A post for Stylo, who's earned it with the energetic commenting, and who could hardly fail to do a better job explaining "what's so good about Happy Mondays?" than this lot...
I've never understood the Manchester patriotism thing, the jousting with London.... Look, the city's metropolitan population is a fifth of Greater London's. It can't compete - you have this great mass of people clustered down South, a teeming multicultural and multiracial mix that makes for pure ferment, plus it's the political, financial, media, and cultural capital of the nation.... it's a place where nearly everyone from elsewhere in the country with talent or ideas heads as soon as they can... along with people from all over Europe and the world, attracted by its reputation, resources, history, image... it's an international hub, a world city... No, you can't compete with that, stands to reason - it's just the way things are.
Which is why Manchester has come up with an intermittent string of great bands (been a while, though, hasn't it?) whereas London spawns outright genres... and a steady stream of great bands.
My favorite of many clunkers in this clip comes when they are all asked about future musical greatness from the city and which Manc groops will be listened to for years to come. Anthony H. Wilson names New Order (already successful for nigh-on a decade... destined, going forward, to be less successful... less anything in fact), Happy Mondays (already successful for a year or two... destined, going forward, to be less successful.... less anything in fact), Northside, and Kalima (unsuccessful for several years already).
Mind you, there's also the lady who predicts great things - lasting things - for Ashley & Jackson.
That was brilliant. It always makes me chuckle to see H Wilson being absolutely wrong about everything back then. Absolutely everything.ReplyDelete
Which is why Factory folded not long after.
I'm currently out and about, so I'll reply in more depth later, but I think it's worth pointing out that Tony Wilson, Mark E. Smith and the Happy Mondays were all from Salford, not Manchester.ReplyDelete
Salford is considered Greater Manchester, isn't it? So the bands from there are Manchester in the same way that Siouxsie and the Banshees, although from the outer fringe of the city, are a London band.Delete
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Joy Division were from Salford too. Is there anybody who's actually from Manchester?Delete
In any case, is anyone else reminded of the oft-made point that plenty of the most nationalistic leaders (Catherine the Great, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Boris Johnson) didn't actually come from the nation they came to rule?Delete
And Oasis fucked off to London at the first opportunity they got.ReplyDelete
Compare Manchester to Edinburgh, which has its own longstanding music scene with idiosyncratic and celebrated acts, and which has never thrown a fit about the predominance of London.ReplyDelete
Has Edinburgh actually begat a band that can be legitimately considered epochal, like the Smiths or Oasis? Good bands from Edinburgh, yes, but defining ones?
Though you did write a book taking its title from an Orange Juice song.Delete
Can anybody name a genuinely great band (not solo artist) that has come out of London in the last 30 years?ReplyDelete
Really struggling here.
London's musical output has objectively been pretty terrible for the last three decades. The only major international artists it has produced are probably Adele and Coldplay, and the latter are non-Londoners who have no interest in London itself. Amy Winehouse briefly made it big, I suppose.
Even in genre terms, London has only really produced Grime, which is a sub-genre of hip-hop of about the same cultural import as Nordic Black Metal. London just is not a great musical force.
The fact is that most of the UK bands that have had real cultural force over the last thirty years have come from small towns in the regions - places like Wigan, Teignmouth and Abingdon.
who cares? rock music since 1977 has just been middle class idiots torturing themselves on stage fetishising lumpenprole criminality and not comprehending the real power of the proletariat, it's ability for discipline and organisation. At least hip hop and rave derivvations don't pretend to be anything else, whereas band music is imprisoned by its bohemian 'we're speaking truth to power, maaaan', insipid shtick, which was already passé when the Pistols did it. Lydon's been problematic at the best of times but he was on the money when he took a huge crap over the r'n'r mythos in the early 1980s.Delete
Also, there's of course quite a strong london jazz wave rn (not that I'm a massive fan) but jazz obviously doesn't count as band music, yet another story of white guardians defining taste.
Even then, the real story of Manchester is neither the happy Mondays and Hacienda, but Legends, Electro Funk, Greg Wilson, Stu Allan etc. Happy Mondays were just balearic hipsters with a crack habit, suitable for the west london Slough lot, but was never going to cut the mustard for the North/East London Finsbury Park, Hackney, Islington, Stratford, Forrest gate Aciiiiid and Ragga mentalists!
To prove my point, this is the attitude which causes me to love the Mondays all the more.Delete
wouldn't let me comment under my original google act before tweaking some settings. You're free to love the Mondays (although not sure how defining yourself inrelation to a 30 year old battle is relevant in 2023) but why must people always fetishise the braindead impulse in music? I'm not asking for uber intelligent sophistication, I'm just asking for people to abandon reverse snobbery. If you're engaging on this blog, you're clearly better than the Mondays, and I would wager, know enough about Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Ligeti etc to carry a conversation. All the Mondays did was cash into the second summer of love (extremely irritating term.) They had fuck all to do with chicago acid.Delete
also this is the legacy of the Mondays and balearic numpties. I really wouldn't want to take pride in this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFElOYdyg8UDelete
Erm, I wrote quite a long post why I consider the Mondays to be far more sophisticated than the common misapprehension. It's not dumbing down to me at all. I consider the Mondays to be an especially adroit band, particularly in terms of lyrics (the dirty little secret classical music can't admit? the lyrics of popular music tend to be better). The problem is not the fetishism of braindead impulses, it's the assumption that the appeal of such a plebby group must involve the fetishism of braindead impulses. That's just snobbery.Delete
By the by, I was once reading an article in Mojo, where 100 musicians were invited to name their heroes. Shaun Ryder named Charlie Parker.
The Balearic period of the Mondays was only really Pills n Thrills and Bellyaches, which was also a brilliant album. You're condemning them for doing something well?
You don't need to tell me that, post-Mondays, Ryder pissed all over his reputational chips. That's partly why any praise I give to the Mondays automatically becomes a defence.
nah, Marc E Smith had clever lyrics and was 'plebby.' Ryder was just playacting and surrendering to victorian stereotypes about the working class (an affliction, by the way, he shared in his own way with class war.)Delete
Also yes, I am condemning them for doing something well, because balearic was a bad direction in British music. If the tunes that Jah Shaka made and played got as much reverence than the pap that Alfredo was playing in Ibiza (atrociously mixed might I add.)
regardless, the Mondays will never get rehabilitated because they were simply on the wrong side of history. Has nothing to do with Ryder's reputation at all! 808 State (proper legends of Manchester) hit the nail on the head:Delete
"Arguing that rave music had outflanked the egghead experimentalists, Massey declared: ‘Mainstream clubs are just so out there and futuristic in comparison. You get beer boys and Sharons ’n’ Tracies dancing to the weirdest crap going, at places like The Thunderdome, and they don’t know what’s hit ’em. Yer average Joe Bloggs is dancing to stuff that’s basically avant-garde.’
Seven months later, in the summer of 1990, Price railed against indie-rock/rave crossover bands like The Beloved, The Shamen and Primal Scream. ‘You’ve got totally non-credible acts cashing in on the sort of music 808 State have been doing for years.’ Deriding indie rock as ‘peer group stuff … just another stupid way to get girlfriends by going round with a big question mark over your head’, he ranted: ‘Now they’ve discovered that the better peer group is in the dance field and they want to change their whole fucking lives. But they don’t do it bravely, and say, “All right, I made a mistake, I’m now totally into dance.” They stay stuck between two stools.
‘Fucking Norman Cook on The Late Show saying, “It’s like punk rock,”’ frothed Price, referring to former Housemartins bassist Norman Cook, who’d recently got to Number One with his dubby-dance combo Beats International. ‘If somebody says [techno]’s like punk to my face, I’ll fucking smash ’em in the teeth. It’s nothing to do with punk. Nobody wants to see a load of idiots torturing themselves on stage with guitars any more. This is about machines, punk was about arm power. The muscles and sinews in dance music are when you’re sweating your bollocks off on the dancefloor.’
All the music I like belongs to the cause of historical progress. All the music I don't like belongs to the cause of historical reaction.Delete
Can't believe that there are still people coming out with this kind of shite.
The arc of history bends towards my drug habit.Delete
"All the music I like belongs to the cause of historical progress. All the music I don't like belongs to the cause of historical reaction."Delete
Oh come on, this is the cheapest of cheapest goldsmiths university student cop outs. Asinine in fact. What the Mondays did is lay claim to a culture which inherently dehumanises the rock star as tormented acme-faced personality and individual. If they made honest rock like the Stone Roses or A. R. Kane or even MBV, noone would be complaining. Acid house is assembled and sequenced, not composed!
This acid house as a movement is all fine and dandy until you get weirdos like Danny Rampling going on about Mandy Smith records and what not. Purism can indicate sterility, sure, but it can also hone in on aspects which were hitherto neglected.. That being that chicago acid was cold, hard, comatose and nihilistic music with little human warmth. It didn't need to say anything about the existing human condition because it wasn't appealing to amateur psychoanalysts.
(Simon here replying from Taipei!)Delete
I am not sure if any British city has come up with a great rock band in the last 30 years - perhaps the time of Great Bands in that Stones/ Roxy / Pistols / Joy Division / MBV line is over and done?
That said my favorite band of the last few years, Dry Cleaning, are from London.
As are some other last few decades bands i love - like Micachu and the Shapes.
There is “from London” as in all the members are born and bred Londoners. And then there is London as “formed in London”. So i would say Stereolab were a great London band of last 30 years but the singer was French and poor Mary was from New Zealand I believe.
You do seem to be tippexing Oasis out of history there.Delete
(I've had to write this in two parts. You tickled my G-spot.)ReplyDelete
I didn't want to write a hagiography of the Mondays, but I sense a gauntlet being thrown down, so I've got to stick up for my band.
Firstly, I was very touched to be called out by name in regard to the Mondays. It's not as if I was associated with Bon Jovi or Nickelback. In fact, I may purchase a copy of Rip It Up and Start Again for a friend in acknowledgement (or Shock and Awe, I'll ask her which period interests her more).
Anyway, I suspect everyone knows this, but Tony Wilson was far closer to PT Barnum than Nostradamus. Him bullshitting about the future glories of Factory acts is exactly what you expect (also, wasn't that his job?). And it's not as if he was talking in complete bad faith; he genuinely believed in New Order and the Mondays, at least. To be vernacular, he may have been a wanker and a twat, but he was hardly a cunt.
So, onto the Mondays. Now, one curious point about the Mondays is that two of the immediate aspects at the time (ecstacy and Bez) aren't really relevant to the contemporary listener. The Mondays may have been the great spokesmen for ecstasy, but culturally ecstasy has become so diluted (Miley Cyrus' We Can't Stop has an overt E reference) that the sheer menace of the Mondays' criminality has become incomprehensible. And Bez has gone down as the only dancer in a group generally remembered fondly (Christ, do you remember that bloke in the chains with Howard Jones?), but that fondness is for, essentially, a bloke who just danced about a bit. It's part of the legend, but it's not part of the legacy, the legacy of the actual music they made.
Any description of the Mondays' legacy has to start with the obvious: Shaun Ryder was an astonishing lyricist. Now, one of the most prominent roles the most esteemed British songwriters have adopted is that of the teller of the uncomfortable truth: to varying extents and in varying styles, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Ray Davies, Pete Townshend, Roger Waters, John Lydon, Mark E. Smith, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and, above all, Morrissey relished being the ghost at the feast. Shaun Ryder is firmly within that tradition, but surreal and streetwise. Consider the best couplet Ryder ever wrote:
Son, I'm 30,
I only went with your mother 'cause she's dirty
Hell, in terms of the Hemingway iceberg, that's up there with "For sale, baby's shoes, never worn". (Also, can anyone think of a better opening couplet to a song? You can't because there isn't one). It feels that explaining the resonance of such a line would spoil the joke, but I think even the most sniffy of listeners would accept that it hints at the reality to many relationships.
Much is justifiably made of the Mondays' hedonism (they coined the idiom 24 hour party people), but Ryder's lyrics oft exhibited a stoic recognition of life's travails. Again, I could point to Kinky Afro, but I could also point to much of Bummed, or Grandbag's Funeral, or Loose Fit, or Judge Fudge, or Stinkin Thinkin (admittedly, your mileage may vary with the Yes Please! material). This is not a band of caricature, but a band seeking to describe the human condition in all its bliss, its difficulties, its ardour and its filth.
And onto the band. Who on earth sounds like the Mondays? Well, their most avowed influences, the Pistols, Joy Division/New Order and acid house, sound nothing like the Mondays. All of their albums sound remarkably different to each other, particularly their two best, the nebulous Bummed and the sun-kissed Pills n Thrills and Bellyaches. When people try to claim the Mondays as plagiarists, they resort to insist that they stole it all from Funkadelic and Can. Okay, Halleluhwah does sound wonderfully proto-Mondays, but that's not even a rebuke. It's a curiosity. And yes, the Mondays had no probs nicking from Lady Marmalade, but great artists steal.
What does sound like the Mondays? Most groups that tried to ape them directly failed (and so many were on the BritShit list a while back). But the ones that worked? Screamadelica's distillation of the E experience? The Mondays were first. Blur's sarky kitchen-sink vignettes? Grandbag's Funeral, take a bow. Jarvis Cocker's masturbation fantasies set to lyrics? Bring a Friend and Bob's Yer Uncle. Suede's flaneur sleaze? Who was ever sleazier than the Mondays? Oasis' magpie-like purloining of riffs of rock past? A technique itself purloined from the Mondays, the most brazen of thieves (literally: like their forefathers the Sex Pistols, they nicked all their instruments when starting out). The mainstreaming of dance music? Yes, other bands can claim more responsibility, but the superstar DJs of the 90s still owe quite a debt to the Mondays. It would make sense to call the Mondays the great codifiers of 90s British music, were they in any way interested in laws.
And the Mondays fucked it all up.
This is now the tragedy of being a fan, albeit a fan who came on 10 years after the party died. The Mondays jettisoned everything that was wonderful about them. Their hedonism degraded into downright misogyny. Their coarseness degraded into downright bigotry. Shaun Ryder sank into becoming a court jester and the first Mondays reunion was an affair even Richard Desmond would call tawdry.
One of my best friends is a Guns N Roses obsessive. If he ever had a kid, he would likely give them the middle names Axl Slash. He's had to live with GnR being critically spat upon because Kurt Cobain persuaded tastemakers that GnR were an embarrassment. With the fullness of time, I hope we can agree that GnR did not deserve the dismissal they received in the backwash of grunge (aside from the Pixies and Nirvana, have grunge bands aged that well? I put on Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun a while back and felt shamefaced for all concerned). And as much as my mate loves GnR, the opposition to GnR makes him love them all the more fiercely. It's exactly the same with me and the Mondays. The loyalty becomes its own reward. I bet everyone who has commented on this blog has their own underdog act, the one they nuzzle to their bosom and damn the world for not appreciating.
TLDR: I like the Happy Mondays.
You wrote a book about the underdog bands you liked (Rip It Up and Start Again), and you managed the fanboy's wet dream of getting them more widely embraced.Delete
Brilliant stuff, Stylo. I would reply in detail but I am hastening to catch a plane!Delete
"but the superstar DJs of the 90s still owe quite a debt to the Mondays. It would make sense to call the Mondays the great codifiers of 90s British music, were they in any way interested in laws."Delete
Wow, imagine taking pride in the predecessors to prog house, goa trance and big beat! Such illustrious company you have there.
"...they don't even play any instruments, it's all done with computers nowadays, now that Mark Knopfler, HE's a proper musicians..."Delete
(Simon again coming in as Anon on account of using my phone)Delete
Wow it got heated in here!
Happy Mondays - i love the first and particularly the second album, less keen on their pop phase although ‘Loose Fit’ is a great single.
I find the claims for Ryder’s poetic stature a bit much (AH wilson’s comparison of him with Yeats - a wind up I assume) but no doubt he came up with some great lines
They are an odd lot, an anomaly in british pop history - i don’t think any of the musicians were particularly gifted or even exhibited flair but somehow it converged into this totally distinctive sound and groove. “Wrote For Luck” is their moment of immortality I think. The video for it is a great druggy capsule of a moment, one of the few promos that bottles the feeling of E. (I think there are actually two videos for the song and the one i am thinking of has all these rippling after images)
In fairness to Shaun, he's never claimed to be a poet, unlike say, Billy Corgan or Jewel. One could also see such claims as backfiring, that people automatically dismissed his talents in the face of such pompous claims.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure what you mean by "flair" in this regard. They exhibit enough flair for me, at any rate. It's quite easy to argue that PnTaB is actually the first Britpop album (the lightness of touch, kitchen-sink lyrical conceits, the approach to sex as an everyday concern), or at least baggy and Britpop were waves of the same movement in British indie.
The video is for the Vince Clarke remix of Wrote for Luck.
Criticizing someone's favorite band is bit like calling their mother a whore - it's only going to provoke a certain defensiveness. So perfectly in tune with the lyrics of Kinky Afro then. I only went with the Mondays coz they were dirty.ReplyDelete
Props to Stylo for acknowledging that their heroes have ended up somewhere, well, twatish.
My favorite Mondays album is Achtung Baby - altho it is weaker than their previous efforts. Mark Day's guitar work is particularly lazy on this. Sustained drug use obviously destroying a major talent there. Just say no.
- Check out the "Bakery" section on Ryder's wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaun_Ryder
- Also: https://www.nme.com/en_au/news/film/christian-bale-shaun-ryder-happy-mondays-3369862 - I just can't see Bale's intensity as an actor working with Ryder's DGAF attitude but it would probably be extremely watchable in the ways that terrible miscasting often are.
Also: Giving a f- about the Happy Mondays seems very not in the spirit of the Happy Mondays. So my rampant apathy actually marks me out as the true fan, Stylo.ReplyDelete
There's not giving a fuck, but attributing Achtung Baby to the Mondays perhaps takes such an attitude to an unjustified level. Still, Mark Day was especially lazy on Achtung Baby. He couldn't be bothered to be on the damn thing.ReplyDelete
That is an outrageous slur against one of Greater Manchester's finest postmen.Delete