Mondays reviews



January 2015 issue

Happy Mondays:

Excess All Areas

four stars

An amazing musical narrative compellingly told.

There are 16 index references for labelmate and Happy Mondays producer Bernard Sumner, two for Bobby Gillespie and 48 for heroin. The band who Barbadian drug-dealers knew as the “white niggers” – during the recording of the Mondays’ … Yes Please! album – were often a brutish whirlwind, seemingly purpose built pour epater la bourgeoisie. But brothers Shaun and Paul Ryder were surprisingly bourgeois-bohemian themselves. Dad Derek had bought a tidy family home in a pleasant Salford suburb. He was also half of a busy musical-comedy duo and contributed to scripts for The Two Ronnies. Written by the author of The Stone Roses: War And Peace, this account is built on fascinating – and convincingly detailed – perspective, a solid foundation for a tale of musical innovation, astonishing misadventure and the bewildering behaviour of a frontman who Tony Wilson proclaimed as a crack cocaine James Joyce.

Roy Wilkinson





Culture supplement, Sunday 30 November 2014
Few remember them seriously these days – the enduring image is of dancer Bez and his ever-shaking maracas – but the Happy Mondays, the face of the “Madchester” years, left a huge imprint on music, clubbing and fashion. Spence places the mad energy of the band (fights, fallouts and, yes, a freighter’s worth of drugs) in the context of the late Thatcher years. Witty and gritty.
Louis Wise

Pop Matters


Simon Spence’s Biography of the Happy Mondays Is ‘All Excess’THIS IS AN EXCELLENT BIOGRAPHY OF THE DEFINING BAND OF THE ‘CHEMICAL GENERATION’.“You’re twisting my melon, man!”This is the story of the best band in Manchester. Well, the best band in Manchester in the early ‘90s, at least. The Happy Mondays belong to a line of bad boy bands in British popular culture that begins with the Rolling Stones and currently ends with the Libertines.

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. Mark ‘Bez’ Berry later joined the band onstage during a live performance and served as a dancer/percussionist. Rowetta Satchell joined the band to provide backing vocals (and some glamour) in the early ‘90s. This is their story.

Rather than work through the entire narrative of this delightful biography, I want to mention two important instances described that clearly illustrate the two different sides of the musical phenomenon that is Madchester’s the Happy Mondays.

In February 1990, the president of Elektra Records, Bob Krasnow, was putting together an album to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the label. The idea was that artists on the Elektra roster of the time would cover some of the songs that had made the label famous. The Happy Mondays, who had had some moderate US success at the time, were invited to cover ‘He’s Gonna Step on You Again’, a song by South African artist John Kongos, which was a minor hit in the USA in 1971. The section of the book in which Simon Spence describes the process of producing the track is a perfectly judged description of the moment when all the best musical elements of the Happy Mondays finally came together. That first visible moment of real catharsis.

The place is Eden studios in London. Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne were producers. The band had been out in London the night before and arrived at the studios with a bunch of their pals. They hadn’t taken this recording session very seriously; they seldom took any recording session very seriously. Mark Day, the guitarist, had spent two weeks working on the guitar parts, but Gary Whelan had laid down drums for a different song (Tokoloshe Man).

Later in the day Tony Wilson, the famous founder of Factory Records, hears Day walking around the studio playing the guitar work he had devised for ‘He’s Gonna Step on You’ and asks that this song get recorded, as well.

Whelan laid down drums based on an old Northern Soul song he liked. Paul recorded the bass and Osborne started to notice something special was happening. “There was a line of blokes on the back wall of the studio all dancing to the drums and bass – it was just a really great feel.” Mark laid down his guitar part and Davis added a sparkling piano part. And then Ryder’s turn came and it’s “You’re twisting my melon man.” Like a dam burst of novelty and a seminal lyric. A little later and Oakenfold and Osborne tracked down session singer Rowetta Satchell who added her soaring voice to the mix and the Happy Mondays sound was reborn with the magnificient song, ‘Step On’.

This story comes about half way through this well researched, elegantly written history of the Mancunian band, and it’s typical of the style and substance of the writing. Spence doesn’t do hyperbole, he doesn’t indulge his deep enthusiasm for the Mondays, but presents their story without needless embellishment. The Happy Mondays have made five serious studio albums; Bummed (1988) and Pills n’ Thrills and Bellyaches (1990), are two of the best British Alternative rock albums ever made. The Mondays learned how to combine a mixture of rock, R&B, dance and northern soul better than any of their contemporaries.

Yet the band’s drug taking has also been legendary for some time and Spence does not spare us from at least an outline of the continuous substance abuse. So later in the book comes the diptych, the story that reflects the other side of the band, the moment when the band realises that it’s all over or close to being nearly all over.

With their original label, Factory, facing financial ruin, a possible deal with EMI emerges. EMI records are contemplating taking over the Happy Mondays from the Factory roster and offering them the down payment on a new album. A&R man Clive Black persuaded his superiors at EMI to offer the Happy Mondays £175,000 to make the album. Black travelled up to Manchester from London to both seal the deal and also to discern from the Monday’s manager, Nathan McGough, and Ryder himself, the extent of his addiction and whether he was in control or not. The band was warned that the meeting had to go well, yet when Black arrived Ryder told him that he was going out for Kentucky (KFC).

Five hours later, Ryder had not returned. Black left, although McGough negotiated a last chance meeting in London for 48 hours later. Ryder didn’t make that meeting, either. And the story of the Happy Mondays is at least partially ended.

The book dispels many of the myths surrounding the Happy Mondays, myths that have mainly been created by Ryder himself about his misspent youth and his delinquent behaviour as one of Manchester’s ‘Perry Boys’.  Much of it never happened. His drug use, however did. And as Spence concludes, Ryder saw drugs as the key to the band’s success. For Ryder, when the band was under the influence they sounded at their best, and their fans connected with them because of their bad boy image and their drug use. Indeed, it was the band’s attitude toward drugs that had seen them become the defining band of the ‘chemical generation’.

Can we say, as Ryder did, that the source of the Happy Mondays’ brilliance would also be the source of their downfall? read Excess All Areas and find out if that future has already happened.


By Marcus Smith, MA (Popular Culture), Open University, writes about film, music, video and digital culture on an occasional basis.


Record Collector – Untwisting the melons


 Untwisting the melons

Though there’s a gaping Shaun Ryder/Bez shaped-hole in the interviewee list for this book, the rest of the Mondays – and a wide range of their associates – are present and correct here. More importantly, the thorough nature of Spence’s approach to music biography and his clear passion for the music make this a more than suitable follow up to his 2012 Stone Roses masterwork.

In fact, both Ryder and Bez have already told their sides of the tale in their thoroughly amusing, if mildly ghostwritten, autobiographies, so any scandal, hearsay or visit to the celebrity jungle are left out, leaving the music and the formation and development of the Mondays to take centre stage. No doubt hardcore fans – and devotees of the wider Factory universe – will rejoice, but that also does the quality of Spence’s writing a disservice. Excess All Areas earns another gold star for the author: meticulous, revealing and continually treading new ground, it’s both a great read and a great music read, regardless of your level of interest in the group. A nigh-on impossible task.

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars4 stars

Jake Kennedy | ISBN 1781312648, 352 pages


collector 1


Our Generation / Sweden


Happy Mondays har släppt ut en bok som heter Excess All Areas. Under slutet av 80- och början på 90-talet dominerade de det unika soundet från Manchester. Med legendariska Shaun Ryder i spetsen dominerade Happy Mondays det unika soundet från den brittiska staden Manchester och med det växte en hel livsstil fram under slutet av 80- och början på 90-talet. our generation

Australia, Melbourne

Posted by John KerrensWhat is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Happy Mondays?

It’s Manchester, England 1985. The Happy Mondays imploded onto the “Acid House” scene as a shambolic free-for-all and ended up being held in the same high regard as luminaries like the Velvet Underground and Sex Pistols. And then out of nowhere-it all ended.

Simon Spence, who has already written a Stone Roses biography, is well-placed to write about the Mondays, having already been involved in the “Madchester” scene during its early days.

The band’s lineup consisted of Shaun Ryder, vocals; Mark Day, guitar; Paul Davis, keyboards; Gary Whelan, Drums; Paul Ryder, Bass, and Mark “Bez” Berry, dancing and chemistry. More than any other band, the Mondays encapsulated everything that was exciting and dynamic in the Manchester scene of the late 80s/early 90s. By combining rock with the electronic effects of the dance scene, bands like Primal Scream, Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays created a hybrid sound that appealed to both traditional Rock audiences as well as the more hedonistic, pleasure-seeking ways of the acid house crowd.

Tony Wilson, the excitable head of Factory Records – the Mondays’ record label – said the band were “spearheading a cultural revolution.” And for a while, “Madchester”was at the cultural cutting edge (though there were ominous noises coming from Seattle).

“Excess All Areas” is written in a matter-of-fact, unsensational style; nicely done, considering the sheer sweeping potential for lurid gossip and outrage, afforded by Shaun and Bez in particular. Just as Jagger and Richard became “the Glimmer Twins” in the Stones, so did these two become the public face of the Happy Mondays specifically, and Acid House generally (Shaun even posed on the cover of NME with a large ‘E’ prop), which would cause some resentment among the other band members.

Like the Rolling Stones (and countless others), the Happy Mondays’ public persona was that of “Rock & Roll Bad Boys”, but they in fact grew up in the middle-suburb of Swinton and worked for the Post Office before miraculously transforming into, “Scum, car thieves, robbers and drug dealers.”

Spence is non-judgemental in his reporting but as the Mondays’ story progresses, it becomes obvious that Shaun Ryder’s increasingly monstrous ego and prima donna antics would end up hurting the band and probably hastening its demise. His treatment of the other members was frequently insensitive and contemptuous. As his ego-problems escalated in tandem with his drug addiction, his behaviour became increasingly erratic and unreliable.

Yet, for all their chaotic ways, the Happy Mondays achieved a great deal of mainstream success, record sales, tours and festivals.

None of this translated to financial success, though. Given the often volatile, unpredictable nature of Factory Records and the drug problems of various members, the band mostly ended up penniless and embittered; their business partnership, Wabash Communications was placed in receivership. Eventually, their debts were sorted and the band reformed in 1999, touring successfully and having a minor hit with a cover of ‘The Boys are Back in Town’.

Unsurprisingly, their successes would be erratic and unpredictable but the Happy Mondays would go on to inspire countless future Brit bands.


Q Magazine


Written by Stone Roses biographer Simon Spence, Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas charts the explosive rise and spectacular fall of one of Britain’s most influential and deranged bands. “They are one of the few great, distinct, original rock groups, the like of which we are unlikely ever to see again.” Spence tells Q. “There’s much more to the Mondays than having a party – although it has to be said they do that better than almost every other band too.”Month In Music HAPPY MONDAYS_pdf_1_1Month In Music HAPPY MONDAYS_pdf_2_1The above feature is in this month’s Q Magazine, Q341 with Foo Fighters on the cover. Q online have also published an extract from the book. 2q ex


United We Stand


Review from Utd fanzine … ‘sends you back to the music with your ears having been syringed’



Red News


Clap Your HandsThe story of Happy Mondays is one that’s been attempted a few times, with much that has been written regurgitating the same myths and half truths that made the band so tabloid friendly during their pomp. Whereas The Stone Roses projected an air of insouciant cool and are regularly awarded ‘greatest debut album of all time’ plaudits, any mention of the Mondays tends to prompt memories of the cartoonish Shaun and Bez double act rather than any appreciation of the group’s talents or their lasting musical legacy.Happy Mondays Excess All Areas – A Biography by Simon Spence (Aurum Press, £20) attempts to delve behind the legend and hearsay surrounding the two frontmen and instead tell the definitive story of the band as a whole. The format here is the same as Spence’s previous effort, the excellent The Stone Roses – War and Peace that was released a couple of years ago. Like that book, this latest is meticulously researched and based on many hours of fresh interviews with band members, family, friends, associates and numerous industry faces.These first hand accounts enable Spence to present a detailed history of the band and paint a vivid (and often laugh out loud funny) picture of greyed out, 1980’s Manchester undergoing its transformation into Day-Glo, early 90’s Madchester. The story of Factory and Tony Wilson has been done to death in recent years, almost becoming an industry in itself – so it’s to the author’s credit that he manages to put a fresh slant on proceedings here. Indeed, one senses that Wilson didn’t really have much time for the band until key earners New Order went into hiatus just as the Mondays suddenly and unexpectedly blossomed into the most exciting rock and roll band on the planet.

Alongside the usual tales of hedonism and excess (nothing you’ve heard previously was exaggerated), Spence’s major achievement is how he skilfully evokes the visceral thrill of the Mondays’ music on those first 3 seminal albums. In spite of being out of control and fronted by a pair of drug-fuelled nutters, the band produced a cosmic slop of sound that was miles ahead of its time then, and still sounds startlingly original now. It made me want to go back and listen properly for the first time in 20 odd years, so I’ll conclude by recommending you pick up this excellent book and then do the same.

Copyright Red News – October 2014

Sabotage Times



Happy Mondays On Top Of The Pops: Excess All Areas

by Simon Spence

17 October 2014

Just a couple of geezers loading up on gear and debuting on national television…

In late October 1989, Shaun and Bez posed in front of Central Station’s distinctive Madchester logo for the front cover of Sounds, the Mondays’ first press cover for two and a half years since Shaun had appeared on the front of Melody Maker in May 1987. The pose this time was far from studied: Bez was wearing a straw hat with a marigold glove draped over it. Sounds called the band a ‘howl of innovation’ and ‘purveyors of the non-stop party spirit’, who had ‘lit the touchpaper on the smouldering Manchester scene’.


Proper magazine


properI’ve read Shaun and Bez’s various ‘autobiographies’ (‘went on Top of the Pops, bought loads of drugs, won celebrity shows, bought loads of teeth’) but I’ve  never read a well-researched, well-written, honest history of the band  but I’d really like to. Luckily for me this situation is now well in-hand because Simon Spence has sorted it and gone and written it.———————————————————————————————————

Halcyon magazine


Focusing on the history band rather than the two-headed Shaun/Bez behemoth, Spence has conducted in-depth interviews with the other members of the collective, with Drummer Gaz Whelan and Bassist Paul Ryder telling their full stories for the first time. The result is an open and honest account of life in this most rock and roll of rock and roll bands. I recently had a brief chat with Shaun about the book and he’s not that happy with it, mainly because he didn’t get paid for it but then that’s Shaun for you.halycon———————————————————————————————————

Cheshire Life


December issue: Cheshire Life chooses the best of this month’s new books. They’ll make great Christmas gifts

Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas – a Biography

It is nearly 30 years since Manchester was dubbed ‘Madchester’. The Happy Mondays – with their ramshacle yet cocksure combination of louche beats and grubby street poetry – were chiefly responsible for that madness. Stockport author Simon Spence tackled one Madchester icon with his book The Stone Roses: War and Peace. But the Mondays prove a yet more compelling subject, mired in a drugs culture, their fortunes tied to that of the late Tony Wilson’s Factory Records. Spence speaks with band members and associates to nail another version of the fascinating truth behind the scuzzy myth of the Happy Mondays.

£20 Aurum

SGeneral - 14120410120




Simon Spence has written books about Andrew Loog Oldham, The Stone Roses, Depeche Mode and the Donnelly Brothers. His new book, Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas presents the band’s story in full for the first time. We caught up with him to find out how he got the inside story on the Mondays… Your new book Happy Monday: Excess All Areas corrects a lot of misinformation and urban myths about the Mondays, whilst also telling the full story for the first time. How did you manage to squeeze so much into just over 300 pages?


Mass Movement magazine


Happy Mondays – Excess All Areas – A Biography – Simon Spence (Aurum Press)Well researched and enthusiastic biography of the Madchester Scallies tracing their origins from the surprisingly non-criminal suburbs of Manchester to become the band de jour of the Acid House scene in the late 80s/early 90s.It’s probably the most honest portrayal of the band you will find – detailing the fist fights rehearsals often ended in, the genuinely astounding levels of drug use, the exaggerated criminal activities promulgated by Shaun Ryder, and the often chaotic yet inspiring live sets the band played, both with Factory Records compatriots New Order and their own headlining tours, including the infamous Glastonbury performance after which Michael Eavis said they would never play there again. The biography ends on the rather bleak breakup of the band amongst a sea of drugs, paranoia and mistrust and the corresponding dissolving of their label Factory Records in a mire of debt.Author Spence has an established pedigree in writing about the Manchester scene including a biography of the Stone Roses (War and Peace) and being a staff writer for the NME, Q and the Guardian, so the level of writing is strong even though occasionally it wanders off topic a little (rather fitting for the Mondays – who often did the same thing while playing live); with direct quotes from all the main protagonists including the band themselves, management and key associates – Excess All Areas is full of Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches and an enjoyable memoir of one of the key UK bands of the 90s and the surprisingly singular and focused attitude that lay behind the apparent anarchy surrounding the band. Ian Pickens


louder than war


‘Excess All Areas’ – the new Happy Mondays biography reviewed by Carl Stanley, who concludes … “this is the Mondays biography we’ve all been waiting for”.… upfront and honest new Mondays biography, due to be released on the 30th of October and titled ‘Excess All Areas’.Simon Spence is the first author ever to get a nod from the whole band themselves to record their memoirs for an official book, as opposed to the many rogue biography’s that have been released down the years.



Rhondda Cynon Taff Gazette


A Happy Sunday For The Happy Mondays.

September 5, 2015


By Rob Jones

The Happy Mondays originally united as a rock n roll escape route from the daily dramas of an off kilter Lancastrian existence. Their nascent manager Phil Saxe stated: ‘it’s about making money and securing a job, because otherwise Happy Mondays are on the dole’.

The subsequent path to pop fame was to score swathes of notoriety, incalculable excesses, anarchic allegiances, major in and out of house squabbles and a reputation that was prone to putting them out on a limb. However, the band created a legacy of magnificent grooves aligned to a pertinent clothes sense that has singled them out as catalysts.

Several lifetimes of adventures, scrapes and lunacy fuelled by a seemingly insatiable appetite for drink, drugs and living on the wring side of the law ensues. Despite the devilish distractions the lads work their socks off to perfect their seminal sound even though hedonism often upsets the applecart!

Happy Mondays: Excess all Areas-a biography by Simon Spence (published by Aurum Press) analyses this world. Shaun and Paul Ryder, Mark Day, Bez, Gaz Whelan and Paul Davis lead a massive cast of characters and an array of venues that play integral roles in this tantalising tale e.g. Tony Wilson and his Factory Records associates as well as Elland Road (home of Leeds United FC) and The Hacienda. There is also a kaleidoscope of musical, cinematic, literary and fashion influences that help shape five working class lads on their trip (s)! Early producer John Cale described the dancing dervish Bez attempting to play tambourine as akin to ‘a building collapsing’-but at the same time in amongst the nuclear narcotic nuances some special sounds were brewing.

The Happy Mondays can be: Discordant, vitriolic, surreal, disturbing, captivating, uplifting, mellifluous, humorous, charismatic, spellbinding and chaotic! The Spence text delivers a lot of the mirth, magic and mayhem associated with these generation defining gurus whose psychedelic funk-soul wed with alt. indie-rock mix has made many cry ‘Hallelujah!’

2015 marks 25 years since the epic Pills, thrills and Bellyaches album; and despite splits and indifferences a potent original format of The Happy Mondays (with the bonus of Rowetta and the change of Dan Broad replacing Paul Davies on Keyboards ) plays Solus, Cardiff University on Sunday, November 29, 7.30pm.



Manchester Confidential


manc conjpgExcess All Areas by Simon Spence delves deep into MCR’s most riotous rock’n’rollers.“THERE’S some mental stories going around about them. One story I heard was about the time that they bought a gun from a gun shop sale, took it back to school and sat on the school playing-fields all afternoon playing Russian Roulette with it” – Ian Brown, Stone Roses





cerysmaticBiographer Simon Spence (The Stone Roses: War and Peace) tells the story of how Happy Mondays came to provide the soundtrack to Britain’s last great youth movement – Madchester. Based on extensive interviews with the band and key associates and including 30 unseen photographs, many from the band’s own private collection, he reveals the truth behind the mythic stories that ensured their outlaw reputation, and unravels the chaos that led to the group’s ultimate implosion and the tragic collapse of Factory Records.Excess all areas – a biography is out via Aurum Press on 30 October 2014 in hardback and e-book formats. It’s available to pre-order now at out the new website features even more exclusive content.


The Recoup


Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas
Simon Spence
Aurum Press

Factory Records’ legendary leader Anthony Wilson lived by John Ford’s famous statement, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” A man who wasn’t afraid of hyperbole, overstatement, and often outright fibs, Wilson’s persona was such that he was often more popular than many of the bands on his label. Since his word was not always congruent with accuracy, it made for compelling reenactment, making the film 24 Hour Party People enjoyable, especially his hyping of Happy Mondays and its charismatic leader, Shaun Ryder. One would think nobody in the world but him appreciated their genius, misunderstood lads with a leader who wrote lyrics on a par with Yeats, but the historical record speaks for itself. 

Even though there are aspects of Wilson’s version of the Happy Mondays story are creatively incorrect, their antics surely made up for the half-truths. Simon Spence’s Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas, takes on the job of separating fact from fiction. The core of the misconception lay in the background of the Ryder brothers—more middle-class than working class, with more of a musical background than one was led to believe, with Shaun Ryder being much more intelligent than the loutish hedonist he is often portrayed.

And yet…the wild party animal reputation wasn’t a myth. The group’s enjoyment of the pleasures of a good time were legendary, and even though they might be loaded out of their heads, the music never suffered for it—if anything, the chemical assistance often enhanced their performances…at least for a little while. The Mondays would self-destruct right at the point where they should have been making their best music to date; the international success of the aptly titled 1990 album Pills n Thrills And Bellyacheswould prove their undoing, especially considering the insanity that went into making follow-up Yes Please. They would split, and Ryder would clean up his act, returning with the excellent Black Grape, whose debut album, It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah!, would pick up the Happy Mondays’ cross, until various reunions and one-off releases would take place, leading up to a superb comeback album in 2007.

For a generation, Happy Mondays soundtracked excess and hedonism. They talked the talk and walked the walk, and though at the time it cost them dearly, they happily recovered and now have the respect they deserved. At times Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas is a hard read, because you know that Ryder and Bez deserved better, as the Happy Mondays were, ultimately, the brilliant madcap geniuses Tony Wilson believed them to be.




loudewr2For Louder Than War, Carl Stanley talks to author Simon Spence about his new Happy Mondays biography, Excess All Areas. If you’re a music fan, especially of the Manchester music scene, and appreciate a good biography then there’s a good chance you’ve read one of Simon Spence’s books. Some of his published works include the excellent Donnelly Brothers biography Still Breathing, War and Peace (which is the latest and most complete Stone Roses story ever) and next, due for release this November, is Excess All Areas, the real story of The Happy Mondays. The book includes contributions from band member’s such as Paul Ryder and Gary Whelan, which, unlike past biography’s on the Mondays, comes straight from the horses mouth. Covering the group’s career from 1982-1993 it’s shaping up as the definitive Mondays story.


Spectrum Culture


Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas is a passable read that offers an interesting glimpse into Manchester’s independent rock boom.


During how many Led Zeppelin rehearsals did Robert Plant refuse to participate? How much crack and heroin did the Rolling Stones consume at their peak? Did members of the Who ever eat their producer’s food out of the garbage because they were starving? Manchester’s Happy Mondays, among the most underappreciated British groups in America, embodied these types of rock ‘n’ roll legends in a much less palatable package than their progenitors, which may explain their narrower appeal. Of all rock bands in history, the Mondays may be the most deranged and explosive, the logical conclusion of a culture that glorifies drug addiction, uninhibited sex and erratic, ego-driven behavior, yet so many fans of the traditions of rock music are so quick to turn their backs on artists who cross the invisible line, and the Mondays walked that line throughout their career. This is the hypocrisy of a rock culture that never seems to know whether to condone or condemn that kind of destructive attitude, even decades afterward.

Simon Spence, who previously wrote a biography on fellow Mancunians the Stone Roses, serves up the lesser known Happy Mondays story with Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas, a book that simultaneously celebrates and condones the behavior of one of the most notoriously volatile rock bands of the era. It’s a book that seems unsure of what it wants to say about the Mondays, whether to vilify or lionize an openly destructive group of young men who happened to make some good records in between drug binges and infighting. Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas unintentionally becomes a perfect example of the way that the music press so predictably latches on to dangerous behavior and celebrates it, selling it as an image and creating unwilling martyrs from those who can’t hack it.

In fairness, Spence dedicates certain passages to mitigating the fantastic myths surrounding the band, but this impulse also manifests itself in him downplaying the band’s sometimes shameless, degenerate behavior, unintentionally propagating the miserably tired “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” fantasy for another era. Spence matter-of-factly describes the band and their entourage’s many vices, from shoplifting to brawling to drugs to robbery, often going out of his way to explain how things weren’t nearly as bad as the legends seemed before hilariously characterizing things like frontman Shaun Ryder’s predilection for heroin as, simply, “a drug he’d dabbled with and had a real taste for.” The author is far too reverent at times, building up Ryder as an artistic genius by attributing his behavior to the band’s need for “an image” rather than as the result of serious drug issues and chronic anxiety. This unbalanced portrayal of the band is not only frustrating for the reader, but almost mind-numbingly revisionist. Spence makes the Happy Mondays universally palatable when the brunt of their charm is how impenetrably unpalatable they were and still are (rightfully so) to the majority of people.

This is a problem that rock music history has struggled with for decades. In his unending admiration, Spence canonizes the Happy Mondays legacy in such a way that the book becomes utterly flat, drained of all its off-color flavor and smoothed of all its rough edges in an effort to make it widely digestible and conventional, a simplification process that generations of music press have forced on everyone from the Beatles to Nirvana, eroding the messy complexities of reality in service of a tasteful narrative that fails to portray anything resembling truth. Can a dry and rudimentary telling of the story of a provocative, destructive and wildly unhinged band be of any use to anyone?

For the uninitiated, Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas is a passable read that offers an interesting glimpse into Manchester’s independent rock boom (aided by the Mondays’ label, the infamous Factory Records) and the members of the Mondays themselves, all of whom (not just the notorious Shaun Ryder) provide compelling interviews for the book. That said, readers should be warned that the book is best read in spite of Spence’s perspective on the band rather than because of it. Happy Mondays: Excess All Areas exemplifies so many of the problems that rock criticism still struggles with, particularly the building of a false iconography, that it can become frustrating to sift through all the baggage. Luckily, it’s still possible to ignore those drawbacks and enjoy the book, just as it’s possible to look past their many faults and enjoy the music of Happy Mondays. In criticism, it’s integral that one explores those nuances.

  • Publisher:
    Aurum Press
  • Pages:


Viva mag


vivaSimon Spence (acclaimed journalist and the genius behind ‘The Stone Roses: War and Peace’) brings it all together to bring us a brilliant biography of our favourite five Mancunians! Based on extensive band interviews and including 30 unseen photos from the band’s own private collection – Spence brings us the truth behind the band’s rise to fame and the tragic ruin of Factory Records.———————————————————————————————————

louder than war


louder1There is a new book on the Happy Mondays due in November, Excess All Areas tells the story of the band whose musical inventiveness and musical genius has often been overshadowed by their rock n roll madness.

Simon Spence who wrote a book on the Stones Roses and also  book on Andrew Loog Oldham has done an in depth interviews with the band and gone into their archive of photos to write the definitive book on the band.