Why The New Stone Roses Single Matters To Me
I grew up in a town most famous for its Single Arch Span Bridge, which once rivalled Sydney’s architectural marvel, and the help from Eileen Bilton’s new town plan. Was never much going on, and generally we were just described as “woolybacks”. A woolyback is a denigrated bunch of outsiders not fortunate to live in a city centre, so when I sagged my only day off from comprehensive and went to Liverpool Museum, I got twatted coming out for having the wrong Sergio tracky on. I learned the meaning hard on my nose that afternoon.
Things got better, and although us Runcornians never had much for those over the Mersey in Widnes (bloody Lancashire), there started to be a decent little live gig scene going on. Finally finding my dancing shoes, I sashayed away from Marr and that other fella and got semi-flared knee deep in that Madchester and indie-dance. It wasn’t the first time I’d been taken by more primal beats, but New Order were the slightly-older-lads-from-schools band where as I had found mine.
The Stone Roses played at Widnes Queens Hall in May 1989. An ace old venue that could have been described as a Quaker home for the areas needy and disillusioned. I’d already seen them at Legends in Warrington, but I had never seen such a turnout of people that just lived outside the fringe, those who you nodded at in the Jobcentre. Out of a primal gang of over a dozen best mates, only those lucky enough to get apprenticeships at ICI or Halewood’s Ford factory had any money.
The night was an epiphany, both in finding a culture and a style that I’d never had before. Shouting the words to every song in an almost cathartic ceremony to ‘Adored’ or ‘This Is The One’ gave my flares and paisley inserts (copied from someone on the Gwladys Street, hand stitched by my mam) a religious aspect. What happened a short while later was the actual resurrection.
As the summer heated up, and after more treks to the holy land of Affleck’s, me, the girl I adored back then, and her brother and best mate went to the mecca of The North. Parking up the little green Mini on Blackpool prom, we were swept away in a tide of over-width denim, long sleeved tees and shoulder length hair and ponytails.
This was where the Labour Party held their conferences, and I always think that was a moment when a working class culture felt they’d escaped from the Tory unemployable regime and that there were things to achieve. I looked at her when Ian sang “I’m Standing Here” and actually thought she’d heard me. She hadn’t, she was transfixed by a skinny monkey with an inflatable globe. I didn’t blame her.
Things went downhill from that summit. The next gathering (words the music press liked to drop every time there was a load of pilled up Northerners on their London patch) was at Ally Pally. Ally Pally? Is that in London? Fuck me, I was knackered if I was gonna get to that. Several months since I’d lost my job testing the viscosity of mayonnaise, and living off an overdraft National Westminster in Runcorn are still trying to recoup, I had to come up with a cunning plan.
Round at Knibbs’ house, I spied his railcard and asked him if it was available for my use. He had a job, but was a great friend and sneaked it to me. The next day, with the sloppy, baggy crew of unemployable misfits we went to the train station. Keeping what little cash was available, I smugly handed over a cheque for the £30 travel with his railcard. The National Rail Norm wasn’t daft. He clocked that the railcard (despite my craft at getting my passport pic inserted) didn’t match the name on the cheque. My heart stopped, and looked for the bizzies over my shoulder, but he took my cheque book and card and I got on the train.
Gig was shit. Utter horse shit. London is shite. Sound was like a fur-covered tennis ball made by guitar progressions bouncing on a trampoline made from sheepskin. Covered in earwax from Queen Victoria’s husband. Had a laugh afterwards, but not too many.
Got back home, and there was a knock on the door. Detective constables. Arrested me. Took me the nick, made me take my belt off and took my fingerprints. A month later got prosecuted for ‘Attempted Deception’ and fined. Didn’t tell me mam, and she read it in the Weekly News and cried. As did I, when I had to sell my cherry-red Telecaster 18th birthday present to pay the money.
The following summer, they were back in my yard at Spike Island. Held in West Bank, Widnes, the area was sardonically known as "The Gaza Strip" due to it's comparisons with a war zone. Unlike the legendary Sex Pistols gig decades earlier, everybody 'was' there, and everybody staggered away, with even the strongest pharmaceuticals unable to hide the disappointment.
Six years later, I started my first job, a Christmas temp in a record shop. The first time I was put on the tills, having been dragged from the vinyl shrink-wrapping oblivion back of house, was a testing and un-nerving experience. Shaking at dealing with a massive queue of festive angsty shoppers, I took a breath and looked up. A wiry fella, with a number one haircut and Grizzly Adams beard had a baby clutched in his simian elbow grip. He handed over to me three VHS tapes, all boxing videos and martial arts compilations. I looked up and started to blush.
I went home that night, and phoned everyone I knew. I had met Ian Brown, dropped by the label, enjoying life and family, and being incognito. I kept the job.
So a new single is important to me. Not because of the music, which am sure will have most shrugging their shoulders, but because how they positively impacted on my life. They helped me to feel part of a working class counter culture, which then progressed into Italo and acid house. The Hacienda obviously, but more importantly the sweating and celebratory parties at Club 4 in Widnes, Shelley's in Stoke and other inclusive low-rent Northern clubs, from where I started a family and a career. One Love.