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Monday 12 August 2019

River Splashes Against The Rocks

There's yet another thirty year anniversary taking place today. Three decades ago today The Stone Roses played Blackpool's Empress Ballroom, a summer jaunt to the coast by a group then riding the absolute crest of the wave. The gig was the first of the group's one off specials, an attempt to stage gigs that were out of the ordinary, to give fans something special. The Empress Ballroom, part of the Winter Gardens, is a beautiful room with Victorian coving, a sprung floor, balconies and glass chandeliers. The band spent the day of the gig larking abut on the seafront for the NME's photographer before playing a perfect show. A Dave Haslam DJ set warmed the crowd up (not they needed it, everyone was more than ready and in the mood). Ian took to the stage with a flashing yo-yo and a cry of 'Manchester, Manchester, international, international..' and then it was take off- most of the debut album plus Where Angels Play and Mersey Paradise.

Mersey Paradise

Thirty years on from its appearance as the B-side to She Bangs The Drum and the penultimate song played at Blackpool, Mersey Paradise became the song of our summer holiday this year. My daughter, a slowly growing interest in Manchester's musical history, suddenly declared that the song was her new favourite. It's one of mine too, full on psychedelic pop- Squire's fast, circling, chiming guitar riff and Reni's brilliant drumming (and backing vocals) power the song onward through it's two minutes forty-four seconds. Ian surfs on top, the words tumbling on top of each other, occasionally bubbling up for the listener to singalong- 'she doesn't care for my despair', 'river cools where I belong'.

It turns out that I've been singing the wrong words for nigh on three decades- 'river splashes against the rocks/ A slow escape and hope the tracks won't/ lead me down to docklands/ it's all places where we fall to pieces' has been my version since 1989. According to all the lyric sites it's actually-

'River splashes against the rocks
And I scale the slope, I hope the tracks won't
Lead me down to dark black pits
Or places where we fall to bits'

Can't see me changing that habit now but you live and learn. Thankfully I'm much better with the second verse.

'As I stare an oil wheel comes
Sailing by and I feel like
Growing fins and falling in
With the bricks, the bikes, the rusty tin cans
I'll swim along without a care
I'm eating sand when I need air
You can bet your life I'll meet a pike
Who'll wolf me down for tea tonight'

There's a lack of guile and a real pre-fame sense to the words to Mersey Paradise, lyrics that they couldn't have written later on. The Mersey runs through south Manchester, forming a southern border to Chorlton, where Ian and John lived at the time most of the first album's songs were written and it's easy to imagine the song being written following a walk in Chorlton Waterpark. The words hint at something darker too, a drowning, love, heartbreak and despair on the banks of the river. A song they put on the B-side of a summer single too along with the much longer, majestic, Hendrix pop of Standing Here. Who'd have guessed that within in a year it would be all over? Or that a B-side from a 12" single in 1989 would still be turning kids on to the band in 2019?


Swanditch said...

This track is pure Roses genius. I like to think of their B-sides collectively as "the other Stone Roses album".

Swanditch said...

Also: this tune is an typical of classic-era Roses in that its lovely tune contrasts sharply with its quite dark lyrics. An aspect of their work I don't often see commented on.