Court in the act.... The act in court. Yes, it's the latest instalment of The Stone Roses' legal entanglement with FM-Revolver Records and the West Midlands constabulary, and although the hearing lasted less than a minute, the now familiar scrum of media and fans were in attendance. And yer-hungry-for truth NME, natch. On these pages STUART MACONIE outlines the events of another bizarre day, JAMES BROWN grabs a few words with the lads about the events leading to their current predicament, and two happy fans get their hands on Stone Roses paintwork and don't call the police! Overpage, TERRY STAUNTON and FRED DELLAR peer through the bars of pop history to show that The Stone Roses are not alone and just why 'rock' rhymes with 'dock'.
Well, they were here again. Tracy and Jenny, that is, the two diehards who had comprised the sole welcoming committee four weeks earlier when The Stone Roses made their first, brief appearance in a deserted courthouse, charged with giving their old record label a couple of quick coats of paint in a supposed grudge attack.
This time, however, they had brought several dozen friends with them; Black Country Scallies, bequiffed students and the merely curious, all armed with T-Shirts, autograph books and chestfuls of compact cameras eager to get their hands and lenses on England's fastest growing pop phenomenon, here to make their second sell-out appearance in the bowels of Wolverhampton Magistrates Court.
This, then, was to be the adjourned hearing of the case of Birch versus Brown, Squire, Mounfield and Wren. The four Stone Roses in the dock again, faced with the allegation that they, in retaliation for FM Revolver's re-issue of 'Sally Cinnamon' with accompanying video, had liberally doused the label's offices, boss Paul Birch, his girlfriend, and several cars, including a Mercedes, with paint. Prior to the hearing, educated guesswork had it that this morning would see an end to the matter, with cries of 'It's a fair cop, guv' in Mancunian accents all round. Educated guesswork turned out to be wrong.
Mild confusion reigned in the underground waiting rooms of courts six and seven, where amongst the usual early morning crew of car aerial benders, drunk and incapables and the like, swarms of reasonably fresh-faced Stone Roses fans milled around eager to see their heroes in the dock. By 9.45 am, the 'public gallery' (several rows of pull-down chairs, actually) was full and court officials were engaged in turning away the unfortunate with a mixture of glee and bafflement. The lads themselves sat quietly in the dock, understandably a little subdued, having arrived in town only an hour earlier straight from mixing their forthcoming single through the night at London's RAK Studios.
Court stood at 10 am on the dot after the usual formalities of names and addresses (plus the by now obligatory requests for Reni to take his hands out of his pockets) the prosecution's Mr Ron Lee outlined the allegations against the band, explaining that they were "a musical group who go by the name of Stone Roses" ("The Stone Roses" came the correction from the dock.) No surprises so far, until Lee asked for the trial to be referred to the Crown Court on the grounds of the seriousness of the offences. More serious than we all thought, apparently, since the original damage estimate of some £10,000 had mysteriously now become a figure in the region of £23,000.
Jeff Howard, representing The Stone Roses, agreed that the case should now be heard in the Crown Court since this new figure of damages would be strongly challenged by his clients. So, court was adjourned once more and we rushed for the exits sharpish, pausing to hear that bail conditions (that The Stone Roses keep away from Birch, his girlfriend Olivia Darling and FM Revolver) remained in effect.
And so, the longest running farce in rock continues, and we can only assume the matter will be settled once and for all in the Crown Court on April 12th. Meanwhile, the court foyer was awash with fans, the typical mix of embarrassed shyness and nervous ebullience. Co-operative to a fault, The Stone Roses patiently signed T-shirts galore and posed for an endless stream of snaps with their arms around madly blushing girls. Best moment, however, came when ace photographer Cummins was thrown out of the court buildings for using his mobile phone.
Outside, the fun was spilling over onto the pavement with a gaggle of photographers, amateur and pro, jostling to get shots of the boys leaving court. "I couldn't get a seat," bemoaned one young thing. "You should have said. You could have had mine," remarked Reni wryly. A conversation with Roses lawyer Jeff Howard revealed that thing had indeed looked sewn up on the day before the trial when a sum of £300 of damage seemed to have been agreed upon. But by the morning of the trial, Birch of Revolver had communicated to the court that the figure was, in fact, in excess of £22,000. It's upon this issue that the trial will now hinge.
Knackered and justifiably keen to get back to their Mancunian beds for some long overdue kip, the lads, nevertheless, remained outside the court for some 45 minutes, obliging fans with kisses, autographs and treasured snaps. Their spirits seemed high, John commenting "We're going to get our bottoms smacked good and proper" whilst Reni's verdict was "I'll give you a proper quote after big lads' court". This one, as they say, might run and run.
Although busy finishing 'One Love', the next single, The Stone Roses have found time to comment on their actions. Speaking from a top West End hotel on Ian Brown's birthday recently, John Squire and Ian understandably refused to say too much but did answer the following questions:
When did you decide to go ahead and do the FM-Revolver office?
Ian: "Straight after we saw the video. We were gonna fly to Midem (European music biz bash) originally because we heard they were there. We were going to steam in there and smash the stall up and paint him but we phoned up and realised he'd left a day earlier so we had to wait 'till Monday.
"It's not really the record, it's the video. Shot in Manchester, it's got the bloke sitting in Picadilly Station reading The Face.... It's f---ing insulting.
He (Paul Birch) had a press release together before the police arrived."
John: "I heard from someone, I think it was Steve (our road manager) that he had his paint-splattered boots on sale somewhere in Macclesfield."
Did you do it in disguise?
Was it just pure revenge then?
John: "Yes it was revenge."
Ian: "We told him we weren't happy about the video. He thinks he's got some sort of immunity because he's 'in the biz', (he thinks) we're not real people, we're just f---ing puppets, performing monkeys that he can earn a buck off. "He told us to make an appointment and that's when it kicked off. He's earning a lot of money off us and he tells us to make an appointment. So then we painted him. And his office and his motor. Full tins."
John: "Straight from the tin. We met a Black Sabbath roadie at Rockfield (recording studio, Wales) who's managed a band in Wolves and he was made up because he'd been ripped off."
Why did you work with Paul Birch in the first place?
Ian: "We didn't know anything about him. We knew he was a plonker, but he said he was going to give us some money."
Are you going to plead guilty?
John: "Well the police woke me up and found a pile of paint covered clothes next to my bed."
Ian: "I woke to see police emptying out my bag."
Meanwhile the legal wrangle looks set to deepen further with FM-Revolver threatening to sue The Stone Roses for breaching their original contract. Label boss Birch told NME: "The band were signed to FM for two singles and an album, and they're still under contract, or rather they're probably just out of it. At the time they went to the Zomba group they reneged on the deal, they didn't turn up for two recording sessions we booked them, but we wished them good luck and every success." He went on to claim: "Now that there is so much bad feeling directed our way from Zomba and the artists, we're considering a law suit against both parties for the original breach of contract. The band did receive a £5,000 advance three weeks before the attack but I can't remember what they got prior to the original recording of 'Sally Cinnamon'. We did pay for it but we'd have to go into our copyright files to find out the exact details."
Court case aside, The Stone Roses have a busy summer ahead of them. The new single for Silvertone, 'One Love', is being released in early May, and that will be followed by the Spike Island event in the Mersey Estuary on May 27. Prior to that they have to increase the amount of bridges to the island from one to five to meet the safety stipulations. After Spike Island the band are likely to make their visit to the USA.
So here they are then, the lucky winners of our fabulous Christmas edition competition to win a huge original John Squire painting (plus a pair of hot-as-hell tickets to NME's glittering party this week!), Kirsten Moore (no relation to Thursten!) and her 'friend' Graham Crossman. "Two winners?" we hear you exclaim. Yes two winners, because romantic old Graham filled in the entry in Kirsten's name so as to give her a big surprise when she won. What a slimy bastard, eh? Both Graham and Kirsten (a nurse in Farnham, Surrey) are big Roses fans and this isn't their first brush with fame. As kids they were both on Mike Read's Runaround TV quiz (Graham, a smart as well as funny bastard, won a record player and more recently their picture appeared in an inferior national rock mag as they were right at the front of the Ally Pally gig in November. So what do they think of John Squire's unique painting style? "It's a rip-off, isn't it?" ventures Kirsten. And what does she think of this particular rip-off, entitled 'Don't Stop'? "It's got a bit of peach in it," she observes thoughtfully, "so it'll go with my bedroom." You won't be hanging it in the hall of the nurses home then? "No, there's a lot of Stone Roses fans there.... it'd get nicked" And will you be tempted to sell it in later life for the vast amounts of cash it's one day bound to command? "Oh no, never, I'm far too big a fan of the band...... Besides, John seems to have forgotten to sign it." Next week: The Devil's Jukebox goes to some completely ungrateful bugger or other.
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