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The Stone Roses: The Third Coming

Photographer Ian Tilton remembers those halcyon days spent with Ian Brown and his Madchester lads

In conjunction with the The Stone Roses reunion, Kickers has sponsored an exhibition of photography of the band from their 80s heyday. The iconic shoe brand has brought together work by Kevin Cummins, Paul Slattery and Ian Tilton. ‘The Stone Roses: The Third Coming, the definitive Roses exhibition,’ housed in Bayswater's Whitleys until mid-August, collates over 70 images of the band from their Manchester days through their rise to fame and Japan tour. It offers an intimate look at world-famous musicians. Dazed Digital caught up with Tilton ahead of the exhibition to talk about his memories of the Hacienda club, Ian Brown’s ‘monkey face’ and shooting The Stone Roses.

The first shot with John laughing behind him [Ian] was the best shot. It was remarkable, really goofy and quite a surprise. To look a bit daft was really something for a lead singer

Dazed Digital: You’re credited with being the first photographer to capture Ian Brown’s ‘monkey face’ – how did this come about?
Ian Tilton: They came to my studio in Chorlton where we all lived. I'd photographed them previously, and I always wanted to do something different. I was never satisfied with a standard four-piece line up. I set up what I thought would be good lighting, got a few shots in and then said, 'OK lads, let's bring this to life' - Ian pulled this face. The first shot with John laughing behind him was the best shot. It was remarkable, really goofy and quite a surprise. To look a bit daft was really something for a lead singer. 

DD: What was the fashion like at Hacienda?
Ian Tilton: It wasn't until 1987 when Hacienda started to become fashionable that most people made the effort. Before that going to Oxfam and getting second hand gear was trendy. It was amazing seeing new designs start to appear. The look was so important in rock n roll. But what's interesting was the Stone Roses didn't expect to see people wearing the same clothes as them. Ian would wear a striped top that he'd thrown on and at the next gig half the audience was in the same style.

DD: What was it like to shoot with The Stone Roses?
Ian Tilton: They would give monosyllabic answers and generally give the journos a hard time. But, when it came to being photographed they appreciated that I wanted to get something great. I think they saw the creativity behind it and could relate that to the passion they had in their music and performance. They were patient in helping me achieve a great shot. 

The documentaries I did were different, it was more a case of hanging out, and they were extremely trusting. I could just hang out and get whatever I wanted. They gave me carte blanche. Not many bands do that now. Because of our relationship they accepted me because I wasn't a pain in the arse and didn't get in way.

DD: What do you think of their comeback?
Ian Tilton: I have to be honest; I didn't want it to happen. I didn't want them to be bad. A lot of the recent comebacks have been about money with no thought on longevity or doing something new. I saw the Sex Pistols comeback. They played well, but they did it for the money and then cleared off. With the Stone Roses I'm eating my words. 

DD: Kickers have a strong cultural history, which is closely linked to music. What memories do you have of the brand?
Ian Tilton: Kickers were a massive influence on the people around the band and in that scene in general. I had my first pair of Kickers when they were untrendy and considered really unusual looking. It was years later that the Manchester scene started wearing them and I think the reason at the time was the bright acid colours they came in. The red and blue were particularly vibrant. The naïvety of the style mixed with the colours were so perfect for that era, and they were androgynous - people bought into that.

Dazed Digital readers get 10% off the Stone Roses book when using the STONED10 discount code HERE