Happy Mondays were formed in Little Hulton, Salford, in 1984 by
brothers Shaun (22) and Paul Ryder (20). Paul's funky bass playing
was complimented with the guitar work of Mark Day, keyboarding
of Paul Davis and drumming of Gary 'Gaz' Whelan. Shaun added rhyme
and chants in his distinctive Salford accent. They later admitted
to having stolen most of their equipment.
In 1985 they entered Mike Pickering's Battle
Of The Bands at The Haçienda. They came last but Tony
Wilson still signed them up anyway to Factory Records, who released
the debut 'Forty-Five Ep' in September. It failed to chart but
allowed the Salford scallies the opportunity to work in a studio
for the first time.
One of their mates, Mark 'Bez' Berry, the
son of a Police Detective Inspector, was persuaded one night
in The Haçienda by Shaun to get up and dance along on
stage as they performed their set. The crowd loved him and he
remained as a sixth member of the band playing his maracas and
dancing madly. jIt was Bez's mad dancing that inspired the band's
second single in 1986, 'Freaky Dancin''
By 1987, the band had recorded their debut
album, the John Cale produced, 'Squirrel & G-Man Twenty
Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)',
which included the track 'Desmond', a rip-off of The Beatles
'Ob-la-di Ob La-da'. Not happy with a Manchester band copying
their music, The Beatles management threatened to sue Factory,
so the album was withdrawn and re-released six months later
with the single '24 Hour Party People' replacing it. The album
also spawned the single 'Tart Tart' which also failed to chart.
Despite the lack of chart success, the
album received good reviews and a cult following of scallies
and ravers helped by the band members giving drugs away at the
door to their gigs.
High on ecstasy, the band recorded their
next album, 'Bummed' and released probably their best ever single,
“Wrote For Luck” in 1988. Produced by Mancunian
legend and fellow drug addict, Martin Hannett, it highlighted
Shaun's football fan singing style. By now the band and their
producer were taking Ecstasy freely and were credited for introducing
it to the UK dance scene.
Having failed to be scared by The threat
of legal action from The Beatles management for 'Desmond', The
Mondays decided to rip-off 'Ticket To Ride' with the single
'Lazyitis (One Armed Boxer)' (which featured their childhood
hero Karl Denver). The album also spawned the single 'Mad Cyril'
and 'Wrote for Luck' was re-mixed and released as 'W.F.L.' by
Vince Clarke, Steve Osborne and Paul Oakenfold. Chart success
still eluded them.
Oakenfold and Osborne stayed on though,
remixing the band's break-through release in 1989. The 'Madchester
Rave On' EP reached Number 19 in the UK and featured 'Hallelujah'
which was also released as a Christmas single, with vocals supplied
by Kirsty MacColl, the daughter of Salford folk singer, Ewan
MacColl. The term Madchester was also lifted by the music press
(and Tony Wilson) to describe the whole Manchester baggy scene
of the time.
In 1990, The Monday's added the final ingredient
to their class A potion in the form of backing singer, Rowetta.
her fantastic soulful vocals complimented the band's dancey
groove and Shaun's chants. 'Step On', their version of John
Kongo's 1970 hit, 'He's Gonna Step On You Again', reached Number
5 and even charted in the USA.
'Kinky Afro' followed six months later
and also reached the UK Top 5, heralding the release of the
band's superb third album 'Pills 'N' Thrills 'N' Bellyaches'.
Charting at Number 4, an amazing achievement for a band signed
to an independent label, the band were suddenly famous. Not
a bad thing for most groups but this was The Mondays.
The UK press suddenly unearthed all the
unbelievable but factually true stories of the band members'
sordid past, drug dealing and stealing on the streets of Salford.
The NME accused Shaun and Bez of being homophobic, and whilst
Factory's PR team went into overdrive to try and settle matters,
the band would just make things worse by their naive honesty.
The live album, 'Baby Big Head Bootleg',
reached Number 21 in the UK charts in September 1991 and was
followed by the Oakenfold/Osborne produced single, 'Judge Fudge'
(UK number 24).
By this time Factory's debts were starting
to spiral out of control and they relied heavily on the success
of the Monday's next album. Unfortuantely for them, Shaun had
become addicted to heroin so the decision was made to send the
band to The Bahamas, where he wouldn't be able to buy any.
Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club duo, Chris
Frantz and Tina Weymouth were asked to produce the album, which
was a bad move as they struggled to work with the now out-of-control
Shaun. The band's drug abuse was phenomenal at this point and
Factory ended up paying over a quarter of a million pounds to
make the album. It's widely reported that the band stripped
down the recording studio to pay for their new cocaine habit.
They even sold their clothes when there was nothing left to
steal. Shaun even blackmailed Tony Wilson for the safe return
of the recordings. the album in effect bankrupted Factory.
When 'Yes Please!' finally appeared in
October 1992 it failed to chart any higher than UK Number 14.
The music press hated it and the singles 'Stinkin Thinkin' (UK
No.31) and 'Sunshine & Love' flopped.
When EMI offerd a rescue package to the
band in 1993, Shaun walked out of the meeting to get himself
a K.F.C. (the band's nickname for heroin). He failed to return
and the group disbanded.
Having disappeared from the limelight amid
rumours that his decadent rock'n'roll lifestyle had finally
caught up with him, killing off his creative mind, Shaun returned
spectacularly in 1995. In reality he had in fact been putting
a new band together. Black Grape went straight to the top of
the charts with their debut album, 'It's Great When You're Straight...
Yeah!', selling over half a million copies in the UK alone.
The perfect mix of Shaun's clever sound-bite
rhyme and the straight-up rapping provided by Kermit (ex-Ruthless
Rap Assassins) with the funky jazz sound supplied by R.R.A.
drummer Ged and ex-Paris Angels guitarist, Wags, could only
ever be complimented by Bez doing his stuff (whatever that is!?!).
Gary Gannon from The Smiths also helped out on a few tracks.
Shaun claimed to be off hard drugs replacing
them with Guinness. by this time he was living in Ireland with
his wife, daughter of 60's pop star, Donovan (who the Monday's
had previously written a song about). He provided guest vocals
on The Heads single 'Don't Take My Kindness For Weakness'.
After arguing about his role in the group
Bez split with Shaun in 1996, appearing on UK children's TV
of all places and he didn't appear on the group's second album
'Stupid Stupid Stupid', which reached Number 11 in the UK, 1997.
The making of the album obviously took its toll on the band,
and they soon split up in 1998 following many heated arguments,
cancelling their promotional tour in the process.
.In October 1998, Shaun stated that The
Happy Mondays would never get back together. six weeks later,
having received a massive tax demand and an expensive divorce,
he changed his mind.
He overcame his disagreement with Bez and
reunited with Gaz Whelan, Wags and Rowetta. They introduced
a new member, Nuts, and Shaun finally called an end to his six
year silence with his brother Paul, who reluctantly agreed to
rejoin them. Their poor version of Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys Are
Back In Town' reached UK Number 30 in 1999 and featured Shaun
repeatedly singing 'We're back in the MCR'.
Their 'Greatest Hits' followed, heralding
a sell-out World tour kickstarted by the massive M.E.N. Arena
show in April'99. The touring had re-introduced the band back
to their excessive lifestyle, and not willing to return to his
bad ways, Paul Ryder quit ahead of their Japanese and Australian
The rest continued until August
2000. Following a fight between Shaun and Rowetta on the ferry
journey over to Ireland for the Witness Festival, The Happy
Mondays announced a final split.
Paul Ryder and Gaz Whelan went on to form
funky Manc outfit, Buffalo 66, without any success, whilst Shaun
overcame litigation from his management at Black Grape, who
had prevented him from releasing any new material. He teamed
up with Salford tenor and fellow Manchester United fanatic,
Russell Watson, to record a true-Manc version of Freddie Mercury's
'Barcelona', which celebrated the reds' European Cup Final triumph
over Bayern Munich in the Catalan city.
The amazing movie 24 Hour Party
People from Michael Winterbottom, retold the story of The Happy
Mondays and Tony Wilson, winning rave reviews and packing UK
cinemas in the process during 2002.
Following a brief side project
with 'Amateur Night In The Big Top', where he provided (pretty
random) vocals, Shaun reformed The Mondays for some gigs in
2004 whilst the X Factor TV show made Rowetta a household name.
Bez was to follow suit only weeks later, when he starred in
Celebrity Big Brother (the reality TV show previously won by
fellow Manc musician, Mark Owen). Great publicity for his new
band, Domino Bones.