The Stone Roses Reunion: Fool’s Gold?

THOMAS WILLS on why we should see through the reunion hype and remember that old men sweating on stage are nothing to get excited about.

Bands kurt cobain led zeppelin Music nirvana Pink Floyd rage against the machine reunion Rolling Stones sex pistols simply red Stone Roses the beatles The Smiths The Verve u2

After 15 years of sniping and rehearsing to perfection deadpan responses to the question fired at them in every interview, The Stones Roses are reforming. Ian, John, Mani and Reni are putting it all behind them for a stab at catapulting themselves back into popular consciousness and financial solvency.

There has been a whole spectrum of reactions to this news: from nervous excitement to dismay. I felt a mixture of both, but mainly I felt pity.

The Stone Roses in their early 90’s heyday

The problem is that for a band like The Stone Roses there are so few role models. They were once genuinely huge – they played to 27,000 people at Spike Island, and for an indie band in the cheesy wilderness of the early 1990s, their four top 10 singles represented true success. Then, the implosion – a flurry of recriminations, a dreadlocked replacement drummer and a session guitarist drafted in from Simply Red. Horrible.

What next? Who could the Roses look to for inspiration?

Of their peers, The Rolling Stones and U2 were once cool and sexy, but have limped on and on through the decades. Now they all hate one another and they’ve amassed about three acceptable tunes between them in the last decade. Keith Richards released an autobiography containing his recipe for sausages and mash, while official statistics show that U2’s last album was purchased by seven people. All vestiges of cool have been shed.

The other well trodden path is the acrimonious split followed by endless cycles of high-grossing reunions. These, almost without exception, have been joyless situations. In 1996, The Sex Pistols contrived to lose two decades worth of mythical status even before Johnny Rotten started doing those butter adverts. Is it punk rock to embark on a world tour named The Filthy Lucre Tour? Pink Floyd clearly despised each other during their sterile Live 8 set. Even Rage Against the Machine and Led Zeppelin failed to really excite. As a fan, I want to think that my heroes are driven by creative fire rather than fear of the taxman or the price of a new Sunseeker yacht.


Who’d have thought it? The mad four in one room again.

Of course, not every band goes for one of these two options. Nirvana, largely due to the impediment of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, have skilfully managed to avoid both. The Beatles have done the same. The Smiths remain estranged and a reunited Verve bucked the trend, recording their seminal work in Urban Hymns.

However, as a general rule the mighty fall without dignity. I hope it’s not the case, but by announcing an ‘extensive world tour’ with tickets at £55 a pop, The Stone Roses look like they’re going down the Sex Pistols route. It’s not that I resent musicians cashing in on their decades-old hits. They’ve got to fund their estates in Berkshire somehow. It’s just that old men sweating onstage for money seems like quite a niche appeal.