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(Credit: Alamy)

Music

The only "real" footage of the legendary Stone Roses show at Spike Island

@SamWKemp

The Stone Roses’ performance at Spike Island in 1990 was, in a sense, an utter disaster. The band were under-rehearsed, the sound was terrible, and 27,000 people were packed into a small field flanked by a chemical plant. In factual terms, it was a shambles. But for the people who were there, it is remembered as one of the most important gigs of the era – a galvanising moment that, over 30 years later, is still being talked about with giddy enthusiasm.

Why The Stone Roses chose Spike Island for the concert remains unclear. The band had been visiting abandoned quarries, caravan parks and speedway tracks in the hope of finding the perfect venue but none of them caught The Stone Roses’ attention quite like Spike Island.

By 1990, Stone Roses were at the height of their fame. They had their pick of venues, yet they chose an artificial island in the middle of the Mersey Estuary. Why? Well, as Brown told the NME: “We wanted to do something outside the rock’n’roll norm and do it in a venue which had never been used for that sort of thing before. This was back in the days of raves, remember. We started out doing warehouse parties and we still had that mentality where we wanted to play different venues. We wanted to play places that weren’t on the circuit.”

With their pop song structures and baggy beats, The Stone Roses occupied a liminal zone between ’60s psychedelia and electronic dance music. In this way, they were the exemplary modernist group, looking backwards and forward in the same instance. Spike Island was the musical equivalent of two tectonic plates shifting over one another, the coarse rubbing of two eras battling for supremacy.

The concert took place on May 27th, 1990, marking the Stone Roses’ first concert in six months. When they arrived on site in a rusted minivan, the group were shocked by the aggressive security personnel and lack of facilities and equipment. “The organisation was shambolic,” Ian Brown told NME in 2010. “The PA wasn’t big enough for a start, and certain things were going on that we didn’t know about. The management were taking people’s sandwiches off them at the gate to force them to buy five-quid burgers when they got in. Some kid got impaled. He broke out of jail, tried to jump the railings and ended up leaving his bollocks on top of them. We were still finding out about this stuff two, three years later.”

Below, you’ll find fan footage of The Stone Roses’ performance at Spike Island. Shot on an amateur camera by a young fan, the video is an immersive dive into a concert that would otherwise exist only in the memory of the people who were there.