This Is The Daybreak recently caught up with MICK MIDDLES, author of 'Breaking Into Heaven: The Rise and Fall of The Stone Roses'. I asked Mick if he could detail the research process for his book, and share his thoughts today, looking back on the work.
Thanks very much to Mick for taking the time to write this piece.
I enjoyed the emergence and eventual success of The Stone Roses, perhaps more than any other band. I felt it was a triumph of talent over style. Not that they hadn't always had the look of rock stars…they had. Rock stars from Leeds or Doncaster, rather than Manchester. But the slow measured nature of their arrival, from mid to late eighties, gave them a firm grounding. In the initial years when playing, say, The Hacienda they were so out-of-sync with the prevailing Manchester scene...lost to an almost existential degree.
Back then they seemed like complete outsiders. Even after Howard Jones had taken them onboard, it was not surprising to see Tony Wilson taking little interest. The mistake was that people failed to realise the retro aspect of popular culture. Me too, to be honest. If you had told me that The Stone Roses would emerge as the biggest act of the Madchester scene and that, in satisfying the rave element they would simultaneously sound like The Byrds...I would have thought you insane. When it finally happened it was refreshing and ironic. This was the one Manchester band that truly could gain global status, more so than The Smiths. And yet they imploded to spectacular effect.
Well, it might sound flippant, but that gave us a great story. Even more so, given the 'maverick' nature of their co-manager, Gareth Evans.
I had always found the tale especially intriguing although I never had any urge to write a book. Less so when John Robb's excellent tome emerged. I just thought it done and dusted...and moved on.
It was Lindsay Reade, Gareth's co-manager and the true negotiator of the management team, who persuaded me to write it. She had become a close friend and told me a whole side to the story that hadn't previously emerged. It also dawned on me that it would be fun to catch hold of Gareth and prise hours and hours of interviews out of him. To his credit, he was immensely helpful. A curious character, Gareth. For all his ills, he was always tremendously 'driven', especially during his Roses period and often despite the somewhat lackadaisical nature of the band themselves. I had just one quibble with him. Lindsay's work, within that framework, was never recognised or rewarded. It seemed unfair and the record company people agreed with me. But that, alas, is the unholy nature of the music business
It was strange how the book evolved. I was initially signed to write it for book packager JMP – now Essential Works – but, the day after I signed the contract, I received another call from Omnibus Press, who wanted a Stone Roses book. It was a dilemma because I knew that Omnibus would, therefore, seek another writer and there is nothing worse than working on one of two parallel lines of research, fighting over contacts etc. One way around this would be to try to nominate a writer who I knew and could trust, and vice versa. That way we could keep the two books as separate as is possible with a singular tale. It was given that I would write more about the management/contractual side of things and the other writer, Ro Barratt, could concentrate on the music. As her book was to have been more of a picture led coffee table book, we felt we could both deliver without impinging too much on each other.
As such, I spent many hours with Gareth, Lindsay, Howard Jones, A & R man Roddy McKenna and many others. Ro, to her credit, concentrated mainly on the Mani Cressa axis. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, Ro's book never emerged and, ironically enough, it was Omnibus who stepped in to buy 'Breaking Into Heaven'. It was extremely confusing and, to this day, I am not entirely sure quite how this came about.
Generally speaking I was pleased with it, although it was a straight, linear read which is not exactly my style. In retrospect, I should have snipped out a couple of the more outrageous claims by certain interviewees. I remember getting a call from Ian Brown who, in truth, had reason to be annoyed. But he is very intelligent, Ian, and seemed to fully understand that any decent book written about him couldn’t necessarily be a comfortable read for him. I had tried so hard to communicate with him during the research and desperately needed to check details. He refrained from speaking, which is his right, but it was a shame nonetheless.
As a story, it is a bumpy, uncomfortable and thrilling ride almost at all times. I actually believe it also to be unique. Just when The Stone Roses found themselves right at their peak, just when the entire world was within their grasp - a situation afforded to 5 per cent of even successful bands - that was the precise moment when their power drained. You could sense it at Spike Island, which should have been hugely celebratory...but wasn't. By then emptiness had seeped into the band dynamic. In particular Brown and Squire, who were clearly looking in different directions. If this would be written into a film script - which, I hear, may happen - it would be difficult to believe.
It was strange but, perhaps even stranger now. I hear bizarre tales from the Gareth corner and I don't wish to go there. Ian Brown's career is fascinating while, perhaps, being less than essential. Glad to see him there, however. (Brown always had a vast musical knowledge and sense of tastes, which is still the heart of his music. Rather like Happy Mondays, actually, he can transcend genre and age and communicate honestly with a young and often estranged audience. I like that...it is more important, I believe than, say, Morrissey or Mark E Smith).
Mani is...Mani is Mani is Mani ! On Soccer AM, within the rolling thunder of Primal Scream – everybody's beery festival favourites or just seeing him, hanging around Heaton Moor, blending in with natural ease.
John Squire finds artistic fulfilment beyond the guitar. This is both great and a great shame. It would be good to see such a talent rediscovering his musical feet. Perhaps Reni, arguably the finest in terms of musicality, paradoxically the poorest in terms of career trajectory...perhaps it's Reni who holds the key. It probably will never happen. But I would love to see a return of The Stone Roses and, given that their inglorious demise the first time served to seal their golden moments for eternity - that album will always maintain classic status - I can't really see what they have to lose. A replay of that album perhaps...just for a couple of festivals ? As a fan, I would be happy with that. But I respect their reluctance ?
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