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Posts Tagged ‘Shane Meadows’

I was, believe it or believe it not, a little too young and much too unfashionable to really understand who the Stone Roses were, when their star was first at its zenith. I’m assuming here, of course, that you know who the Stone Roses are and why my relative ignorance might come as a surprise. Maybe this assumption is warranted and maybe it isn’t, but I suspect that this is one of those situations where context is everything – either you will completely understand the importance of this rock group and the cultural moment they embodied, or you will be only vaguely aware of them and their music.

Certainly their sound was everywhere when I was in my late teens, and I feel as though I’ve learned more than a few of their songs simply by a strange musical osmosis – even though I’ve never actually bought one of their recordings. I was even moved to have a crack at a karaoke version of I Am The Resurrection when I was in Japan: something I would not recommend, in hindsight, mainly because I then had to attempt to explain what the lyrics meant to my Japanese friends.

Suffice to say that the Roses were and remain a big and important band for a large group of people, which is why it makes perfect sense for their reformation after sixteen years apart to be the subject of a film. Documenting proceedings is Shane Meadows, director of Dead Man’s Shoes and This is England, and self-confessed massive Stone Roses fan, and the resulting film is – somewhat logically – entitled The Stone Roses: Made of Stone.

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Suspicions that this is not going to be quite your bog-standard warts-and-all behind-the-scenes rockumentary arise as the film opens with a clip from an interview with Sir Alfred Hitchcock (not a noted fan of the Baggy scene), describing how happiness to him is the pursuit of artistic endeavour in an atmosphere unsullied by personal tensions. One is left to figure out exactly why this has been included, but given the occasionally acrimonious dynamic between the various band members it’s not hard to come up with a working assumption. Anyway, almost at once Hitchcock departs, and the soundtrack vibrates to the primordial opening riff of I Wanna Be Adored, and you suddenly realise that if Meadows just wants to play classic Roses songs over a montage of library footage, that’s a pretty good basis for a movie in and of itself.

Made of Stone isn’t quite that – but, given that the band had only recently reformed and everyone involved was keen to keep the working environment as positive and stress-free as possible, one thing it is very short on is actual contemporary interviews with the four members (archive footage of Ian Brown and John Squire in prime journalist-baffling form does make an appearance). Instead there’s some casual fly-on-the-wall stuff behind the scenes at rehearsals, concerts, and on tour – and even here Meadows appears to have been under orders not to crowd Squire and Reni, as the camera keeps its distance from them virtually throughout.

Even so, the majority of the film is composed of archive material recounting the rise and fall of the Roses between 1984 and 1996, structured so it sort-of parallels the trajectory of the reformation and subsequent tour (which experienced its own not-insignificant wobble at one point), and footage of the band performing. Everything builds up to the stadium shows the band mounted in Manchester in the summer of 2012, playing to a crowd of 75,000 people in their home town.

I suppose how much you enjoy this film will depend to some degree on your fondness for Baggy music, because you will end up spending most of the 100-minute running time listening to it. I Wanna Be Adored and (the song) Made of Stone both get played in full twice – not that this is a terrible ordeal, to my ears – while an extended, noodle-tastic version of Fool’s Gold is held back for the climax of the film (there’s very little I Am The Resurrection and hardly any One Love, which was a bit of a personal disappointment).

And yet I think this film does have something to offer anyone who isn’t a fan of this kind of music. The sequences of the band’s early rehearsals, as they learn to play together again after a sixteen year lay-off, are remarkable in the way that they capture the alchemy of the four men slowly remembering how this works. One gets a fantastic sense of the working dynamic that exists between the members of a band while they’re actually performing from these scenes, and that’s something universal across all kinds of music, I suspect.

But as well as the music, the film is also about the passionate devotion inspired by this most-mythologised of recent rock groups. The most memorable section of the film concerns the build-up to the band’s first concert following their reformation, playing to a thousand fans at virtually no notice. Within minutes of the gig being announced on the radio, sweating devotees start arriving at the venue, having run all the way there from their workplaces and homes. The dedication of these people is clear: they genuinely love the Stone Roses, and for them this will be one of the most memorable evenings of their lives. One man confesses to inventing a serious family emergency in order to get out of work and attend. Another – a deputy head teacher, no less – owns up to offering his car keys in exchange for a ticket to the concert (he did not find any takers). The Stone Roses were never short on self-belief but the concert, when it begins, has something of the quality of an ecstatic religious revival. Just watching the footage of the performance is intense; I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be there.

Exhibit A for the Roses’ ability to inspire enormous affection is Meadows himself, who admits they are his all-time favourite band, and that making this film is a dream come true for him. Most of the time, Meadows’ affection for the group works in the film’s favour, as he is able to imbue every frame of concert and rehearsal footage with joy and excitement. The only downside comes when there is a dramatic mid-tour wobble with one of the band storming off stage mid-performance and the crowd turning ugly: I can imagine a more objective director attempting to mine this incident for all the drama and insight it obviously offers, but Meadows’ instinctive response – no doubt fully endorsed by the band’s management – is to fly back to England and leave them to sort it all out in privacy.

Then again, this is a celebration of the Stone Roses and their fans, not a forensic examination of the workings of the band or their music. As such, I can’t imagine anyone with more than a passing fondness for the group finding Made of Stone anything but enjoyable, and even those so far indifferent to their music may well find their opinions being changed – or at least things to enjoy.

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