When I wrote yesterday about favourite albums, I could easily have picked the debut album by The Stone Roses as an example. I loved it like no other record for a big chunk of my teenage years, had associations attached to the music from hearing it played from my elder brother’s bedroom when it first came out and I was 10, too young to understand but not to absorb. By the time I was 15 I wished I was older, from Manchester, had been around to experience the growth, the gigs, the anticipation waiting for the records to be released, the interviews, the magic, at the time it had actually happened. I remember searching through CDROMS (remember them?) of old newspapers in the school library, scouring for articles, reviews, anything that would give me more of a sense of what it must have been like to not have been a ten-year-old in south Devon at the time. I’ve never learnt to play an instrument, never wanted to, but I did once get a friend to show me how to play the bassline to I Wanna Be Adored. I had a t-shirt with a lemon on it (Emma still sleeps in it sometimes!) bought in HMV on Oxford Street in London during a school trip to the Houses of Parliament. I bought flares. Wore a stupid floppy hat. Had weird experiences while listening to the record, which I played over and over and over again, the way one does as a teenager. Do we not do that now because we lack the same passionate identification with a record? Or because we have so many records to choose from?
But apart from a flirtation with it when the remaster was released two years ago, I’ve barely listened to The Stone Roses’ debut album in the last decade or more. The infatuation was half a lifetime away. I played Second Coming the other month, with the windows open and the sun streaming in, and enjoyed the baroque excess of it, the riffs, the grooves, the seriousness. But I didn’t love it like I used to, though I never felt quite the same way about it as the debut album and the handful of singles and b-sides that surrounded it. It felt like a relic.
I’m intrigued by The Stone Roses’ reunification (as always they use more grandiose language than their peers, dropping in terms more associated with the resurrection of nation-states torn asunder by communism and genocide), but I’m not excited by it. I don’t know if I want to see them play live; I never did back in the day, but I heard enough bootlegs to know that Reni’s drumming, mercurial and beautiful though it was, wasn’t enough to eclipse the muffled foghorn of Ian Brown. I fear the crowd will be comprised of bellowing, beer-fueled, pot-bellied, 40-something Mancunian males desperate for a nostalgic hit of reflected glory. Something I wanted to be a part of at 16 doesn’t quite hold the same appeal as me now. I’ve changed. So has it.
The Stone Roses were the beginning of a journey for me, rather than the end of one. It seemed logical to follow lines from their music (and The Beatles) to dance and electronica, to 60s psychedelia and jazz, to indie and post rock, to a thousand different things. It became obvious quickly that I’d never get the same sense of magic from the reams of soundalike bands, but I’ve found similar sensations in Orbital, Caribou, Talk Talk, Can, Patrick Wolf, Wild Beasts, even if the sounds are radically different.
A company run by an old friend of mine, who I’ve not seen properly in years until his wedding in May, has done the website for this reunification, and he’s, rightly, pleased as punch (even if the navigation plan can’t have taken long at this stage!). Another old friend, who I’ve seen twice in the last eight or nine years (at my stag-do and at my wedding) emailed me out of the blue because… well, because we both loved The Stone Roses when we were 15.
Of course Emma is from Manchester, and knows the park they’re playing in. She says she could fancy a weekend up there next summer. Who knows.