Six years after they imploded in a mess of drugs, debts and near-death experiences, the are back in town. Musician,

journalist and author

championed the

band right from the start and, as they prepare to step -on into the live arena again,

hetalks to‘Shaun Ryder and Bez about why the Mondays Still matter. Words: John Robb Bez photograph: Peter Walsh


IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE IT'S A DECADE since the Madchester thing took the world in a surge of loose clobber, street swagger, wild drugs and great pop. It was the most important burst of rock 'n’ roll action since the punk days, and set the blueprint for 905 UK guitar action. Its echoes still resound

. to this very day. And what better

tenth birthday present for the baggy Madchester party than the ultimate freaky party band reforming.

The Happy Mondays are back out on the_circuit and selling more tickets than they have ever done before. These arena dates are a far bigger deal than the celebrated G-Mex shows of yore. The 9000 tickets for their first Glasgow date sold out in a day, prompting the addition of a second night; they sold out the massive Manchester Evening News Arena in an hour. In 1999, the Happy Mondays are big bucks, and it's a combination of nostalgia, reputation and great rock 'n' roll that’s putting those fatter bums on the seats.

In the late 805 and the early 905, the Happy Mondays were putting a raw street funk.into the charts. They were also a consummate pop group, knocking out classic singles with ease. They played gigs that were euphoric parties or neat excuses to get completely caned to a great soundtrack.

They were brutally honest about everything including their drug use and rock ’n' roll lifestyle. These were

no mere dilettantes, but a full-on freaky dancing crew. The Mondays were raw people and that made their gatecrashing of the pop party all the more welcome.

The question now is whether their. revival will be one of the more successful ones, like New Order's current dignified comeback, or the kind of grave-robbing reputation nosedive suffered by The Velvet Underground when they reformed in 1992.

Shaun Ryder, for one, has pretty clear motives for getting the old gang

{back together. ’It was the fucking tax

bill. It was the taxman that made me do it. I never wanted to do it. I just needed the money to fill a hole,’ he intones in a rough, ragged voice. ‘But, as we started playing the stuff, I really got into it. At first I was looking forward to the last gig, getting it over and done with, but then I started to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to playing all the shows now.’

His partner in crime, Bez, nearly didn't make the reunion. ’I wasn't sure about it at first, I was not having it,’ Bez says. 'I didn't want to spoil the myth, leave it as it is. I didn’t want it to be pure cabaret. But, when we started rehearsing, it sounded good and we have some new stuff to play like the single and different mixes of the classic songs.’

Going back on the road without Bez is unthinkable. For sure its Shaun’s band and he calls the shots,



'This comeback could have been cabaret bollocks or hard as fuck - and it's ended up hard as fuck!

Shaun Ryder


but, without the crazed, skeletal, scarecrow dancer, the band is meaningless. For many clueless pundits, Bez may have been a joke figure. People wondered just what he did. They didn’t-realise that his dancing was the focal point of the band, providing the only visual on stage. Bez‘s wild shapes were the cue I for a whole pop nation to dance like wild-eyed maniacs. His on-stage relationship with Shaun was like the best ever buddy movie, the pair of them cutting some great photo action. In pop, charisma is all and Bez had it. Not that he could give a fuck: ’My motto is “do as little as possible". It's what I live by! I’m hyped up for these gigs, though, I’m driving everyone mad!’.

Contrary to public opinion, Bez hasn’t been sat on his settee getting stoned. He’s written a book, done TV, recorded a dub record with ex-Clash man and good mate Joe Strummer (’It’ll be out when Joe gets some money') and he’s been in training.

’l've been boxing, snowboarding. and I play football every week. I'm the oldest one there,’ he laughs. ’I turn up at the‘five-a-side pitches and I’m ten years older than everyone else. I’ll tell ya what, though, I'm well fit for these gigs!‘

Ryder is in it for the money and Bez is looking for the buzz. It’s that brutal honesty that makes people dig the Mondays and made Ryder the

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IS ‘29 Apr 1999 THE “ST 105