Book review: The Stone Roses - War and Peace

WITH the Third Coming of The Stone Roses already under way and scheduled to stretch out across the summer, taking in some 18 festival appearances worldwide, fans can expect a flurry of related material capitalising on their feverishly awaited return.

Simon Spence’s biography – punted as “definitive” rather than authorised – at least has the distinction of pre-dating the reunion announcement in its conception. The Stone Roses: War And Peace sets out to tell their story as methodically and comprehensively as possible, drawing on 70 new interviews, including group members past and present, their associates, peers and contemporary commentators.

Despite the epic associations of the title, that story, as somewhat dryly recounted here, is neither a tale of high drama nor a blur of entertaining or eccentric rock’n’roll anecdotes but one of potential developed, reached and then stymied through a mix of irresponsible management, unfavourable contracts and fracturing relationships, played out in venues, rehearsal rooms and courts.

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In that respect, The Stone Roses biography is not radically different to that of many lesser bands. The crowning moments, such as their classic debut album and the zeitgeist-capturing Spike Island gathering (although frontman Ian Brown describes their show at Glasgow Green a couple of weeks later as “the best ever”), were few but significant and enduring.

However, Spence doesn’t go to great lengths to assess their cultural impact as one of the UK’s most influential and adored bands or to get under the skin of these folk heroes. Even his account of Spike Island, at which he was present as a young journalist, is more forensic than personal.

Spence previously collaborated with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham on his memoirs and it is the Roses’ mercurial manager Gareth Evans who emerges as the most intriguing character of the piece. Arguably it is for the best that the Roses themselves remain an enigma.

The Stone Roses: War And Peace

Simon Spence

Penguin Viking, £20