Story Of The Song: Fool's Gold, The Stone Roses, 1989

Robert Webb
Friday 05 November 2010 01:00

"Fool's Gold" lolloped out of the backend of the Eighties with a loose-limbed strut and an attitude to match. Merging northern English, pasty-faced guitar rock with urban American dance music, it was recorded a world away from the Stone Roses' native Manchester, at Cornwall's small Sawmills studio, a 17th-century stone building set in its own tidal creek.

The track was written by the band's guitarist, John Squire, and vocalist, Ian Brown, in the wake of their debut, self-titled album. Production was handled by John Leckie and the recording took a little over a fortnight in the late summer of 1989.

The original demo the band took to Sawmills comprised little more than a four-bar drum loop stolen from a James Brown song, a tambourine and some rudimentary vocals. "When the track ran out on that record, you could hear them lift the needle and put it on again," recalled Leckie. The loop was recreated in the studio and the band's parts then gradually pasted over the top. Squire worked out his part on a 16-track tape recorder, later adding a wah-wah effect, and the band's drummer, Reni, bolstered the original backing loop. The result, squeezed into vinyl grooves, was as tight as the studio's floor space. Brown almost whispers his cryptic blank verse which, he claimed, was inspired by the Humphrey Bogart movie 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'. "Three geezers who are skint and they put their money together to get equipment to go looking for gold," he said. "Then they all betray each other... That's what the song is about."

"Fool's Gold" first appeared as an extended B-side to the 12-inch release of the Stone Roses' "What the World is Waiting For". After pressure from their label, Silvertone, the band reluctantly agreed to a switch and it was an edited down "Fool's Gold", which eventually got the airplay and Top 10 chart placing. From its launch pad of Seventies funk and as a touchstone for a generation of dance music to come, "Fool's Gold" came at a crossroads in British pop. "The Eighties are about nothing," he told 'Melody Maker' in 1989. "I like a lot of that Chicago stuff, house music. In 20 years, when all the barriers have fallen down between countries, it should be quite exciting." Brown says he was "double 'umbled" when Run DMC sampled the track.

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