Music / Happy Mondays
From L-to-R: Mark Day, Gary Whelan, Shaun Ryder, Paul Davis, Bez, Paul Ryder
I saw the Happy Mondays on TV, and they reminded me of The Beatles
in their "Strawberry Fields" phase.
Happy Mondays is an Alternative/Indie Rock band from Salford, Greater Manchester, England. They were one of the most popular bands in the late 80s, early 90s, and one of the flagship bands of Factory Records
. They are now considered the Trope Maker
of the Madchester scene, by sucessfully mixing House music with an Indie Rock sound.
Formed in 1980 the band's original line-up was Shaun Ryder on lead vocals, his brother Paul Ryder on bass, lead guitarist Mark Day, keyboardist Paul Davis, and drummer Gary Whelan. Later on Shaun's friend Mark "Bez" Berry joined them during a live performance, by serving as a dancer and percussionist. In the early 1990s Rowetta Satchell joined the band to provide backing vocals and also dancing.
They were signed by Factory after coming last in a "battle of the bands" contest held at the Hacienda nightclub and released an EP in 1985. The significance of their band name is so far unknown; a popular rumour was that it referred to how the unemployed residents of Manchester received their benefits on Monday.
By 1987 they were already gathering a strong reputation for their live performances, which had "Bez" doing his freaky dance (there's even one of their songs called "Freaky Dancin' ") and Shaun singing while holding a lyric sheet. In the same year, they released their debut album Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)
, produced by John Cale
But it was in 1988 that they started to hit big time. They released their second album Bummed
, produced by Martin Hannett. At the same time they released from the album the single "Wrote For Luck", which would later on be remixed famously by Paul Oakenfold and Vince Clarke (the latter known as former member of Depeche Mode
, the former as one of the DJ's who started to bring House music to the UK via Ibiza). By this point, they achieved their particular sound, by mixing, besides Indie Rock and House, genres and styles such as Funk
, Northern Soul and Psychedelic Rock
, as well as using Latin-style rhythms and Country music twangs. Compared to the more traditionalist songwriting and heavy psychedelia of their counterparts The Stone Roses
, the Happy Mondays sound was more technologically modern, based on Sampling
, and dancefloor-friendly.
However, it was only through the release of the Madchester EP
, that the Mondays finally got into Top of the Pops
. They played alongside The Stone Roses
, who also got into the national charts through the "Fools Gold" single, transforming what was mainly a regional scene into a full-blown national craze which also got the nickname "Baggy" (largely due to the baggy clothes worn by both bands, though the label "baggy" was applied to the Mondays and similar bands that emphasised the funky elements of their sound, as opposed to the more psychedelic Madchester popularised by the Roses), at the same time that Rave culture, fueled by Acid House and Techno, started to cause interest among the nation in the so-called "Second Summer of Love".
After these aforementioned sucesses, the band went to Eden Studios in London and recorded their next album, with Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne as producers. Their third album, Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches
, continued the House/Rock fusion, but added Hip-Hop style beats to the mix. Among their big hits are two tracks from the album, one being "Kinky Afro", the other being a cover of John Kongos' "Step On".
Their success brought them to playing in a lot of countries, including France, Iceland and Brazil, where they played at the Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro. They also had triumphant gigs at festivals like Glastonbury.
The recording of the follow-up, Yes Please!
, however, was a disaster (check Development Hell
below), to the point that, at the time of release, it got mixed reviews (one of the more famous pans read simply "No thanks."), got poor album sales (at least compared to their previous album, and in the rise of Grunge music in the music mainstream) and famously caused Factory Records to go bankrupt. The band broke up soon afterwards.
Shaun Ryder then kicked his drug addictions and formed Black Grape in 1993 with Bez and two rappers, a drummer and a guitarist, achieving a relative success: their first album It's Great to Be Straight... Yeah
(1995) went to #1 in the UK and spawned a few hits, but their second album Stupid Stupid Stupid
They were later portrayed/parodied in 24 Hour Party People
, the movie about the story of Factory Records, which included a cameo of bassist Paul Ryder as a gangster. The title of the movie comes from the single and debut album track of the same name.
They reformed from time to time, albeit without the full original line-up, releasing a fifth album, called Uncle Dysfunktional
. In 2012, Shaun announced a third reunion, but this time including the original line-up plus Bez and Rowetta.
- Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) (1987)
- Bummed (1988)
- Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches (1990)
- Yes Please! (1992)
- Uncle Dysfunktional (2007)
- Live (1991)
- Step On - Live In Barcelona (2005)
- Forty Five EP (1985)
- "Tart Tart" (single) (1987)
- "24 Hour Party People" (single) (1987)
- "Wrote For Luck" (single) (1988) (the remix single, known as W.F.L., was released a year later)
- Madchester EP (1989)
- "Step On" (single) (1990)
- "Kinky Afro" (single) (1990)
- "Judge Fudge" (single) (1991)
- "Stinkin' Thinkin'" (single) (1992)
- "The Boys Are Back In Town" (single) (1999) (cover of a Thin Lizzy song)
- "Playground Superstar" (2005) (single) (from the Goal! soundtrack)
- Double Easy - The US Singles (1993)
- Loads (1995)
- Greatest Hits (1999)
- The Platinum Collection (2005)
Tropes Used by the Band
- 24-Hour Party People: The title of one of their most famous songs. Trope Namer
- Album Title Drop: Except for the "Squirrel And G-Man" part, Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) gets its title from the chorus of "24 Hour Party People". However, "24 Hour Party People" itself wasn't on the original version of the album - it was only added to the track-list to replace the song "Desmond" (see Missing Episode).
- Anti-Police Song: "God's Cop" is a personal attack on James Anderton, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester at the time the song was recorded and a notorious right-wing nutter and religious fanatic.
- Breakup Breakout
- Brutal Honesty: The opening lines of "Kinky Afro".
Son, I'm thirty
I only went with your mother 'cos she's dirty
- Cover Version: The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", Debbie Harry's "Rush Rush", John Kongos' "Step On" and "Tokoloshe Man" and Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town".
- And while not strictly covers, Shaun Ryder frequently referenced parts of other famous songs, like the "Lady Marmalade" chorus in "Kinky Afro" or the quote from "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" in "Holiday", or the lyrics of "Donovan" being borrowed and twisted from Donovan's "Sunshine Superman".
- Intercourse with You: "Bob's Yer Uncle".
- Lyrical Dissonance: They were masters of this trope. For example, lyrics dealing with STD's ("Tart Tart"), Manchester's crazy Chief Constable who claimed he talked directly to God ("God's Cop"), blowjobs ("Kuff Dam"), being busted for dope smuggling ("Holiday") and most notably, Parental Abandonment ("Kinky Afro"). All over danceable rhythms.
- Shawn also enjoyed quoting famous other songs but twisting them into something considerably more dissonant. For example, "Kinky Afro"'s chorus borrows from Labelle's "Lady Marmalade", except Shawn then sings I had to crucify somebody today, and "Donovan" twists the verse of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" into Sunshine shone brightly, through my asshole today. Even when not quoting from other songs, Shawn's general Cloudcuckoolander lyrics had a way of causing WTFing among listeners: "Holiday"'s contrast between upbeat music and lyrics about being arrested by customs for smuggling drugs isn't helped by Shawn barking "Lemme look up your arse, you!" at the end of one verse.
- The Load: Bez. His entire contribution to the band was tambourine and "freaky dancing".
- Though some people think that such contribution was fundamental, both in terms of band chemistry and in order to show the crowds how to dance to their music.
- Loudness War: A possible Ur-Example comes from the album Bummed. Producer Martin Hannett basically put a lot of echo and reverb in the drum sound, which gave the album a good amount of power and volume. Justified, in the sense that it probably reflected and was made for clubs.
- New Sound Album: Bummed.
- Oop North
- Parental Abandonment: "Kinky Afro". Unlike most examples of said trope in popular culture, Ryder sings it in-character, and in a rather defiant and non-apologetic way:
Son, I'm 30
I only went with your mother 'cause she's dirty
And I don't have a decent bone in me
What you get is just what you see yeah
- Pun-Based Title: The album Uncle Dysfunktional. From that album, there's "Anti Warhole On The Dancefloor".
- Record Producer: Their debut album was produced by John Cale, Bummed by Martin Hannett, Pills 'n' Thrills by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne, and Yes Please! by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz (the Creator Couple of Tom Tom Club).
- Sampling: Quite a lot of it.
- The beat of "God's Cop" is sampled from Banbarra's "Shack Up".
- "Step On", despite already being a cover, samples part of the guitar riff of the original "He's Gonna Step On You Again".
- The "Think About the Future" remix of "W.F.L." samples a beat from N.W.A.'s "Express Yourself (Extended Mix)" and the "Think about the future!" vocal from Prince's "The Future".
- "Donovan" is named because its vocal melody is taken from Donovan's "Sunshine Superman".
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: They were infamous for this. In fact, their behavior is believed to be partially responsible for Factory Records going bankrupt.
- Shout-Out: Marlene Dietrich's most famous line of Shanghai Express is quoted in "Angel" ("It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily").
- Singer Namedrop: From "Hallelujah":
Shaun William Ryder
Will lie down beside ya
Fill ya full of junk.
- Singing Simlish: Sort of. Ryder's deep Manc accent makes it hard to understand the lyrics at times, making it sound like he's doing this.
- Spiritual Successor: Shaun and Bez's next band Black Grape. They pursued the sound of Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches, focusing more on its Hip-Hop style elements, abandoning the House music elements.
- Take That!: "God's Cop" is directed at the controversial then-Chief Constable of Greater Manchester James Anderton, who became known as "God's copper" since he claimed to speak with God. (Anderton was a regular punching bag for Manchester bands thanks to his fundy craziness, which most notoriously included referring to gay people with AIDS as "drowning in a cesspit of their own making" and trying to get the city's best-known alternative publisher shut down for obscenity. The Fall also took shots at him in "Hit the North", and The KLF defaced a poster of him and used that as the cover for the "What Time Is Love?" single.)
- "Step On" was originally written by Christos Demetriou as a protest against the apartheid regime in South Africa, where he lived at the time. (John Kongos himself was South African.)
- The Something Song: "Country Song".
- Title-Only Chorus: "Hallelujah".
- Word Salad Lyrics: This didn't stop Tony Wilson from once praising Shaun Ryder as "the greatest poet since Yeats". (Presumably, he wasn't serious.)