STONE ROSES PLAY SPIKE ISLAND: 30 years on...
All too often the trivial dinner table question of an ideal time-travel destination is posed to a bored and apathetic audience. I personally have little desire to spend time amongst the prehistoric creatures that roamed the earth, and neither do I contend that the future holds anything of particular interest. Instead I routinely declare that I would like nothing more than to be stood on the chemical banks of the river Mersey to watch one of the most important musical events of history unfold before my eyes.
I am of course talking about the legendary: SPIKE ISLAND.
On 27th May 1990, the Stone Roses came together to play a gig to 30,000 people which was to define a movement and make a statement of youth culture and rebellion that has since reverberated through the music world. The gig was the breaking of the tsunami of colossal anticipation that was washed throughout the UK and now towered over a small man made island in the middle of the Mersey.
It was to be the first live Roses gig in six months after the band were all arrested for criminal damage after covering the offices and managers of previous record label ‘Revolver’ in paint as retaliation for a drab and clunky music video for ‘Sally Cinnamon’ released without the bands permission. This event saw all 4 members take to the dock in Wolverhampton Crown Court and narrowly escape prison. It was bohemian mishaps such as these that had captured the heart of the nation and caused so many youngsters to rally behind the Manchester band.
The Stone Roses have often been labelled as the vanguard of the so called ‘Madchester’
movement; the intoxicating mix of 60’s rock with the more modern, psychedelic guitar riffs and hypnotic acid house beats. I think there's a far easier term which perfectly encapsulates the
style of music and the rising youth culture; ‘baggy’.
The ‘Sunset Sunday’ gig at Spike Island saw the amalgamation of thousands of teenagers swamped in baggy jeans with loose flowing t-shirt and brightly coloured bucket hats casting a shadow over their hugely dilated pupils. A breeze washed off the river and swayed through the MDMA fuelled crowd, carrying with it the melodies of what was to be the summer of ecstasy in the UK.
The Roses were symbolic of a free-thinking, uninterested youth as a young Ian Brown talked of playing gigs on the moon or killing the queen. The gig was a chance to leave all arbitrary concerns behind and simply live in the moment that saw the north west of England become the cultural centre of the world for a brief 90 minutes.
All too often Spike Island is slated for having been a poor gig with terrible sound quality. This was as at a time when no one was really doing outdoor gigs and despite the fact that the popularity of the Roses ensured they could have almost any venue in the country: it was important for the band to do something different. They had no interest in following the path set by the previous musical greats: they just wanted to do their own thing.
Whilst it is almost certainly true that the wind washing of the river and sweeping across the gig certainly affected the sound quality, the Roses decided the gig was not to be filmed meaning it truly is a secret gem lost in history and inaccessible to the modern age. This makes it difficult to comment on the musical performance and atmosphere of the evening. In this article however i think strangely the music is largely insignificant as the importance of spike island did not lie in the music it was found at the centre of a musical statement that has never since been equalled: and in my opinion, will never be equalled again.