Thursday, 7 March 2013

What the Boy Was Waiting For

Tomorrow I am going to see the Stones Roses. I have waited 23 years to be able to say that. Twenty three years. To put that in context, the lovely young woman who serves me my coffee of a morning is coincidentally turning 21 tomorrow. So basically I have waited her entire life, including her conception and gestation and then some, to see a band who arguably hit their peak in 1989 - the year before I started waiting.

To be fair, 95% of this time there was no waiting going on; just a growing realisation that it was probably never going to happen. In the first few years the Roses were in a state of hibernation, hidden away from the world and pretending to record a second album. Back then everyone was waiting for Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni and Mani; not just for a concert but for any sign at all that the band was alive or that another album might be on the way.

Even after Second Coming emerged at the end of 1994, the stop-start story continued, most significantly with Reni leaving the band. Still, against more odds than I can explain here, when their first tour proper finally happened it included a show in my home town of Bridlington. Rather inconveniently, I was living 1000 miles away in France at the time. Missing this particular show – apparently one of their best and attended by just about everyone I know - was arguably where the waiting began.

Sadly a few months later Squire was also gone and before the end of 1996 the band was no more. Brown went solo, Mani joined Primal Scream and John Squire thought the Seahorses were a good idea. A possible reunion became the topic of choice in any interview for the next 15 years, with the opposing camps taking pot shots at each other about what drugs the other had taken or how mean the other had been.

As a result a reunion never seemed likely. Even as recently as 2009 Squire created a piece of art bearing the legend "I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses 18.3.09." Don’t hold your breath, seemed to be the message. So, I didn’t.

Yet all the while something else was happening, something deeply personal that I still can’t define or provide a reasonable logic for: I fell utterly and inexorably in love with the album, The Stone Roses.

This may seem rather obvious, not just for what I’ve written above, but also because The Stone Roses is regularly cited as one of the UK’s favourite albums. I’m hardly alone in liking it, and many better writers than I have gushed pages about why I should. I’ve also read enough comments by its detractors to know reasons I shouldn’t. I have a critical (enough) ear and I’ve spent enough time around indie kids to choose my words carefully when talking about things I love. And I’m a contrary bugger who likes to be different. Hearing other people like something is as likely to turn me off as on.

Yet listening to The Stone Roses is a visceral experience I can’t deny. Each and every time I the needle hits the groove or play gets pressed I am enthralled. From the gentle train-like chugging that precedes I Wanna be Adored to the breathless, blisteringly nasty ending of I am the Resurrection this is an album that picks me up, flings me every which way around, makes me soar, makes me angry, makes me sad and then drops me on the ground, emotionally spent.

Even re-reading these words I cringe a little. It sounds unlikely doesn’t it? It feels a bit melodramatic and maybe a little immature to have that kind of reaction from a record – especially one recorded by four blokes from Manchester. The Stone Roses? Just a band… right, Scroobius Pip?

So then how do I explain completely breaking down listening to Made of Stone on a bus one day on the way to work? What to make of the urgent need to dance to a song as utterly undanceable as Waterfall? Why the need to play jangly air guitar in front of other humans to Bye Bye Bad Man? Why do I lose all dignity during the breakdowns at 3:40 and 5:20 of Resurrection every single fucking time I hear it to the point where I yelled ‘Fucking COME ON!!’ from the dance floor of my own wedding? (I'm sorry mum).

Why? I don’t know. These things just happen. These things just are. This record just is. There are no words to describe the way I feel.

Scarily, they are all experiences that don’t even require a concert – they happen anyway. Given that, what has occupied my mind since the announcement of these unlikely concerts is ‘how will I feel?’ When Ian Brown unexpectedly played three Roses songs at a 2008 Sydney gig I burst into very real spontaneous big happy tears. Mrs Custard had no idea what to do with me.

Now, on the eve of a Melbourne show that finally brings together my love for my favourite album and the band that made it a quarter of a century ago, I expect my reaction will be what it always is: genuine despite myself. Somewhere deep down, when I’ve stopped pinching myself, I suspect it will all have been worth the wait.

Fucking come on.