Saturday night was huge. It was the Stone Roses at the Etihad. It was Manchester. It was the big Stich night out. And the Roses absolutely smashed it.
Tens of thousands of people were taken back 25 years, not just by the music, not just by that euphoric guitar sound or the inimitable voice of Ian Brown, but by the imagery. The imagery was everywhere: on huge forty-foot screens behind the band, imprinting on my retinas like a flashback; on t-shirts and posters and billboards and banners and flags.
I was taken right back to my bedroom as a kid. Listening to that first record on repeat, examining the lyrics and poring over the artwork. The guitarist, John Squire, did all the Roses’ artwork, and I soon developed an obsession with his stuff — reading my way into the stories behind it all.
In May 1968 a small group of Parisian students met to protest against government interference at the universities. They were met with police brutality. Within three days this small group had escalated to 20,000 students and teachers marching hand in hand. They were once again attacked by police batons and chased through the streets.
The protests soon became a nationwide youth movement. A protest against old-fashioned politics, a lack of social mobility and a lack of equality across French society. The Workers’ Unions joined and called the largest general strike in French history. Within days there were 11 million workers on strike, occupying factories and bringing the economy to a standstill. The workers and the students were fighting alongside one another, against a brutal police force, for a better society. They stood so strong that President Charles de Gaulle fled the country in fear. The riots changed French politics forever.
In May 1988 Channel 4 put on a series of documentaries about the Paris Riots. John Squire, an unknown guitarist in an unknown band, saw these documentaries and became obsessed with the story — the youth-driven passion of it, which he felt now. He had found a story to relate to, but how did he tell it?
Then his best mate, Ian Brown, told him about a Frenchman he met while backpacking around Europe. The guy had participated in the 68 riots. He had told Brown about the feeling of potential in the air. About the brutality of the police baton when it caught you between the shoulder-blades. About the teargas burning your throat as you gasped for oxygen. About the lemons, the lemons that the students would pass about and suck on to counter the effects of CS gas.
That was it. That was the image. The lemons. It encapsulated the solidarity and the youth-driven passion in a simple, original and effective way. The simple image of a yellow lemon. He used it for the debut album cover, along with the French Tricolours, on top of a Jackson Pollock inspired backdrop.
That lemon was a symbol of hope and revolution and youth.
It was a symbol of those things in 1968 and Squire made it a symbol of the same things again in 1989. It was a symbol that resonated through the 90s Manchester scene and the Britpop movement. And it still resonates now. It definitely still resonated on Saturday night.
John Squire created the image. But first he had to find the story.
That’s what we love to do at Stich. Help people find their story — and tell it in a way that sticks.