The Stone Roses will play to thousands of delirious fans at Heaton Park this weekend, this extract remembers a time when they lurched from disaster to brilliance at every turn...
In part this a tribute to Shane Meadows: written in hope that finally the band will be fittingly captured on film. I am not talking about the few (and explosive) TV appearances here (notably The Other Side Of Midnight/The Late Show/Top Of The Pops) but the Roses’ official video releases to date. Basically, and tragically for such a visually literate band, just one disaster after another: starting at Blackpool.
The Roses played the Blackpool Empress Ballroom on 12 August 1989: a Saturday and the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. The 4,000 capacity venue had sold out three weeks prior. It was a very special day – one where the Roses became truly an unstoppable force. Later, in 1991, Jive/Zomba would release a video of the gig. It was not filmed for such a purpose.
The group had talked, in the press, of releasing a new single called, Any Time You Want Me [the track would become One Love and was initially inspired by the Evie Sands track, Any Way That You Want Me] for release in September 1989. Acclaimed video director Geoff Wonfor, was tasked with making a video for the track at the Blackpool gig. At the time Wonfor was best-known for his work on TV programme The Tube, films such as The Beatles Anthology, Eurythmics Live and McCartney Live (and also as the director and numerous rock and pop videos). He was part of a high-power coupling: his wife, since 1974, Andea Wonfor (RIP) was then one of the most successful figures in British TV, as Tyne Tees Controller of Programmes she had launched Byker Grove and The Tube, and as Deputy Director of Programmes at Channel Four (from 1990) launched The Word, The Big Breakfast and Eurotrash.
“Chips Chipperfield (RIP) got me involved in filming at Blackpool,” said Wonfor. “Chip was from PMI, EMI’s video division. I had negotiations with Gareth [Evans, Roses co-manager] and he said, ‘You’ve got a Mercedes and I’ve got a Mercedes, that shows how far we’ve come’, which I thought was a naff thing to say really. From one guy with a Mercedes to another – why have I got a Mercedes because I manage The Stone Roses, that’s why. I didn’t have much chat with him beforehand actually. They’d seen what I’d done and really wanted me to do it. I had no negotiations with Silvertone [Jive/Zomba’s ‘indie’ label front for the Roses] at all. The only negotiation was my fee and I think Chips Chipperfield did that for me. I walked into the job basically – not knowing a lot about them. But my God it didn’t take me long to find out.
“It was meant to be a video for just the one song and I said to the band [when he arrived at Blackpool], Well can I shoot you doing it in the soundcheck? They said we’re not doing it in the soundcheck. So I said so you want me to do it live? They said, no, we’re not doing it in the gig either… I said well what the hell do you want me to do then? They said, well now you’ve got a thing haven’t you? So they didn’t do it in the soundcheck and they didn’t do it live on stage. So I had to put a video together from close-ups of eyes and drumsticks and guitars and Ian’s hand waving in the air … so I had no sync for them at all…. And that was it; that was the Blackpool gig.
“We ended up negotiating with Gareth to film the band and he was demanding £70,000 as a fee”
“I think we had four cameras on it, so we would have had a crew of 30, 35 there,” added Wonfor. “Before that, I’d done the Eurythmics in Australia and that was a 60 man crew, I did it on 35 mil. I’d done the likes of Spandau Ballet before that and [the] McCartney [live concert video] was an 84-man crew. I shot Blackpool in 16 mil. I didn’t feel it was a legendary gig at the time. It had a good vibe and what I did [shoot] had a really good vibe and all the cameramen were into it. I was just flabbergasted that they weren’t going to perform the song we were there to film – at the soundcheck or during the gig.
“It was never ever meant to be a concert film,” stressed Wonfor. “Somebody else actually used all my rushes and brought it out as whole gig. When it came out [as a full-length concert film in 1991] it didn’t get a good review in the NME and a lot of people didn’t like it. I couldn’t believe it [when I saw it]. They used all the trims from what I was doing for one song to do an entire gig from. At the gig I was getting my cameramen into it, they were filming other songs, to get them into it, to get them into what I needed. So around what I needed there were just bits and bobs which I was going to slow-mo … but they actually used it as a concert film. But I didn’t actually shoot it as that at all, ever; it supposedly done for one pop video. They then got somebody to put all the trims together for the gig video and credit me as directing the video, cheeky bastards. I had directed it – but I’d directed it for the video… not for a gig… and then I nearly crapped myself when I saw it. It is just bits thrown together.
The confusion Wonfor encountered at Blackpool could, typically, be traced back to the band’s manager Gareth Evans. “Gareth and I missed the Blackpool gig,” said his girlfriend Sue Dean. “Gareth’s car broke down and we got there for the last song… as they were doing Resurrection. We missed the whole thing… maybe it was chaos because Gareth wasn’t there – the band went on earlier than they normally would.”
Wonfor put the footage together for a single that been released just prior to the Blackpool gig, She Bangs the Drums. Jive/Zomba also used the footage for subsequent videos to accompany the release of the Waterfall single  and the unreleased Standing Here single.
The band’s next gig at Alexandra Palace, in November 1989, in London was also supposed to filmed as a live concert film. Again Evans was at the centre of much confusion. Steve Lock, the Granada producer who’d got the band their break on the Tony Wilson hosted The Other Side Of Midnight TV show, planned on filming the entire concert and on using the footage in a documentary he was making on the ‘Manchester scene’ for Granada TV [Celebration: Madchester – Sound of The North – released May 1990]. “We ended up negotiating with Gareth to film the band and he was demanding £70,000 as a fee,” said Lock. “In those days that was an enormous amount of money and actually most bands would have been happy to be filmed just for the exposure. The negotiations went on for months and months. Gareth had this funny little space in this serviced office complex in Knutsford, with a couple of secretaries and mailboxes; it wasn’t a proper office. I wasn’t even sure it was his office. Gareth continually wanted to up the money. But we came to some kind of agreement that we would film at the Alexandra Palace gig and we went down and filmed two or three tracks; that was the agreement. My over-riding memory of the gig was meeting Gareth afterwards where he had literally bin-liners full of cash that he was putting into the boot of his car from the merchandise he’d sold. Gareth just wanted cash. That’s what he was obsessed with; getting more money, more money. “The Alexandra Palace footage should have been in the Madchester film but wasn’t,” added Lock. “We never ever reached full agreement with Gareth.”
The band’s next official video shoot was for the single Fools Gold. Again, Geoff Wonfor was hired. Returning from Japan at the end of October, with Fools Gold picking up pre-release radio play, the band flew to Lanzarote, one of the volcanic Canary Islands famed for it’s red mountains and submerged ‘Tunnel of Atlantis’, to shoot it. While there, they would also shoot a video for I Wanna Be Adored, which Jive/Zomba in New York planned to release as an American single.
By God every fucker was on the moon and past it, do you know what I mean – we were all on Mars
“Blackpool was chaotic but not as chaotic as Lanzarote,” said Wonfor. “Our gear was impounded at customs, all the cameras, tripods everything, lenses. The upshot was we had one day to do two videos. Then when I asked the band when they wanted to do it, this is where I got a little bit uptight, they said they wanted to do it at night. I said, Which begs the fucking question why are we in fucking Lanzarote when I could have been in Twickenham studios with a bit of volcanic rock. Then they had the great idea of lighting the mountain behind, lighting the mountain behind, which is 10 miles away and I had a generator of about four foot square. They wanted it to look like it was shot on the moon.
“We eventually found this wonderful place to shoot it,” explained Wonfor, “and we’d just got into it when a cop came up on a motorbike and came across to us. I was really at the end of my absolute fucking tether. We didn’t have any time to do it and all of a sudden this cop was asking us to leave. I said to the cop, why do we have to leave, I’ve got a note here from the head of your country, state or whatever it is, that we can film here. He said, c’mon I could have a note from your Queen who says I can film in England but it doesn’t mean I can film in Buckingham Palace does it? I said fucking Buckingham Palace? This place is fucking volcanic rock, that’s all it is, volcanic rock, it’s not Buckingham Palace. So the cop started to finger his gun. I said don’t even bother, because the only thing you can do at this moment in time is fucking kill me and right now that seems like a good option. So he says, Anyway who is this band? I said The Stone Roses. He said, they mean nothing, if it was The Beatles… I said, What do you know about The Beatles? He said, I know everything about the Beatles. I said, if you know everything about The Beatles you sing me I’m Down. He went, ‘Man buys ring, lady throws it away, same old thing happens every day, I’m down, I’m really down’. He was absolutely word perfect. So I thought, oh we’re getting somewhere here. And he just said, No, get out. You can’t film. So that was that. So I went to Ian and said things are a bit iffy and he said, yeah, I don’t know whether I’m going to be able to… I said no, no if we get our arses down, we’ll be able to do the videos – it just means we’ve got one day to do two videos. He said, no, no, not the filming, scuba-diving, when am I going to be able to go scuba-diving? So I said fucking scuba-diving! Everybody was off their box really, probably me included.”
Back in London, Wonfor edited the footage and showed it to the band. “They said, it’s not what we want,” said Wonfor. “I said what? What did you want? They said, we don’t know. I said oh fuck this, I’m out of here, so I left. I’d cut it all together the way I thought, left the suite. I’d booked the suite for another two hours out of my own money so if they wanted to change anything they could. I got back to Newcastle and the phone rings – where are you man, we love you. I said fucking love me? Are you joking? And they didn’t change a thing on it, not one shot on it. I still have flashbacks of the trauma… but overall I enjoyed it, I loved it, they had attitude, bags of it, and I love people with attitude. It was very much a gang thing and I was either going to break into the gang thing or walk away from it and for a time I did break into it. It was chaos but really beautiful chaos, rock n roll chaos, totally out there. I was at my height as well, I was hot to trot, and they were, and it was only when we got in the edit suite that they looked at it, looked at me as if I was a Martian, and said, no man it’s not what we wanted. If you looked at my videos that I’d done before that, I nearly invented the concept – not of slow motion – but of that style of filming; all them walking towards camera in slow motion; that was all mine. They said they wanted it to look like it was done on the moon and I think if you look at it, it looks pretty damn close really; as close as you can get without being on the moon. By God every fucker was on the moon and past it, do you know what I mean – we were all on Mars.”
The Fools Gold/I Wanna Be Adored videos show in Lanzarote compounded a growing unease about the Roses lack of interest in furthering their American career (having already turned down all invitations of gigs in the US and even promotional visits). “Although we certainly got the Fools Gold and I Wanna Be Adored videos played on MTV, those videos weren’t great videos for American music television,” said Michael Tedesco, the Roses A&R man in Jive/Zomba’s New York office. “They weren’t the videos that were getting played to death on MTV that were breaking other acts… the videos were a disappointment.”
The Stone Roses: War and Peace by Simon Spence is published by Viking, £20 hardback, available here.
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