The Stone Roses and, more importantly, frontman Ian Brown have a habit of causing controversy wherever they go. From drugs and dressing downs to scuffles and skullduggery—they’ve got themselves a handy reputation.
So, when you learn that their first TV appearance performing their anthemic track ‘Made of Stone’ on The Late Show in 1989 ended with Brown snorting in derision and calling everyone “amateurs,” it’s to be expected. But, on this occasion, maybe he had a point?
By 1989, The Stone Roses were a force to be reckoned with in their northern hometown of Manchester, England. They had created a new indie rock sound out of the wild rave culture that had swarmed the nation during the late ’80s and were rightly beginning to be seen as pioneers. They had managed to turn the pill-popping dance maniacs, intent on pumping fists and dilating pupils long into the night, towards a new baggier indie sound. It was a revelation.
It had taken them a few swings of the bat though, with Brown and the rest of the group involved in a heap of former bands together before they finally made it. From Brown and guitarist John Squire’s Clash-inspired high-school band, The Patrol in 1980 to Brown and bassist Mani’s group The Fireside Chaps and finally to The Stone Roses in 1984—the group were seasoned musicians and consummate performers.
The band began working towards their ultimate goal of becoming signed in earnest and produced 100 demo tapes. One of which got them their first big gig as they supported Pete Townshend as part of his anti-heroin concert in 1984. Brown allegedly got the gig with a tape accompanied by a short and succinct note: “I’m surrounded by skagheads, I wanna smash ’em. Can you give us a show?”
With the band’s wholly recognised lineup finally in place by 1987 after Mani finally joined the group— something that Brown recalled changed the face of The Stone Roses: “When Mani joined it almost changed overnight. It became a totally different groove,” he said before adding: “Straight away, everything just fell into place.”
Fast forward to 1989 and the hype around The Stone Roses is beginning to swell higher and higher and with an astonishing pace. Their self-titled debut album announces the band on a national level and the beginning of a cultdom begins in earnest. The LP is released, reaching number 32 on the UK Albums Chart, with the track ‘She Bangs The Drums’ becoming the band’s first top 40 hit.
In November of that seminal year, after having just played a massive show at London’s Alexandra Palace, The Stone Roses were asked to perform their anthemic song ‘Made of Stone’ on a BBC culture and art show called The Late Show. The show had already put on The La’s, Pixies and others during that year and yet The Stone Roses making their national TV debut was set to be bigger than all of those put together.
It begins, like most magazine show spots do, with a presenter—in this case Tracey MacLeod—introducing the band and the first chords and verses transmit across the nation with a charged and engaged energy, promising a new wave of music and a brand new band to fall in love with. It was the start they had dreamed of. Only for it all to fall flat before they reached the chorus.
The band’s power cuts out around the one-minute mark and leaves Mani, Reni, John, and of course Ian, looking toward the technicians with a typically Mancunian look of indignation and expectations. While technicians scramble to get the power back on, MacLeod is directed to move onto the next segment and walks in front of the band to post her next link. Not a smart move.
Brown instantly begins muttering to the crew, his face growing stonier and stonier by the second until he finally bursts out with: “We’re wasting our time lads. Amateurs!” MacLeod tries to make it right with the band but the moment has passed and The Stone Roses first TV appearance ends with a whimper rather than a bang.
The band would go on to make their full debut on TV just a week later on BBC 1’s historic music show Top of the Pops performing their huge hit ‘Fools Gold’. The Beeb would go on to say that the fault was down to the band sneakily turning up their amps without the crew looking, but whichever way you cut it, you’ve got to agree with Ian Brown on this occasion. We normally do anyway.
Watch below the failed first TV appearance of The Stone Roses in 1989