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Happy Mondays Biography

Last updated: 06/09/2012 12:00:00 PM

Few debut records could lay claim to have had the impact (or length of title) of the Happy Mondays' Squirrel And G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out). The sextet's raw brand of urban folk, with Shaun Ryder's accented, drawled vocals, was almost universally acclaimed. John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground, produced and gave the record a fresh, live feel. The original line-up remained unchanged (apart from the addition of backing singer Rowetta) from the band's formation in Manchester, England, early in the 80s. Joining singer Ryder (b. 23 August 1962) was his brother, Paul Ryder (b. 24 April 1964; bass), Mark Day (b. 29 December 1961; guitar), Gary Whelan (b. 12 February 1966; drums), Paul Davis (b. 7 March 1966; keyboards) and Mark Berry aka Bez (percussion), the latter widely noted for his manic onstage antics.

Martin Hannett, famous for his work with a number of Manchester bands including Joy Division, produced the follow-up Bummed, which layered their music with diverse but strong dance rhythms. The following year's Paul Oakenfold remix of "Wrote For Luck" (re-titled "WFL') crystallised the band"s emergent sound. The subsequent Madchester Rave On EP, which featured the club favourite "Hallelujah", broke into the UK Top 20 and gave a name to the new Manchester scene led by the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. In 1990, the band covered John Kongos' "He's Gonna Step On You Again" (retitled "Step On") and reached the UK Top 10. Their manic third album Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches went to number 1 in the UK and established the band as a major pop force.

The album also coincided with support and re-promotion of 60s singer Donovan, who appeared alongside them on the front covers of the music press. They even recorded a tribute song, "Donovan', which paraphrased the lyrics of the singer"s 60s hit, "Sunshine Superman". Strong support from Factory Records and an unusually consistent output meant Happy Mondays quickly rose to the status of favourite sons, of the readership of the New Musical Express and Melody Maker, and they were achieving sales to match. However, the band's successes were tempered with a fair share of unpleasant publicity which came to a head when Ryder announced he was a heroin addict and was undergoing detoxification treatment. A highly publicized strife-torn recording session in the Caribbean, with producers Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz (of Talking Heads ), resulted in ... Yes Please!.

However, its impact was dulled by a decline in press interest, at least outside of Ryder's drug habits. Fittingly, the Happy Mondays' eventual collapse could not be tied to a specific date, with various members breaking off at various points throughout 1993. The band's focal points, Ryder and Bez, eventually re-emerged in 1995 as part of a new coalition, Black Grape, after Ryder had contributed vocals to "Can You Fly Like You Mean It" by fellow Mancunians Intastella. Following the break-up of Black Grape, Ryder re-formed the Happy Mondays for several live dates and a new recording of the Thin Lizzy classic, "The Boys Are Back In Town". The 1999 line-up comprised Ryder, Paul Ryder, Bez, Gary Whelan and new member Nuts.