This Day in Music, July 15: Ryder On The Storm

By , Contributor

The entertainment world needs interesting characters - larger than life personalities who can make headlines and feed the media with tales of excess, fall-outs, and ups and downs.

Over the years we’ve had no shortage of nominees for this category. John Lennon and his mouth, Jim Morrison and his drinking, Dave Crosby and his drugs, Kurt Cobain, Morrissey, Amy Winehouse…the list goes on.

And one of my favourites. Ladies and gentlemen, Shaun Ryder - singer and…well, singer with Manchester group Happy Mondays and later Black Grape.

Now, Shaun has never done anything really bad; he just went through a phase of getting everything wrong. But he’s come out the other side, looking a little worse for wear, but still breathing.

A few years back, Ryder, along with Kurt Cobain, beat older stars such as Keith Richards and Keith Moon in a league of rock 'n' roll excess compiled by UK music weekly Melody Maker. (Liam Gallagher, Robbie Williams, Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson all featured in the Top 10).

On this day in 2000, a Manchester judge reprimanded Ryder after he turned up a day late in court to give evidence in an ongoing case. Ryder told the court he was sorry for getting the date wrong but had been on 'a bender'. Now a ‘bender’ in the North of England entails large amounts of alcohol, drugs, and no sleep, so I think it was jolly decent for Shaun to make an appearance at all.

During recording sessions for the Happy Mondays' ill-fated 1992 album Yes Please Ryder was heavily addicted to heroin, so the band’s manager shipped the group out to Barbados to finish the record. A studio on the Caribbean island was chosen due to it being completely clean of smack. While this proved to be the case, the island was unfortunately in the midst of a major crack cocaine epidemic.

Within 48 hours of the Mondays arriving, the band had managed to develop a new drug dependency, with Ryder eventually racking up a habit of up to 50 rocks a day. The group soon ran out of money, prompting them to start flogging the studio’s equipment to pay for more drugs.

Back in the UK, Shaun was given a lifetime ban from appearing live on Channel 4 television, after swearing on two separate occasions while appearing on live shows before the ‘watershed’, before which inoffensive language must be used. He is the only person to be specifically referred to by name in Channel 4's Compliance Manual, which states: "Please note that the Channel 4 Board has undertaken to the ITC that Shaun Ryder will not appear live on Channel 4". Some accolade!

I love stories about Shaun. How about this one: while on tour in Newcastle, Ryder went for a few drinks on his own and returned to the venue to find the band were already on. After explaining he was in the act, he was hurriedly rushed through the bowels of the hall, only to find himself on stage with Simply Red. His group, The Happy Mondays, were playing down the road.

In 1999 during yet another court case (which he lost), Ryder was ordered to pay £160,000 to his ex-management team over a dispute in his contract. Ryder said he was so high after a joint he didn't bother to read the small print when he signed the document - telling the court that the contract had 'done his nut in'.

In 2007 the smoking ban was introduced in the UK, so no more lighting up in public places. Guess who was one of the first to get in trouble? Yes, Shaun, who smoked several cigarettes on stage during a concert at The Ritz in Manchester. Smoking had been banned in all enclosed public places in England on 1 July of this year, and anyone flouting the law faced a £50 fine. Performers were only exempt from the smoking ban if the "artistic integrity" of their act required it. He couldn’t get away with that one.

Shaun entertained us all when he appeared recently in the British reality TV show (filmed in Australia) I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! The great British public loved him - and voted for him in their thousands. He showed us all what a nice bloke he is! He was even almost sympathetic to a snake which gave him a nasty bite! The singer finished as the runner-up on the final show.

He leads a quieter life now, choosing to live away from the city of Manchester but instead a small village in the countryside, which is known to be a UFO hotspot. Shaun claims he was once abducted by a UFO, and if so, those aliens must have thought us humans were an unusual bunch.

He’s still squeezing our lemons, man!


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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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