Stone Roses: Still Mad for It after all these years

A Stone Roses gig in 1990 was the defining moment of the indie scene. James Mottram watches a new film that revisits the legendary concert just as the revered band are touring again

The sign says Spike Island was the "birthplace of the British chemical industry". Well, that's one way of putting it. For any music fan, the Widnes wildlife haven is synonymous with a more recent event: May 27, 1990, when The Stone Roses played their near-mythical gig to 27,000 fans. A genuine "were you there?" moment, arriving just a year after the band's seminal self-titled debut album, it was the pinnacle of the "Madchester" music scene that spawned such generation-defining bands as Happy Mondays and The Charlatans.

Today, director Mat Whitecross (who previously brought us Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) is trying to recreate that glorious day for his film Spike Island. "People describe it as a baggy Woodstock," he says. "If you talk to anyone from Manchester who grew up around that time, it was a huge event for them. It was one of those things where bands were formed as a result of having seen The Stone Roses." Not least Oasis, formed by the Gallagher Brothers in the wake of seeing the gig.

With an ominous power station looming in the background, a few dozen excitable extras are shivering nearby in shorts and T-shirts. "It was snowing on us in the middle of a take," Whitecross sighs. "And it's supposed to be the height of summer." Dotted around are clusters of palette crates, ready to be set ablaze as the night draws in, while the camera is set to loom over 20ft-high wall meant to be the concert perimeter.

The shot is a key one, as Spike Island's teenage protagonists march up to the gate on that blissful Sunday. According to Whitecross, what he loved about the script, penned by actor-writer Chris Coghill, was its grassroots viewpoint. "It's about kids trying to get into the gig, rather than told from the perspective of The Stone Roses. They don't have tickets, they can't get in, they don't know how to get in — they have to blag, steal, lie their way in… by any means necessary."

Ironically, that very scenario is a very real possibility come the end of June. As any fan knows, The Stone Roses announced a feverishly anticipated reunion last October, with a series of gigs set to be played this summer to expectant crowds. The first to be scheduled – to be played at Heaton Park, Manchester – sold out in record time. "The timing's extraordinary really," says Coghill. "I started writing the script three years ago, and it just so happens the stars have aligned."

It's the sort of serendipitous publicity financiers only dream of. With This is England director Shane Meadows also working on a documentary about the Roses' fractious history, the renewed interest in the band, and their music, can only be a good thing for Spike Island. Though as Whitecross points out, this is no biopic. "It's not about The Stone Roses. That's what appealed to me. It's a coming-of-age story. You don't have to be a massive Stone Roses fan to get into it."

Spike Island's focus is a bunch of schoolmates who have formed their own band, Shadow Caster. "All we want to do is get our demo to the Stone Roses," notes newcomer Jordan Murphy, who plays drummer Zippy, "and by any means necessary, we'll get it there." With the songs written by Ash's Tim Wheeler, Murphy and his co-stars all had to rehearse as a real band. Some, like Adam Long – who plays bassist Little Gaz – were old hands. Others such as Nico Mirallegro – lead guitarist Dodge – had never picked up their instrument before.

With the band led by singer Tits (Shameless star Elliott Tittensor), "all the lads in the film are slightly different versions of me," says Coghill, who was just 15 years old when Spike Island happened. Raised in Manchester – his parents' house is near Heaton Park – he was promised a ticket for the gig, but it fell through. "I ended up spending the entire day sitting in mum and dad's house, gutted, listening to the album on me own. Very tragic! It's always pissed me off that I never went."

Since then, Coghill, who oddly enough played Happy Monday's Bez in Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People, befriended both singer Ian Brown and bassist Mani. "I emailed both of them at the conception point, and they said, 'You've got our blessing. Anything we can do to help it move on.' And they've been great. We got the music licence straight away." Which means such glorious tracks as "I Am The Resurrection", "Made Of Stone" and "Waterfall" will all get an airing (though with the gig the backdrop to the story, Whitecross is not recreating onstage footage).

With the production also acquiring rights to guitarist John Squire's distinct Jackson Pollock-inspired artwork, there is even unconfirmed talk that the band may take small cameos (Coghill also plays a small role, as Tits's uncle). Such has been the level of support, Mani turned up to watch a rehearsal. He was "dead sound" according to Tittensor. "We played the song for him, and it must've been the shittest run through of the song ever," he laughs. "It was probably the pressure of him being there."

The question is will the film – and the music – chime with young audiences? Judging by the young cast, then the answer is a resounding "yes". Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who plays Tits's love interest Sally, recalls one trick Whitecross has used to get everyone through the bitterly cold night-shoots. "They whack on The Stone Roses, and genuinely everyone is like "We're gonna have a mint time!" Everyone's just comes up on it. Their music has such heart to it."

According to Coghill, he thinks the upcoming gigs will show just how the band's music has been embraced by a new generation. "Talking to extras here, there are a lot of young people who are like, 'I can't wait for Heaton Park'." Whitecross concurs, citing the timeless quality to their music. "It does feel that The Stone Roses are one of those bands that people keep on returning to." With a third album underway, the Roses' revival starts here.

The release date of 'Spike Island' is still to be confirmed. The Stone Roses play Heaton Park on 29 and 30 June, and 1 July, and the V Festival on 18 and 19 August

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Arts and Entertainment

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment