Happy days: The story behind the Shaun Ryder myth with Peter Mann
They’ve enjoyed cult success. . . Having emerged from the Madchester scene in the 80s, the Happy Mondays haven’t looked back. Peter Mann finds out more from frontman Shaun Ryder and bandmate Bez ahead of appearances at The Apex and in Cambridge
Shaun Ryder and his own ‘24-Hour Party People’, Britain’s famed Happy Mondays, will tour this autumn and in some style, dropping in on Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge along the way.
Ryder is doing a series of ‘An Evening With’ events across the UK and will be at The Apex on November 6, whilst the Mondays will be bouncing around a Greatest Hits tour, running from October 24 through to December 20 and turning up in Cambridge on November 2.
They’ve always found the time to just do what they do best, and love every second of it, as do their adoring and ever-increasing fan-base after swanning their way onto the music scene in the late eighties and making it their own.
Picture: Elspeth Moore
Madchester’s finest, consisting of Shaun Ryder (vocals), Mark ‘Bez’ Berry (dancer/percussionist), Rowetta (vocalist), Gary Whelan (drums), Paul Ryder (bass), Mark Day (guitar) with the addition of Dan Broad (keyboard, musical director) who’s been involved over thre last decade, were signed to Tony Wilson’s Factory Records way back when.
“Between me and you, the Mondays on stage
now are better than ever,” explained frontman,
Shaun Ryder about his and the bands progression through time.
“We are adults now and everyone can see the truth.
“We worked out how to be a band.
“We all get to the gig differently and show each other respect; and it doesn’t hurt that the songs
“I’m not an artist and I don’t say I come alive on stage – when I walk on stage I feel naked and I feel like I’m dying.
“I’m not a proper artist; I come alive when I come off stage and I’m with normal people and I can be Shaun.
“I don’t have to be off my nut any more, I’m happy with who I am and I know from doing TV that I can just go and act, play the part.”
The late ’80s saw them become the pioneers of that incredible, Madchester sound, blending their ongoing love of funk, rock, psychedelia and house music with sounds of the UK’s then-emerging rave scene.
Their third album, the 1990 platinum-selling Pills ‘n’ Thrills And Bellyaches, led to the group crossing over into mainstream sound and become icons of Britain’s biggest cultural phenomenon for a generation.
In 2016, nearly a decade after the last of their albums, Uncle Dysfunktional, was released, the Mondays won the Ivor Novello’s Inspiration Award, further cementing their reputation as one of Britain’s most influential and loved bands.
None of which would have happened without fellow Mancunian, Tony Wilson, coming across them; the additions of Bez and Rowetta just added more to the hype – with Bez, there’s nobody else can pull off dancing around stage and shaking maracas, and earn a living from it.
“As a songwriter, my job is to write songs and tell stories from phrases that pop up, like ‘twisting my melon man’, or Bez will say something like ‘I’m proper w******d, I’m having a spam snack’,” explained Shaun.
“I grab these phrases and it’s then a question of how do I turn that into a story? In a song, with each line, I want to send a picture into someone’s head.
“I can see this picture with every line I do and I want the listeners to get the pictures as well from what is a lot of different things that are not connected and make them fit into a story.
“As a co-founder of Factory Records, Wilson, along with Alan Erasmus (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays) was the only person in Manchester who could see the talent in the Mondays.
“Tony thought there was an art in the way the
band ganged together and the way we huddled when we talked.
“He could see the art in all that.
“I could see an art in the way we dressed, how we looked and how we talked to each other, but I would never make a big deal out of that.”
The artistry is still there, the music certainly, but Ryder’s leaving the party nights to Bez and Rowetta.
The band still knows how to have a good time though. “The sex and drugs have gone and now it’s just the rock ‘n’ roll,” states Ryder.
“We are better than ever live and when I listen to the old records – like when we took Bummed out and I listened to the album for the first time since ’88, I said to myself ‘Pat yourself on the back, lad’.”
An Evening with Shaun Ryder, Wednesday, November 6, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Call 01284 758000 or visit theapex.co.uk
The Bez factor
Mark Berry, more commonly known as Bez, the maraca-shaking dancer of the Happy Mondays, has made the ultimate living in the craziest way and, with the bond he and female vocalist Rowetta share, on and off stage, it’s easy to see why.
Brought into the Mondays shortly after Shaun Ryder formed the band, Bez has made that spot on stage his own and let’s be honest, they are just a bunch of friends having the time of their lives, with everybody else.
“We’ve all been friends for a long time really, going back to school days and we’re still friends now which is great,” began Bez.
Picture: Paul Dixon
“I’m really looking forward to touring and getting out there with the Mondays, when I’m not, I do actually miss it.
“Rowetta though, she is the maddest person I know and I really wouldn’t have her any other way, which is why we spend a lot of time together.”
Performing anywhere and everywhere, at home and abroad, has certainly endeared their style of music, and on-stage performance, to the masses. . . the Mondays are loved across the globe with a fan base that increases with each outing.
Emerging from that Madchester scene in the eighties, the band has been successful, without being THAT successful, says Bez. “That Madchester scene is incredible and the creativity it has is what gives it that; it’s great to live, and be a part of it and long may it continue.
“Although the Mondays have not been a massive success (when compared to others), we’ve become more of a cult success, and been lucky enough to have the following that we have – that’s where we’ve been the most fortunate, with the fans and the record label.
“We’re very lucky to have done all we have and are very grateful to be doing something that we really love doing, and a highlight was certainly performing in front of 98,000 people (at the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the early nineties); that’s one of the best five days I’ve ever had.”
The Happy Mondays Greatest Hits, Saturday, November 2, Cambridge Corn Exchange. Visit cambridgelive.org.uk/cornex
More by this authorPeter Mann