Tag Archives: simon spence

Clap Your Hands

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The story of Happy Mondays is one that’s been attempted a few times, with much that has been written regurgitating the same myths and half truths that made the band so tabloid friendly during their pomp. Whereas The Stone Roses projected an air of insouciant cool and are regularly awarded ‘greatest debut album of all time’ plaudits, any mention of the Mondays tends to prompt memories of the cartoonish Shaun and Bez double act rather than any appreciation of the group’s talents or their lasting musical legacy.

Happy Mondays Excess All Areas – A Biography by Simon Spence (Aurum Press, £20) attempts to delve behind the legend and hearsay surrounding the two frontmen and instead tell the definitive story of the band as a whole. The format here is the same as Spence’s previous effort, the excellent The Stone Roses – War and Peace that was released a couple of years ago. Like that book, this latest is meticulously researched and based on many hours of fresh interviews with band members, family, friends, associates and numerous industry faces.

These first hand accounts enable Spence to present a detailed history of the band and paint a vivid (and often laugh out loud funny) picture of greyed out, 1980’s Manchester undergoing its transformation into Day-Glo, early 90’s Madchester. The story of Factory and Tony Wilson has been done to death in recent years, almost becoming an industry in itself – so it’s to the author’s credit that he manages to put a fresh slant on proceedings here. Indeed, one senses that Wilson didn’t really have much time for the band until key earners New Order went into hiatus just as the Mondays suddenly and unexpectedly blossomed into the most exciting rock and roll band on the planet.

Alongside the usual tales of hedonism and excess (nothing you’ve heard previously was exaggerated), Spence’s major achievement is how he skilfully evokes the visceral thrill of the Mondays’ music on those first 3 seminal albums. In spite of being out of control and fronted by a pair of drug-fuelled nutters, the band produced a cosmic slop of sound that was miles ahead of its time then, and still sounds startlingly original now. It made me want to go back and listen properly for the first time in 20 odd years, so I’ll conclude by recommending you pick up this excellent book and then do the same.

Copyright Red News – October 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

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Coming Up Roses


Forget the Jubilee, the Euros and the Olympics – the real story of this dismal summer has undoubtedly been the return of The Stone Roses. Just prior to the Heaton Park homecoming gigs arrived what looked like being the first potential Roses cash-in, a new book claiming to offer the ‘definitive story’ of the band based on 70 new interviews and promising 40 unseen photographs.

The Stone Roses – War and Peace by Simon Spence (Viking, £20) is anything but a rush-released piece of opportunism, I’m pleased to report. Spence’s previous books were Stoned and 2Stoned – the acclaimed memoirs of reclusive, former Stone’s impresario Andrew Loog Oldham and he boasts an impressive CV which includes work for the NME, i-D, Dazed & Confused and The Face – he penned the Spike Island feature on the band in the Kate Moss fronted, 3rd Summer of Love issue back in 1990.

The book was originally conceived in 2008 and took two years to research and write. It falls just short of the promised ‘definitive’ take due to the four band members bailing as the project reached its conclusion – but it’s as close as anyone is likely to get currently.  Accounts from both key and peripheral characters from all stages of their career are included – quite marvellously, the author even seeking out Toxin Toy, the support band from their 1985 Swedish tour (the Roses’ ‘Beatles in Hamburg’ period) for their recollections and memories.

I’ve read pretty much everything it’s possible to read on this band since first seeing them days after my 16th birthday in the summer of ’89, and whilst there’re no earth shattering revelations for time-served devotees  – there’s plenty of juicy morsels served up for anyone seeking fresh detail and new perspective. Recommended.

www.rednews.co.uk