Photography by: Ben Heath and Harry Yeates
Words by Harry Potts
Happy Mondays formed in Salford in 1980. There musical style draws upon ’60s psychedelia, ’70s funk, and ’80s house music – pioneering the ‘Madchester’ sound.
Frontman and founder member, Shaun Ryder was the potty-mouthed poster boy for rock & roll excess in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It was Ryder’s heroin addiction which tore the band apart in 1993.
The film 24 Hour Party People featured the (semi-fictional) story of Shaun Ryder’s youth and the life of Happy Mondays whilst signed with Factory Records in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Mark “Bez” Berry was born in Bolton in 1964, the son of a police detective inspector, he grew up in Salford, before moving to live with his grandparents in Wigan at the age of 16. Bez was invited to join the Happy Mondays by Shaun Ryder shortly after the band was formed. Famous for his maraca playing and bizarre dance style, he soon became the bands mascot.
He appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2005, in order to pay off his outstanding tax bills and famously won the show.
Happy Mondays experienced their commercial peak with the releases ‘Bummed’ (1988), ‘Manchester Rave On’ (1989), and Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches’ (1990), with the latter going platinum in the UK.
Rowetta Idah joined the Happy Mondays in 1990 and featured on their single ‘Step On’, two albums and three world tours. Rowetta re-entered the spotlight in 2004 when she auditioned for a place in the finals of The X Factor. Her performances on the show earned her rave reviews and she made it to the final four.
Happy Mondays have reformed several times over the last two decades. We caught up with them at the end of their most recent tour at the band’s homecoming Manchester Academy gig.
Student Harry Yeates describes our chaotic evening with the Happy Mondays
“So I was backstage in Manchester Academy, and Bez walked in…” – seems like an unlikely sentence, especially coming from a mere photography student, but that’s exactly what happened on the night of December 13th 2017! Although we had shown up to photograph one of my musical heroes, Shaun Ryder, things didn’t go exactly as planned… Which, funnily enough, is exactly how I thought things would go! We arrived in good time, expecting to meet and photograph Shaun at 8:30 before the band went on stage at 9:00. We had plenty of time to get set up, plan our shoot, get our flash ready, and then wait for Shaun to show up. Then, as 8:30 quickly passed, we realised this wasn’t going to be an ordinary shoot…! As fears grew that he wouldn’t show up at all, or would show up late and have no time for the shoot before having to go on stage. Then guess who walked into the room? Bez and Rowetta! We managed to snap a few pictures and have a chat with them, while the Mondays’ tour manager frantically paced up and down, popping his head in every now and then to say “he’s coming, he’s coming…” – I think it’s fair to say he was far more stressed than us! But sure enough, at 9:07 – 7 minutes after the band was supposed to be on stage, Shaun Ryder walked in. Initially confused as to why we were there (I think he thought we just wanted photos with him!), we had roughly ~60 seconds to photograph him. Unfortunately, nothing went right on my end, and I wasn’t able to snap a single usable photo! But Ben managed a few brilliant shots. Although things didn’t exactly go to plan, it was another fantastic opportunity to meet some heroes of mine, and to photograph another set of Mancunian greats. It may have also taught me a valuable lesson in time keeping and planning, you never know when you’re only going to have a minute to photograph someone, so hang on in there is the message!”
“As a proud Salfordian, I was more than happy to be part of the Greater Mancunian project. There are some quality portraits by the students celebrating Manchester culture’.” – Shaun Ryder