The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)
Strap on your legwarmers, pop on your shoulder pads and set your hair dryer to stun as we take a retrospective look at our favourite 80s pop records and their influence on current styles.
One of the most acclaimed albums of all time, The Stone Roses’ self-titled album has had a pervasive impact on music and culture upon its release and also as we know it today. The Stone Roses arrived at a time when the house explosion was gaining popularity and the indie/alternative bands of the time such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth lacked the devotion to break into the mainstream. Enter Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni: four lads from Manchester whose music would in the future become a defining inspiration for countless artists worldwide.
A decent amount of hype had built around the band when they formed in 1984, however first singles “So Young” and “Sally Cinnamon”, while hinting at what was to come, failed to chart. The Stone Roses (finally released in May 1989) also struggled for immediate recognition and only peaked at number 32 on the UK albums chart; a position that belied the album’s pertinent and microcosmic properties and the enormous influence it would come to have. “I Wanna Be Adored” and “I Am the Resurrection” captured the exultant bubblegum sounds of the 60s and mixed them with the abrasive attitudes of punk to create a pair of liberating indie anthems, while the uplifting jangle of “She Bangs the Drums” and superlative fluidities of “Waterfall”, “Elephant Stone” and “Shoot You Down” would set the tone and benchmark for pop and rock music in the 90s, providing a niche for the Britpop movement to exist.
Many parallels can be drawn with fellow UK pop/rock “saviours” Oasis in particular, from the sparkling guitar-based hooks right down to the disparaging inter-band frictions. At this time the Roses weren’t necessarily breaking barriers and creating new sounds, but bringing old ones together in a vociferous riposte to political upheaval (“Elizabeth My Dear”, “Bye Bye Badman”, "(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister”) to bring the nation’s youth into a new era. Their attitudes, appearances and hooks, almost like adolescent zeitgeists, saw the album take Manchester, England and the world by storm.
The most influential track on the album however was undoubtedly “Fools Gold”. The song (perhaps the quintessential Roses track) was only included on album pressings after its release as a single in November 1989, but remains the album’s (and band’s) most famous song. An explosion of reverb-laden haughtiness and a curious amalgamation of funk, jazz and house music, the track helped set the band apart from the rest of the plethora of jangly indie groups merely rehashing the sound of the 60s. The fusion of psychedelic and dance music had hardly been done before in this realm, with its influence extending into genres such as shoegaze to provide the frameworks for My Bloody Valentine (“Soon”) and Medicine (“Aruca”) to compose some of their most iconic songs in the years following.
While the album has veritably influenced the neo-psych movement in all its harmonious, jangly glory and a countless number of pop/rock musicians, it could be contended that the Roses (and “Fools Gold” in particular) has influenced DJ culture and dance music more profoundly. Headlining a Woodstock (of sorts) festival on Spike Island in 1990 featuring DJs in lieu of support bands (arguably the first time DJs were elevated to the size of arena concerts), the group drew in 30,000 punters for a rave of mammoth proportions. Such was the success of Spike Island and number of other similar events, dance music was no longer restricted to nightclubs. It’s hard to imagine later albums seemingly tailor-made for this setting – such as Primal Scream’s hedonistic magnum opus Screamadelica – without this kind of antecedent, and even harder to imagine the current make up of dance ethos and culture. Without the Roses acting as a precursor such a significant shift of musical and cultural appropriation may not have eventuated as it did, and for this, today’s dance community owes the band a great deal.
While the foursome would later go on to implode into a disappointing cloud of egotistical, mottled mess, their debut album remains unsullied and untouchable and rightly considered one of the best British albums of all time of any genre. The Stone Roses transcends the time in which it was made, fusing myriad different genres and succinctly summing up a volatile era into one of the most influential 49 minutes of music in history. Even today its influence is unrivalled and it still sounds as fresh as ever which, based on the impact it has already had since its release, won’t be changing any time soon.