This entry of The Roses Read series takes an in-depth look at some of the best demos and unreleased tracks in The Stone Roses’ surprisingly extensive back catalogue. One of the most beautiful things (lol wacky pun) about supporting the Roses is the little gems you unearth every once in a while; be it a previously unheard bootleg, an unseen photo, or an unread interview. In a similar vein, their available demos/unreleased tracks are so rewarding in that they provide an essential Roses fix when all other avenues have been exhausted. In (as much as possible) the order they were recorded, here are some of the seminal group’s very best under the radar moments.
Let me die, Jesus, Jesus, let me die…
Boasting probably the best title of the lot, this track deals with the sombre tale of a boy lost at sea backed by a sad, yet beautiful sound that gets you right in the pits of the stomach, a la The Smiths. Perhaps it’s the track’s chord progression being similar to that of Sugar Spun Sister, or perhaps it’s the lyrical subject matter not reflecting the self-assured positivity of the rest of the group’s golden era, but Pearl Bastard unfortunately never made the cut as an official Roses track.
The Sun Still Shines
She said the spring is in the air, and summer will blossom everywhere / but we’re as dead, as dead as autumn’s leaves / so let me warm you in the breeze
In my opinion, this is the best piece of music the Roses never released. I found this one during a weekend trip to Blackpool about three years ago, and I’ve come to always associate it with the seaside. Its jangly chords and lush vocals wholly encapsulate the band’s evolution from directionless post-punk rockers to architects of the purest, most pristine indie-pop you’ll ever find. The Sun Still Shines is one of the first examples of the band managing to bottle the magically distinctive sound that would see them release one of the most influential albums of all time. This is Beach Boys level guitar pop – and to think they never even bothered releasing it. The fucking arrogance!
Sugar Spun Sister
Until the sky turns green and the grass is several shades of blue, ever member of parliament trips on glue…
The 1986 version of Sugar Spun Sister is simply jaw dropping. Arguably better than the version that made its way onto the eponymous debut album, the demo features Brown’s signature hushed vocal croon at its most spine-tingling. Whether it’s reverb or he’s somehow singing from the bottom of a well, he’s on top, top form here. Reni’s ethereal harmonies combined with Squire’s sugar-coated guitar work sends this into another dimension of otherworldly sonic beauty.
This demo appears to have been produced during the same session as the aforementioned 1986 Sugar Spun Sister recording and, yet again, wow. Reni’s backing vocals are nothing short of angelic here, while the low-key acoustic guitar is a nice touch. A better quality recording of this version could see it overtake the actual release that made it onto the Made of Stone single and the subsequent Turns Into Stone (1992) compilation. The addition of the glockenspiel gives it a unique twist.
Yeah….. yeah, I lost me plectrum on that one – John
Featured on the 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of the debut album, this jam completely brings to colour the cool, laidback energy that surrounded the Roses and their sound at its 1990 peak. It’s effortless, they’re chatting over it in parts and appear to be unaware that they’re actually being recorded. The result is an authentic piece of insight into the group’s unrivalled chemistry. The “unseen member” Brown spoke of at the 2011 Reunion Press Conference is very much alive here. The greatest rhythm section of a generation (or ever?) Mani and Reni are in the driving seat in this one, while Squire’s wah-drenched licks sound a little different to the tracks final, polished release. A true gem.
Breaking Into Heaven
For a great many Roses hardcores, the holy grail would be managing to find the so-called “lost Fools Gold album” that never saw the light of day in 1990. The theory, or dream, proposes that beyond What the World Is Waiting For, One Love and Something’s Burning, there existed a whole album’s worth of groove-based, Fools Gold type tracks. While Brown has personally denied the existence of further material circa 1990 – the 1993 Breaking Into Heaven demo is without doubt the closest we’ll get to unearthing such a pinnacle.
The version that actually made it onto Second Coming is without doubt an exhilarating joyride of epic guitar-God proportions, and though I wouldn’t change a thing about it, the 1993 demo is outstanding in its own right. The total antithesis of the end product, it actually doesn’t feature Squire whatsoever. Mani is the lead guitarist here, as the bassline – which would later feature in part on Breakout and Brown solo tune Can’t See Me – rolls along to Reni’s junglistic rhythms.
This moody, stripped back blues version of the UK no.2 comeback hit reveals another side to a track that without doubt perches comfortably in the absolute highest tier of Roses works. You can feel the inspiration of recording in rural Wales on this one as you imagine a wide-shot of Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western epic. It’s sliding guitars and southern vibe is truly haunting and as one YouTube commenter put it, sounds “like a song from beyond the Roses’ grave”.
Perhaps controversially making the grain here is unreleased and unrecorded track, High Time. Controversial in its connection to Reading ’96 – a car crash, career-ending gig – the only time it was ever performed. Regardless of that, the tune is actually very respectable and from the sounds of things, would no doubt prosper given an actual polished-up recording session. Props are due to Roses footnote Aziz Ibrahim who, in trying to fill the impossibly big boots left by John Squire, has produced some fairly decent work reminiscent of earlier days. The riff and guitar solo are both very pleasant and it’s still a surprise this one never made it on Brown’s Unifinished Monkey Business as Ice Cold Cube did.
This foregoing list is but an incomplete collection of the Roses’ demos and unreleased tracks, but it at least includes some of the finest. For a band often dismissed as a one album wonder, it’s clear, to anyone who cares enough to delve into the archives, that such notions are entirely unfounded. Let’s hope, however, that the best demos and unreleased tracks have yet to see the light of day and will grace the world in completed form in time for summer. The Roses Read: March ’17 edition will follow in due course, hopefully possessing some talking points with regards to the status of further new music. One love!