even better than the record…

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by Ryan O’Brien

My family (Mum, Dad, Sis, and me ) lived in Manchester before we moved down to Sheffield at age 12 for my Dad’s job and to be nearer to my cousins.   I was fortunate enough to be living there while the “Madchester” scene was really going strong.  As just a child I wasn’t able to attend many shows, but my sister’s record collection was enough for me, even hearing it through the wall of her room I was enthralled with Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Charlatans, and most of all, the Stone Roses.

I can’t exactly pin down why Stone Roses registered with me.  Sometimes you just feel music in a visceral way that gives you goose pimples and shivers down your spine and you realize your life has now changed forever. Whether you’re relating to the lyrics or carried away by the melody, you just feel it deep down in your soul.  “Elephant Stone” was the greatest thing I had ever heard and still never fails to knock me out.

One day I heard my sister Maureen, along with her boyfriend Mark and two of her other friends were going to see The Stone Roses and I begged her to take me with them.  It took a little bit of pleading my case, but she knew how much they meant to me (not least from the number of times I asked to borrow her records) and agreed, on the condition that mum would say yes.

I thought there’s no way she’d let a 10-year-old go to a concert, but to my surprise and delight, my sister pleaded the case for me, saying that it would be a great experience, not for just the music but for being part of a community.  Mum finally gave her blessing and I was soaring on air in anticipation of the show.

Thing was, I was thinking it was a show at a theater, like some of the other shows I had been to.  I still had no clue as piled into her boyfriend’s Vauxhall Corsa where exactly we were headed. 

Finally, my sister chimed in: “Show’s in Widnes. Heading over to Spike Island.”

My first festival headlined by Stone Roses, an experience to be shared with countless thousands.   

I don’t recall many of the other acts on the bill or what they played, as everything was a whirlwind of anticipation as I soaked up the atmosphere (and got soaked by at least one spilled beer whilst I sipped an overpriced Coca-Cola).

When Stone Roses hit the stage, I don’t think I moved.  I recall nearly freezing still and being in awe for the entire set.  I loved the records.  I didn’t know just how much I loved the band.

The crowd was hanging on every word, every note, every little dance move from Ian Brown.  I stared at Reni and his bucket hat as he banged the drums.  John Squire’s Rickenbacker rang out with the most wonderful jangly notes, still the greatest sonic palette in my eyes & ears. Mani’s bass hit me in the middle of the chest and nothing could have felt better.

After only having heard the records through the bedroom wall or on my little Dansette, and now seeing and hearing this band performing at the peak of their powers, I wondered how music could possible get any better.  Maybe it hasn’t, because it didn’t need to.  At least for one night, I felt like I had seen rock and roll perfection.   

I couldn’t thank my sister enough for dragging along her annoying brother.  I think she knew how much it meant to me.  I hope she knows how much she means to me.  We talk on the phone every week, instant message all time.  She’s still the coolest person I’ve ever known and I love her to pieces.

Anyway, as we were riding home, as my ears were ringing and my head singing me the songs over and over, I knew life would never be the same. I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life.  Someday, I thought, I’ll write a song and play a show that will change someone’s life, and inspire them to feel as good as I feel right now.

It’s still a work in progress, but I’m having lovely time trying to get there with The Unswept.  It’s so much fun to make music with my cousins Charlie and Liz, and to have my sister Maureen as our biggest fan.

If you’d like to hear how we’re doing so far, click here to listen to our newest (and best-reviewed) album, Minor Blemishes.

Thank you for supporting our music and making the journey worthwhile.

— Ryan