Madchester flares up again as Mondays hit the road

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The Independent Online
SIX YEARS after they packed up their baggy flares in a whirl of street drugs and recriminations, the Happy Mondays are back. The Hacienda may be closed and the quality of ecstasy diminished, but the fast turnaround of musical trends means the band is reforming to cash in on "Madchester" nostalgia just six years after it split up.

The Mondays, with the Stone Roses and the Hacienda nightclub, were the epicentre of the Madchester or "baggy" scene. A fusion of ecstasy, Acid House beats, rock music and some of the worst haircuts seen in Britain since the Plantagenets, the Madchester phenomenon peaked between 1989 and 1992. It even made the cover of Time magazine.

Then, like all youth trends, it was quickly gone, leaving behind some great music, a bastard child called "Britpop" and some very frazzled brain cells.

Infamous lead singer Shaun Ryder has decided to reform the band for financial reasons. The former heroin and crack addict faces a large tax bill and his last band, Black Grape, split acrimoniously in 1997.

The band will play a four-date tour starting in Manchester in April. If the gigs go well, more are planned. The group has yet to decide whether to make a new album: "We'll put a show on, play some tunes, and hope it sounds good," said Mr Ryder yesterday. "Hopefully the tour will be rock and roll. If it turns into rock and Status Quo we'll have to finish it."

Shaun's brother, Paul Ryder, and the drummer, Gaz Whelan, are playing on the tour, and backing vocalist, Rowetta, is back. But the guitarist, Mark Day, and the keyboard player, Paul Davis, are no longer in the band. Crucially Mark "Bez" Berry, the band's non-singing, non-musical mascot, who merely walked around on stage with his hood up, will be joining the tour. Shaun Ryder claims Bez asked for pounds 50,000. "We got him down to pounds 500. Well, pounds 500 and a free T-shirt."

The Happy Mondays collapsed in March 1993 when in-fighting, prodigious drug consumption and a chaotically recorded final album brought down its record label, Factory Records - another key component in the Madchester scene.

"Their legacy is massive because it was the first time that rock music embraced dance culture," says John Molvey, deputy editor of the music magazine, NME. "From being pronounced dead by the cognoscente of the house scene, rock embraced dance and dance embraced rock.

"The Mondays also provided a new spin on the old rock 'n' roll excesses.

"Music pundits need characters to renew old articles of faith and refresh old values."

John McKie, the editor of Smash Hits, said: "Baggies will greet the reformation of the Mondays with uncontained glee, although the under-20s will probably wonder what all the fuss is about."

STONE ROSES

Their eponymous debut album sold 500,000 copies and they are credited with originating the "Madchester" sound. A second album took five years to record and disappointed. Lead man Ian Brown, recently jailed for "air rage", is now solo. John Squires is in the Seahorses; bass player Gary `Mani' Mounfield left to join Primal Scream.

HAPPY MONDAYS

Formed in 1984 in Manchester. Disbanded early 1993. Reforming for financial reasons with the Ryder brothers Shaun and Paul, drummer Gaz Whelan, backing vocalist Rowetta and new members Wags - from Shaun's last group, Black Grape - and a rapper called Nuts. Mark "Bez" Berry will provide dancing and occasional percussion.

INSPIRAL CARPETS

Formed in Manchester in 1980 initially as The Furs. Noel Gallagher was their roadie. The band faded away without a record deal, rather than splitting up in acrimony like others from the scene. They were defined by their Hammond organ sound, so it is not surprising that the organist, Clint Boon, is the only one with a solo career.

CHARLATANS

Formed in Cheshire in late 1989 as a quintet. Number one with first album. Still intact, with the exception of the keyboard player, Rob Collins, who died in a car crash in 1996. The band had a number-one album as late as 1995, long after the death of the baggy scene. Last year's album produced two hits, "North Country Boy" and "The Only One I Know".

808 STATE

The band came out of the Madchester baggy scene but was much closer to the rave culture of the "Summer of Love". Techno-rave-rock; once described as "Tangerine Dream on speed". Their song "Pacific State" became one of the anthems of 1989. They have survived as remix artists and are still regulars at events such as Tribal Gathering.

JAMES

Although their existence pre-dates Madchester, their lift-off single, "Sit Down" - complete with flowery T-shirts and baggy trousers - came smack in the middle. After a brief but dangerous flirtation with stadium rock on their Seven album, they rediscovered their roots after teaming up with Brian Eno for Laid. Still together, still very successful.

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