Back in 1987, Melvyn Bragg had a problem. Rock profiles on The South Bank Show were a rarity, but Melvyn had found a band he felt warranted some Sunday night analysis: The Smiths, a group that had defined themselves by doing what nobody expected. True to form, between the filming and the editing of the programme, the band did what nobody expected and split up. Hastily revising his introduction to the show, Melvyn spun the programme as a tribute. These days, he said, it’s natural for like-minded creatives to ‘meet, do what they have to do and split up.’
By some handy Mancunian magic, at exactly the same time The Stone Roses were finding their 14″-flared feet. 1987’s ‘Sally Cinnamon’ was their year zero: the song that laid down the Roses sound, ignited the first three years of arrogance/ brilliance and made Joe Bloggs and Jackson Pollock halls of residence names. As John McCready’s vibrant sleevenotes to this compilation point out, what happened next has been endlessly written and re-written. Indeed, there have been Stone Roses compilations before. They’ve all been awful. 1995’s ‘The Complete Stone Roses’ included an incomplete three-minute edit of ‘I Am the Resurrection’, presumably for all those fans who felt the original went on a bit, while 2000’s ‘The Remixes’ had what the world wasn’t waiting for: ‘One Love (Utah Saints mix)’.
This compilation is the first to be approved by all the ex-members, includes songs from both albums, plus songs that were on neither, and is sequenced thoughtfully. Of course, you know the tunes backwards (or forwards, for the ones that are backwards), but for just three reasons why this music makes your heart sing like no other, try 1.30 on ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ when the snare finally kicks in, the lazy guitar solo at 3.09 on ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ or the line “You taste of cherryaid” on ‘Sally Cinnamon’. The Stone Roses never got to play on the moon, like Ian Brown wanted, but as Melvyn said, sometimes the best bands meet, do what they have to do and split up. That’s more than enough.