Saturday, July 12, 2014

Music According to Benedict: "I Am The Resurrection" & "Fools Gold" by The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses (courtesy

"I Am the Resurrection" and "Fools Gold" by the Stone Roses
"...they stand side by side on the album and are inseparably brilliant. I went to Manchester University partly on an insane surge of nostalgia from when I discovered these mischievous mancs and their Madchester ways! God bless the Happy Mondays and Joy Division and all the other Tony Wilson 'Factory' recorded bands." 
- Benedict Cumberbatch, Top Tunes - Two Paddocks

Looking through Benedict's Top Tunes list is a musical memory journey with plenty of nostalgia. While some songs are from his childhood days at Harrow, and others came to his collection through friendships, the music of Manchester will forever be part of Benedict's uni days as a drama student at the University of Manchester -  an experience summarized briefly in a 2013 interview in British GQ:
When he went to Manchester University to study drama, he had a blast - girls, drinking, clubbing. Pills? "I was a student in Manchester," he says with a laugh, by way of an answer. "But, uh, I'll take the Fifth." Yet he soon overdid it: "I got very ill in my first year. I got glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis - ed.) I had to calm down a bit. It was my body going, 'What the f***?'"
He can't have been alone. Beginning in the late 1980s/early 1990s (when Benedict would have been a student at Harrow), the Manchester club scene started attracting attention - with a ready audience of university students looking for something fun - something different.

At the time, it was accepted that the easy availability of Ecstasy (MDMA/Molly) contributed to this evolution in experimentation, making marathon music performances a perfect match for the altered consciousness of club-goers. Writer Sean O'Hagan described the goings-on in the college town this way: "There is a particularly credible music biz rumour-come theory that certain Northern towns — Manchester being the prime example — have had their water supply treated with small doses of mind-expanding chemicals ..."

(Perhaps it was that same water supply contributing to glandular fever diagnoses amongst students later on.)

"Madchester" was the term coined by Factory Records video director Philip Shotton to describe what was happening in the area: a fusion of different genres of music, including '60s psychedelic rock, electronic dance music and "alternative" rock (which could be a style catch-all) being played in the dance clubs - enjoyed by an audience of young people perceived to be enjoying the effects of many forms of experimentation.

One of the first to make their mark? The Stone Roses.

The Stone Roses formed in the early 1980s, brought together the talents of Ian Brown (vocals), John Squire (guitar) and Alan "Remi" Wren (percussion). Bassist Gary "Mani" Mounfield joined the band in 1987.

In addition to a distinctive, psychedelic, hypnotic funky sound featuring extended solos for drum and guitar, Madchester artists embraced a distinctive fashion statement, as well. "Baggy style" typically involved loose clothes that combined sport, retro, casual - and a bit of psychedelia for an alternative vibe - perfect for moving to a song that could last 12-15 minutes, far longer than pop singles of 3-5 minutes. Even today,  concert footage shows that Remi, the drummer, can still be spotted with a signature fisherman's hat.

The two songs Cumberbatch selected were on the group's eponymous debut album, released in spring 1989 to modest interest, and a range of critical reviews. Some loved it in the UK, such as critics at NME and Melody Maker, acknowledging the Hendrix-like sound of guitar and an overall unique new sound. After the band's debut performance on British TV in the fall of 1989,  a U.S. critic for the Village Voice seemed unimpressed, saying the band was no different than other "indie" groups - but with potential as songwriters and occasional moments of spark. Decades later, the album is still somewhat divisive - either deemed a genius debut album and precursor to Britpop  - or simply just...overrated.

"Fools Gold" broke the Top 10 on the UK singles chart (a performance on Top of the Pops in November 1989 a watercooler moment for music fans), and became the biggest selling single of 1990.


"I Am The Resurrection" - although on the same album, wasn't released as a single until 1992, reaching #33 on the UK Singles chart - and would later be voted in an NME survey in 2011 as the best song The Stone Roses recorded.

Be prepared. Both versions posted here average 12 minutes. Get your glowsticks ready!


2013 Live in Jakarta:

Oh, one more flashback to "Fool's Gold," this performance recorded June 2013 at Finsbury Park.

What's so significant about the Finsbury Park concert? It seems one fan's photo tells us that musical journeys are sometimes worth a return trip:

 A Tumblr blog captioned this: "Mr. Cumberbatch and some round-faced stalker at The Stone Roses, Finsbury Park" (Dated June 9, 2013)

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