How Rough Trade Lost The Stone Roses
In the Geoff Travis’ small West London office hangs a framed artwork rough for a single, RT 215. The catalogue number has an entry in the Rough Trade discography but the artist and title information are blank. (RT215 CD was later used as a CD single for a Smiths live single). Although a rough, the artwork has the distinctive swirls and markings of its creator John Squire. RT 215 was the number Travis had assigned for Elephant Stone by The Stone Roses, a band he thought he had signed in 1988 and was sure would be one of the great Rough Trade guitar groups. Sadly it was not to be.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the interviews I conducted with Geoff Travis for HSIN? in which he explains how The Stone Roses fell though his fingertips. I didn’t include much on the band in HSIN? as their story doesn’t really involve a relationship with any of the labels in the book, although the band crossed paths with many of the characters in the narrative. Tony Wilson always took great delight in saying he was never interested in the band. He did though book them onto The Other Side of Midnight where Jeff Barrett watched them while standing behind a cameraman.
“The Stone Roses are one of the great tragedies of the Rough Trade story. We really, really, were on the verge of signing the Stone Roses. It was down to Lindsay Reid (the ex-wife of Tony Wilson). Lindsay called us up – ‘I’m co-managing this band, and you’ve got to come and see them’. We knew Lindsay and that was an unusual call for her to make so we went to see them in Manchester at the international Two and they were just unbelievable. And we talked to them and they came down on the train from Manchester and we had a meeting with them. We spent two hours with them in the pub talking about music. As far as we were concerned and they were concerned in our minds we’d signed them. When they got on the train back to Manchester they had a deal with Rough Trade
Then three things happened. One was their other manager Gareth Evans and he had his own agenda and secondly, because Rough Trade Distribution was falling apart it was a period of tension between the record label and distribution. And the lawyer for the Rough Trade label and Distribution was the same person and he just did not get it organised to send the contract.
And then the third thing that happened was that they wanted Peter Hook to produce them and we said ‘fine’. We paid for Elephant Stone and Peter, God bless him, did a pretty poor job and it needed a total remix. It was remixed down at Zomba Studios in Willesden, and if that hadn’t happened they wouldn’t have needed a remix in Zomba and the engineer in Zomba wouldn’t have alerted his bosses that an amazing group had just walked in, and they would have signed to Rough Trade.
Without being too arrogant it would have been better for them to be on Rough Trade and they wouldn’t have had to go through all they went to on Zomba, but on the other hand Rough Trade was going through a terrible period and had to sell the label’s assets. It is absolutely one of my biggest regrets.
They are the great band that got away and these things haunt you but you can’t be too greedy.”
Having signed to Zomba Gareth Evans took over the management of the band completely. Zomba had asked Andrew Lauder and his partner Judith Riley to run an imprint for them that Lauder called Silvertone. Silvertone's office was a Portakabin adjacent to the Zomba building and it was from here that Lauder and Riley ran The Stone Roses career while on Silvertone
Lauder & Riley told me some very funny stories about The Stone Roses and especially Gareth Evans that I’ll post soon, subject to the beak.