A keyboardist from Oldham with an exquisite bowl-cut was the unlikely focal point of the absurdly but brilliantly-named Inspiral Carpets, who enjoyed their biggest hit in 1990 as the British Knights-wearing troubadours rode the crest of the Madchester wave.
This is How it Feels became an ear-worm for the disaffected youth of Thatcherite Britain, and the Inspirals’ bleak, three-minute signature tune is synonymous with a musical and cultural movement that was spearheaded by baggy Mancunians, The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.
The man responsible for the Inspirals’ distinctive keys – Clint Boon – spoke to A Celtic State of Mind back in 2018 about his song’s alluring appeal, and he also described his pleasure at hearing terrace adaptations of This is How it Feels being bellowed out at Old Trafford and Celtic Park nearly 30 years after its inception.
The chant of, “This is How it Feels to be Celtic,” will forever be associated with an invincible treble-winning season that was masterminded by a coach of supreme self-confidence. Buoyed by an unbeatable mentality – one instilled by their apparently flawless leader – Hoops’ fans themselves were cocksure enough to proclaim in song that, “Brendan Rodgers is here for ten-in-a-row…”
But history will tell us that, with his self-confidence morphing into something resembling narcissism, the Northern Irishman wasn’t even at Celtic Park for the eighth successive title celebrations; his seat in the dugout being filled by the familiar face of his countryman, Neil Lennon.
With a new era will come a new songbook. Former live favourites paying homage to the afore-referenced Rodgers, as well as ditties for two of his invincible stalwarts, Kieran Tierney and Stuart Armstrong, have all been retired from the matchday repertoire.
The creativity among Celtic fans is something that never ceases to amaze, however, and their decision to return to the late eighties Madchester scene for their latest anthem is coming up smelling of roses.
Clint Boon had been a pre-Inspirals band-mate of Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield in such groups as The Hungry Socks and The Mill, and it is Boon who is credited with tipping Mani off when he discovered that promising local four-piece, The Stone Roses, were looking for a new bassist back in 1987.
Mani promptly auditioned for the Roses and soon completed the epoch-defining lineup alongside Ian Brown, John Squire and Alan ‘Reni’ Wren.
The band went on to develop an affinity with Glasgow, and first visited the city for a gig at the Rooftops venue on 22 June 1989. This show (the band’s third Scottish date; the previous two being at The Venue in Edinburgh) was part of the tour to promote their newly-released eponymous debut album, which was only six weeks old and already building the kind of momentum that would see them heralded as the greatest band of their generation. By the end of the year, they had sold out Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom and London’s Alexandra Palace (which also set the scene for ACSOM’s Best Podcast award win 29 years later, incidentally).
The meteoric rise of the Roses continued into the nineties with their ‘Sunset Sunday’ Spike Island gathering coming two weeks before their final live appearance in five years when 8,000 clone roses – wearing bucket hats, flared jeans and lemon or Pollocked t-shirts – crammed into a big tent on Glasgow Green.
Mani, who would much later be seen supporting the Hoops at Celtic Park, remarked of the legendary Glasgow Green gig, “We all just looked at each other at the same time and went up another level.”
As the band entered Glasgow’s big top for what many aficionados regard as their finest live performance, the opening track was the monumental I Wanna Be Adored, a song described by Roses expert Paul McAuley as having parallels with A Certain Ratio’s Felch, whilst also drawing inspiration from Joy Division’s Shadowplay.
“In an anticipatory deep-earth rumble, we sense the lone pull of a steam train,” says McAuley of the Adored intro. “A disembodied bass line emerges through a thick, parting musical fog of digitally echoed winding guitars, subdued feedback and industrial sounds. With Squire’s guitar riff masterfully snaking out of the speakers, Brown’s hushed ominous vocal transpires, employing an assured lyrical brevity and delivered in hypnotic reprise. The industrial sounds at the beginning (provided by a keyboard sampler) have been compared by (LP producer) John Leckie to a train arriving at its destination.”
The Roses’ debut LP was loaded with biblical references, which is a subject forensically explored by McAuley on his longstanding and encyclopaedic This is the Daybreak site. McAuley points out that the first album, “bookends the First Coming of Christ, opening with ‘Adoration’ (‘O Come Let Us Adore Him…’, the Adoration of the Magi), and closing with Resurrection… I propose that Ian Brown’s misty invocation has connection with the three temptations of Jesus by Satan in the desert… The narrator of the song rejects any notion of selling his soul, pointing to a greater authoritative power invested within him by the Father (“He’s already in me”), which will crush the head of Satan. Jesus would have been ‘selling his soul’ to the devil had he given in to any of the three temptations.”
The significance of Celtic fans’ decision to choose the classic opener from the Roses’ seminal debut album to serenade their French protégé, Odsonne Édouard, is probably lost on many casual observers. As well as having a strong biblical influence, The Stone Roses were also fascinated by the 1968 Paris riots.
“Ian had met this French man when he was hitching around Europe,” guitarist John Squire recalled when speaking to Q magazine in 2001. “This bloke had been in the riots, and he told Ian how lemons had been used as an antidote to tear gas. Then there was the documentary – a great shot at the start of a guy throwing stones at the police. I really liked his attitude.”
The documentary that Squire referred to – Revolution Revisited – was screened by Channel 4 in the spring of 1988. This film, broadcast 20 years after the Paris riots, inspired Squire and Brown to write Bye Bye Badman for the debut album, as McAuley explained, “Opening with Squire’s chugging guitar riff slowly moving across the soundstage from one side to another and back, Bye Bye Badman is written from the perspective of the students of the May 1968 Paris riots (“I’m throwing stones at you man”), who realised that sucking on lemons negated the effects of the police CS Gas.”
The cover of the Roses’ breakthrough LP was adorned with a Jackson Pollock-inspired painting, also called Bye Bye Badman, by the multi-talented John Squire. The green, white and black paint splashes were stylishly complemented by lemons and the French tricolour to complete a permanent statement of a subject that had so intrigued the band during the creation of the album.
“Suck ’em, your eyes don’t water from CS gas, it’s true!” – Ian Brown throwing lemons to the crowd at Blackpool in August 1989.
The Roses followed up their landmark debut with the nonchalant funk of Fools Gold, which studied the theme of greed, and was inspired by the 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, starring Humphrey Bogart.
“When the piles of gold begin to grow… that’s when the trouble starts,” contemplated gold prospector, Howard, as he warned of the corruptive influence of riches. A cautionary tale for Peter Lawwell, perhaps?
Often described as ‘ambition’ in modern-day football, these riches of the promised land of the EPL and other lucrative destinations have cost Celtic some truly exceptional talents over the years. The recent departure of Kieran Tierney to Arsenal signalled Celtic’s intentions to anyone who didn’t already realise them – that the club will sell anyone if the price is right.
30 years after I Wanna Be Adored announced the arrival of one of the most celebrated debut albums of all time, Celtic supporters have reworked it to pay tribute to record signing, Odsonne Édouard.
A footballer of genuinely supreme talent, and no doubt ambition, the Frenchman will surely go the same way as his compatriot and ex-team mate, Moussa Dembele, should those in charge of the Celtic purse-strings continue to underinvest on the field of play.
“I’m standing alone
You’re weighing the gold
I’m watching you sinking…” Fools Gold (1990)
Paul John Dykes
For more Stone Roses analysis, visit This is the Daybreak.Listen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast