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John Squire: The Stone Roses and beyond

The impact that The Stone Roses had on British culture is remarkable, even though their output would only see them release two records, they are still revered as being one of the most important acts in British history. While the band and their collective approach to the music industry inspired countless other groups, a lot of what makes them great can be attributed to the magical fingers of John Squire.

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher professed in 2019 that “John Squire is the best since Jimi Hendrix” and that’s about as high praise as you can possibly hope to receive as a guitarist. Despite the admiration of his contemporaries, Squire is largely overlooked when it comes to a discussion about the great British guitarists. Without his special touch, The Stone Roses undoubtedly would not have achieved the success that they ultimately went on to attain. On top of that, Squire also played a crucial role in creating the classic Stone Roses aesthetic, contribution with his artwork which became the album cover for their seminal debut record, a project which represented the Madchester scene in all its glory.

Despite John Squire forming The Stone Roses with Ian Brown back in 1983, coupled with the fact that the two musicians are old-school friends, things were never straight forward and the environment within the band became more toxic the longer they stayed together. Following the release of their faultless self-titled album in 1989, the band’s second album wouldn’t be so easy to make and it would take a whopping 347 ten-hour days at Rockfield Studios to create their 1994 follow-up.

Things only worsened for the band from then on in. After the release of their sophomore album, The Second Coming, the critical or commercial success wasn’t as forthcoming in comparison to their debut. Then, in March 1995, just two weeks before a tour in support of the record was due to begin, drummer Reni exited the band following a disagreement with Ian Brown which would prove to be the final nail in the coffin.

Squire would then follow Reni out of the exit door the following April which, it is rumoured, was related to a spiralling cocaine abuse which was taking a hold of many of his contemporaries. Although, when he confirmed the news in a statement, he said the reasoning was due to “the inevitable conclusion to the gradual social and musical separation that we have undergone in the past few years”.

In the wake of his musical project splitting, the guitarist decided to form his new band The Seahorses with three previously unknown musicians and, while there was vast intrigue into his latest musical venture, unfortunately, the band never quite hit the heights that were expected. Their only album, Do it Yourself, was released in 1997 and two years later The Seahorses disbanded due to creative differences, a common theme throughout Squire’s uncompromising career.

Not content to rest on the legacy built with his first band, Squire then released his first solo album, Time Changes Everything in 2002 which, disappointingly, again failed to hit the commercial heights of The Stone Roses. However, a financial reward wasn’t the immediate plan for Squire and he was revelling in the ability to have complete creative control. Shortly after, in 2004, he then released a concept album called Marshall’s House which would be the last record he would put out. While Squire did record a third album, he wanted to keep it all to himself rather than having to tour and promote the material.

In truth, the final and somewhat mysterious album epitomises Squire’s outlook on music. For John Squire the creation of music is used as a way of expressing himself through art, just like one of his paintings rather than having business at the forefront of the output. Squire is ever the perfectionist, telling The Guardian in 2019: “I don’t think I’m a very good guitar player or a very good painter. I listen to my guitar playing, my songs, I look at my paintings, I tend to focus on the faults, things that I could’ve done slightly better.”

Later, in a surprise move, The Stone Roses would reunite to play a mammoth homecoming show at Manchester’s Heaton Park in 2012, it was an event which would materialse after he and Ian Brown put their bad blood behind them to give the band the send-off they deserved with its original line-up.

The Manchester shows would begin the final chapter of the band, one which would roll across to the following summer which would see The Stone Roses headline Coachella and play more huge shows outdoor in the UK. Then, two years later, they came back once more for five shows at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium armed with their first slices of new music in 20 years.

Their comeback material, however, didn’t sound like the band that made The Stone Roses become one of the most beloved groups Britain has seen and, in truth, the band appeared to agree. Perhaps understanding that the writing was on the wall, the third album they recorded has never seen the light of day. The Manchester icons would later play Wembley Stadium and Glasgow’s Hampden Park in 2017, a time when the Ian Brown addressed the crowd, “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.”

That would be the final time that The Stone Roses would ever play live together and, since that moment, Squire has been focusing on his true love — art. With his first exhibition in the bag, his life is now operating in a quieter lane and, after the highs and lows that came with a career as wild as the one he had with The Stone Roses, moving onto a new artform is the only way that John Squire can truly express himself today.

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