The first Stone Roses album is routinely regarded as one of the finest ever made, straddling the line between psychotropic ’60s music and the beat-driven dance tunes engulfing Manchester at the time. Key to the band’s success in breaking through to the mainstream was the sunny love song ‘She Bangs The Drums’.
On this almost perfect pop record, the guitar jangles and dances around a loose-but-tight drum groove that drives the verses towards a truly triumphant chorus. “Have you seen her, have you heard” – you know the one. It sounds like falling in love, like taking drugs, like sunshine and citrus. It sounds equally at home being blasted out of a sweaty nightclub at 3am as it does being strummed in a field. It’s an anthem.
Things could have been quite different. The demo version is way more subdued, with only a kick drum driving the rhythm, while a beautifully played guitar line weaves throughout. All the same elements are in play, but without those boisterous drums the entire thing seems limp. It’s still a remarkably pretty song: both the vocal melody and guitar parts ensure this, but even when the drums kick in during a post-chorus bridge they don’t have an effect anywhere near transcendence.
It’s an interesting distinction, because aside from the drums, there is very little that has changed between the recording of this demo and the final version. It showcases the power of a good groove, as supplied by the band’s insanely talented drummer Reni.
An even earlier acoustic demo, with only Ian Brown’s rather sweet vocals and a palm-muted guitar in the verses, contains a completely different chorus, with Brown singing, “She builds me up with all I need / She gives me hope, she gives me speed.” This version is charming, sounding like a lost Simon & Garfunkel recording (although Simon can obviously pitch a bit better than Brown), but the song wouldn’t have made a dent in 1989 in either form.
“Kiss me where the sun don’t shine / The past was yours but the future’s mine” sounds less like an intergenerational kiss-off when it is cooed over chirping guitars. ‘She Bangs The Drums’ was The Stone Roses’ first top 40 hit in the UK, charting in July of 1989. By November they had recorded and released the grammar-less ‘Fools Gold’, which relied almost entirely on a drum groove and a bass pattern. It was their first top ten hit, and remains the band’s most famous track.
Subsequent recordings took this formula further, being built from the drums up, but with ‘She Bangs The Drums’ they cracked the perfect blend. ■