Song of the Day: Travel in Music (Day One). “I Am A Traveller of Both Time and Space to Be Where I Have Been”.

Physical Graffiti was Led Zeppelin’s sixth album, released on 24th February 1975.  The band wrote eight new songs for what would become Physical Graffiti at Headley Grange recording studios.  Upon realising that due to the length of the tracks, they would not be able to fit all eight songs on one record, they decided to make Physical Graffiti a double LP by using the eight recorded tracks together with one outtake from Led Zeppelin III, three from Led Zeppelin IV and three from Houses of the Holy, including the unused title track.  The new songs written for Physical Graffiti included Kashmir, a monolithic eight minute piece which became a staple part of every Led Zeppelin concert from 1975 onwards.

The song was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, with contributions from John Bohnam, over a period of three years.  The lyrics were written by Plant in 1973 immediately after Led Zeppelin’s 1973 US Tour in an area he has referred to “the waste lands” of Southern Morocco, whilst driving from Goulimine to Tantan in the Sahara Desert.  Despite the geographical location of the song’s conception, the song is named after Kashmir, a region in the Indian subcontinent.  In an interview with William S. Burroughs in 1975, Page mentioned that at the time of the song’s composition, none of the band had been to Kashmir.  Plant explained the reason for naming the song Kashmir to Cameron Crowe for his extended essay to accompany the Led Zeppelin boxset, The Complete Studio Recordings in 1993:

“The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on, it was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert.  Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock.  It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it.  ‘Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams …’ It’s one of my favourites … that, All My Love and In the Light and two or three others were the finest moments.  But Kashmir in particular, it was so positive, lyrically”.

In an article with Triple J Broadcasting Association for an article entitled Hottest 100 of All Time, in 2010, Plant spoke of the challenges which he faced writing lyrics for such a complex piece of music:

“It was an amazing piece of music to write to, and an incredible challenge for me … Because of the time signature, the whole deal of the song is … not grandiose, but powerful:  it required some kind of epithet, or abstract lyrical setting about the whole idea of life being an adventure and being a series of illuminated moments.  But everything is not what you see.  It was quite a task, ‘cause I couldn’t sing it.  It was like the song was bigger than me.  It’s true:  I was petrified, it’s true, it was painful, I was virtually in tears”.

The song has a very distinctive musical composition featuring a rising and falling guitar riff played on a guitar tuned to DADGAD.  It was inspired by Middle-Eastern, Moroccan and Indian music.  In the 1994 book, Led Zeppelin by Chris Welch, Page explained:  “I had a sitar for some time and I was interested in modal tunings and Arabic stuff.  It started off with a riff and then employed Eastern lines underneath”.

To add to the composition’s uniqueness, Kashmir was one of the very few Led Zeppelin songs to feature outside musicians.  Session players were brought in the studio to record the string and horn sections.  As well as the original Physical Graffiti version of the song, several alternative versions exist, including one entitled Driving Through Kashmir (Kashmir Rough Orchestra Mix) with a slightly different structure.  This version was released in February 2015 as part of the remastering process of all nine albums.

Additionally, and perhaps most impressively out of the alternative versions of Kashmir, Page and Plant recorded a live 12 minute version with a Moroccan / Egyptian orchestra for their album No Quarter (1994).

As the lyrics begin with the line “Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream”, we are introduced to the narrator, a powerful, mysterious and transcending figure.  This audible thought finds the narrator pausing from his travels to soak up the warmth and light from above, figuratively, and perhaps literally, recharging himself.  In the following line, “I am a traveller of both time and space, to be where I have been”, we are told that this is a journey of epic proportions, one which transcends the limitations of this dimension, both temporarily and in physical space.

Following this, “To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world had seldom seen” could refer to Revelation 4:4 in the Book of Revelation where John the Apostle is caught up in the heavens and sees the 24 elders seated on their thrones:  “And around the throne were twenty-four thrones and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads”.  Alternatively, this line and the next three, “They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed, Talk and songs from lifting grace, whose sounds caress my ear, But not a word could I relate, the story was quite clear”, may refer to JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) and Lord of the Rings (1954).  Plant was well known to be a fan of Tolkien and often used imagery from his work.  Take for instance, the lyrics to Ramble On (Led Zeppelin II, 1969): “Mine’s a tale that can’t be told, My freedom I hold dear, How years ago in days of old, When magic filled the air, ‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair, But Gollum and the evil one crept up, And slipped away with her”.

Additionally, see the song titles, Over the Hills and Far Away (Houses of the Holy, 1973) …

… and Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971).

Following this, the line “But not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear” is also likely to be a Tolkien reference.  In a number of Tolkien’s works, particularly The Silmarillion (1977), it is mentioned that when the elves sing in a language the listener can’t understand, they can sometimes still see the images that they are singing about.

Moving into the bridge section, the lyrics, “Oh, I been flying … mama, there ain’t no denyin’, I’ve been flyin’, ain’t no denyin’, no denyin’” could refer to the band travelling round the world before and during the composition of the song.

In the following lyrics, “All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground, And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land, Trying to find, trying to find where I’ve been”, we can clearly see the landscape which inspired Kashmir, “the wastelands” in southern Morocco.  Next, “Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace”, perhaps refers to God, whilst following this, “like thoughts inside a dream” refers to the creator of the storm being as hard to visualise as the thought inside one’s dream.  The creator is elusive and mysterious but somehow very real.

The “Shangri-La” mentioned in the lines “Heed the path that led me to that place, yellow desert stream, My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again” refers to the fictional paradise from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon (1933).  In the novel, Shangri-La is a utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet.  Shangri-La is often referred to in the same way that someone would refer to the Garden of Eden.  These lines suggest that the narrator of the song s haunted by the memories of the place which he speaks of and is attempting to return.

“Sure as the dust that floats high in June, when movin’ through Kashmir” finds the narrator once again speaking of the dusty road which inspired the song.  Following this, the “father of the four winds” mentioned in the following line possibly refers to Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds who is usually depicted as the controller of the Anemoi, the minor wind gods.  Alternatively, the “Father of the four winds” could possibly be another Tolkien reference:  Manwe, the King of the Valar, from The Silmarillion.

More travel imagery follows with “… fill my sails, across the sea of years, With no provision but an open face, along the straits of fear”.  Here, the lyrics once again compliment the utter vastness of the composition, with the narrator, the “traveller of both space and time”, travelling across “years”, unsure of what he will discover on his journey.

The song reaches its climax with Plant singing “… well I’m down so down … let me take you there”.  Kashmir speaks of a dark time of reflection, of God, of existence and Plant attempting to find his place in the midst of all of this.

One thing to note about Kashmir is its curious placing on the album.  One may expect a song of such monolithic proportions to end the album but it is instead placed, if we were to think of Physical Graffiti as a double vinyl album, at the end of side two.  In an interview with The Guardian in 2015, Page said of this:

“Each side of the vinyl was sequenced to showcase whatever was on there, so it wasn’t square pegs in round holes.  Any of the four sides could be your favourite side.  All of them have an intensity to them, but some have got more rock roots than others.  A double album was so right for Zeppelin”.

Similarly, on the vinyl versions of Physical Graffiti, the colossal 11 minute In My Time of Dying closes side one of the album.

Once again speaking to The Guardian, Page said:  “Those songs – In My Time of Dying, Kashmir – are supposed to be:  That’s it.  Nothing follows that.  You need time to catch your breath after”.

Song of the Day: Space in Music (Day Seven). “Do You Remember the Time We Knew A Girl From Mars?”

Girl from Mars was released as the second single from Ash’s first full-length album, 1977.  It became the band’s first Top 40 single in 1995, reaching number 11 on the UK singles chart and number 16 on the Irish singles chart.  It was the first single to bring the band to public attention.

The song was written in 1993, when Tim Wheeler was just 16 years old.  The band’s third demo tape, Garage Girl, funded by their school’s Young Enterprise scheme, had just topped the local charts.

At this point in time, despite their achievements, the band were beginning to become disillusioned and with GCSE exams looming they begin to wonder how they will get a record deal in a country with a non-existent music industry.  Things were looking bleak but the band’s svengali, Bill McCabe, sends the Garage Girl demo tape off to his London contacts.  The tape gained attention from publicist Paddy Davis and radio plugger Stephen Taverner who send the band £300 to go back into the studio.

The band’s first single, another space-themed classic, Jack Names the Planets, was released on Taverner’s newly formed La La Land label in February 1994 and picked up play on Radio One, impressing influential DJs Steve Lamacq, John Peel and Mark Radcliffe.  A few months later, the band signed to Infectious Records and played their first London show at the Camden Falcon whilst on Easter break from college.

The summer found the band recording with producer Marc Waterman.  From these sessions, Petrol …

… and Uncle Pat were released as the band’s second and third singles and topped the UK indie charts.  The mini-album, Trailer, was released in October of 1994.

The single Kung Fu followed in 1995, the first from the eventual 1977 album …

… before the release of Girl from Mars.  The single established Wheeler as a writer of truly great pop songs and saw the band performing on Top of the Pops for the first time, two weeks after their A-level exams.

The perfect three minute pop-rock classic tells the tale of Wheeler’s infatuation with the song’s subject matter and finds him remembering “the time I knew a girl from Mars?”, “playing cards” and smoking “Henri Winterman cigars”.

The song has two different videos.  The first, the UK promotional video, was directed by Peter Christopherson and is described by the band as a cross between the video for Give It Away by Red Hot Chili Peppers (from the album Blood Sugar Sex Majik, 1991) …

… and the Natrel Plus TV advert from the mid 1990s, depicting people camouflaged against a woodland backdrop.

The band disliked the original promotional video so much that when it came to releasing the song in America, they re-filmed it.  This time, the video was directed by Jesse Peretz, who also directed the video for the Foo Fighters single, Big Me (from the album Foo Fighters, 1995).

This video features Ash playing the song as part of an art exhibition as a small girl looks on mesmerised.

Following the release of Girl from Mars, the band signed to Warner Records in the US and NASA even began to use Girl from Mars as the hold music on their phone systems.  The future looked bright for a band that was on the verge of breaking up shortly before writing the song.

Caught By the Fuzz: Ten Songs About the Police. Following A Televised Low Speed Highway Chase, OJ Simpson is Arrested for the Murders of Wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Friend Ronald Goldman. This Day in History, 17/06/1994.

1.  Supergrass ‘Caught By the Fuzz’

(from the album I Should Coco, 1994).

2.  Gomez ‘Get Myself Arrested’

(from the album Bring It On, 1998).

3.  Happy Mondays ‘God’s Cop’

(from the album Pills ‘n Thrills and Bellyaches, 1990).

4.  Arctic Monkeys ‘Riot Van’

(from the album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, 2006).

5.  King Adora ‘The Law’

(from the album Vibrate You, 2001).

6.  The Clash ‘Police and Thieves’

(from the album The Clash, 1977).

7.  Carter USM ‘Glam Rock Cops’

(from the album Straw Donkeys … The Singles, 1995).

8.  Radiohead ‘Karma Police’

(from the album OK Computer, 1997).

9.  The Strokes ‘New York City Cops’

(from the album Is This It, 2001).

10. Placebo ‘Follow the Cops Back Home’

(from the album Meds, 2006).

Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day Three). “This is the Story of the Hurricane, The Man the Authorities Came to Blame”.

Hurricane is a protest song written by Bob Dylan for his 1976 album, Desire.  The song, co-written with Jacques Levy, is based on the imprisonment of American / Canadian boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.  It compiles the alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which led to his trial and wrongful imprisonment.  He was later freed via a petition of habeas corpus after spending almost twenty years in prison.

Carter (6th May, 1937 – 20th April 2014) was arrested in 1966, along with his friend John Artis, for a triple homicide committed in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.  Police stopped Carter’s car and brought him and Artis, also in the car, to the scene of the crime.  When the police carried out their search of the car, they found ammunition which fitted the weapons used in the murder.  Police took no fingerprints at the crime scene and at that point in time, did not have the facilities to conduct a paraffin test for gunshot residue.  Carter and Artis were convicted twice for the murders, in 1967 and 1976, but after the second conviction was overturned in 1985, prosecutors chose not to try the case for the third time.

In 1975, Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, was published by Warner Books.  In the book, Carter maintained his innocence.  The Sixteenth Round moved Dylan to such an extent that he visited Carter in Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge County, New Jersey and began to write what would become Hurricane.  At first, Dylan was unsure whether he could do justice to Carter and his predicament in song form but using the storytelling method previously used on other topical ballads such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (The Times They Are a-Changing, 1964) …

… he eventually found that the words flowed reasonably quickly, such was his contempt for those who had wrongfully imprisoned the former middleweight boxer.  Hurricane was one of Dylan’s few protest songs of the 1970’s and became his fourth most successful single of the decade, reaching number 33 on the US Billboard Chart.

Hurricane was first recorded in July 1975 with Scarlet Rivera on violin and Vinnie Bell on Danelectro Bellzouki 12-string guitar.  In October 1975, Dylan was forced to re-record the song with its lyrics altered, after concerns were raised by Columbia’s lawyers who feared a lawsuit regarding references to Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley, petty criminals who were in the area to burgle a factory, robbing the bodies.  Bello and Bradley had never been accused of such acts.  Due to the amount of leakage on the multi-tracks, making it difficult to achieve a vocal ‘punch in’, Dylan decided to record the entire song.  The resulting final version of Hurricane is faster than the original cut and in addition to Rivera on violin, uses other musicians from Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue as the back-up band.  The final version was put together from two separate takes, both recorded on the 24th October, 1975, and clocks in at over eight minutes in length.

Despite the fact that some offending lyrics had been rewritten, the song still managed to attract legal action, from eyewitness Patricia Graham Valentine.  However, her case was dismissed by a federal district.  The dismissal was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  Other lyrics to receive criticism included the line “Number one contender for the middleweight crown” because according to the May 1966 issue of The Ring, Carter was ranked ninth at the time of his arrest and had never been placed higher than third.  Additionally, at the time of the song’s release, reporters for the Herald News, a New Jersey newspaper published not far from the scene of the crime, questioned Dylan’s objectivity and accused him of excessive poetic license.  Others noted that there was no reference to Carter’s criminal history or violent temper.  Another song from Desire, Joey, about the life and death of mobster Joey Gallo, received similar criticism.

Hurricane brought Carter’s case to the attention of the wider public and is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defence.  Following the release of Desire, Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue played a benefit concert for Carter in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  The concert raised $100,000.  Dylan and his band also played another benefit at the Houston Aerodrome a year later, alongside Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr and Dr John, whom Dylan had personally managed to get to play the concert after meeting with managers Richard Flanzer and Roy Silver.  Despite its all-star line-up, after expenses were paid, the Houston failed to raise any money.

Despite winning the right to a new trial, Carter and Artis were once again found guilty and on the 9th February 1976, Carter was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.  Dylan and Carter’s other high-profile supporters did not attend the trial.  In 1985, Federal Judge H. Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that Carter had not received a fair trial and set aside the conviction, commenting that the prosecution had been “based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure”.  Ironically, Sarokin had declined to listen to Dylan’s song when it was offered to him by his family.  In 1988, following the prosecution stating that they would not seek a third trial and filed a motion to dismiss, a Superior Court Judge dropped all charges against Carter.

Lyrically, Hurricane is a straight, or as straight as can be from a writer who wasn’t present at the scene of the crime, retelling of the events that led to Carter’s arrest and his incarceration.  The song sets the scene with its opening line, “Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night”, placing the listener at the crime scene.  The star witness, Patty Valentine, who was awoken by the sound of the gunshots, is mentioned in the second line, “Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall”.  Following this, we find Valentine’s view as she entered the bar:  “She sees the bartender in a pool of blood, Cries out, “My God, they killed them all”.  “All” refers to bartender, James Oliver and two customers, who were killed instantly.

The following section of the song and probably its most famous, “Here comes the story of the Hurricane, The man the authorities came to blame, For something that he never done, Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a-been, The champion of the world” finds Dylan lamenting on how Carter lost twenty years of his life along with his career and his chances of reaching the top of his profession in the process.

Following this, we once again find Patty Valentine’s view, “Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see”.  The prosecution believed that the murders at the Lafayette Bar and Grill, particularly that of white bartender James Oliver, were motivated by the murder of black bartender, Leroy Holloway, who happened to be the stepfather of one of Carter’s friends.  The next lines, “And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously, “I didn’t do it”, he says and throws up his hands, “I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you undertand, I saw them leavin’”, he says and stops”, refer to Bello’s testimony at the 1966 and 1976 trials, in which he stated that he saw Carter and Artis outside the Lafayette Bar and Grill with a shotgun and a pistol immediately after the triple murder.  He apparently came face to face with them on the sidewalk and saw their getaway car.

“”One of us had better call up the cops”, And so Patty calls the cops, And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’, In the hot New Jersey night”.  Due to the murder taking place on the 17th June, the temperatures would most probably have been at an extreme high, common at that time of year.  It has been said that heat can cause people to be enough on edge to commit murder.  This idea was also famously used by Spike Lee in his 1989 film, Do the Right Thing.  In both Hurricane and Do the Right Thing, heat is portrayed as a major physical and psychological factor for rage and violence.

The next lines, “Meanwhile, far away in another part of town, Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around, Number one contender for the middleweight crown, Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down”, find Carter and his friends driving through town, completely unaware of what was about to happen.  Carter, at this stage in his life, was in the middle of his career.  He had a record of two wins, twelve losses and one draw.  As several publications have noted since the song’s release, Dylan neglects to mention that Carter was far from a law abiding citizen, having done several stints in jail for mugging and assault.  However, on this occasion, Carter was wrongfully convicted by the US’s corrupt justice system.  In the following lines, “When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road, Just like the time before and the time before that”, Dylan suggests that the police continuously pulled Carter over as they were racist.  The idea of the police being racist is carried over to the next lines, “In Paterson that’s just the way things go, If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street”, which suggests that racism against black men like Carter was institutionalised and was readily practised by the local police.  In the following line, “’Less you wanna draw the heat”, “heat” is this time used to refer to the police.

The following lines feature further testimony from Bello and Bradley:  “Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops, Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around, He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights, They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”.  Note the vague way in which the men say, “they looked like middleweights” expressed in Dylan’s lyrics.  Additionally, Bradley refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and neither prosecution nor defense called him as a witness.

The line “And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head” refers to the way that Valentine simply agreed with what other witnesses had seen without actually knowing anything.  Valentine provided a description of the car to the police, which changed at the second court case.  Valentine claimed that the lights “lit up like butterflies”.  However, on Carter’s car, this was not the case, as only the end two lights lit up.

“Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”, So they took him to the infirmary, And though this man could hardly see, They told him, that he could identify the guilty man, Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in, Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs, The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye, Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for?  He ain’t the guy!” refers to Willie Marrins who was not killed instantly and the police attempt to have Carter identified as the murderer.  Marrins told the police that Carter was not the murderer but his testimony was ignored.

Further into the song, we find the line “He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”, a reference to James J. Corbett, who is considered to be the father of modern boxing.  Carter is said not to be a “gentleman” because, unlike Corbett, Carter is black.  Other lines of interest in Hurricane include “And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger, No one doubted that he pulled the trigger”.  Here, Dylan, a white man, single-handedly invented a rhyme (“trigger” and “nigger”) which today is one of the most popular rhymes in hip-hop.  For example, see Nas’s N.Y. State of Mind, from the album Illmatic (1994).

One wonders whether Hurricane’s closing lines, “Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been, The champion of the world” may have influenced Carter receiving an honorary World Champion title in 1993, five years after his release from prison.  Additionally, following his release and before his death in 2014, Carter headed the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted for twelve years and founded Innocence International in 2004.

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Three). “Your Music’s Shite, It Keeps Me Up All Night”.

The closing track of Oasis’s era-defining debut album Definitely Maybe (1994), was partly inspired by an argument between Noel Gallagher and his then girlfriend, Louise Jones.  Jones, sick of being kept awake by Gallagher playing his guitar coined the phrase “Your music’s shite!”  Gallagher’s reaction was of course, “had to keep those lines” and thus, the idea for Married With Children was born.

The other inspiration for the song was the American sitcom Married … with Children, which ran for eleven seasons between 1987 and 1997, from which the song takes its title.  In an interview with Melody Maker in 1994, Gallagher explained:  “I looked at them two in the show, and looked at us two, and I thought, that’s us, that is!”

He also said of the song, “It’s another song that anybody could relate to, because if you live with a girlfriend or just a flatmate, there are always petty things that you hate about them, and this song’s just about pettiness”.

Gallagher put these elements together in the bedroom of producer Mark Coyle’s house, writing the song on the Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar that had been left there by Stone Roses guitarist John Squire. Interestingly, the song uses the same chord progression as Lithium by Nirvana, from their 1991 album Nevermind.  A good chord progression to share since Gallagher was about to become as much of a figurehead to indie music as Kurt Cobain was to grunge.

The song was recorded there and then in Coyle’s bedroom with just Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher and Coyle present.  Coyle used the limited recording equipment available, which he described in Definitely Maybe: The Documentary (2004) as “appalling”, to create a subtle and charming end to an album that has gone down in history as one of the greatest debuts ever made.

The basic nature of the song’s composition and recording also showed another side to Oasis, the softer more acoustic approach which would later be used to great success on the number 2 hit Wonderwall, from the following album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995).

Lyrically, Gallagher played to his biggest song writing talent, that, once again, of keeping it simple.  As Gary ‘Mani’ Mountfield of The Stone Roses and ex-Primal Scream says in Definitely Maybe: The Documentary, “People don’t want to get the logarithm tables out when it comes to music”. Gallagher also played to another talent, that of the great lyrical hook.  The both fearsomely working class and endlessly humorous refrain of “Your music’s shite, It keeps me up all night”, particularly when sung by Liam Gallagher is his inimitable style is just one of many on Definitely Maybe.

Song of the Day: The Bible in Music (Day Three).

“Well, I read The Bible, me … I read The Koran as well.  I’m a believer.  They’re powerful.  I’ve been to the Coliseum and I went to the place where the Roman emperors sat and you get a feeling off all that.  And I went to the Sistine Chapel and I got a feeling off that.  And the steps that the Catholics stole.  The Holy Steps.  They took them during The Crusades.  I’m interested in all that and when you write lyrics, it’s going to permeate through” – Ian Brown, speaking to Q Magazine, 1995).

Befitting for a band that inspired a whole new generation and led to the second coming of British rock music, The Stone Roses’ debut album The Stone Roses (1989) could be said to be based around the life of Jesus Christ.  Notably, the album begins with I Wanna Be Adored, which could be seen to reflect the birth of Jesus and the closing track, I Am The Resurrection could be seen to be about Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Elsewhere on the debut album, as well as its heavy references to the Paris Student Riots of 1968 with its references to the way in which the students carried lemons to counteract the effects of the tear gas used by the police (“Choke me, smoke the air, in the citrus-sucking sunshine, I don’t care”), Bye Bye Badman could be seen to be likening the Parisian students to Jesus, who, like the students, denounced the authorities of the time.  Like I Am The Resurrection, Bye Bye Badman depicts Christ’s crucifixion and because Jesus dying for the sins of mankind is central to the Christian faith, the song is positioned in the centre of the album.

This is the One is about a girl who is consumed by fire and her struggle to escape.  The title of This is the One refers to John The Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus is the promised Messiah:  Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me” (John 1: 29 – 30).  The idea of the girl being on fire could be derived from The King of Tyre being consumed by fire in Ezekiel 28: 17 and 18:  “You profaned your sanctuaries.  Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; It has consumed you, And I have turned you to ashes on the earth In the eyes of all who see you”.  It could also be said that Waterfall has religious leanings with the lyrics “Chimes sing Sunday morn” and that She Bangs The Drums, with the lyrics “Passion fruit and holy bread” could be about The Last Supper”.

If we are to look at the lyrics of The Stone Roses in a Biblical sense then the line “Pack on my back is aching, The strap seams cut me like a knife” in the non-album single Fools Gold (1989) could refer to Matthew 5:41: “And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles”.  It is also possible that “the pack” in question may be the cross that Jesus carried, thus making the song partly about Jesus travelling to his crucifixion.  In hindsight, the lyrics of Fools Gold were the first sign that all might not be well in the Stone Roses camp.  Fools Gold is about greed and inspired in part by the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  In Q Magazine in 2009, Ian Brown said:

“In the film the friends go up a mountain looking for gold. But as they go on, they start turning on one another. That’s how it felt once the Roses started getting successful. Suddenly everyone was after their piece of gold.”

What the World Is Waiting For, which was twinned with Fools Gold as a double A-side single, finds Jesus on the cross shortly before his death, reflecting on his life.  What the World Is Waiting For juxtaposes images from Jesus’s birth, life and his current predicament with lines such as “Here comes the wise man and there goes the fool”, referring to the wise men travelling to see his birth, the way in which Jesus was seen by his followers during his lifetime and how he is seen as a ‘fool’ by many following his arrest and as he is dying on the cross.  The lines “Here comes the donkey, Chained to a ten ton plough, He’ll never make that hill in a million years, Whip crack beating down” refer partly to Mary’s arrival in Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus riding a donkey and if we were to take the word ‘donkey’ in the slang sense of the word, meaning ‘a stupid person’, this also fits in with the term ‘fool’ in the previous verse, referring to many peoples’ view of Jesus at his death.  The image of the donkey chained to a “ten ton plough” could also refer to the cross which he forced to carry and the line “He’ll never make that hill in a million years” could refer to people jeering Jesus as he carried the cross up Calvary Hill.  The image of the donkey and plough in this verse may also refer to Luke 9:62 in which Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”.  This verse, therefore, is a depiction of Jesus upon the cross, reflecting on his life and absolving himself of sin in order to reach the kingdom of his father.  The lines “He loves his brother but he’d sell him for a fist full of gold” refers to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, taking money to frame him.  Judas had been one of the 12 disciples, one of Jesus’s ‘brothers’.  This line also fits nicely with the theme of greed  expressed in Fools Gold and if we were to see What the World Is Waiting For / Fools Gold as a complete package, perhaps the band are likening their own experiences with the effects of greed to Jesus’s experiences.  The title of What the World Is Waiting For itself refers to how the world is waiting for Jesus to die on the cross in order that mankind can be saved.  The coda of “Stop the world, I’m getting off” could be seen as Jesus’s last moments upon the cross.  If we were to look at the work of The Stone Roses at this point in time as being based around the life of Jesus, then What the World Is Waiting For is Jesus’s swansong, The Stone Roses’ equivalent of My Way.

Also from this era, Something’s Burning, the B-side of the One Love single (1990) features the line “I am the vine and you are the branches” is a direct lift from John 15: 5.  Something’s Burning is a song about loyalty and morality, possibly in a relationship.  By saying that he is “the vine”, Ian Brown places himself in the position of the Messiah figure.  Similarly, the companion song to Something’s Burning, One Love saw The Stone Roses singing “You feel my flow and you flood my brain”, also referring to John’s Gospel.  In John 7: 37-38, Jesus proclaims, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, streams of living water will flow within him”.  This was a band who knew they were a force to be reckoned with, a band who had you in the palm of their hand:  The Stone Roses were messianic and you were the disciples.  They were “your vision, your wild apparition”, this was a band who could get inside of you and “sink to the depths of your soul”.  They were saying, they were your “one love” and you “don’t need another one”.  One Love was the band drawing together their disciples in collective worship:  “One love, one heart and one soul, We can have it all, Easy peasy”.

But, just as stated in One Love, “What goes up, must come down, Turns into dust or turns into stone”.  It is telling that on the band’s second album, released some five years after their highly influential debut, aptly entitled Second Coming, the first song, Breaking Into Heaven, is a song about your one and only chance of making it into heaven being during your time on Earth and the controlling forces that might try to barricade your passage.  These barricades are thought to refer to the series of legal disputes with record companies and management which had stopped the band from putting out any new material for five years.  Following Breaking Into Heaven, Driving South tells of an encounter with the devil at a crossroads:  “I stopped for an old man hitcher at a lonely crossroads, He said, “I’m going nowhere, I’m only here to see if I can steal your soul””.  The devil is likely to be a metaphor for either their record company, who had put an injunction on the band to stop them recording and releasing any new material or, perhaps, and more likely, their former manager Gareth Evans, whom the band had sacked, feeling that he was dishonest and untrustworthy.  For example, at one point, the band were awarded a Christmas cash bonus of £10,000 each by their record company, which Evans kept for himself to pay the legal costs for their court cases.  Additionally, after finding out about the cash bonus and sacking Evans, he sued them for a large percentage of their earnings and won.

Most surprising though, in terms of analysing the theme of faith in the Stone Roses’ catalogue, is the first single from Second Coming, Love Spreads.  Imagery of the crucifixion abounds, with lines such as “Love spreads her arms, Waits there for the nails” and “Too much to take, Some cross to bear”.  However, Love Spreads is curious in the way in which it attacks the traditional image of Christ by portraying the crucifixion of Christ with a black woman on the cross:  “Let me put you in the picture, Let me show you what I mean, The messiah is my sister, Ain’t no king, man, she’s my queen”.

In an interview with Melody Maker, May 13, 1995, John Squire said of the song, “The idea of the song is, ‘Why couldn’t Jesus have been a black woman?’ It’s just an attack on the white guy with a beard sitting on a cross, because that reinforces the patriarchal society”.  Adding to the conversation, then drummer Robbie Maddix added, “Do you know what The Bible calls the church?  ‘She’.  It’s like what The Bible calls the Earth, ‘Mother Earth’.

After taking the position of the Christ figure on their debut album, Love Spreads offsets the idea of the band being Christ-like by placing the song’s subject matter, a black woman, as the Messiah instead.  As well as sparking a little controversy by presenting Christ as both black and female, this is telling of how after influencing a whole new generation of rock bands, directly leading to what would become known as Britpop, the band were now somewhat adrift in the music scene, having spent five years away.  Most notably, The Stone Roses were particularly in adoration of Oasis, whom, in their absence, had stolen their crown.  Oasis’s Rock and Roll Star, from their all conquering debut alum Definitely Maybe (1994), echoed the sentiments of Stone Roses’ songs such as One Love, with lines such as “Look at you now, You’re all in my hands tonight” and Liam, Noel and company were soon to become the new messiahs of British rock.  Whereas once, The Stone Roses lay stringent and rightful claim to their position as Messianic figures in music, this was now a band at odds with what they had created, a band who had been all but crucified by the record industry but were now content to take their position as the founding fathers of the church of Britpop.