As illustrated throughout this website, an artistic perspective clearly informs John Squire's oeuvre. This range includes: pinching colours from an artist's palette (see Degas and Bonnard); restaging and superimposition of artistic works; perceiving an artwork to embody a subject (see Full Fathom Five, Going Down and Guernica); forming a narrative to a song or music video from paintings (see the Ten Storey Love Song video and Marshall's House LP); 'carving' into an artwork (see the Fernand Léger artwork here); multiple reproduction of an artistic piece (see here). I would also suggest the possibility that Squire 'steps into' an artwork, as with the Wyeth proposition made here. Jackson Pollock had such significant appeal to Squire because his art seemed like the visual equivalent of the feedback and masking of The Jesus and Mary Chain. This intimate relationship between art and song was most evident when Squire based the entirety of his second solo album, Marshall's House, on the paintings of American Realist, Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967). Discussing his new series of artwork, 'Re-Engineered Garments', on The Culture Show in 2008, Squire draws comparison between specific musical and artistic techniques: "These ones start with the fabric and they're then embedded in clearwax. Then I build up a variety of layers so that I can work backwards down to those by scraping it away. It's like backwards overdubbing." Squire also sought a synesthesia of music and art on his Nefertiti series of artwork.
In July 2007, John Squire announced that he was quitting music to concentrate full-time on his art.
The theme of How Do You Sleep, the penultimate track on Second Coming, is the beheading of John the Baptist and the subsequent presentation of his head on a plate. John Squire commented in a 2002 issue of 'Jack' magazine that he felt a certain affinity with John the Baptist, whom Jesus identified as the greatest prophet of the Old Testament era. Aside from this being his biblical namesake, Squire perhaps feels more attuned to this 'role', given Brown's display of Messianic imagery, a staple of the rock frontman; the shots below from The Face, March 1995, show the most blatant use of religious imagery by the band for a photoshoot. A persecution complex in The Stone Roses' frontman is diagnosed by Squire on 15 Days, in the lyric, "That crown of thorns suits ya son". Conscious of Squire's affinity with John the Baptist, Brown's Always Remember Me draws upon the wilderness-dwelling nature of the prophet - a voice crying in the wilderness ("You walked yourself into the wilderness...") - to characterize Squire's plight.
How Do You Sleep, I propose, is based on a painting by Fra Filippo Lippi (1406 - 1469), entitled 'The Feast of Herod: Salome's Dance'. The fresco shows three episodes within the same painting: The beheading of John the Baptist, Salome entertaining the guests with her dancing, and Salome presenting the severed head to Herod. The opening couplet is delivered with cold distance, through the eyes of a hushed observer. The scene is a dinner, with the severed head of a foe resting on silver salver. The pair have history: the decapitated head is dressed with the highest grade military quicklime, an ancient powdered war weapon.
On the opening verses, Brown's voice is croaked and sits softly inside the track's instrumental. Worn and tired, there is little wrestle, barely a hint of strain against the surrounding sound. After a short, soft percussion intro, Squire and Mani kick the tune into life. The penultimate tracks - This Is The One & How Do You Sleep - on each of the two Stone Roses albums have a John the Baptist theme, and serve as harbingers to their respective Christ-oriented finale (I Am The Resurrection & Love Spreads). John the Baptist was beheaded at the request of Salome, King Herod's stepdaughter ("I've seen your severed head at a banquet for the dead"). Salome danced and delighted the inebriated king who promised her anything she wanted, even up to half his kingdom. Salome's request for John's head was prompted by her mother, Herodias, who wanted revenge on the prophet who had condemned her incestuous marriage to Herod. Herod recognized the voice of conscience in John the Baptist, but was committed to sin. John the Baptist was beheaded, and his head was presented on a plate ("Your shining silver salver") to Herodias. Squire's stinging lyric is partly aimed at former Stone Roses manager Gareth Evans, whose split with the band was far from amicable. In his solo career, Squire would again insinuate that Evans shouldn't be able to sleep at night; the maverick manager is now "the country boy with 33.3 recurring nightmares." Airing resentment towards an old acquaintance, the song has parallels with John Lennon's 'How Do You Sleep ?'. '99 and a Half Won't Do' (the penultimate selection by The Stone Roses on Radio 1's Evening Session, in March 1995) by Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes is also a possible influence here, given its strong John the Baptist theme.
As the chords rise gently, Squire imagines tucking into his foe's head, kissing a lifeless mouth and prising out an apple from rotting teeth. The lyrics begin to evoke visions of vengeful pleasure - a pleasure derived from toying with the corpse of an enemy. The bitterness is growing in intensity as the guitar chords climb towards triumph.
In the opening bridge, Brown brings a sharper focus to his ire. The previous verses follow a line-by-line exchange of dinner-dressed sexual pleasure for chemical weaponry and decapitated corpses. Here, the curtain is pulled to reveal the true enemy at hand. The playful imagery could only last so long. Vengeance is in store for the house.
The chorus arrives to unleash the boiling anger built up in the verses, with Brown's voice breaking into a strain. The lyrics burn in desperation, in a tired resolve to confront a party bathing in luxury and delight from misery and murder. They too, some day, will be visited by death - perhaps in the very bloody end they so joyfully impart onto others. The night the Hebrews were set free from slavery in Egypt, God sent the angel of death to claim the first-born of every household. The Lord promised, however, that death would 'pass over' (hence, Passover festival) His chosen people if they put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts:
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn - both men and animals - and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt."
(Exodus 12: 7 - 13)
Life is in the blood. The lamb is slaughtered at twilight, and hyssop dipped in the blood of the lamb forms a cross on the transom. Note the command here to eat the lamb. In order to complete the Paschal sacrifice, you had to eat the lamb that was slain, a way of coming into communion with the one who had died so that you could live. Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi. Jesus is the perfect Lamb, the pure sacrificial offering. Ecce homo. In order to share fully in His sacrifice on the cross, Christians are called to feed on the Lamb of God who is the Bread of Life. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. His Blood is painted over the doorposts of our souls through the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Salome is on her knees ("Get off your knees the party's over"), presenting the head of John the Baptist on a plate; there is commotion behind her, as one woman expresses disgust at what has taken place.
The final verse arrives after a short, sweet guitar solo from Squire. The guitar licks continue to feed in and out of the sound as Brown arrives at the end of the banquet to gleefully carry the corpse home. To be mounted on a wall, a badge of marksmanship shown off to all who visit. Once more, the mood of anger is intensified as Brown strains to portray this cruel parody of an aristocratic hunting tradition.
Back To Analysis
Back To Analysis