John Squire's secret inspiration for The Stone Roses' debut album cover

24 November 2023, 15:00

John Squire and the cover of The Stone Roses' debut album
John Squire and the cover of The Stone Roses' debut album. Picture: Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

We all know the guitarist painted the Roses artwork… but what was his inspiration behind the classic debut album’s cover painting?

When The Stone Roses released their debut album at the beginning of May 1989, it was the perfect package. The band’s image - slightly retro “baggy” clothing and deeply unfashionable haircuts for the time - was offset by their single and album cover artwork.

The Stone Roses album cover
The Stone Roses album cover. Picture: Press

Designed by guitarist John Squire, the painting on the sleeve is titled Bye Bye Badman and displays the influence of American abstract painter Jackson Pollock. The splattered paint found its way into Squire’s painting, and onto the instruments of the band themselves.

John Squire of The Stone Roses in 1997
John Squire of The Stone Roses in 1997. Picture: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

As Radio X recently discovered, the title Bye Bye Badman was inspired by a TV documentary on the student riots in Paris in May 1968 and the lemons were actually used by protesters at the time to nullify the effects of tear gas used by the police.

Squire later elaborated on the work in the catalogue for a 2004 show at the ICA in London, saying: “I actually wasn’t happy with it, which is why the tricoleur ended up on there - that and the situationist theme of the song.”

The Stone Roses - Bye Bye Bad Man (Audio)

But there was another influence bubbling under - literally.

In the autumn of 1988, the Stone Roses played a show at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. While details of the actual date remain obscure, Squire told Select magazine in 1997 that the band took time out for a quick trip to see the Giant’s Causeway.

This stretch of volcanic rock lies on the coast of Northern Ireland in County Antrim and is formed of over 40,000 interlocking columns of stone.

Squire explained that the deep green colour that forms the background of the cover painting “was based on the colour of the water and the foam at the Giant’s Causeway”.

Have a look and see if you can spot the similarity…

The Giant's Causeway, Bushmills, Northern Ireland
The Giant's Causeway, Bushmills, Northern Ireland. Picture: Chiara Salvadori/Getty Images