"There's a lot to be said for going inside": the time that Ian Brown got sent to prison for threatening to cut off an air hostess' hands

Ian Brown in 1998
(Image credit: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

The '90s did not end well for Ian Brown. Initially, it seemed as if The Stone Roses frontman had got over the iconic Manchester quartet’s 1996 split, because by 1998 his solo career was up and running, with his debut, the fittingly-titled Unfinished Monkey Business, released in February that year. By the end of the year, however, Brown was behind bars.

It’s 25 years ago this month that Brown was jailed for an air rage incident. The singer was sentenced to four months in prison after threatening to cut off the hands of an air hostess after she mistakenly offered him duty free and he began hammering on the door of the cockpit as a flight from Paris to Manchester was coming into land. He was released on parole after two months. 

In an interview with The Guardian in 2000, he looked back at a stint in jail which was spread between Risley remand centre, Kirkham open prison and Manchester’s notorious Strangeways. 

"There's a lot to be said for going inside," Brown told The Guardian. "I came out of there leaner and fitter than I've ever been. When I went in I was doing 30 press-ups and 50 sit-ups. Within six weeks I was doing 500 sit-ups and 400 press-ups, cos you've got the metal bed with the shape to put your feet in. I came out with a flippin' 19-pack!"

"The lads said, 'Don't count days', but I was," Brown continued. "I'd be there at night: '32 days, 31 to go.' In the holding rooms the jailer went, 'I can't jail him. I've seen him at the Hacienda. I've seen him at Blackpool.' They had to get another guy to do it."

Released on Christmas Eve, 1998, Brown immediately began working on the album that would become 2000’s Golden Greats. But his time in prison had also sown the seeds for something grander down the line – a Stone Roses reunion. Brown and Roses guitarist John Squire had been out of touch since 1996, he said, but Squire had written to him in prison.

"I got a little card off John telling me, 'I still love you. I hope you're out for Christmas,'” Brown said. “He sent me a box of Maltesers… When we were kids we used to get each other a box of Maltesers every year for Christmas."

The Stone Roses would eventually come back together in 2011 for a run of triumphant reunion shows, touring on and off until 2017. Squire confirmed in an interview in 2019 that they had split up for good again, and the gap between the two was widened during Covid when Squire answered Brown’s anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown tweet with “wear a mask. Stay safe. Look after yourself and others”. Love Spreads, but Ian Brown seemed to believe Covid didn't. 


Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.