The Stone Roses reunion: Comeback celebration or nostalgic phoenix?
- By Nick Hagan -
- Jun 21, 2012
With Mancunian baggy heroes The Stone Roses propping up festival bills the world over this summer, Virgin Red Room takes in a photo retrospect and asks if all the fuss is really valid...
When music archaeologists of the far future use their gamma brain rays to unearth the dusty file marked '2012', what will they find? One thing's for certain: they will understand this year as part of live music's current nostalgia addiction - yet another greasy, calorific binge on past glories.
After the return of Pixies/Led Zeppelin/Blur/The Police/The Libertines/ [insert iconic band here], it almost seems a forgone conclusion that just about every band-who-did-one-song-that-you-kind-of-liked will soon be staging their own triumphant comeback as well. Electric Six, perhaps? OK, that was two songs.
Which brings us to the Stone Roses and their much-feted reunion shows this summer.
Since the comeback was announced at a press conference back in October last year the excitement has been acute – their Heaton Park reunion shows sold out in 14 minutes flat, and frantic reappraisals of their musical and cultural influence (laced with terrible puns) have been clogging up every street on the internet. They are the resurrection, don'tchaknow.
Photo exhibition The Stone Roses: The Third Coming recently launched at London's Whiteleys shopping centre as a precursor to the reunion, and Virgin Red Room popped down to take in some gorgeous, seminal pictures and rub shoulders with the photographers and crowd.
Bringing together a smorgasbord of classic Roses photos from veteran photographers Kevin Cummins, Paul Slattery and Ian Tilton, the collection showcases the band at the height of their considerable powers in the late 80s and early 90s.
In particular, Cummins' paint explosion images of the band have since become the stuff of legend. Featured on the front cover of NME (see above) on November 18th 1989, the shots see the boys transformed into living canvases, dripping with colour in the spirit of guitarist John Squire's Pollock-inspired artwork. As Cummins readily admits, it was a shameless attempt to create a career-defining image of the band, and no-one could deny it worked, consummately nailing the Roses' blend of art and playful anarchy.
Paul Slattery's photos have a more documentary feel to them, capturing backstage tomfoolery and onstage heroics in equal measure. While many are in black and white, the colour shots of the band on stage in Japan and at their infamous Spike Island gig are stunning – his sense of lighting is remarkable and, put simply, he makes them look fucking epic.
Finally, Tilton's photos perhaps feel the most intimate, capturing both elements of youthful camaraderie and seriousness in the musicians. The shot of Ian Brown with an orange stuck in his gob is rightly beloved, a fantastic portrait of the frontman's irreverent, hippy-ish persona.
What is it about the Roses that has made their reformation so exceptionally tantalising, sixteen years on from their split?
As Cummins would have it, the band has unfinished business. After crash landing into the world's musical consciousness so prominently, embittered battles with their record company and manager diluted the euphoria surrounding them. The feeling that they never quite capitalised on that early burst of genius still hangs over them.
So, even if there is a retrograde momentum dogging the music world, perhaps The Stone Roses deserve their long overdue glory run this summer. Arch symptom of the hard on for heritage their return may be, but the hundreds of thousands of fans set to see them live clearly couldn't care less.
This guest blog complies to Virgin.com terms & conditions.