By Paul Stevens
Early Beginnings | Stone Roses | Seahorses | Solo Project | Marshall's House
John Thomas Squire, a Manchester man, was born on Saturday 24th November 1962 in Broadheath, Lancashire and grew up on Sylvan Avenue in Sale.
John and Ian Brown had become close friends by the age of 13 and they later formed a punk-inspired band, which was named as The Patrol. The line-up was as followed, Ian Brown (on bass), John Squire (on lead guitar, naturally), Andy Cousens (vocals and guitar) and Simon Wolstencroft (on drums). The band played a handful of youth-club gigs with local punks Corrosive Youth but was around for much longer. Brown who wanted into the music scene did dabble with a bass but it wasn't for him at the time and he sold it for £100 and went out and bought a scooter.
The two moved to Hulme, a renowned estate in central Manchester that was high on life and big on drugs and crime. No longer punks the two took a short break.
And so in 1982 Squire withdrew himself a little from the band life and made some money, by making models for children's television show - Wind In The Willows, he continued this until 1984.
It was in January 1983 that Ian Brown met 60's rhythm and blues giant Geno Washington at his girlfriend's party in Hulme and Brown is convinced by Washington to think about picking up a microphone and becoming a singer. With this in mind, Brown was determined to get back into a band; this was helped through meeting a promoter, by chance in Germany. "Yeah, I was hitching around Europe and I met this promoter who said that he could get us some gigs in Sweden," Brown told Melody Maker (1990), "so obviously we jumped at the chance."
Brown then chased up Squire to regroup the band. Simon Wolstencroft leaves (and later joins The Fall) and genius drummer Alan 'Reni' Wren steps in (after replying to a local advertisement, placed by Brown) with Andy Cousens demoted to rhythm guitar (Brown taking over the vocals) and Peter Garner joined on bass to form a five-piece. In January 1984, the band changes names (deciding not to go with The Angry Young Teddy Bear) to The Stone Roses and marked a point in musical history.
December 1984 saw the first gig as The Stone Roses at Moonlight in Hampstead, north London, at an anti-heroin benefit staged by Pete Townshead.
Then in January 1985, came the Swedish tour that Brown had arranged, a complete flop sadly as it was only advertised in the English press and not the Swedish - one gig seeing just a handful of spectators (if only they knew how lucky they were). Returning home, they sign to Thin Line for a single recording. Thin Line was a Manchester indie label formed by their first manager and Hacienda Club manager - Howard Jones.
A review of a gig on 20th April 1985 at Clouds in Preston appears in the live sections of Melody Maker, the writer, Ro Newton compares the Roses to "the sound of fingernails scraping down a blackboard, amplified to an intolerable degree."
The first single, the first studio recorded material to be released, was to be 'So Young' which was released in September 1985, backed with 'Tell Me', it was only pressed on 12" and was limited to 1200. The single was produced by Martin Hannett (who had worked with the Buzzcocks, Joy Division and New Order). It gained the band some popularity locally and is now a rare collector's piece with the original fetching prices of £70-£100 and the promo version valued at over £100. It was the first example of Squire's artist flare for design, as he created the cover.
Throughout 1986, the band built up a local reputation at secret warehouse parties in Manchester, during the early hours at various locations. They debut track 'The Sun Still Shines' in May but it is a track that doesn't cut it and only makes it to the demo stage (and is available on bootlegs). In July of that year the Roses have a bust up of money and Andy Cousens leaves. The band snap up Gareth Evans as their manager in January 1987 (he ran Manchester's International clubs. He signs the band to Black, a new imprint of indie label Revolver.
In May 1987, they release their second single, 'Sally Cinnamon', a much more melodious track (and most sonically related to the Roses' top of the world era). And in November 1987, after Pete Garner leaves the band, Gary 'Mani' Mounfield joins and the classic line-up that we all know and adore is set in stone.
The band grew tighter and got to record a third single 'Elephant Stone' in April 1988, the video looked like it is shot by themselves and featured (now famous) Mani's bass splatter-painted by John Squire. June saw them sign a deal with Silvertone; this gave them the opportunity to begin recording and their debut album.
'Elephant Stone' was eventually released in October 1988 as their first Silvertone release. It was backed with 'Full Fathom Five' (which was Elephant Stone reversed and was a first example of The Stone Roses' obsession with backwards effects) and 'The Hardest Thing In The World'. This was followed by their first national tour in November and featured spontaneous dancing by Cressa (the lost Stone Roses?).
'Made Of Stone' was released as a single (to be the first off of the debut album) in competition with their last record company's attempt to reclaim some cash (they re-release 'Sally Cinnamon'). The re-release was to feature a demo version, which the Roses were very angered by. 'Made Of Stone' is reviewed by the NME as 'Irrevocable proof that everything's coming up Stone Roses. And about time too. The timing was right, throughout the year we saw a rise of what became known as Madchester with The Stone Roses right at the top, with other artists such as Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, etc bundled into the genre.
Well overdue, the nations thirst for The Stone Roses was quenched with the release of they debut album, simply titled, 'The Stone Roses', when it was out in May 1989. It entered the charts at number 32 but then later climbs to number 19, it is heralded by all as a huge success and as one of the greatest debut albums for a generation. Melody Maker describes the album: "This record is godlike."
They make the charts for the very first time with 'She Bangs The Drums', which was released in July 1989. The first 5,000 copies were pressed with a different catalogue number and given a limited edition print of the Squire designed front cover.
Approaching the height of their career, The Stone Roses released double A sided 'Fools Gold' / 'What The World Is Waiting For', the ultimate indie-dance crossover track, which now is probably their most famous. They perform it on Top Of The Pops the same week and are joined by the Happy Mondays, who were promoting their 'Hallelujah' track, a great moment in baggy Madchester history.
The band then returned to the studio in December to start recording material for their second album, with hopes of a summer 1990 release being a bit unrealistic. Black re-released 'Sally Cinnamon' yet again. It reaches number 46 in the charts. The second re-release and laughably amateuristic video lead to one of the most infamous incidents in the Roses' history. They totalled Revolver's offices, splattered their cars with paint, caused over £20,000's worth of damage and narrowly avoided a prison sentence, let off by the fact that the judge did not want to give them notoriety for their crime.
The band were eventually fined £3,000 in court (March 1990) over the attack and in the same month they played a landmark event which became legendary, Spike Island in Widnes, Cheshire, in front of 30,000 fans. 'She Bangs The Drums' re-entered the charts joined 'Elephant Stone' and 'Made Of Stone' to give them three singles in the top 75 in one week.
Silvertone re-released 'What The World Is Waiting For'/'Fools Gold' in September. The Roses were offered deals with major record companies but Silvertone tried to hold them to their contract. This sadly, resulted in a long and acrimonious litigation that prevented them from setting foot in the studio for far too many months.
It was finally Geffen that came to their rescue, who signed them up in a deal worth a reported £2 Million. Brown later confirmed that they were given £1 Million upfront, followed by the completion of the second album.
The Roses are officially freed from their legal obligations to Silvertone in May 1991 but that was not the last to be heard from the record company, as they released 'I Wanna Be Adored' in September 1991, followed by supporting Windsong's release of the 'Blackpool Live' video (November 1991), which was a great gig, then came 'Waterfall' (December 1991), then 'I Am The Resurrection' (March 1992) and a remix of classic 'Fools Gold' (May 1992).
Next came the compilation of the b-sides and other tracks, going by the name, 'Turns Into Stone' (August 1992) and in February 1993 Silvertone release (the highly collectable) 8-disc CD and 10-disc 12" singles box sets labelled SRBX1 and SRBX2, respectively.
And then it came, after over half a decade since the debut and too many releases from Silvertone (each stretching the magic that the Roses created, wearing it thin), word of a follow-up and in November 1994 the first Geffen single was released - 'Love Spreads'. It was backed with 2 new tracks, 'You Star Will Shine' (also from the album) and 'Breakout'. NME's Terry Staunton described it as, 'John Squire's debut solo single' (he was about 8 years old!). On the whole it was predicted a number one but actually came in at number 2 (still a career best though).
The Second Coming, a suitable name, we had all been waiting for the resurrection and in December 1994 we observed it. The track listing read as: 'Breaking Into Heaven', 'Driving South', 'Ten Storey Love Song', 'Daybreak', 'Your Star Will Shine', 'Straight To The Man', 'Begging You', 'Tightrope' (the first track ever to feature John Squire's vocal), 'Good Times', 'Tears', 'How Do You Sleep', and 'Love Spreads' (with hidden track 90 named later as 'The Foz'). The album was ripped to shreds by the press right across the board; fans had mixed opinions of it. I was one of the people that feel in love with it. The previous magic was present but there was new warmth there, created by Squire's slick fretwork, burning new melodies and new boundaries, taking us fans to a different place. The standout tracks were certainly, the single 'Love Spreads' and the epic, beautiful ballad 'Tears', which, in my view contains some of Squire's best work (to date). Second Coming hit the charts at number 4 and the USA charts at number 47 (staying in the US top 200 for 13 weeks) in February 1995.
The second single, 'Ten Storey Love Song' was released in the same month and was backed with two new tracks, 'Moses' and 'Ride On' (incidentally the name of a Fanzine that was started later). The video was the first that professionally made with only three members in shot; Reni was represented by a man wearing a photocopied mask of his face.
The dream was threatened for the first time in April 1995 with the departure of Alan 'Reni' Wren, this explained Reni's absence from the shooting of 'Ten Storey Love Song'. Wren had apparently missed the shooting and several press conferences prior to leaving but the Roses replaced him with 25-year-old Robbie Maddix immediately (Maddix was already an acquaintance).
April 1995 also saw the release of yet another Silvertone single and it was yet another Fools Gold remix CD, this time worked by Tall Paul. It just about left a vague, visible dent in the charts, entering at number 25. NME reviews quotes, "Here we go again. Silvertone setting up the milking stool under their biggest cash cow." (A super quote). Two months later and we see another compilation released by Silvertone, given the dubious title, 'The Complete Stone Roses'. It was just a collection of the debut album and 'Turns Into Stone' (but shorter, less enjoyable radio edits) and the five tracks from the first two releases - 'So Young' and 'Sally Cinnamon'.
In June 1995, disaster struck as John Squire breaks his collarbone in a biking accident in California, on a day off after an 11-day US tour. This makes it impossible for the band to make their appearance at Glastonbury's 25th anniversary and as a last minute save-grace Pulp were drafted in as their replacements, helping their career no end.
They head to the studio for one day in September 1995 to record a special 'live in the studio' version of 'Love Spreads' for Go! Discs CD 'HELP' the whole album only recorded five days before release and the proceeds went to War Child. John Squire also designed the front cover for this and makes the CD a nice piece in any fan's collection. In the same month the Roses also play a gig in Japan in front of 12,000 fans.
In an October issue of NME, it was reported that the band were planning to head back in the studio to record a third album for the next year. In addition a live CD was to be released as either an EP or and album, it turned out to be an EP entitled, 'Crimson Tonight'. In the meantime, a third single was released from 'Second Coming', namely 'Begging You', the upbeat 'Fools Gold' attempt from Second Coming. It was backed with several remixes across three formats.
November saw the start of a 19 day UK tour that began in Birmingham, watching the Roses play became more and more enjoying as the year went on as the band seemed to get tighter. Now comfortable with its new permanent line-up, some of the magic that went with Reni had returned. In December 1995 they headline Sheffield Arena supported by ex-Happy Monday frontman Shaun Ryder's new project Black Grape. That was followed by Wembley arena supported by the Manic Street Preachers.
March 1996 saw The Stone Roses darkest hour. John Squire announces his departure from the band. In a statement, he says, "I believe all concerned will benefit from a parting of the ways at this point, and I see this as the inevitable conclusion to the gradual social and musical separation we have undergone in the last few years." This was followed in April by the Roses response, in their own statement, the remaining Roses say, "We feel as cheated as everyone else who's heard the news. We are in the middle of recording the next LP. We're disgusted, yet feel strong and more optimistic than ever."
...but still they march on, it is generally viewed as one of Ian Brown's biggest mistakes during his time with the Roses as in August the now virtually alien line-up of Ian Brown, Mani, Squire replacement Aziz Ibrahim (former session guitar of Simply Red), Robbie Maddix and now permanent fixture Nigel Ipison (Keyboards) play the Reading Festival which received an absolutely awful review by all. Some fans cried.
After leaving the 'Roses in 1996 due to musical differences (of course) and after Reni left the previous year, Squire went into hiding for a short while making few appearances. One such appearance, however, was at the huge Oasis gig at Knebworth, where John joined the uni-brow brothers onstage and performed a few tracks. One being the magnificent 8-minute wonder that is 'Champagne Supernova' (available on a ltd edn CD that came with the "…There and then" video) a great track to listen to, John Squire outplays Noel effortlessly. Brilliant.
With The 'Roses finally put to sleep. Squire could finally move on and concerntrate on his next project, without having to worry about what Ian Brown was doing to the name of the band that he had built up so well (after they threatened to release new material by debuting two new tracks. 'High Time' and 'Ice Cold Cube' (eventually adopted by Brown and re-arranged for his debut solo album 'Unfinished Monkey Business'). In a statement released in October 1996, Ian Brown says, "…it's a pleasure to announce the end of The Stone Roses… peace upon you."
It was the 27th November 1996 that John Squire first 'trotted' out with his new project THE SEAHORSES at Buckley Tivoli, a secret gig. Signed to the Geffen label that made The Stone Roses' 'Second Coming' album possible. The Seahorses comprising of Squire and three unknown artists. Stuart Fletcher (the first to join Squire) who turned out to be a mean little bassist. Chris Helme, the singer, who up to the moment that Squire signed him up had been busking outside 'Woollies' in York. Andy Watts, the drummer and backing vocalist (Squire had admitingly liked the idea of a Reni-style singing drummer). November also saw the release of the CD, 'Garage Flower' which was a compilation of the Roses' early demos with Martin Hannett, featuring tracks circa the 'So Young' era; it spent one week in the charts at number 58. It was a nice example of their earlier work and was better quality that the live performances that had appeared on bootleg CDs over the years.
The Seahorses debut single 'Love Is The Law', released on 28th April 1997, which had received a lot of airplay prior to release, entered the charts at the number 3 position, an outstanding result for both John and the band. Their debut album 'Do It Yourself' was released the following month (with the track listing: - 'I Want You To Know', 'Blinded By The Sun', 'Suicide Drive', 'The Boy In The Picture', 'Love Is The Law', 'Happiness Is Eggshaped', 'Love Me And Leave Me', 'Round The Universe', '1999', 'Standing On Your Head', 'Hello'. The next single from the album was the terrific track 'Blinded By The Sun', originally written by Chris Helme and guitar adopted and arranged by Squire. The video for this was by far the best and was filmed in an Apollo 13-esque style with the band floating around in space. This, unfortunately, failed to make the top ten, as did their third single 'Love Me And Leave Me' which was written by Squire and contributed to by a certain Liam Gallagher, you may recognise the Oasis-style melody in the verses.
It was around this time that founding drummer and backing vocalist Andy Watts was dropped from the band for allegedly not fitting in with the band's image. Watts though, insists that he left due to the birth of a child and wanted to concentrate on family.
Next was the festival season with the Seahorses appearing at Glastonbury and T In The Park, and then came a series of gigs and almost a different drummer at each as they tried to find a suitable replacement for Andy Watts. Whoever the drummer was, the band were just as good and it was equally exciting to watch Squire rocking back on his heels and running his fingers up and down the fret board faster than you could see him do it.
Another tour followed then a quiet spell; they retreat to the studio for a few months, apparently working on a follow up album to their 1997 debut. Later in November 1998 they release 'You Can Talk To Me' on the Geffen, it was unique as it was the first collaboration between Squire and singer Helme, as a jolly little number it was alleged to be the first single from the second album. The single was backed by a track called '3 Wide' which was a new sound for the Seahorses. It was a sampled, upbeat, weighty and choppy guitar number, which ended up as the band's opening track for their live performances. The band make appearances on TFI Friday and the song sounds even better live, with Squire already adding new licks to the studio version, a tour followed in December but it was a long time until any details were revealed about a second studio album. The single sadly landed in the charts just out of the top ten at number 15, a little disappointing for the release of new material. After a long search and several temps, a permanent drummer was signed as Andy Watts' replacement. He was 27-year-old Mark Heaney from Peterborough; previously he had been in the army playing rock and jazz.
In February 1999 a third remix of 'Fools Gold' on the Jive Electro label, giving the Song its fourth visit to the UK charts.
Squire then appears in an interview with Select magazine, confirming some details of a follow up album and a potential release of summer 1999. The album with the working title as either Minus Blue or Motorcade was, as he describes it a meatier venture which would be less pop-py than their first with the band spending a lot more time on it (than the 30 days it took to record 'Do It Yourself'). Some new material was then aired at gigs, with tracks like 'City In The Sky', 'Tomb Raid' and 'Moth'. If you've not heard these tracks, they are available on some late bootlegs, the T In The Park gig, for example.
The Seahorses then announce, surprisingly, that they are disbanding; the NME is the first to report this on the 27th February 1999. Later Squire would put this down to musical differences, Chris Helme wanting to run a solo career alongside (something he would later achieve with his next band, The Yards) the Seahorses and Squire finding this an impossible notion.
So, sadly, we were left without hearing what the Seahorses were capable of via a second album and Squire's record for most albums written with a band was left unbroken.
October 1999 sees the release of the Stone Roses' 10th anniversary edition CD, released by Silvertone; it was released in a slipcase format and was enhanced with videos, lyrics, etc.
Quiet from the Squire camp had hit again. Nothing except a strange advert appeared in one week's issue NME in the classified section - looking for a singer and a drummer for 'John Squire's Skunk Works Project'. This was followed by rumours of other artists joining him, the ex-Verve's Simon Jones and Simon Tong and singer Duncan Baxter. However they later went on to form The Shining and no material featuring John Squire was ever released. As a point of interest the drummer of The Shining was none other than Mark Heaney, the Seahorses' final drummer before their demise. The Shining released their debut single 'Quicksilver' on the 15th April 2002.
It was a while after that any new material from the Squire was heard. After the '2nd' (Seahorses) album tracks that were debuted at live gigs, a bootleg appears, simply titled '2nd Album Recordings' consisting of ten studio-recorded tracks, namely: - 'Night Train', 'Anamorphosis', '700 Horses', 'Dolphin', 'Something Tells Me', 'What Can You See?', 'Cocksucker Blue', 'I Want You', 'Tomb Raid' and 'Reach Out' you can now hear all of the tracks that featured on it in the music section of my JSU Seahorses mini-site.
Then in the 26th June 2002 issue of the NME online news, a small column informed us of what we wanted to hear - new Squire material. It was to come in the form of a solo project with the release of an album, later confirmed as 'Time Changes Everything' with a release date of 16th September 2002. He may have a bit of competition for the top spot, as ex-acquaintances, The Shining are set to release their debut album 'True Skies' on the same day.
NME confirms the track list in August as: 'Joe Louis' (a sample of which was posted on the net recently. Also it sounds like the guitar loop used on the official site is from this track.) 'I Miss You', 'Shine A Little Light', 'Time Changes Everything', 'Welcome To The Valley', '15 Days', 'Transatlantic Near Death Experience', 'All I Really Want', 'Strange Feeling', 'Sophia'. Squire is also quoted as saying that the band (The Stone Roses) would not be reforming, wiping out hope for desperate hardcore Roses fans: "I couldn't do it and not think about Spinal Tap," he said.
'Time Changes Everything' was largely a success with the critics with the NME calling it "His best work since The Stone Roses debut" 8/10 but it only enters the UK charts at no.17, shortly after 'Joe Louis' was released on 2 CDs and a 7" but failed to break the Top 40, but as always he was well received by his fans and the gig venues were well filled. Squire made the brave move to play some of The Stone Roses's greatest songs, debuting 'Waterfall' on Zoe Ball's Xfm show (the first live performance of the track by a Stone Rose in over 6 years). The move paid off, and the Roses tunes got the fans jumping and singing at the gigs.
A bit of a break until a press release in the middle of December 2003, detailing a new single to be released in Feb 2004 and a second studio album to follow it. The tracklisting ran as 'Summertime', 'Hotel Room', 'Marshall's House', 'Lighthouse & Buildings', 'Cape Cod Morning', 'People In The Sun', 'Tables For Ladies', 'Automat', 'Yawl Riding A Swell', 'Room In Brooklyn' and 'Gas', most interesting though was the fact that all the tracks (plus B-side, 'Nighthawks') were inspired by the works of american-depression painter Edward Hopper.
JSU got hold of the album before the end of the year and gave one of the first reviews and predicted great things for this album. Sadly the critics did not back this venture as far as I, even though I still feel that it had a much more commercially viable sound than 'Time Changes Everything'. 'Room In Brooklyn' missed the Top 40 upon release, even being released on a very classy Picture 7" Disc and 'Marshall's House' missed the Top 20.
However, again it was warmly received by the fans and the few gigs he did were brilliant, I attended the London ICA gig and it was a rare chance to see John letting rip on his guitar only metres away, due to the set up of the venue. John Squire also used the venue to launch his first ever Art Exhibition (even though he told Select in 1997, "people ask me when I'm going to exhibit. The stock answer is they're all on show in HMV"). It gave fans the first chance to see the original artwork that featured on the record covers that they had looked at for so many years. It also let us see some of his most recent works and some older pieces that had never been used for any records, etc.
After visiting the ICA Exhibition, a truly amazing, unique experience for me, I was inspired and launched my 2nd John Squire website, JSU Gallery which features pictures and info on every piece of John Squire artwork. Now we wait again, the exhibition is rumoured to be heading to Glasgow after another successful date in Manchester, sadly no summer festivals this year but hopefully he's working on some new material.