Book Review:: 33 1/3 Stone Roses

Alex Green has written an enticing read on The Stone Roses self-titled record for the 331/3 series. I found the book to be not only a fun trip down memory lane, but also an insight into one of the greatest records of all time. Moreover, the book gave me an excuse to listen to the record over and over while I was reading. Alex Green does an excellent job at coming through as a music fan relating his own personal experience with the “album”, and how much joy this record has brought him. He itemizes each song for their meanings, strenghths, and ultimate offerings to the music gods. Below you will find some of Green’s thoughts, and my own personal feelings about the record.

After years of honing their skills the Roses were sure they had created a masterpiece with the lemon album. They weren’t shy about telling people either. “The Stone Roses” show more than a band with potential. “It shows a band sizzling with skill, consumed with drive and aspiration and possessing an almost preternatural mastery of the pop paradigm”. In fact, for a time their creative star burnt so incredibly bright, that it would burn out completely not too long after this record.

Alex Green recalls that they were the cockiest musicians he had ever seen. It was this sheer fearless braggadocio combined with perfect songs that made their music addictive. The sixties influences, Reni’s drums, Mani’s bass, Squire’s guitars, oh and the perfect frontman Ian Brown, completed this blissful elixir. “Some people long to be famous, but some people think they already are and Ian Brown was that sort of character with such self-belief born within”. Brown had a look that was an amalgamation of one half intellectual, and one half boxer. You could never tell which one he was, making him both “mysterious and alluring” as a front man.

The songs are in perfect order and take you on an aural journey that can hardly be summed up in words. They merged guitar based pop with the grooves of dance pop, and this is best illustrated on their highest charting single “Elephant Stone”. NME writer Jack Barrow put it best by saying that the single was “proof that acid was good for you”.

I first heard I wanna be adored on a station out of Moyock, NC in 1989. The song seemed otherworldly and refreshing compared to other music at the time. I went out immediately and searched everywhere for the record. That original copy provided the soundtrack to many drives I took at the time. I always saw it as heresy that later american releases would tack on Fools Gold on the end of the record. Fools Gold is an alright song, but to echo Alex Green, the virtuosity and pomposity of I am the Resurrection with its motown backbeat and the jam make it the perfect album closer. The album was perfect, but I guess some marketers thought the inclusion of Fools Gold would make it sell better in the states. As has been throughout history, the almighty dollar speaks loudest and is the prime mover in the bastardization of art.

I have an unwieldy music collection, but still manage to pull the record out every couple of years. It really deserves more attention from me, but as typical of me, I often ignore my lovers. Reading Alex Green’s book was a great joy, because i’ve been able to listen to “The Stone Roses” a good ten or fifteen times in the last couple of days. It is an album that does what music is supposed to do. It takes me away from the wear and tear of life, gives me hope and for a time empowers me.

I shouldn’t even have to call the “The Stone Roses” their debut, because really it was their only album. That thing referred to as Second Coming which they released five years later isn’t worthy enough to wipe the proverbial ass of the self-titled record. Anyone with any music sense
has to agree, and Alex Green certainly does. I tried to listen to Second Coming again recently and still think it is every bit as worthless and dissapointing as I did when it came out. While it does nothing to desecrate the lemon album, I still think we’d be better off without any Second Coming in existence.

They changed the face of British pop, leaving an indelible mark, and with all the potential in the world, some would say threw it all away. They created the blueprint for what many refer to as Britpop, and in true anti-hero fashion became the de facto refusers to carry its torch, by virtue of their laziness, bad decisions, cocaine, and protracted legal battles. It has often been written that the band blew their talent, but I ask, can we really say that in good faith? I mean for a time, they came together to become more than the sum of their four parts and create a record that illustrates pure genius. Most bands are very lucky to make one decent album that will be worth its salt on a later day. The Stone Roses only created a masterpiece that will be listened to for ages to come, and that is no small feat. That puts them with very elite company and in a place where all music lovers should respect. In a world where we unapologetically worship image over substance, The Stone Roses had both, and Alex Green reminded me of this fact with his book.

by Scott Meiggs
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