“These guys didn’t know where the edge was…” The strange saga of the recording of Happy Mondays’ Yes Please!
The recording of Happy Mondays‘ fourth studio album, Yes Please!, is the stuff of legend – a manic maelstrom of Caribbean sunshine, crack cocaine, repeated broken arms, multiple crashed vehicles, two very confused former members of Talking Heads… what more could you ask for?
Work on the album began in Barbados in January 1992, and the fact that it finally saw the light of day in September of that year was a miracle in itself, and preceded the decline of Factory Records by just a few weeks – the label going into administration in November 1992.
In September 1992, journalist Miranda Sawyer published a remarkable piece of reportage – The Man Whose Head Expanded – in now-defunct music magazine Select, tracking the period from the group’s arrival in the Caribbean to the album’s eventual completion.
As you might expect from the Happy Mondays at their chemical peak, it’s not exactly a sober affair – “Everything that’s ever been wrote about us is drugs, man,” says frontman Shaun Ryder at one point. “But then everything we’ve ever done is drugs.” – and in our opinion it deserves to be made into a movie at some point (a comedown response to 24 Hour Party People, perhaps).
I mean, check out this opening paragraph: “Thirty-five thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean, cruising at 570 miles an hour, the British Airways Boeing 747 laps up the nine hour flight from Gatwick to Barbados. It’s due in at 7pm. An hour and a half to go. Sitting stiffly in his seat, Shaun Ryder jerks his head to look around the rest of the Happy Mondays, seated in different parts of the budget class section. Didn’t one of them just say…? But no, they’re all absorbed in the film. Voices… he wipes the sweat from his brow and gives his head a shake. But the voices won’t go away, they’re getting louder, screaming round his head now, ripping up his nerves by the roots, giving him the horrors.”
Thanks to the good people at Select Magazine Scans, this article has now been preserved for posterity, and can be found below. Strap yourselves in… [click to open in a new window]
Words by Miranda Sawyer, original article published in Select Magazine September 1992. Photos by Andrew Catlin.