Having created a storm of industry attention throughout 1988, flirting with indie label Rough Trade before signing to Silvertone, The Stone Roses went in to the studio with producer John Leckie and set about recording one of the greatest debut albums ever made.
Fusing the acid house hedonism that had come to define the late '80s with the jangly guitar sound characterised by Johnny Marr in The Smiths, the Roses were on the brink of becoming Britain’s biggest band.
While legal wrangles, inter-band disputes and a torturous five-year gestation period for follow-up album Second Coming meant the Roses would never fulfil their potential, they were about to unleash an era-shaping record of stunning musicianship, paving the way for the Britpop revolution that would follow.
And in guitarist John Squire they had a natural successor to Marr; an indie virtuoso who combined chiming chorus-infused melodic runs with formidable blues riffing – a new British guitar legend in the making.
Squire was usually meticulous about working out every part he played before he hit the studio, and that approach was evident in the ease with which I Am The Resurrection was recorded. It was one of the last tracks the Roses and Leckie worked on at Rockfield Studios, in Wales.
With the previously improvised and chaotic end section having been pinned down to a more organised arrangement, under the supervision of Leckie, the majority of the track was committed to tape quickly and with few obstacles. The producer believes this was due in no small part to Squire’s fastidious preparation.
“Even from the beginning, he had his own little cassette portastudio, and he would set up a little room or a cupboard somewhere and work his parts out,” Leckie told Total Guitar in 2011. “He’d do a rough mix of the backing track or a demo and, even when we finished at midnight or two o’clock in the morning, he’d go back to his cupboard and work some more parts out!”
When engineer Paul Schroeder pressed record on the tape machine, the Roses managed to nail the majority of I Am The Resurrection’s backing track in just one take. “Because we’d worked so much on the end, it was pretty straight ahead when we went back and did the whole song,” explained Leckie to Total Guitar. “I’m sure the backing track was done all in one go, but the end part, with the acoustic guitars – the last minute or so – that was added on later and I think you can tell because the drums sound different… I can remember doing those picking acoustics at Konk [The Kinks’ Studio in Muswell Hill].”
The backing track consisted of Alan ‘Reni’ Wren’s drums, Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield’s bass, Squire’s rhythm guitar and a guide vocal from Ian Brown. Leckie reckons there were up to eight guitar overdubs laid down at Rockfield. As far as instruments go, there was some early experimentation, although the Roses always tended to revert to the gear that gave them their classic sound.
“One of the things that happened right from the beginning was that – because the record company had an equipment hire company called Dreamhire in the same building [as Battery Studios, in Willesden Green] – we could hire anything,” reflected Leckie. “Any amps, any guitars they wanted… they could just go round to the warehouse and pick some out, so of course there was a bit of dithering with ‘Oh, what guitar should I use? What amp should I use?’ Can we try a different bass?’ but you’d end up using what they’d got originally because that’s the sound!
“Mani’s painted Rickenbacker bass, always through an [Ampeg] SVT cabinet… and John had a Hofner, a bit like a Gibson 335, but it was a Hofner. He used that sometimes, but his main guitar was a pink Stratocaster from Dreamhire, which I think he ended up buying.
"Then he always hired a silver/black Fender Twin Reverb with JBL speakers. We always used that just because it sounded fantastic, and that’s probably what he used on most tracks [including I Am The Resurrection]. I can’t really remember the acoustic guitars. He also had an Ibanez Overdrive – although a lot of the time he didn’t use it – and an Ibanez Chorus, and that was the classic sound!”
Leckie remembered he used a Shure SM56 and a Neumann U67 on Squire’s amp, with “the two of them together mic’d pretty close, almost touching the grill, just off the centre of the cone.” For acoustics, he used a U67, and for Mani’s bass a Neumann U47 or an AKG D12 on the SVT cab.
Squire’s playing across the instrumental crescendo of …Resurrection sounds unlike much of his work on The Stone Roses. It has a riffed-up Hendrix-y feel, reminiscent of the heavier, bluesier style on 1994’s Second Coming. So was this a new way of playing that John was beginning to experiment with in the late '80s? “If you saw them live at the time, [John] was playing a lot like that,” Leckie tells us. “It was much more rocking live!”
Things began to go pear-shaped at the end of 1990, when the Roses began a legal battle with their record company Silvertone. The case, which the band eventually won, meant they were unable to release new music for two years. It marked the beginning of the end for the Roses, who – some argue – had the potential to be the biggest British band since The Beatles and the Stones. But their legacy lives on, not least through The Stone Roses.
“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t think I’d still be talking about it 20 years later!” laughs Leckie. “But that’s because of people loving them – and it’s the songs and music magazines voting it the best record of all time. That’s what’s kept it alive.”