THE STONE ROSES – “Fool’s Gold”

Now here’s a classic, eh readers? “Fool’s Gold” is a seamless genre-smashing marriage of funk, rock and dance, a classic which will live forever as a reminder of when the scene was good and baggy beats ruled the pop charts. Even I couldn’t find anything to criticise about this nine-minute masterpiece, surely!


Let’s examine those claims a little more closely. First of all, funk. Is “Fool’s Gold” a funky record? No. It has the rhythmic drive of a man stirring porridge. John Squire is, you see, not a very funky man: you need only listen to the Seahorses to understand that. (Ian Brown has been called funky, but only by the Goodies. And his cellmates.) How were the funky massive worldwide fooled into believing “Fool’s Gold” to be a cast-iron funksterpiece, then? A hundred thousand ageing baggy boys pitiably trying to recapture their teenage years can’t be wrong!

My suspicion is that the wah-wah led them to this erroneous conclusion. Unimaginatively but usefully named by its accursed inventor, the wah-wah pedal is an implement fitted to a guitar which makes it go “wah wah”. It was used on every record between 1971 and 1975 and then banned by an international treaty, for sounding exactly like the way your ears sound if you put your fingers in and out of them when you’re in a fast car with the window open. I.e. rubbish. John Squire cannily judged, though, that the Pavlovian response to a wah-wah pedal appearing on a record in 1989 would be to declare the record funky despite all rhythmic evidence to the contrary, and so it proved.

Funk is shit anyhow – it’s a genre named after smelling bad, for goodness’ sakes – so what about “Fool’s Gold”‘s claim to be a slice of dance genius? Hmm. It seems to me that the record falls down in one crucial regard here. You can’t dance to it. Now then, hold off on the reply buttons lads, I know perfectly well that the last time you were down the indie disco you moved about for nine minutes to this song in what you felt was a rhythmic fashion. Problem is, that wasn’t dancing, any more than what Mr I. Brown does with his elongated arms is dancing. I’m sure that the shuffly flailing movements you produced as you farted about in your yellowing band t-shirts would be of interest to primate anthropologists and specialists in muscle spasms, but dancing they were not. The Roses were well aware of “Fool’s Gold”‘s danceability problems, but the scam had to continue, which is why they vetoed every remix, for fear that one of the Djs involved had stuck, I don’t know, a beat or something into the song.

Obviously “Fool’s Gold” doesn’t rock either, it just meanders grimly for 540 seconds and then mercifully fades. As band-defining statements go, it’s onto a definite loser (and it’s a song about gold prospecting, a subject whose pop potential was exhausted by 1850). People remember it mostly because of the baffling regard in which they hold the Stone Roses, a bog-standard psych revival band whose idea of musical innovation was doing a song backwards every now and then. It’s worth considering that none of the bands ‘inspired by’ the Roses have sounded remotely like them (Primal Scream sounded a bit like them, but in 1987, and to be less original than Primal Scream is quite the feat). They’ve mostly sounded like the shower of dog-mouthed pub-rock chancers they undoubtedly are…but you see, they had attitude.

Attitude apparently consisted of repeating what a good band you are three times in every interview, like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz saying “There’s no place like home”. Oh, and if you poured paint over your bandmates it would help too, though this aspect of the Roses’ attitude has been low on imitators. Pathetic, really, but a generation of lazy geezers lapped it up – you don’t have to be good at anything as long as you give it a bit of front. And they all formed bands, the fuckers. Cue the 1990s, the grisly low point of five ghastly decades of British rock music, and it was all the Roses’ fault.