Seminal British band The Stone Roses released their self titled debut album in 1989. The cover features artwork by band member John Squire, who was largely responsible for the bandâ€™s visual identity.
Squire is an accomplished visual artist who at the time was heavily influenced by Jackson Pollock.
The painting featured on the cover of The Stone Roses is titled Bye Bye Badman, as is one of the songs on the record. Both the song and the painting are about the May 1968 riots in Paris, which explains why the tri-colours of the French flag are featured on the cover.
“Ian (songwriting partner Ian Brown) had met this French man when he was hitching around Europe, this bloke had been in the riots, and he told Ian how lemons had been used as an antidote to tear gasâ€ Squire told Q magazine. â€œThen there was the documentary – a great shot at the start of a guy throwing stones at the police. I really liked his attitude.”
The riots were the largest general strike to stop an advanced industrial country and itâ€™s amazing how quickly their impact have faded from the public consciousness. Less than 50 years after revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy in Russia, students and workers looked for a moment as though they might overthrow the de Gaulle government. It was a revolt against the modern consumer society, with a utopian left-wing fervour that was as critical of Stalin as it was of capitalism.
Itâ€™s hard to imagine such a popular wave of discontent and civil disobedience today, which is probably why The Stone Roses sought to evoke the fury and defiance of that fleeting period. The rioters were not louts or thugs, rather Parisian students that found a poetry amid the aggression. As they ripped up paving stones to throw at police, they saw sand underneath, giving birth to a memorable chant that translates as: “Under The Paving Stones – The Beach”. Youâ€™ve got to hand it to French people.
The song Bye Bye Badman features incendiary lyrics.
I’m gonna make you bleed
Gonna bring you down to your knees
Bye bye badman
Ooh bye bye
Choke me smoke the air
In this citrus sucking sunshine
I don’t care you’re not all there
Ian Brown explained: “Imagine a protester singing in a policeman’s face during the Paris riots. Then you’ll get some idea what it’s about.” I really like the final verse.
I’ve got bad intention
I intend to knock you down
These stones I throw
Oh these French kisses
Are the only way I’ve found
Itâ€™s amazing how finding out the story and inspiration behind any piece of art or design can suddenly make you love it. When I first saw this I just assumed it was a playful and kind of unattractive pastiche – some lemons casually chucked on a post-modern artwork. Now I can see the way that Squire has once again found some poetry in the chaos and anger. “Under The Paving Stones – The Beach”.