Monday, 6 August 2012

The Stone Roses Influenced By....

Simon Spence is the author of  'The Stone Roses: War and Peace, published in June this year. We contacted him and asked for his Top 10 Stone Roses songs. He came back to us with something much more interesting. Compiled from hours of interviews and research he gave us the Top 10 songs that influenced The Stone Roses.

Choosing a definitive Roses’ Top 10 is a deeply subjective and thankless task – much depending on the day, mood and circumstance. At Heaton Park, for instance, This Is The One seemed to win the day. She Bangs The Drums was played as a precursor to the women’s tennis singles final at Wimbledon in 2011 and at that moment it was hard to think of a better Roses tune. In 1994 I was fired by Warner Bros records (where I was staff writer) for playing Love Spreads on repeat for days on end…
Already in late May this year, for QG magazine, I chose ‘the ten best Stone Roses tracks [from their official back catalogue] you might not hear this summer’ Among the ten tracks are some of my favourite Roses tunes, such as Ride On, Guernica and two they did, surprisingly, choose to air live this summer; Something’s Burning and Standing Here.
The Stones Roses: War and Peace is heavy on reference to blistering and bewildering diverse selection of songs and acts the Roses listened to (and were influenced by). So, here, instead of a straight Roses top 10, I have compiled a top ten of those tracks. Hopefully this provides enjoyable and informative listening for any Roses fan – old or new. It is a long way from being definitive, missing many punk, psychobilly, reggae, soul, rap and classic rock sounds (maybe Part II awaits).

1. May This Be Love (more commonly referred to as Waterfall) from the Are You Experienced album by Jimi Hendrix, 1967.

Squire said he ‘spent a lot of time with Red House’, a track from Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. ‘A lot of the licks made it on to Roses records later,’ he added. May This Be Love kicks of side two of the album and it’s not difficult to see the lyrical influence this track had on the Roses. Ian Brown, as a solo artist, also covered a Hendrix track – Little Wing (from the second 1967 Hendrix album, Axis: Bold as Love). In terms of influence on Roses lyrics, it was a toss up between this and Any Way That You Want Me by Evie Sands, 1969.

2. Open My Eyes by Nazz, from the album, Nazz, 1968

This was the only pre-planned cover version the Roses ever did. They played it at their debut gig in late 1984. Nazz was Todd Rundgren’s 1960s breakthrough act and his solo album, Something/Anything?, was also an influence on the Roses. In a similar 60s psych rock vein to Nazz, you could try another Squire favourite, The Misunderstood (I Can Take You To The Sun), The Electric Prunes, Chocolate Watch Band, The Creation or the Nuggets albums.

3. Seventeen – Bank Holiday Weekend single, 1980

Squire and Brown both briefly fell under the influence of the late 1970s mod revival. Brown and original Roses guitarist and songwriter, Andy Couzens, were fans of Seventeen, watching them play live several times. The band’s transformation into The Alarm, however, left a sour taste. ‘We realised they were really just doing it for the money,’ said Couzens. ‘And we didn’t like it.’ The mod revival movement was also a hit with a young Mani and featured bands such as The Chords, The Purple Hearts, The Lambrettas [Poison Ivy] and The Killermeters.

4. Empire – Empire, from the album, Expensive Sound, 1981

The opening (instrumental) track from the 1981 album, Expensive Sound; a key influence on the early sound of The Stone Roses. ‘John [Squire] and I were obsessed with them,’ said original Roses bassist Pete Garner. Empire was Generation X guitarist Bob ‘Derwood’ Andrews’s band and Squire had been similarly in thrall to the debut Generation X album. Derwood was the major influence on Squire’s early guitar sound. Squire also had a thing for Slash Records, the hip late 1970s/early 1980s LA punk record label that was home to bands such as The Germs and X (and later broadened it’s remit to release acts such as The Misfits, The Gun Club, Violent Femmes, Robyn Hitchock, Burning Spear, The BoDeans and Green On Red). Try Los Angeles by X.
5. The Murder of Liddle Towers - Angelic Upstarts single, 1978

Oi! was direct, avowedly working class and aggressively anti-establishment and a surprise influence on the Roses: both Squire and Brown were major fans.  This single was written about amateur boxer Liddle Towers who died in police cells. Brown saw the Upstarts, celebrated for their left-wing stance, play live between fifteen and twenty times, and even acted as roadie for them. The Upstarts’ singer, Thomas ‘Mensi’ Mensforth, was something of a mentor to him. Brown and Squire’s pre-Roses band, The Patrol, also included a cover of The Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’ in their set. Their version came via the other pre-eminent Oi! band, Cockney Rejects, who often played Blockbuster live. The Patrol also did a cover of the Rejects’ single I’m Not a Fool. Other big Oi! tracks for the Roses were England by Angelic Upstarts, Angels With Dirty Faces by Sham 69 and Stormtroopers In StaPress  by The Last Resort.

6. Outlaw Man - David Blue, from Nice Baby and the Angel album, 1973

Blue was a favourite of Howard Jones, Roses manager (1984 – 1986). Dylan wrote It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue about the singer/songwriter. Jones was obsessed with not just Blue but also his record label, Asylum, formed by David Geffen. ‘I thought David Geffen was a genius,’ said Jones. ‘I transmitted this to John and the band but John in particular. John was fascinated with my Geffen obsession.’ The Roses signed to Geffen Records in 1991. The Roses often rifled through Jones’s record collection, listening to The Byrds (try I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better for Mersey Paradise) or Songs For Our Ancestors by Steve Miller, from the Sailor album. ‘They wore out my copy of Love’s album, Forever Changes,’ adds Jones.

7.  25 O’Clock - The Dukes of Statosphear, from the album 25 O’Clock, 1985

Produced by John Leckie, this track has a familiar vocal melody to Made of Stone. This album was  a pop homage to 1960s psychedelia by XTC in disguise and, prior to meeting him, was the work that persuaded the Roses that Leckie was the man for them. The Dukes mined many of the same influences as the early/mid-1980s American Paisley Underground scene that also had a major influence on the Roses. Bands such as The Rain Parade (You Are My Friend), Green on Red (Gravity Talks), The Three O'Clock (With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend), Plan 9, Husker Du (Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely), REM (Can’t Go There From Here), The Long Ryders (Looking For Lewis & Clark or [Squire picks] The Chesterfield Kings (I Ain’t No Miracle Worker), were all on the Roses playlist.

8. Whatcha Gonna Do – Blaze, 12”, 1986

Inspired by American dance and electro tracks they would hear at the Hacienda - at Dave Haslam’s Temperance night or Martin Pendergast/Mike Pickering’s Nude nights; by 1986, the Roses - Brown particularly - were taking on board new rhythms. While releasing Sally Cinnamon with FM Revolver in 1987, there was talk of cutting an album for the label. ‘We were talking about what kind of producers they would want to do the album,’ said Dave Roberts, FM Revolver’s A&R man. ‘Ian said we should be using some kind of dance producer. He said, We’re not an indie band, we should be a dance band and we should be trying to bring in those kinds of elements. I was surprised because I pretty much perceived them as an indie guitar band. But Ian had that vision.’ This Blaze track was one of many Hacienda hits but you could choose any from an explosive list that includes: Johnny Kemp (Just Got Paid), SOS Band (Just Be Good To Me), Fonda Rae (Touch Me), LL Cool J (I Can’t Live Without My Radio), Change (Change of Heart), Adonis (No Way Back) or Rythim is Rythim (Strings Of Life).
9. Storm At Sunup / Love Me Now (part 2), Buddy Rich, from the Speak No Evil album, 1976

Reni’s impact on the Roses was formidable and immeasurable. When he joined in 1984, a key influence on his drumming style was Ian Paice of Deep Purple (try Black Night) and he listed UFO, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Van Halen as favourites. He was, as Brown said, a ‘proper rocker’ who used to go to the annual Monsters of Rock festival at Donnington Park. He was also in a vocal harmony group and a fine singer. Later it was Reni who dug deep into Funkadelic (One Nation Under A Groove), Parliament (Tear The Roof Off the Sucker), Miles Davis (Blue In Green) and Sly And The Family Stone (Everybody is a Star). This track from Buddy Rich, often billed as ‘the world’s greatest drummer’, is chosen as an indication of what Reni inspired and and evoked in the Roses – a sense of his spirit. It was a toss-up between this and Sing Sing Sing by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra featuring Gene Krupa on drums.

10. Loving On The Losing Side - Tommy Hunt, from the album, Sign Of The Times, 1976

Northern soul was a major influence on Squire, Brown and Mani when they were scooterboys. Brown liked to dance and Squire looked for bass lines to pinch. In the early 1980s Mani met Squire for the first time in the Northern Soul room at the Pips club in Manchester. ‘Northern soul was doubly important to all of us,’ Mani said. ‘You can hear it in the music.’ There is a wealth of material here to cherry pick: you could easily have Little Anthony And The Imperials (Better Use Your Head), or Everything’s Gonna Be Alright by PP Arnold. I like the sentiment of this Tommy Hunt track – and this re-recorded version.

For more information on The Stone Roses: War and Peace:

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