The story of the Stone Roses is one of unfulfilled promise. An overnight success in England with its debut album, the Stone Roses went from playing small clubs in the mid-1980s to massive stadiums by decade's end, with their faces appearing all over the U.K. music papers. The quartet received little more than cursory attention in the U.S., primarily for their role as the most celebrated combo of Manchester's mid-1980s psychedelic rave scene. The Roses' blend of Byrds-like chiming guitars with an updated, Smiths-style pop sensibility garnered critical acclaim. By 1990, however, legal problems had slowed their momentum. After winning freedom from their original label, Silvertone, the Roses landed a reported $4 million deal with Geffen in the U.S., finally returning at the end of 1994 with the disappointing Second Coming, before breaking up for good.
Ian Brown, an idealistic blend of beatnik, hippie, anarchist, and punk rocker, came together with self-taught painter John Squire in the early '80s. The two formed a punk band called the Patrol, which became the Stone Roses in 1985. After a couple of singles, the Roses teamed up with producer John Leckie, who helped shape their signature psychedelic pop sound. The group signed with Silvertone in 1988 and put out a single, "Elephant Stone," which reached #8 on the U.K. charts in March 1990. Following the release of their debut album, The Stone Roses (#19 U.K., 1989; #86 U.S., 1990), the band had a string of U.K. hits, including "What the World Is Waiting For/Fool's Gold" (#8 U.K., 1989), "Made of Stone" (#20 U.K., 1990), "She Bangs the Drums" (#34 U.K., 1990), "One Love" (#4 U.K., 1990), "I Wanna Be Adored" (#20 U.K., 1991), "Waterfall" (#27 U.K., 1992), and "I Am the Resurrection" (#33 U.K., 1992).
In 1990 members of the band vandalized the offices of Revolver Records after that label reissued old material without their permission. The case got major attention in the U.K. press. Meanwhile, the Roses were back in court later that year when they tried to leave Silvertone for Geffen; the group won the case but lost more career momentum. The band then spent the next two years sporadically recording, slowed during early sessions by drug use. Their comeback album, Second Coming (released in England in late 1994), lived up to its name, attracting U.K. media attention and peaking at #4 in England. It failed to ignite wide interest in the U.S (reaching #49), and even at home the Stone Roses were no longer as irresistible. The band's own public arrogance and the arrival of such newer British rock acts as Oasis effectively dimmed whatever appeal remained.
The Stone Roses toured briefly in the U.S. and England, but in 1996 Squire quit the group and reemerged the next year heading the Seahorses. The Stone Roses continued on for another six months but called it quits after a performance at the Reading Festival where Brown appeared visibly drunk. Brown embarked on his own solo career, releasing an album in 1998. The singer then spent two months in a Manchester prison after arguing with a flight attendant. In jail he wrote songs that would be released as 2000's Golden Greats album.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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