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Tear me apart and boil my bones…

Submitted by on April 26, 2011 – 8:45 am2 Comments

It’s time for a little realism and an antidote to all the royal wedding hype. While clearing out, I stumbled across this ace interview with The Stone Roses from Melody Maker at the start of 1989.

Among other things, they discuss the scrounging, unelected, hereditary morons who ‘reign over us’. (It’s worth taking 10 minutes out of your day – go on, read it on work’s time…)


The Stone Roses domain is the bittersweet – “the sweet ache” of poignancy, “cruel beauty” – but it takes a while before you realise just how citrus-sharp the bitter in their bittersweet is, before you wince at the acrid undercurrents of violence beneath the sugar-spun surface. Brutal put-downs of discarded lovers, outlandish fantasies of revenge, images of arson and stoning people to death, abound.

Do you have political ideals, or at least notions of how you’d like things to be ?

John: “Yeah, everybody should be a millionaire. Everybody on the planet.”

Ian: “You can’t help it, can you ? We drive into London and we just turn off the motorway and we see people living under a bridge. What’s it all about ?”

Do you feel antagonism towards the South, see it as the fount of all the evil in this country ?

Ian: “No, not at all. I think that’s dangerous, that North / South divide. It’s a dumb generalisation. People are people, and your attitude’s your attitude. There’s a lot of pro-Mancunian people; you do a gig in London and you get people from Coventry or Southampton chanting ‘Manchester, Manchester’. But there are a lot of wankers in Manchester.”

You have no truck with the idea of a Manchester spirit, a grand tradition of obstreperous outsiders like The Fall, The Smiths, New Order ?

Ian: “It’s this theme of Manchester as grey and moping, this whole poverty-as-romance idea. It’s rubbish. The sick thing is that people read that and take up that sort of lifestyle. Sit alone in a bedsit and mope. That scene was set up by Joy Division and New Order.”

Thinking again about the songs on the album, it seems like almost all of them are so ambiguous you could take them as either poisoned love songs or political tirades. But “Elizabeth, My Dear” is pretty explicit: “it’s curtains for you / Elizabeth my dear…”

Ian: “We’re all anti-royalist, anti-patriarch. Cos it’s 1989. Time to get real. When the ravens leave The Tower, England shall fall, they say. We want to be there shooting the ravens.”

John: “Just a bunch of cattle rustlers, the royal family.”

THERE are bands who, while hating the English ruling class, have imagined a populist patriotism and looked back to the un-official history of popular insurrection and intransigence in this country.

John: “That’s not exclusive to England though, is it ?”

Ian: “The sooner the differences between cultures and traditions are eroded, the better for everybody.”

Some people think national differences are what give people their soul.

John: “They’re very shallow people, if that’s all they need.”

Are either of you at all religious-minded ? The music has an almost devout feel at times.

John: “But all that’s towards human beings. You don’t have to rally round the flag of some church to celebrate humanity.”

Ian: “The other day, I had these Jehovah’s Witnesses come round to my house, and they tried to convince me that the Pope was the Devil’s representative on Earth. So I told them that Jesus was the world’s first communist. So they left. They were genuinely enraged.”

John: “I think I’ve got divine knowledge and complete ignorance of everything. Except about clothes.” We gaze for a while at their flared jeans, laid out on the hotel room floor to avoid creasing: parallels for John, 24-inchers (“for that slight swish”) for Ian.

It’s rather bracing to encounter people with such explicit and unsparing loathing for this country. Most people have some kind of residual affection, if only for the place, the shape of the post boxes….

Ian: “Oh, there are plenty of things I like about England, it’s a love / hate relationship.”

John: “It’s when it’s rammed down your throat and it’s expected of you. You can’t help but rebel against it.”

It’s surprising how rare it is for anyone in Britain to speak out against the Royal Family.

“Willie Hamilton and The Sex Pistols are the only people who’ve had a go. And Morrissey, in his own little way.”

You don’t go along with the idea that they’re just symbols, and not the real perpetrators of evil ?

“They are the real evil because they go along with it. Decorum. Tradition. All that.”

You’ve no slight sympathy for Charles who frets about his roles, worries about the disadvantaged, modernist architecture, and tries to wield a benign influence ?

“None at all. I’d like to see him dead. I’d like to shoot him. He owns acres and acres of land, with big houses, that he’s never seen. And there are people living in squalor in some of those places. No sympathy at all.”

“You can tell a lot about people, if they’re royalist. People who tell you they got a real thrill when they saw the Princess in the flesh. ‘The highlight’ of their lives.”

So if you got into the same situation as The Beatles, being awarded MBEs, for services to the rectification of the balance of payments deficit, etc – you’d return them ?

John: “Thrown ‘em back.”

Ian: “Stuff ‘em up their arses, very hard. British Empire? A bunch of public school boys playing about. They still give ‘em out, don’t they, and there’s no British Empire anymore. And the Empire was stolen and people were murdered.

“The British were the first to set up concentration camps, in the Boer War and in India. They don’t tell you these things. They stick up statues in Pall Mall, but they don’t tell you the guy just sat in a bunker and sent other people off to shoot and get shot.

“But there are still statues of them and it’s rammed down every school boy’s throat, our glorious past. If ordinary people want these people as their heroes then let them keep them. Winston Churchill. He’s the guy who sent the Army to shoot miners in 1924, cos they went on strike. And he’s seen as one of the greatest men in British history, and I think that’s sick.”

Churchill also wanted the American and British Armies not to stop at Berlin, but to drive the Russians, our allies, back to the Volga and crush communism for good.

John: “And at Liverpool the royal family had a boat moored permanently in case the Germans won, so they could evacuate to Canada. It was all set up. And still you get working people waving Union Jacks on the corner. I can’t understand it.”

In this just an inchoate fury, or do you have a creed ? Would you call yourselves Marxists, or Socialists, or what ?

John: “I haven’t found anything yet. Individualism, that’s what I believe in. Freedom.”

Ian: “People won’t do anything, they’re too apathetic. They’ll just think, ‘oooh, look at that funny group that don’t like the royal family.’”

John: “But we don’t see pop music as a way of changing things anyway. That’s not what we set out to do with the group at all. If we really wanted to change the world, we’d be involved in politics.”

Ian: “I still think there could be a revolution in England, it’ll just take time, because it’s only 45 years that working-class people have been able to get an education. And that’s where it starts.”

Some people would say that school is just a form of detention and stultification, its only goal to make you employer-friendly, adjusted to being stuck in a room for prolonged periods of boredom.

“It is. Factory or university, that’s all it prepares you for.”

Did you learn anything stimulating at school ?

John: “Learnt what it’s like to run around with a gang. History was alright, I didn’t listen to most of the stuff.”

Ian: “When I was at school, I realised that working wasn’t the way.”

What did your families think when you started to take the band seriously ?

“‘Get a proper job.’, ‘What’s a proper job ?’ is what I used to say. Still haven’t had an answer. I don’t think anyone should do anything unless it’s stimulating. I don’t think there’s any reason to do anything you don’t like. Cos time’s far more important than money. You don’t actually need money to have a good time. All I need is people to have a good time. John’s different: he likes to be on his own.”

A FEW years back, it was still possible to live well on the dole, if you trimmed back your wants, learned to use the facilities and your imagination, and had like-minds in the same situation. Now the Government is committed to destroying dole culture because that breathing space between education and work is a thinking space, in which all kinds of radicalism can fester. Dole culture is where all the bands come from.

Ian: “You can’t even get grants like you could five years ago. What I used to do is apply for a grant for a cooker, put in a holiday form at the same time, and when the cheque arrived go to France or Italy. That’s what they want though, they’re trying to restrict your movement. And when your movement’s restricted… Berlin 1933.”

John: “But you’re not taught in school to be freethinking and enterprising. So there are only a few who can make something of being in a dole culture and having all that free time. They just sit there banging their head against the wall. They have to cop out, join in, and get a job. I think you have to find a way of beating the system, and find it as fast as you can. Living in a city makes it a lot easier.”

IT is unusual to meet a band that have ideas about anything apart from music. (Unusual enough to meet a band that have ideas about music either, come to think of it.)

Ian: “Most bands are into it so as to have a license to get pissed and shout at girls from van windows. The whole idea of that appals me. That’s why when you said misogynist, it upset me. I don’t like macho people.”

John: “It’s the ultimate racism, when you consider that there are more women than men. To relegate all women to second class…..”

Ian: “It’s all from men’s own insecurities. It’s their problem.”

Do you tend to idealise girls that you fall for ?

John: “Worship them ? Yeah…”

And there’s bitter disillusionment when the reality departs from the image ?

“I disappoint myself far more than other people disappoint me. Days that I spend in bed when I should have got up. There are loads of things to do, aren’t there ?”


  • Felonious Manc says:

    Jesus was the first Communist?

    In more ways that one. Follow my ideas for humanity or I’ll make you suffer. That does sound like most of the communist regimes that have ever been around.

  • Felonious Manc says:

    Pity though. Interview started off with some good intelligent stuff and then declined into a list of twattish self-justifications at the end.

    I think if you were a Jew in 1930s Berlin, you’d have had a few more things to worry about than whether you could wangle a holiday off the dole.

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