Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop with the true story behind the secret track – THE FOZ – on The Stone Roses’ Second Coming
It is early May, 1994. In the UK local elections, the Tories have just lost 429 seats and control of 18 councils. They were definitely losing the youth vote, especially after the introduction into law of the most insidious piece of legislation in 300 years, the Criminal Justice Bill. ‘New age travellers?’ had croaked John Major at the Tory conference, of 1992, ‘Not in this age. Not in any age.’ In effect, this prevented people from getting together outside & having a rave, granting the police huge discretionary powers to thwart our fun. The Levelers were in the front line of protests, a proper funky band of proper hippies; on May 7th they attended a press conference at the Rainbow Centre in Kentish Town, where the Advance Party’s Debby Daunton declared;
I suppose that because no one in government has ever had the desire to let what’s left of his hair down at a rave, they don”t see why anyone else should be allowed to…. Society is perfectly happy for the army to run around pretending to kill people on Salisbury plain
Meanwhile, the 32-mile long Channel Tunnel had officially opened on the 6th, finally physically connecting the Entente Cordiale for the first time since the Ice Age Land Bridge was swamp’d by the seas. Following two centuries of cross-channel schemes, those 22 miles of water between Dover & Calais were finally breached by science, engineering & Human endeavour. After cutting the ribbons on the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo, the Queen found herself rushing under the seabed towards England, emerging at Calais on an overcast afternoon & a meeting with President Mitterrand. “The mixture of French elan and British pragmatism,” said the Queen in her speech of the day in the most untroubled French, “when united in a common cause, has proved to be a highly successful combination. The tunnel embodies that simple truth… the French and British peoples, for all their individual diversity and ages-long rivalry, complement each other well – better perhaps than we realise.” Agreed! Every cheese-eating surrender monkey needs someone to drag them out of the pickle.
Three days later saw the release of Trogg’s song Love Is All Around (1967) by Scottish popsters Wet Wet Wet, fronted by heart-throb-at-the-time Marti Pellow. Another 4 days after the release – May 13th – Four Weddings & a Funeral was released, on which the song was featured, propelling it towards fifteen weeks of being at No 1. Like everybody else at the time, even the band themselves were fed up with hearing the song, so deleted the single from sale, thus preventing them from equaling Bryan Adams’ record for weeks at the top with his 1991 single (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. The film did even better, becoming the biggest grossing British film ever, making nearly £200 million and costing just $2 million to make.
Back in the world of cooler music, Wigan’s finest psychedelic popsters, Verve, were told they had to change their name to The Verve by lawyers representing Polygram, the owners of Verve jazz records. The Verve were yet to hit the heights of Northern Soul & espcecially Urban Hymns, but were slowly growing in status, musicianship, songwriting & style. In little Ynyssdu, after the Oasis gig we felt ourselves full of rock ‘n’ roll. The crunch of the guitars still swirled around our heads, the bass & drums gave us a groove to our step… & we wanted more. Out came the keyboard. Suddenly me & Nick were the new Lennon & MaCartney as we proceeded to pen such classics as ‘(Whats yer) Problem Babe’ and ”Teenage Funkland’ in a stony haze. Then one day, during a lull in jamming to the casio beat, something struck me. After reading an article in the NME (see below), I was looking at a map of the region & saw the town of Monmouth…
“Fuckin Hell Nick… that’s where the Roses are recording!
“Monmouth… it’s just over the border. Come on pal, let’s check ’em out & see where that bloody album is.”
So we borrowed a tent & off we went…
Aha! The Stone Roses. My beloved Stone Roses. I was 13 when the first album came out in 1989. A year later I was on a school trip to London – we saw Blood Brothers I recall – & I’d just started listening to the Inspiral Carpets. A friend had given me a tape with Life on it. On the reverse side was the Stone Roses, & somewhere after Birmingham I thought I’d give it a listen. By the time we hit London I was hooked. I must have listened to that album twice a day for the next few years. While that was happening, the Roses had ditched their dodgy record company – Zomba – & signed up with American label, Geffen. Then they went underground for a long time – young dads n’all that – with the difficult second album proving a lot more difficult than anyone expected. Things had changed you see, the zeitgeist,,, the Age of the Second Summer of Love was over, the Time of the Britpoppers had come.
The Roses were the flagship band for the Madchester movement which we all bought into & loved. Their longevity is proven. In the past couple of years I’ve seen James at Party in the Palace (Linlithgow), The Charlatans at Electric Fields (Drumlanrig Castle), The Happy Mondays at Lindisfarne Festival, & of course the Roses themselves at Heaton Park then, for my fortieth birthday, at the Etihad. I was there with my sister & brother-in-law, & to our right were a couple of my age with their 14 year old daughter, all donned out in Roses regalia & singing along to every word. The Roses, you see, are family, & we were a part of it.
It was an awesome gig – much better than Heaton Park, & one in which the first album was played in its entireity – a great moment really seeing as I’m trying to emulate it at the moment. Yeah, what a gig, the best I’ve ever been to in my life, I think, the Etihad was like a modern Collosseum & my favorite gladiators were on cracking form – their new single, All For One, if a little plastic in the recording was majestic in such an environment. Aye, I love the Roses me!
That first album was a killer, an eternal classic, & everyone knows it. The travesty is, instead of seizing world domination when it was in the palm of their hands, the looping funk of Fools Gold teaching everyone how to dance properly, the Roses chose to be enigmatic.. The world had waited… & waited… & waited… & fuckin waited & still not even a whimper. Yet they still retained the aura of Britain’s coolest band. In reality, with John Squire obsessing over the sound & chalking up a healthy coke addiction the recording process had dragged on for months & years. “I made the mistake of using cocaine for a while,’ recollected Squire, thinking it would make me productive, but it just made me more unsure, more paranoid.” By May 1994, however, they were approaching the final touches at a famous converted farmhouse near Monmouth called Rockfield Studios. Bohemian Rhapsody had been recorded here, so it must have had some good, creative vibes. “Put the heating on more often,” wrote Ian Brown in the visitors book, “and I might one day come back.” The album would be released a few months later on the 5th December.
May ’94 also saw the passing away of John Smith, the leader of the Labour party. Before his well-mourned passing it was universally understood that he would be the next prime minister… & a good one at that. After over fifteen years of Toryism, it was time for a change. Although Maggie Thatcher had got the country back on it’s feet after the chaotic seventies, by ’94 the party she once ruled with an iron fist was a corrupt organisation led by an excrutiatingly dull PM, John Major. A seismic shift was coming, & with the elections due in 1997 & everybody felt Labour would win. On Smith’s death, the name of a young, dazzling Labour MP began to be spoken… Tony Blair.
Now then, I cannot believe that the brilliant John Smith, the leader of the Labour Party in 1994, would ever have let George Bush & the American Neocons ever get away with faking 9-11 & attacking Iraq & Afghanistan. Tony Blair did. by the way, & was the chief beneficiary to John Smith’s sudden & unexpected death by heart attack in London on the 12th May. He would have made a great PM, the country was desperate for change & Labour was heading for a landslide. Was it a conspiracy, perhaps, perhaps not Smith had suffered a heart attack in ’88, & was a heavy drinker. Still, Tony Blair did make an unusual statement while staying in a French hotel with his family in April 1994. On waking his wife, Cherie, one morning, he blurted out quite obtusely, “If John dies, I will be leader, not Gordon. And somehow, I think this will happen. I just think it will.”
Back in the world of the 18-year-old Nicky & Damo, a bus-ride out of Ynyssdu & a wee train jump outta Newport & we found ourselves pulling into Abergavenny, a strange sounding town right on the border. Monmouth wasn’t served by train, so we blagged some local budweiser boy to drive us there for a fiver. So there we were, razzin down the road with a local wise guy, the sun setting over Wales behind us, the English border ahead. Crossing into the mothership, we were soon were among the scenic streets of Monmouth. On the outskirts of town we found a camp-sight, & in the failing light snook in thro’ a back field & set up camp. By the time the tent was up & we’d had a reefer or two, we were swamped by a serious a case of ‘What next?’
“Reyt, I think Rockfield’s a couple of miles out of town… so I’ll go & check it out.”
“Nice one… I’ll chill here & get stoned.”
“Nice one… inabit!”
With one rolled I set off along a country road. Above the stars were singing & I was enveloped in the bosom of a warm May night. Up ahead, somewhere (I hoped) lay Rockfield Studios. After a couple of miles the shadow of a building loomed out of the gloom. It turned out to be a farmhouse & just as I was walking to the door to check it out, a car razzed up beside me on the drive. This guy leaps out sporting a baseball cap & all at once I clicked… it was only fuckin’ Ian Brown.
“Can I help yer kid?”
“Yeah mate, I’ve come to see what the Stone Roses are up to!”
“Cool, come in!”
So there I was, sat in the control room of Rockfield Studios, chattin to Reni about a Roses gig in Colne (near Burnley) & Ian Brown buzzin about, his mane completely shaved off & renouncing all drugs. The Roses’ producer then turns up with two Yanks – radio pluggers – who had been sent over by Geffen to see where all their money had gone & to listen to the album. Mani was away & Squires was off taking coke somewhere but there was one guy missin.’
“Lads… I can’t stay on mi own, mi mates waitin down at the campsite.”
“No worries… we’ll go pick him up.”
Sound as fuck… none of yer pop star bullshit… simply sound as fuck. We roared the couple of miles down the road in their motor, Reni at the wheel. Then with a screech & a spin we razzed up the camp site, pulling up right outside the tent. I got out, unzipped & poked me head inside… Nicky looked stoned.
“Yo Nick, I’m wi Stone Roses!”
“No, swear down… come on, wi gonna listen to the new album!”
“Reyt, I’ll get mi weed!”
Unfortunately it was too dark to find the weed, & we were proper rushin.’ So after brief introductions me & Nick were just about to get in the car when who would show up but a pretty pissed-off campsite owner.
“Oy there boyos, what yer doin!”
“It’s allright mate, they’re with us,” said Brown.
“Wait a minute… they haven’t even paid!”
“We’ll sort you out in the morning mate,”
So we jumped in the car with Nick. I can’t quite remember, but I’m sure they made more noise when they left than when they arrived.
Back in the studio we were flanked by Yanks on us left & Mancs on us right. One by one tracks off the new album were brought from a pile of massive tape reels. For a wide-eyed kid who had been using a Tascam four-track, to see the epic grandeur of a proper recording studio it was very cool indeed. At one point we went to the farm itself for a cup of tea & a spliff, watchin’ MTV. Talk ended up on football… the Roses being Man U fans. It was just at the beginning of their strangle-hold on the domestic game, & the double loomed, even if they were wearing an awful, schizophrenic away kit. They had just pipped Bastard Rovers to the title by 8 points & were about to meet Chelsea in the FA Cup final. It was the season when Cantona ran rampant in the middle field, his Napoleonic dash & Gallic élan controlling every match & inspiring his team. He also kicked a Norwich player in the head – ‘descpicable’ said Jimmy Hill – and stamped on John Moncur at Swindon. But he was genius!
I feel really at home here. I love the game, above all in England. I really thought I would not play football again, but my career was changed completely by coming here, I did not really know what to expect. On the continent they say that the English are cold & reserved, but they are not. The English like to laugh. They like to tell jokes. I’ve been surprised. I like the English Eric Cantona
In Rockfield Studios, at one point John Squire came in to make himself a brew. He didn’t say anything, an almost Shelleyan figure in the background, who made his tea & disappeared. The Second Coming was mainly about Squires. He wrote all the tunes but one & lavished them with a series of powder-driven guitar solos. Inspired by Led Zeppelin & thus the artistic alchemy of Aleister Crowley he had produced a darkly poetic album. I remember seeing a Robert Johnson CD in the studio (which I’ve now got in my car) & another influence must be Jimmy Hendrix… on Good Times the title & the guitaring are one & the same. At one point they gave us a tour of the studio, & I saw the handwritten lyrics to Straight To The Man, testifying to the fact the album was still malleable. During the listening, other tracks definitively stood out; the acoustic sing-a-long Tightrope, the melodic Ten Storey Love Song & the fuzzy Begging You made us realise why we loved them in the first place. Then they slapped on Love Spreads & we knew the Roses were back.
They also played a mental track, full of screeching violins & mad acoustics, which they called The Foz. “You should put it on the album,” we told ’em. Indeed they did, at our behest it seems, as a secret track. If you left the album running by accident, the stereo would suddenly spring to life again, 90 tracks in. Producer, Simon Dawson, who was also present at our visit, bragging about how the album was ‘gonna be massive,’ had this to say about The Foz.
This was nothing to do with me at all – it was something they did before they came to Rockfield. I know I’m credited with the keyboards, but I didn’t play them on that! I think Reni played the piano, Ian played the violin, and John was playing the mandolin. It was something they did late one night when they were with John Leckie and he’d wandered in with his DAT player – it was just a bit of a joke, I think. I don’t think it was supposed to be found that easily — it was supposed to shock people who’d left their CD playing while they were studying or whatever. The working title was ‘The Foz’ – well, I say working title…that was what was written on the box, anyway…” – Simon Dawson.
There was one funny moment. Ian, Reni & Simon asked us what we’d been up to, & we mentioned we’d seen Oasis recently. BOOM – you could almost cut the tension with a knife. Simon was praising them as good lads, but you could definitely feel a sense of ‘who are these johnny-cum-latelys everyone’s rabbiting on about.’ During 1994, Oasis were actually recording at nearby Monow Valley studios, which led to Ian Brown & the Gallagher brother’s first bumping into each other as Brown was walking out of the WH Smiths in Monmouth. As Brown shadow boxed his way towards them & started praising Cigarettes & Alcohol, perhaps this was the existential moment of the baton being changed. Darius had established the empire, & Xerxes was gonna spread its power over widening regions. Whatever did transpire that day, safe to say back at the studio two sets of baggy Mancunians were creating & recording beautiful, beautiful, perhaps even immortal music.
So our brilliant time finally over, with the radio pluggers leaving at the same time as ourselves, Reni & Ian drove us back to the campsite, the first ‘outsiders’ to hear the album in the world. All the music mags had been shunned, & there we were a Barlicker & an Accy Roader, piercing the aura of invincibility right to the summit of Olympus. “I don’t think its as good as the first one!” said Nick as we finally managed to skin-up. But I didn’t care, I mean, the fuckin’ Stone Roses, the new fuckin’ album – we were very lucky boys.
Needless to say we were up at the crack of dawn & did a runner without paying.