The Stone Roses

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Music has for close to fifty years been a key component of the jigsaw of my life. I have loved music since I was a child captured by the exotica associated with some fine recording artists including Three Bob’s, Dylan – see my earlier post here – Bob Dylan  – Marley and Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles, The Doors, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and Tom Waits.

In later years, and for the best part of quarter of a century, I earned my living in the Law, specifically Music Law representing some fascinating entrepreneurs, vagabonds and minstrels. It paid the bills and kept my music opiates topped up. I met some truly extraordinary people, who often lived complicated but wonderful lives devoted to engaging and entertaining others. Equally, I have met a fair proportion of consummate egoists, disinterested in those who don’t pander to them.

Simply put, music talks to my soul. It evokes memories. It causes the recall of sights, sounds and emotions.

Asked for my favourite song – that’s easy – U2’s “One”. I can rarely listen that complete wonder of a composition without tears in my eyes.

My favourite – what we used to call “Album” – being a collection of several songs that the artist (or their record company) has deliberately chosen to join together in some overall theme, concept or message. Honestly, again, that’s an easy one, the 1989 iconic debut album of the Manchester band “The Stone Roses” is simply one of the most complete and luxuriously beautiful bodies of work ever collected onto a 12” vinyl record, 4” digital CD or stream.

Depending on the format and country of release, “The Stone Roses” comprises a minimum of 12 recording that lasso a time, a mood and a vibe of the UK pre-BritPop explosion of the early 1990’s. Along with fellow Manc, The Happy Mondays, this album defined an era and is the soundtrack to the lives of me and many of my contemporaries.

Ian Brown (vocals) and John Squire (guitars) who had known each other from Altrincham Grammar School For Boys – somewhere I often played rugby on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s – formed and disbanded several bands prior to being joined by Gary “Mani” Mounfield (bass) and Alan John “Reni” Wren (drums) to form The Stone Roses (Squire’s name), a guitar indi-rock band that sprung from the vibrant Madchester scene of the UK’s second city.

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Having composed and recorded songs for a demo, the band sent out 100 demo cassettes that featured the artwork of Squire, a very talented fine artist. This was followed by touring, further production and the release of some tracks to little commercial effect.

In August 1988 the band played Dingwalls in London in the presence of A&R representatives from South African owned label, Zomba and Geoff Travis one of the founders of the seminal indie, Rough Trade.

Rough Trade paid for some studio time and suggested Peter Hook bassist with New Order as a potential producer, when Hook was unavailable, Geoff suggested John Leckie a former Abbey Road award winning producer with an amazing production pedigree including Pink Floyd, XTC and Radiohead. The Stone Rose were signed to Zomba by Roddy McKenna and appeared on Andrew Lauder and Andy Richmond’s  Silvertone inprint. Rough Trade sold their tapes of “Elephant Stone” to Zomba.

Singles from the eponymous album were released in early 1989 and drew the attention of the all important Radio One. The Album, with John Squire/Jackson Pollock inspired artwork, was released on 2nd May 1989, went on to win the NME Reader’s Poll for Best Album of the Year. The Album is certified in the UK as triple platinum, notching sales in excess of 900,000 units.

To add a copy of The Stone Roses to your collection – click the link below the image:

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The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)

Images used with grateful thanks – Sony Music and Ian Tilton/NME

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MGB

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I was flattered to be asked to contribute To the January-February 2018 edition of The London Magazine – the Capital’s oldest. I was asked to write their 25th “My London” piece which you can see here please – My London by Mark FR Wilkins . I refer to one of London’s tribes, as a  “typical” MGB owner. I suggest that this still holds largely true, despite that the owner may now be in his 70’s although the corduroy’s will still be worn!

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These are adored British cars that have even described by Simon Chalesworth in his brilliant piece on the MGB in February 2018’s “Classic and Sports Car”, as the “gateway drug into whatever this is that we do with old cars”. I understand, that a good quality example of an MGB can be acquired at reasonable cost and by a proficient mechanic or a hired hand it can be up, running and looking fine in reasonably short order and comparable cost.

The MGB is a four cylinder, two-door British roadster – open topped/rag roofed sports car – produced by British Motor Corporation, later British Leyland, between 1962 and 1980, from its famed Abingdon (Oxfordshire) works. It used braking and suspension from the MGA and the engine dated to a design from the late 1940’s.

A previous outing of the MG brand was seen in Aestheticons with the MGA – please see here our previous piece – MG – MGA

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The MGA is a stunner and I thought it couldn’t be surpassed but those who know tell me that the MGB is infinitivly more fun and certainly a greater level of comfort – particularly later models – over its predecessor. The Sunbeam Alpine, also featured here before, seems to have set an newly raised bar one that the MGB sought to attain –  see our earlier post here – Sunbeam Alpine – Bond’s first car

Below is an MGB Mk 1, in Tartan red with a black interior and red piping. It was built in Abingdon in February 1963 and was an early car; the MGB being first shown to the market in September 1962. This car, a stunning example, is Norwegian owned and had 22 previous owners!

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The MGB with its 1798 cc BMC B-Series engine – which was upgraded in 1964 and again in 1967 – initially achieved a 0–60 is around 11 seconds but required detuning in 1975 to be comply to stricter US emission standards, the US being a key export market – you’ll note our featured image is a left hooker. The same year the MGB, which was one of the first cars to benefit from crumple zone technology, was fitted with black polyurethane bumpers to comply yet further with the US Health & Safety codes – some see these as a blight the MGB’s otherwise clean lines and great looks.

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Variants including the MGB GT – which first appeared in 1965 – the MkII MGB and MGC that both appeared in late 1967 with the latter benefitting from a six cylinder engine in a MkII MGB body. With around 9000 examples of the MGC made by August 1969 it was withdrawn and is highly regarded by collectors for its ride and handling.
 In 1993-5 the MGB bodyshell was brought out of retirement by Rover and used for a limited 2000 MG RV8 roadsters to celebrate the MGB’s 30th Anniversary.
As much as I adore these splendid small English sports car my garage is destined for others. I’d be more than keen to have a die-cast model of an MGB on the shelf in my Man Cave – join me by clicking the Amazon link below the image! 

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Photo credits with grateful thnaks – Trygve Sørli/www.petrolicious.com, The London Magazine, Marc Vorgers,

Peter Blake and Jann Haworth – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

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“It was twenty years ago today……”  in fact it was fifty years ago on 31.03.17 that the iconic photo was taken by Michael Cooper, for the cover of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. The Beatles 8th studio album was released on 1st June 1967 becoming the first Beatles album to be released simultaneously, worldwide.

Produced by George Martin in just three months the album sold in excess of 2.5m copies in the first there months of release. It spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK album chart and 15 weeks at number one in the US. In 1968, it won four Grammy Awards including for Best Album Cover and Album of The Year.

By 2011, sales had exceeded 32m.

Newly acquired studio techniques including multi-tracking, reverb, a Mellotron keyboard and overdubs used by George Martin and Abbey Road Engineer, Geoff Emerick, along with the multi-cultural soundtrack created an innovative aural landscape. From the band’s perspective, as they had decided to cease touring in 1966, they knew that they would not be required to reproduce the album on stage.

The familiar hippy/psychedelia inspired album cover, was designed by “Pop artists”, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth from an ink drawing suggested by Paul McCartney. It depicts the great and good, as waxworks or cut-out portraits that were enlarged, coloured and worked into a collage by Blake and Haworth. They surround the members of the Beatles as their younger and older selves, wearing moustaches and gaudy uniforms and a grave dressed by marijuana plants.

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Paul McCartney has been quoted as saying that they chose military style garish uniforms as a statement as it would go against the very idea of a “uniform”. Well, this was 1967!

“Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” were both recorded during the album’s sessions but were released, at the behest of EMI, as a double A side single in February 1967. Due to their lack of success they were dropped from the final cut, much to George Martin’s regret.

The stunning, stand out track, for me has always been “A Day In The  Life” with its lyrical imagery, pace and sheer wall of sound. It’s unsurprising that it was banned by the BBC for its drug allusions and associated imagery. When did a BBC ban ever hurt sales?

The photo session with Cooper, also resulted in the back cover and the inside of the gatefold sleeve. Bonus gifts inside the album’s packaging included a sheet of cardboard cut-outs, a postcard-sized portrait of Sgt. Pepper and a fake moustache – like those worn by the band’s members.

Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandi and Aleister Crowley were each suggested by Lennon and others but ultimately not included for a variety of sensibilities. Elvis Presley, is another notable absentee, which was explained by McCartney being deferential to his stature in popular music at the time.

The final cost for the cover art was reported to be nearly £3,000. A huge sum at the time where £50.00 was the usual budget!

The drum-skin featuring the title of the album was sold in July 2008 for $1,067,346.

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