The Stone Roses’ debut album from 1989 is, we can all agree, an absolute all-time classic.
Not only is it a stone-cold musical masterpiece, but the cover is striking and unique. Painted by Roses guitarist John Squire, the sleeve is an abstract design in the style of American artist Jackson Pollock and features three slices of lemon laid flat on the work, with one forming the “O” in “Roses”.
The lemon went on to feature on a famous Stone Roses t-shirt and poster, and when the band released their first new song in over 20 years, a slice was used to advertise the band’s imminent return.
At first, the lemons just seemed like a random addition to the painting, but there’s a story behind the fruity addition.
The painting is titled Bye Bye Badman, which is also the name of one of the tracks on the LP.
Speaking to Q magazine in 2001, Brown explained that the song was about the Paris riots of May 1968, which saw students, then workers protest the then-current government, capitalism and other political causes.
Strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations all took place, which saw the police react violently to the protesters. The movement inspired art, writing and even music, with John Lennon’s song Revolution being one track that summed up the mood.
Ian Brown and John Squire watched a documentary on the riots, broadcast by Channel 4 on the 20th anniversary of the original events and the imagery inspired a song.
Brown claimed that he imagined the words “Choke me, smoke the air, in this citrus-sucking sunshine I don’t care” were being sung by a student protester to the face of an armed policeman.
John Squire told Q magazine in 2001: “Ian had met this French man when he was hitching around Europe. This bloke had been in the riots, and he told Ian how lemons had been used as an antidote to tear gas.”
So the lemon is actually a symbol of protest and defiance, and form a direct link to the title “Bye Bye Badman”