, most famous for his work with The Stone Roses
John Squire was born on the 28th of November, 1962, and grew up in the city of Manchester. It was here that he met Ian Brown (they lived on the same street), who would later become the singer in The Stone Roses, and the McCartney to Squire's Lennon. For once, that particular analogy is actually justified.
Although he picked up his first guitar aged 15, Squire also had a strong interest in modern art when he was young, and went to study animation at South Trafford College. He even worked for a while on the Dangermouse and The Wind in the Willows animated TV series. However, by 1982 he had decided that it was music he wanted to focus on, and formed his first band The Waterfront. After a few changes in the line-up, and convincing school friend Brown to join as the singer, the band became The Stone Roses. They began earnestly recording the music that would be the foundation of the Madchester scene.
Squire’s guitar played a pivotal role in the early Stone Roses sound. He used it to lay down a funky, repetitive backing, and this is one of the reasons why the early Roses material so successfully bridged the gap between rock and dance music. Of course, there are plenty of guitar solo’s in this work, but the emphasis is firmly on the bass line, and so virtuoso guitar performances are kept to a minimum.
The Stone Roses quickly became the biggest band in Britain, and Squire and the rest of the band were placed in the media spotlight, forced to be the mouthpiece of the Madchester scene. It was at this point that Squire began taking cocaine, probably due to the pressures of the band. Already the close relationship between Squire and Brown was becoming strained, and it was apparent that they were moving in different musical directions. It was five and a half years until the second Roses album, The Second Coming, was released, and most of that time was spent in the studio, under tremendous pressure to produce the definitive album. Tension became a part of everyday life during the recording, with band members frequently threatening to quit, and Brown and Squire rapidly approaching all out hatred of each other. Ian Brown has commented that when he walked into the studio during this time, and looked at John, he could no longer see the soul behind his eyes, and only saw the cocaine.
Indeed, cocaine was a fundamentally un-Stone Roses kind of drug. Brown himself was no stranger to narcotics, but preferred the effects of marijuana and ecstasy, which he believed resulted in a more soulful experience. The early Roses music was all about a groove, and the togetherness of dancing to that groove. Squire was becoming dangerously self-absorbed.
The result of these tensions, The Second Coming, was finally released in 1994, and is probably the best work Squire ever did. The album is much more focussed on the guitar sound than the previous one, but still manages to have a laid-back rhythm section. Blazing ‘rock’ solo’s are mixed with acoustic drum tracks, and the album represents the best of the Brown/Squire rivalry. That said, most of the album is entirely the work of Squire (nine of the twelve tracks were written by him).
The Second Coming was met with mixed reviews. There were many (myself included) who believed it to be the peak of Squire’s creativity, and considered it to be a work of genius, at least as far as the guitar playing was concerned. Others, and they were probably in the majority, considered it the over-produced and bloated result of a self-obsessed cocaine addict. Either way, shortly after the release of the album, Squire left the band, and shortly after that, the Roses split up. Although official statements suggested some kind of mutual arrangement, it appeared that the root cause of the split was the growing differences between Brown and Squire.
Since then, Ian Brown has gone on to have a very successful solo career. His solo work is much closer to the early funk and groove-based sound of the Stone Roses. Incidentally, his lyrics and interviews are also peppered with anti-cocaine comments, and it has been suggested that Squire is the subject of many of Brown’s new songs.
John Squire went on to form The Seahorses, and released Do It Yourself in 1997. By this point, Squire seemed to be completely uninterested in the opinions of others on his music. Rumour has it that he chose the singer (Chris Helme) for the new band after he saw him busking in Brighton, and thought ‘he’ll do’. The Seahorses album was actually a fairly bland affair, and although the single Love is the Law did well, the rest of the album faded into obscurity. John split-up the band, again, and nothing has been heard from him since. There’s talk of a comeback, with a new band, but for now he’s keeping a low profile.
Along with the theories suggesting Browns lyrics are full of anti-Squire references, it has also been suggested that ‘The Seahorses’ got their name from Squire’s hatred of his former band, since ‘The Seahorses’ is an anagram of ‘He hates roses’. It is also, however, an anagram of ‘He eats horses’, and probably countless other combinations as well. The truth (as told by Squire himself) is that he hit his head on a pub sign, for the Seahorses pub, and decided it would be a good name for the band.
As well as playing the guitar, Squire is a keen artist, and is responsible for all the artwork on the Stone Roses albums. The artwork usually takes the form of some kind of collage, with painting and found objects interspersed, often with pop culture iconography thrown in as well. This style can be seen on the cover of The Second Coming, and also in the decorated surfboard he made to be auctioned for the Warchild charity.
http://www.eeggs.com, http://www.allmusicguide.com, the NME