Late 1994, and Ian Brown stands at the helm of a rock’n’roll Titanic. The Roses have spent five years in limbo, working through legal battles with their former label, sacking their manager, and slowly losing the plot during mammoth recording sessions for their second album. They are now signed to Geffen Records, and negotiating with Guns N’ Roses manager Doug Goldstein. But icebergs loom on the horizon.
John Squire overrides his bandmates and writes most of the songs on Second Coming, which sounds way too much like Led Zeppelin for Brown’s taste – since punk days, Zeppelin are “the enemy”. The album is released to lukewarm reviews. Meanwhile, fatherhood, drugs and internal power struggles rip the Roses apart.
Is it true you took 100 grand from your Geffen deal and walked around Manchester giving it away?
“It wasn’t 100 grand. I wanted all my money in cash; I didn’t want a bank account. But they made me get an account when I got my recording contract, so I went in and drew it all out. I gave 30 or 40 grand to my mother, retired my mother. The rest wasn’t just to bums on the streets; I gave it to hostels and the Salvation Army. And that Christmas I went and bought big jars of sweets and teddy bears and donated them to kids’ homes. For myself I bought a car, which was nine grand, but I still lived in a little rented flat. The rest I gave to my family.”
What was the fatal mistake the Roses made in their final years? The court case? Signing to Geffen?
“Not getting a manager. We were all chiefs; no-one could make a decision. We were like this big, lumbering dinosaur, even though we’d only made one album. Maybe there should have been someone there saying, ‘Look, fucking get on with it.’ You’re not going to turn to your pal and say that.”
You often blame the Roses fall-out on John’s cocaine intake. Is that why you have been so virulently anti-cocaine ever since?
“I was anti-cocaine before that, as I was a punk-rocker and against all those dinosaur cocaine groups. It was a city-boy drug, a vacuous thing. I was devastated when he got into it, because how clichéd is that? We were the special ones. Why were we suddenly in Spinal Tap?”
But Mani says you and he used to do coke “like it was going out of fashion”…
“For a week, I did. In the first week of the Gulf War in ’91, me and him did four grams of coke a day. Then we went running in the morning, a five-mile run the day after we’d done four grams of coke. By the end of the week, we were nearly having heart-attacks. That’s the only time I ever took it, for that week in 1991.”
Do you take any blame for the acrimony that split the Roses?
“Yeah, I can’t point the finger and say it was all them. I think we’ve all got to take a portion of the blame for having this beautiful thing and fucking it up. But I did do my best. I was everyone’s mate, I felt like I was daddy-ing everybody. And then we hit a brick wall, but you can’t live like that. We were 32-year-old men when we did Second Coming we weren’t kids.”
Reni left first. Rumour has it he was on heroin…
“Yeah. Well, he didn’t get up until 9 o’clock every night.”
Can you confirm the smack stories?
“Not really. It’s one thing we’ve never really talked about because he’s got kids and he’s never really done an interview since. It’s down to him.”
Fair enough. But there was heroin in the Roses camp?
“It ended up being, yeah. And that’s what probably also fucked it all up because you can’t play with junkies. Unless you’re all junkies.”
Did you ever try heroin?
“Never tried it. I used to buy weed from a couple on Coronation Street and they used to beg us not to take it: ‘You’re the Roses, you don’t need it.’ I had junkie friends who’d sell me weed, but they made sure we never touched it. I’ve sat with kids doing it, but never tried it.”
How did John tell you he was leaving the band?
“He just phoned me up and said he felt like a phoney onstage, and he was quitting playing guitar. He phoned Mani, too, and Mani said, ‘Why don’t you take your daughter to Africa for three months and come back?’ But he’d made his mind up. About a week later we were in the lawyer’s office signing off all our debts. And that was it. I’ve not seen him since.”
That last Roses show at Reading ’96. What went wrong?
“I keep reading reports that everyone was leaving in tears because this beautiful thing had been destroyed. But, at the end of that show, there were 60,000 people with their arms in the air. I didn’t see anyone crying, or leaving. But my friend Cressa came running up to me afterwards and said, ‘You have to sack it, that’s not the Roses.’ Cressa had been there from the beginning, so I needed to listen to him. But it was only when I listened to it on cassette the day after that I realised, it wasn’t that I was out of tune, I was in a completely different key to the rest of the band. It sounded terrible.”
It could have been worse. Didn’t Slash from Guns N’ Roses offer to play with you?
“Slash offered to play guitar for us, through Doug Goldstein. I wish we’d taken him on, but at the time we were like, ‘No, we hate Guns N’ Roses, fuck off! Is he going to bring his python with him?’ and all that. But now I think it would have been amazing.”
You disbanded the Roses two months later. How soon after Reading did you know it was over?
“Probably about a week later when we had a meeting with Terri Hall, our publicist at the time. I understood; it was like when Mick Jones left The Clash, it wasn’t really the same band. I did go to Reading with the intention to bury the myth of The Stone Roses and launch the new Stone Roses. And we did bury the myth, but not in the way I intended.”