Throwback of the Week (31st January)

This weeks throwback: Back to a time where people actually liked Ian Brown.

For me, like so many teenagers over the past 30 years, the Stone Roses have been a stepping stone into music culture. The eponymous debut record “The Stone Roses” is a beautiful, hazy rabbit-hole of musical brilliance: John Squires’ dreamy guitar riffs, Alan “Reni” Wren keeping it ticking on the drums, Gary “Mani” Mountfield’s iconic and bouncy basslines. Of course, the musicianship is topped off by frontman Ian Brown’s echoey yet crisp vocals, reverberating through the speakers- transporting you to another world. Themes of love, politics and companionship are all discussed, making the album as addictive as the drugs the Manchester lads romanticise about.

With the last two tracks of the album alone being 17 minutes in length, the record is not one for people with an addiction to the “skip song” button. I have to confess I skip ‘Fool’s Gold’ on a regular basis, which requires a level of focus similar to algebra or reading Shakespeare. However, on a wet lockdown Wednesday with your eyes closed lying on your bed, even the longest tracks seem to fly by. Like an episode of Alan Partridge or a takeaway curry, there is nothing that half an hour of the Roses won’t fix.

The album isn’t just musically important, but was arguably a catalyst for the so-called Manchester. Along with the Happy Mondays, the Charlatans, the Inspiral Carpets and a myriad of other names, the baggy quartet helped to put Manchester on the map as a city of great music and rave culture. From their sartorial sense of baggy jeans and long hair to taking Ecstasy, the Stone Roses had a great influence on a lot of teenagers.

And herein lies the problem. Ian Brown has the world at his feet, with over 152,000 followers on Twitter and the ears of millions. His influence was unquestionable in the past and perhaps still remains today, with many taking what he says as some sort of anti-vax gospel. Whilst Brown has always been an “acquired taste” at best and a “prick” at worst, the star’s tweets are now a shrine to conspiracy theories, anti-mask propaganda and anti-vaccination chat. The COVID-19 vaccine is set to be the first drug Ian Brown will turn down or talk negatively about. He has also claimed that the pandemic was “planned and designed to make us digital slaves”. It’s a bold statement, to say the least. It’s laughable to some, but believable to others.

There is an age-old question in music: can you separate the songs and albums from their creator? The Stone Roses are an amazing band, inspired and fascinated millions and catalysed subcultures. Does the fact that their frontman went off the rails mean that you can’t listen to ‘Fools Gold?’ Of course you can, it’s a great song – but a tad too long.

Words by: Tom Farmer

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