Alt Rockers Stone Roses Hailed As Among Britain's Best

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The Stone Roses released their debut album in 1989. It's still popular in the U.K., but not in the U.S. NPR's Rachel Martin talks to writer Colin Fleming about why the album deserves another listen.



You're listening to the Stone Roses. Their debut album came out of Manchester, England 25 years ago. It's an LP that writer and critic Colin Fleming maintains is one of the best of the last quarter-century. He's not alone. Many have hailed it as one of Britain's greatest. So this seems like a big statement, Colin, especially for a band that never really got their due in this country, right?

COLIN FLEMING: Right. Well, it's a singular album because not many albums have ever really blended the epic and the personal, the messianic and the subtle, like the Roses' debut. They open with "I Wanna Be Adored." And we have this guitar riff inside of a bass riff. So it's like this neuron inside of a sheath.


MARTIN: So was the album one of those debuts that came out pretty quickly - came together quickly - or was it something the band labored at for a long time?

FLEMING: It took in age, because they formed in '83. And so we don't get this until '89. But if we listen to a very weedy and reedy demo of a key album track "She Bangs the Drums" from 1986, we can hear the start of this kind of great and mighty heraldry that the Roses always trafficked in.


STONE ROSES: (Singing) I can feel the Earth begin to move. I hear my needle hit the groove and spiral through another day.

FLEMING: Now three years later, that grows-up into this ride-with-me or die-with-me kind of moment, where the Roses stake a claim for the future.


STONE ROSES: (Singing) I can feel the earth begin to move. I hear my needle hit the groove and spiral through another day. I hear my song begin to say, kiss me where the sun don't shine. The past was yours but the future's mine. You're all out of time.

MARTIN: So you say a common criticism about the band was Ian Brown's vocals, which is kind of surprising. I mean, he's not that bad.

FLEMING: (Laughter) He's like slagged-off all the time, even now. But you take like a song like "Made of Stone" and it opens with the lines your knuckles whiten on the wheel, the last thing that your hands will feel - which is like a mouth-full. And he manages though to deliver it with this serpentine, sinewy quality. But you can even hum along to his opening vocal.


STONE ROSES: (Singing) Your knuckles whiten on the wheel, the last thing that your hands will feel. Your final flight can't be delayed.

MARTIN: OK. So the last song on this album was called of all things "I Am the Resurrection." Did the Roses really have that kind of ego or was there something else at play here?

FLEMING: It's funny because at their first run of, like, classic gigs in the spring of '89, people were so kind of in-awe of them that they wouldn't even, like, clap. And they usually concluded with "Resurrection." So Ian Brown, at one of the best shows, goes up to the microphone - just looks everyone over. They're just staring back at him. And he says, still some tense people. And they stare some more. And then he just says, last chance to dance.


STONE ROSES: (Singing) I am the resurrection, and I am the life. I couldn't ever bring myself to hate you as I'd like.

FLEMING: OK. So you think, wow, we've come to the end of the record. I mean, what can you do after that? But here's the thing. If you start to think that the Roses' debut is something that's from 25 years ago and they've ceded over a portion of that aforementioned past, all you need to do is listen to the extended instrumental coda that follows the course that we just heard and it's this perpetual case of "Welcome to the Resurrection."


MARTIN: OK. So this was the big album from the Stone Roses - their debut 25 years ago. What are they doing now, Colin? What have the last 25 years meant to this band?

FLEMING: They tried to get more money. They had a record contract fall through, 1994 they released a sophomore album that no one really liked. And then they got back together a couple years ago and their set-list is made up in large part of songs from this debut album all those years ago, which is what people want to hear.

MARTIN: (Laughter) All right. So why reinvent the wheel if you knock it out of the park the first go-around? Music critic Colin Fleming talking to us about the Stone Roses' debut album 25 years ago. Colin Fleming's forthcoming book is called "The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss." Colin, thanks so much for talking with us.

FLEMING: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Rachel.


MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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