Best tunes of 1990: #12 The Happy Mondays “Step on”

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“He’s gonna step on you again, he’s gonna step on you
He’s gonna step on you again, he’s gonna step on you
You’re twistin’ my melon man, you know you talk so hip man
You’re twistin’ my melon man”

And so starts Sean Ryder’s litany of nonsense that makes up the lyrics on “Step on”, the standout track from Happy Mondays’ third long player “Pills ‘n’ thrills and bellyaches”. To write this post a couple of weeks ago, I downed a couple pints of Beau’s Tom Green Summer Stout, put on my earphones, turned up the volume and then, put the yellow vinyl copy I bought on Record Store Day a few years back on my turntable. Lights dimmed and mood created, I dropped the needle, texted my friend Andrew Rodriguez the watermelon slice emoticon, and I let the party begin.

I really didn’t know what to think the first time I heard “Step on” and really, I understood less, the more I learned about the band. They were a product of their time and place: late 80s Manchester. There were drugs. And the mixing of 60s psychedelia and acid house culture. Lots of dancing. And more drugs. The beat was king and that was all the meaning that was necessary. “Pills ‘n’ thrills” illustrates this point, all groovy bass, bongos, drum machines and samples, chaotic, yet organic guitar craziness set against Dadaist lyrics and Ryder’s unsung, shout-along vocals. It is a non-stop party as long as you keep dancing and the drugs don’t run out.

The moment “Step on” came on, the third song on the second side of the album, I wanted to get up and dance around my living room. It is a rave epitomized. It’s whistles and heavy bass. It’s Shaun Ryder yelling “call the cops”. It’s Bez dancing with his maracas. It’s that hopping keys line and growling guitars. It’s neon and glow sticks. And to top it all off… it’s a cover song… or so I learned from an Andrew Rodriguez text message while writing these very words.

What?

Yeah. Apparently, it’s a cover of song from 1971, originally by South African singer/songwriter John Kongos. Ryder and co., renamed it from the original title “He’s gonna step on you again”, and created a version that I can only imagine is completely different. And you know that there’s no way I want to go back and hear Kongos’ version now, after all these years. It can’t exist in this dance party world that I inhabit while the song plays in the background.

Such a great tune and as Rodriguez succinctly summed it all up: “By midway through the song you are too busy dancing to care what twisting my melon means”

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.