Three months after the release of Second Coming (1994), the Stone Roses became a ticking time-bomb when Reni, who was now consistently unreliable and dubious towards his future in the band, finally left for good. Just over a year later, the Roses – in all but name – ceased to exist when John Squire too announced his departure. The disconnect between Brown and Squire by 1996 incorporated not only musical direction (the frontman recreationally listened to Public Enemy while the guitarist preferred Led Zeppelin) but lifestyle: Brown was constantly smoking weed, while Squire habitually indulged in cocaine use. As a result, the line-up, which was already critically injured by Reni’s departure and replacement, Robbie Maddix, was beyond recovery with the recruitment of session musicians Aziz Ibrahim and Nigel Ippinson. Quite frankly, in using the Stone Roses name, the band was absolutely untenable by the summer of 1996.
The foregoing narrative is the well documented, exaggerated, but widely accepted story of the group’s demise. Notably, there is never talk of Mani when the band’s split is discussed. The bassist quietly stayed on the sinking ship, alongside Brown, ’til the end. This entry is a tribute to Gary “Mani” Mounfield: the immensely talented bass player, the working class hero, the man of the people and the backbone of the Stone Roses.
In 1987, aged 25, Mani joined and completed the band. Fully forming what is without question the group’s classic line-up, Ian Brown has since asserted that in joining the band, “[Mani] gave us a groove”. This is evident in the first track recorded with the new bass-man, Elephant Stone, which features a short, outstanding drum and bass solo – the earliest sign of a rhythm section brimming with chemistry that would see the band destined for greatness. Not surprisingly, Mani – an old friend of Brown – had been a genuine fan of the Roses before he joined, regularly attending gigs. In Shane Meadows’ Made of Stone (2013) the bassist revelead that he’d always carried the gut instinct that he’d join the band one day. What he wouldn’t have known then is that he would go on to play a pivotal role in the output of not one, but two of the best bands in contemporary alternative music.
Musically, Mani marked a continuation of ridiculously talented Mancunian bassists, following the respective exploits of Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order) and Andy Rourke of The Smiths. Absolutely essential to the Roses’ distinguished sound, he played some of the most recognisable riffs in British rock history on The Stone Roses (1989) arguably before even reaching his peak. The hit single released shortly after the debut album, Fools Gold, see’s Mani at the forefront of the musical dynamic, playing the lead role in what is probably the band’s most popular song. The following single, One Love includes standout ascending-descending basswork with Mani again at the helm of the sound, as is the case in the envelope pushing B-side, Something’s Burning.
While the view that Second Coming is a bloated album is a valid one, its extensive running time allows for Mani’s skill to come to the fore on a host of tracks. The seven minute opener, Breaking Into Heaven (that’s excluding the four minutes of noise at the beginning) is a menacing beast of sheer bass gravitas that perfectly underpins Squire’s guitar hero exploits. The closing track and UK No.2 single, Love Spreads, features bass guitar at its most infectious. It is however with unsung bass masterpiece, Daybreak, that Mani’s talent is completely at centre stage. The Mancunian gloriously blends rhythmic punch with sprawling grooves in a six minute jam that wholly encapsulates true sonic maturity and instrument mastery.
Throughout the fifteen years between the Roses’ demise and remeargence from the grave in 2011, Mani was the only former Stone Rose to openly welcome the idea of a reunification. Remarkably, this was a period in which he was having probably the most success he’d ever had as a musician, releasing continuously exciting work with Primal Scream. In the reunion press conference, the band revealed how the eventual reunification was born out of meeting one another at the funeral of Mani’s mother. In his typically infectious upbeat manner, Mani produced positive food for thought, urging listeners that good things can come out of the lows we face in life.
Well, that’s exactly what happened. At the start of 2016’s long, hot summer, the Roses released their first new music in over 20 years, with the jubilant ‘All for One’ and the aptly named ‘Beautiful Thing’. The latter, driven by Mani’s throbbing bass, heavily features his talents. Immideately following Squire’s magical solo comes a hypnotic breakdown. Backed with funky bongo shuffling, Mani takes us on a short, wah-immersed groove trip that should last forever. During the string of Roses headline shows in the following months, the bass was seemingly turned up higher than ever before, serving as a tasty treat for expectant gig-goers.
With more live dates set for 2017 – and the mouth-watering prospect of potentially more new music – the stability Mani gives to the Stone Roses, be it in the studio or in the arena, will once again be absolutely paramount.