Graham Green’s Brighton Rock and Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet along with complete works by Oscar Wilde. From poetry he mentioned Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire and works of Emily Dickinson. He also put particular emphasis on Romantic poets and also on existential philosophers. Judging by his song, the book A Rebours would also be on his list. The deepness of both his lyrics and his characters are often undervalued due to the extreme infatuation the media has with him as a drug addict and a rebel. Pete is a rebel; rebel against conventions, normality, simple-mindedness and elitist aspect of art. He said ‘I don’t really know what “intellectual” means, but if it means you’ve got a desire to learn, you’ve got a desire to look for things that haven’t been presented to you, then, maybe. I think that “intellectual” is quite an exclusive word. I think it’s just for anyone that has a thirst or a hunger to improve themselves, or a yearning to escape from somewhere to get to a better place.’

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On the first sight Pete probably does seem as shallow and fake as the media portrays him, but the real Pete; Pete the intelligent and humble poet, the artist, the libertine is a person worth being inspired by, worth listening too and worth giving respect to. A libertine is ‘one devoid of most moral restraints’ or ‘one who defies established religious precepts’; a freethinker and that’s exactly what Pete is; despite the odds he managed to stay oblivious to the public and media’s opinions and harsh judgements – “I’m not going to be hardened by these people, to these things, I’m not going to let them destroy my feelings or my emotions.” Seems like the public ignores, adores, a rebours him, leaves him washed up begging for more...

It’s important to stay ignorant to public opinions and just stay in your own world which is as beautiful, as romantic, as peaceful and interesting as you have created it. That’s what Pete does; he lives in his own world, leaving the harsh greyness of reality outside the door. He still has that rush, that desire, that absolute contamination of soul with melody and music. (‘I think I only needed something to hold on to. It has never been about depravity. It’s always been about melody. But melody and I met in many depraved situations. Meeting melody is the victory of the empty spiralling nightmare.’) He keeps living his life no matter how fucked up it is, not knowing what’s going to happen next, crossing the borders of reality into the unknown. In some terms Pete’s lifestyle could be compared to some nineteenth century bohemian poets. Every generation has its leader, it is the one who represents all the despair, coldness, alienation and sadness numerous young people feel. Pete sort of has that aura of bohemianism and romanticism about him; his intelligence, open-mindedness, his sensitivity and strangeness connected to him certainly help too in drawing people towards him. Pete is the icon of the 21st century romanticism, like a today’s Lord Byron; he escapes reality into his own world of imagination and praises individuality and honour.

Album Down in Albion is Pete Doherty’s world of imagination. Decision is yours whether you want to enter it or not. It’s a beautiful, melodic album, gentle and dreamy (compared to loud, noisy songs of The Libertines, but let’s not forget that Carl plays his guitar in punk style) and the songs sound so contemporary in a good way, something I can relate to, something touchable and real. Besides the already mentioned song A Rebours I also like songs Fuck Forever (‘And fuck forever/If you don’t mind/See I’m stuck forever/Oh I’m stuck in your mind, your mind, your mind…’), The 32nd of December and In Love with a Feeling. Song Killamangiro is very fast paced and vibrant. Song La Belle et la Bete also sounds very nice, and it’s a duet between Pete and his then girlfriend Kate Moss. I also have to mention one more song, though it’s not on this album it is written by Pete Doherty for The Libertine’s second album, and it’s the song ‘What Katie Did’; it’s very melodic and soft and lyrics are sweet (‘Oh what you gonna do, Katie?/You’re a sweet sweet girl/But it’s a cruel, cruel world/a cruel, cruel world. (…) …You won’t just leave me standing here/And don’t give in/Not to the darkest sins/Oh what you gonna do?/It’s up to you.’) However, on album Down in Albion there is a song called What Katie Did Next, I’m just saying.

Musically the album is seen as a move from The Libertines’ style of music; now we at least know what Pete and Carl’s musical preferences would be like. However, The Libertines are back together again and, wait for it, they are planning to release, what would be their third album, in 2015. This news came like a cherry on top, at least I hope. I know that I am very, very, very exited to hear that since I feel like I’ve missed out on lot of things in music and sometimes it’s nice to be able to listen and love and album released in your lifetime.

P.S. If you want to have more insight in Pete Doherty’s world of imagination, or you’ve been wondering what’s inside his whimsical mind, you can read his diary, or look at I should better say. It is really interesting. I would describe it as a sneak peak into Pete’s mind.

book

 “If you’ve lost your faith in love and music then the end won’t be long.”