In the summer of 1989 a few of my metal chums decided that The Stone Roses would be the sound of their summer and so they temporarily ditched Suicidal Tendencies Controlled by Hatred, Blue Murder and The Cult Sonic Temple and in came baggy, also in a couple of cases some of my friends were even spotted out WEARING COLOURS OTHER THAN BLACK! Not for me this sort of frivolity, they were ruthlessly mocked for it, I was (glam) metal to the core! I also told anyone who’d listen that I thought The Stone Roses sounded like The Monkees*.
So it wasn’t until a year later when a friend of mine stuck ‘Fools Gold’ (the 9:53 version of course) on a compilation tape that it all suddenly clicked at once for me – this was genius! I rushed out and bought, at great expense for a student like me, the US 12″ version of Fools Gold, because it was on gold vinyl. Yup, I spent about three times as much to get gold vinyl – same sound, just different colour grooves. Not only that but I would argue it’s not really very golden. Check it out – I haven’t altered the colours on this photo; I’d go so far as to say it’s a slightly orangey yellow.
Now compare it to Starz Piss Party**, which was specially advertised on the sleeve as having been pressed on ‘Piss Yellow Vinyl’, and it brings out the orangey yellowness of the thing.
Now – it occurs to me right here, right now that what the Stone Roses could be doing here is ironically postmodern, the record Fools Gold has actually proven to be fools gold for me. Or it could simply be that someone in the US arm of the record label screwed up with his instructions to the pressing plant. And so it goes.
Regardless, for me this is the perfect synthesis of dance music and, for want of a much better term, music played on proper instruments. Right from the first seconds which sound like someone slapping a large Bavarian’s thighs, this is, to paraphrase a book I thought could be better, a heartmaking work of outstanding genius. The beat is just perfect, filched from a Bobby Brown track and played with exquisite lightness by Reni and Mani, it manages the incredibly difficult feat of driving the song forwards relentlessly, but easily. John Squire’s best wah-wah guitar work is on this track and again he plays with such a wonderful lightness of touch throughout, it really is incredible. Best of all though is Ian Brown, a singer who I can find really annoying, on this track he half croons, half whispers the lyrics to devastating effect and it just crowns the whole track. The band manage the uncanny feat of making ‘Fools Gold’ sound just like John Squire’s brilliant artwork.
9:53 is over and done in a flash.
Funnily enough I had never really thought of the lyrics at all until I Googled them just now, they’re good too – I had no idea that they referenced the Marquis De Sade, for example. But I particularly like,
I’m standing alone
I’m watching you all
I’m seeing you sinking
I’m standing alone
You’re weighing the gold
I’m watching you sinking
Brown’s tone makes you feel and believe both the arrogance and weariness that has to be there for the sentiment to ring clear and true. The band was standing on top of the world at the absolute height of their powers at that precise moment, surveying the pygmies below; you can’t beat surveying pygmies I’ve always believed. I think it is my favourite musical moment of the 80’s, lighting up the possibilities ahead.
Now the B-side, or originally double A-side ‘What The World is Waiting For’ surely can’t live up to ‘Fools Gold’ can it? okay it starts well by using exactly the same beat, albeit without exercising the large Bavarian thigh option this time around, but it’s a lightweight piece of inconsequential fluff, much in the same vein as all the early non-LP singles and B-sides by The Stone Roses have been when I’ve investigated them. The very idea that ‘Fools Gold’ was originally meant to be the B-side to that nonsense…
*whilst steadfastly refusing to listen to any of their music of course.
**don’t ask; one day I’ll tell all, I promise. I wonder if this is the first time these records have met?