From Sex Pistols to Public Enemy: Ian Brown’s favourite albums
Ian Brown is one of the most formidable frontmen you are ever likely to meet. Equal parts bravado, balls, and talent all add up to one frighteningly brilliant bandleader. For The Stone Roses, he was just that and a little bit more.
As part of the influential baggy band, he would shape the Britpop years to come and with it establish a new national musical identity, something a host of acts can claim to have woven into their style by the bruising Manc. As you might imagine the music which shaped The Stone Roses is rooted in British icons but with some notable exceptions.
Ian Brown formed The Stone Roses alongside the often overlooked guitar genius John Squire, bassist Mani, and drummer Reni in 1983 and the group would become the foreword in the bulging Madchester movement in the late eighties. While the band’s line-up would go on to change consistently over the years, their classic formation would define a generation and they usually saw Ian Brown leading them.
But what was the soundtrack to the band that would change so much? Well, in a 2010 The Guardian article, the band’s singer Ian Brown had to dig deep into his memory’s record collection to bring you six albums which shaped not only the band’s formation or Brown’s own career trajectory but their output during their glory years.
First up on the list is Ian Brown’s first-ever record, Jimi Hendrix’s amazing 1968 album Smash Hits. Brown says the LP fell into his possession: “My Auntie Wendy gave me this when I was 12. She was way cool; she looked like one of the Stones girls with a bowl haircut.” While Brown commented on the striking image of Hendrix on the cover calling him a “psychedelic dandy”, it was the music that blew him away. Brown said, “It has ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Hey Joe’… it’s basically a greatest hits. The music sounded so strange and otherworldly when I was 12.”
The next revelation saw the very formation of what would become The Stone Roses, the moment Ian Brown met John Squire and how The Clash’s debut record healed some school playground wounds.
Brown says of the LP, “That album started the Roses in a way, because John Squire was getting his head kicked in one day at school; I saw it and thought: that’s that kid who lives up our road, so I pulled the other kid off because he’d had enough. I went round that night to see if he was all right, and I took the first Clash album,” Brown says Squire bought the record the next day and played it on an almost continuous loop for 18 months.
One interesting selection that may seem a little out of place considering Ian Brown’s agitated disposition is the little-known record from Dukes of Stratosphear (the alter-egos of XTC) which saw producer John Leckie work with the band to deliver a satirist view of the psychedelic sixties, it’s a seriously odd record worth visiting if you haven’t already.
It clearly struck a chord with Brown who was enraptured by the process, “We didn’t necessarily like it; we didn’t play it out of enjoyment – well, I didn’t, Mani did. But I understood from the way it was recorded that the guy who had recorded this could definitely work with us. [John Leckie then produced the first Stone Roses album.]”
The next two selections seem to represent similar ethos’ for the band and Brown. The Sex Pistols’ debut record and Public Enemy’s Welcome to the Terrordome are both deeply anarchic and deliberately confrontational pieces of music, perhaps something Brown has picked up on? Speaking about Public Enemy, Brown said, “It just sounded completely new; there was no sound like that, and I was attracted to the black power and revolutionary part of it. It was like grown-up punk: a rebel message that was intelligent.”
The final selection is another somewhat obscure pick but a clear recognition of not only the influence of Reggae on artists such as Brown but also on the British music scene which has been utterly changed by reggae since the seventies.
Brown proclaims Buju Banton’s ‘Til Shiloh to be “probably the best reggae album since Bob Marley.” In 1995, when the album was released, Brown was desperately trying to escape the prison of Britpop he said this album and the Biggie Smalls record had helped him to forget the deluge of bands looking to cash in.
It’s a comprehensive and revealing list of albums that shows off the influence which would inspire The Stone Roses. From the incendiary moments of punk rock to the twisting and turning brilliance of Jimi Hendrix all the way to the empowerment that Public Enemy instilled. In this playlist are some of the sounds that shaped The Stone Roses.