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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Sony Walkman by Dominic Baker

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Today, Dominic Baker, takes a long look at a 1980’s original icon and concludes that the Sony Walkman was a game changer in the way popular culture is enjoyed. 

As branding exercises go, Sony were right on the money with this product. It was small, lightweight, portable, stylish, reliable and I bet Duracell absolutely loved them.

It gave you your world on your feet, transported you to your own acoustic nirvana, with those trade mark orange headphones, it was a must have on every Christmas or birthday list in the 80s, the ‘iPod’ of its day it was a world-wide smash hit and tapped into teenage market like nothing else had done before. (Ed. I was given a silver one as a gift for my 25th birthday in 1983)

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It was created primarily because one of the co-founders of Sony Masaru Ibuka wanted to listen to his favourite operas on long haul flights to various meetings around the world. Although Sony weren’t the first to the punch in thinking of the invention, that honour goes to a German-Brazilian inventor by the name of Andreas Pavel .

An audio engineer Nobotoshi Kihara came up with the prototype in 1978 and first marketed in japan in 1979 under the Walkman name, though this was not yet its international brandname. In the UK it was known as the “Stowaway”, in Sweden the “Freestyle” and it was marketed as the “Soundabout” in the US. In fact, then President and co-founder of Sony Akio Morita, reportedly hated the name and wanted to change it before release but as the gears of advertising and the promotional campaign was already in full swing, to change it would have proven very costly.

At the time the blue and silver TPS L2 was the first and cheapest portable stereo in the world, it first went on sale in Japan in 1979 and then in the UK in 1980. It had stereo playback and two mini headphone jacks enabling 2 people to listen to music at the same time. The TPS-L2 Walkman was an unprecedented success selling over 385 million units worldwide. It had incredibly low battery consumption, it steered away from gimmicky features and just concentrated on quality music at an affordable price.

It faced stiff opposition from Aiwa, Toshiba and Panasonic who produced their own versions. In response, Sony upped their game and introduced a model that had a twin motor auto reverse, which was normally only found on higher end home hi-fi equipment, thus ensuring that the speeds for playing both sides were regulated.

The Walkman brand became a household name and went on to furnish other devices including the CD Walkman, Video Walkman, Mini Disk Walkman, Walkman MP3 and finally onto Sony’s mobile phones.

Production in Japan of the cassette player only ceased in 2010 and they are still being  made in China for overseas markets. It now has an added ‘kitsch’ value and is a collectors item which no doubt was born from sweet childhood memories of owning one. How many “mixtapes” on cassette do you have from the 1980’s?

The Sony Walkman pretty much single handedly ensured that cassettes overtook vinyl in sales in the early 80s. Sony thought that this would be their comeback after Betamax had nosedived so badly against VHS. It was the first product to be aimed at the teenage market and by 1990 there were over 80 different variants available.

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Arguments will rage but was the Walkman one of the healthiest products ever to hit the market? Why? Because it spurred a generation of office workers to get up, get out and go jogging and roller skating in the open air.

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