12. Favourite Song from Least Favourite Album
‘Stinkin Thinkin’ – Happy Mondays
“We managed to finish the record, but I wasn’t happy with it. I liked ‘Stinkin Thinkin’ – I thought that was all right, but most of the rest of the album I don’t care for.”
In 1992, I moved to Manchester, hoping to catch the city’s “baggy” scene: the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets. Maybe, at a push, Northside. The timing couldn’t have been worse. By 1992, Madchester had become, in the tabloids’ shorthand, Gunchester. Shaun Ryder, once the poster-boy for ecstasy, had slipped into serious heroin addiction. Alongside this, the press had turned on the Mondays following Bez’s infamously homophobic interview with the NME. Even Manchester itself was falling out of love with the band. When a wasted, obnoxious Ryder hurled a bottle in the city’s Dry Bar, smashing a large mirror, the local press treated the incident not as lovable hijinks, the way the band’s freewheeling behaviour had been seen a few months earlier; now it was oafish, repugnant, embarrassing. The Mondays were falling apart, and everyone was hurriedly washing their hands of them.
With its rehab-speak title and its methadone references, Stinkin Thinkin knows the game is up. Parts of the arrangement try to face forwards – Rowetta’s “Leave it all behind” refrain; Mark Day’s spruced-up Trojan Records riff, like a major-key take on his line from Loose Fit. But from the opening “Kiss me for old times’ sake”, Shaun’s lyric is backwards-looking, analytical, figuring out where his own stinkin’ thinkin’ came from in the first place: “Steady job in a small town, / Guaranteed to bring me right down”. It’s painful in its clarity. I admire it even more than the savant nursery rhymes of Lazyitis or Wrote for Luck.
The video is superb too, pulling the line about “picking those pockets clean” in a completely different direction. No longer just Ryder contemplating his addiction, the video reads the line literally. As a crowd gathers round Bez, clown-masked, doing his freaky dancing, Ryder and the band walk among them, delicately stealing their money. It’s the Mondays’ final sneer at the fair-weather fans who disowned them. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?
As the Mondays’ star seems to be in the ascendant again, with Bummed and Pills & Thrills viewed as milestone British albums, it would be a shame if this song – the death-knell of Baggy, and among the Mondays’ very best – were overlooked.
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