AH Smeets introduces Dodgy

Mathew Priest performing with Dodgy in Manches...

Mathew Priest performing with Dodgy in Manchester 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dodgy are an English power pop rock trio, that rose to prominence during the Britpop era of the 1990s. They are best known for their hits “Staying Out for the Summer”, “If You’re Thinking of Me”, and “Good Enough”. The last was their biggest hit reaching #4 in the UK Singles Chart. They released their first album in over a decade, ‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place’ via Strikeback Records to critical acclaim in February 2012.

Dodgy were born from the ashes of Purple, a trio from Bromsgrove & Redditch, who had moved to London and was composed of Nigel Clark on bass, Mathew Priest on drums and David Griffiths on guitar. Shortly after their arrival in London in 1988, Frederic Colier joined the band as the bass guitarist, with Clark providing vocals. The new formation first settled in Battersea, using their living quarters as a rehearsal space. The quartet then relocated in a detached house in Hounslow, where they turned the garage into a recording studio. The band played extensively around the London music circuit. It was during that time that the band met their future manager, Andy Winter.
Purple, live in London, summer 1989. Nigel Clark on vocal, Frederic Colier on bass, Mathew Priest on drums
Dissension led to the dismissal of Griffiths, with Clark stepping in as the guitarist. The trio performed several concerts around London before agreeing that a lead guitarist was needed. After placing an ad in the magazine Loot, the band invited Ben Lurie, a guitarist from Australia, to join them, only to see him leave them less than a week later to join The Jesus and Mary Chain. Shortly after, Andy Miller, joined the band. Armed with a new sound, the band decided to change its name. It is during this time of transition and intense songwriting that Colier left the outfit. Clark took back the bass, and with Miller on guitar and Mathew Priest on the drums, they became Dodgy.

The band’s debut album was produced by The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie. During the 1990s the band gained significant popularity for their live performances. The band concerned themselves with social issues by supporting The Serious Road Trip, War Child, the Liverpool Dockers’ Strike, Charter 88 and youth democracy campaigns. The band became the second UK act, after China Drum, to play in Sarajevo after the lifting of the siege, giving a concert at Kuk club in August 1996. They returned to Bosnia in 1997, to film a programme with Kate Thornton in Mostar.

While Clark was absent from 1998 to 2007 to pursue ongoing solo projects, Priest and Miller continued the band as a five piece joined by the vocalist David Bassey; keyboardist Chris Hallam, and bassist Nick Abnett. This line up of the group would record one album, Real Estate, released in 2001, which was produced and mixed with Robin Evans at T-Pot Studios in Scotland. On their “Dingwalls to Dingwall” tour in 2000, the group visited the Hebridean island of Taransay, to entertain the castaways being filmed for a BBC reality television programme.

The original line up of the band, Clark, Miller, and Priest, returned with a live album, So Far On 3 Wheels – Dodgy On The Radio, in October 2007. In the summer of 2007, the band announced a reunion tour, featuring the entire original line up. These plans were abandoned however, when Miller fell out of bed, chipping a bone in his arm in the process. The rescheduled tour took place in March 2008.

The band played two sets at Guilfest music festival in Guildford, Surrey in July 2008. The first set was an acoustic set in the Unison tent where they appeared in support of the organisation. They later played a set with full band on the main stage. They headlined the Sunday night at Scarborough’s Beached Festival in August 2008, and appeared at the ToneFest in September.

In November 2008, the first tracks from new recording sessions appeared online. They played a benefit show in May 2009, as part of the homelessness charity Crisis’ ‘Hidden Gigs’ campaign, alongside The Bluetones.

In 2009, Dodgy played at the Glastonbury Festival, as well as appearances at Bug Jam 2009, Whatfest and Cornbury.

On 29 August 2010, Dodgy played at the The Galtres Festival in North Yorkshire, playing Dodgy tracks such as “In a Room” and “Staying out for the Summer”, as well as a version of Nigel Clark’s solo track, “21st Century Man”.

On 23 April 2011, Dodgy played as the headliners at the Mash Fest Festival in Trowbridge and on 28 May 2011, Dodgy headlined at the LeeStock Music Festival in Sudbury, Suffolk, helping to raise money for the Willow Foundation. Mathew Priest said in an interview with the BBC that they would be playing a mixture of new songs and old favourites and talking of their new material said “If we can just get people to listen to it, they’re going to love it”.on 25th August 2011, Dodgy also Headlined at the Garlic Festival, in the Isle of Wight.

In May 2012 they are due to play at Lakefest festival.

‘What Became Of You’ was the first single to be taken from ‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place’, the first album of new material from the three original members of Dodgy since the platinum selling ‘Free Peace Sweet’. Rather than following the trend of bands reforming to play their classic albums in full, Dodgy announced that on their recent UK tour, it was their new album that would be previewed live in its entirety. The album was released February 20th 2012 via the independent Strikeback Records, and saw the band receiving rave reviews from the likes of MOJO, the Guardian and Q Magazine.

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The Divine Comedy

Cover of "Short Album About Love"

Cover of Short Album About Love

The Divine Comedy are a chamber pop band from Northern Ireland formed in 1989 and fronted by Neil Hannon. Hannon has been the only constant member of the group, playing, in some instances, all of the non-orchestral instrumentation besides drums. To date, ten studio albums have been released under the Divine Comedy name. The group achieved their greatest commercial success in the years 1996–99, during which they had nine singles that made the UK Top 40, including the top ten hit “National Express”. The tenth Divine Comedy album, Bang Goes the Knighthood, was released on 31 May 2010.

has been the only ever-present member of the band, being its founder in 1989 when he was joined by John McCullagh and Kevin Traynor. Their first album, the heavily R.E.M.-influenced and now-deleted Fanfare for the Comic Muse, enjoyed little success. A couple of equally unsuccessful EPs – Timewatch (1991); Europop (1992) – were to follow, with newly-recruited member John Allen handling lead vocals on some tracks. After the commercial failure of the Europop EP, this line-up soon fell apart.

Hannon, however, was not deterred in his efforts and re-appeared in 1993 with Liberation. Featuring a fairly diverse musical outlook that goes from the tongue-in-cheek synth pop of ‘Europop’ (nearly unrecognisable from the previously-released version) to the classical stylings of ‘Timewatching’, it is also characterised by a plethora of literary references: ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’ recalls a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald; ‘Three Sisters’ draws upon the play by Anton Chekhov; and ‘Lucy’ is essentially three William Wordsworth poems abridged to music. This led to a degree of critical acclaim, but commercial success still proved elusive.

Indeed, it was only some minor success in France that really enabled Hannon to proceed to his second effort Promenade. Released in 1994, this was heavily driven by classical influences, with Michael Nyman’s stylings clearly an influence. Hannon himself acknowledged this when he apparently sent a copy of his new album to the composer, jokingly asking him not to sue. Essentially, a concept album about a day spent by two lovers, it also received similar critical acclaim to that which Liberation was afforded. Commercial success, though, was not forthcoming despite some of Hannon’s best songwriting to date, including “Don’t Look Down”, “The Summerhouse” and subsequent live favourite “Tonight We Fly”. Soon after the release of the album the Divine Comedy went on tour with Tori Amos, supporting her during her European dates.

At around the same time, Hannon also wrote and performed the theme music for the sitcom Father Ted (which would subsequently be incorporated into the song “Songs of Love” on the album Casanova), and later wrote the music for the deliberately bad mock-Eurovision song “My Lovely Horse” for one episode. Hannon resisted widespread requests from fans to release the track as a single for the Christmas market, but it was eventually released in 1999 as the third track on the CD-single “Gin Soaked Boy”. This would not be the only time they would be responsible for a TV theme, as “In Pursuit of Happiness” was also used by the BBC science and technology show, Tomorrow’s World. Hannon also recently composed the music for the comedy series “The IT Crowd”, written by Father Ted co-writer Graham Linehan.

The album Casanova (1996), and in particular the single “Something for the Weekend”, championed by Chris Evans, then BBC Radio 1 breakfast show DJ and presenter of TFI Friday, led to the band’s first major success, with Neil Hannon becoming a distinctive, albeit unlikely, popstar in an immaculate suit, and always appearing the elegant dandy. At the height of their commercial success, the band released A Short Album About Love (a reference to the Krzysztof Kieślowski film A Short Film About Love), recorded live at soundcheck with the Brunel Ensemble in preparation for a concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, from which several songs were released as b-sides. It was aptly released on Valentine’s Day in 1997. Subsequently, the band contributed a reworking of Noël Coward’s “I’ve Been to a Marvellous Party” to a compilation of covers of the writer’s songs, with Hannon affecting a Cowardesque lilt (albeit interspersed with an aggressive electronic musical backing).

The foppish image, but not the suit, was ditched for the more sombre album Fin De Siècle in 1998, although its biggest hit, the jaunty “National Express”, belied its more intimate, soul-searching tone. Maintaining the balance between these poles, 1999’s Secret History – the Best of The Divine Comedy included rerecordings of Liberation tracks (“The Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count” and “Your Daddy’s Car”) and two new songs (“Gin-Soaked Boy” and “Too Young to Die”) alongside the band’s main hits. In the same year, the band also collaborated with Tom Jones on a cover-version of Portishead’s ‘All Mine’, featured on his album Reload.

A serious side to the band was also in evidence in 2000’s collaboration with Ute Lemper on her album Punishing Kiss, most of which featured The Divine Comedy as Lemper’s backing band. Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot also contributed two original songs and an arrangement of Brecht and Weill’s “Tango Ballad”, whilst Neil Hannon sang two songs (“Tango Ballad”, “Split”) as duets with Lemper.

The 2001 album Regeneration attempted to remove the band still further from its association with comedy. Hannon hired famous producer Nigel Godrich to “remake” the band. Neil ditched the suit and donned a Britrock band image. The album was a greater critical than commercial success, and soon after its release it was announced that The Divine Comedy were splitting up. However, within a year Hannon was touring again with a revised band line-up, playing a series of joint-headline gigs in the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland featuring both The Divine Comedy and Ben Folds, who would cover The Divine Comedy’s “Songs of Love” on his Sunny 16 EP.

Eventually a new album surfaced in the form of 2004’s Absent Friends. Striking a balance between the occasionally earnest sound of the band’s later material and the lighter tone of the more popular releases, it encapsulated the essence of The Divine Comedy. 2004 saw two dates of particularly acclaimed performances, one at the London Palladium (which was later released as a live DVD) and one at the Royal Albert Hall.

In January 2005, Hannon announced that he had acquired the worldwide copyrights to all of his recorded output with his former record label, Setanta Records. He declared on the band’s official website that he would be launching his own record label Divine Comedy Records in order to re-release his 1990s output.

Hannon’s ninth album under the Divine Comedy moniker, Victory for the Comic Muse, was released in June 2006. The bulk of the record was recorded in just two weeks, much of it live rather than multi-tracked, hence the more spontaneous sound, and features appearances from Travis bass player Dougie Payne.

Neil Hannon also provided vocals for songs on the soundtrack for the film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy released in 2005, working with Joby Talbot, the composer for the film and former Divine Comedy band member. This sci-fi connection continued in late 2006, when he contributed vocals to two tracks – “Song For Ten” and “Love Don’t Roam” – on the Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack album. In an interview with Bullz-Eye.com, Hannon explained that, “literally, I was asked to add my vocal by the composer of the songs, who writes for the show. And I didn’t feel that I could say no, simply because I spent my childhood watching this programme. It would be just plain wrong to not do it.”

Hannon also lent his vocals to “Aliens”, the last track on the Irish charity album The Cake Sale in 2006, organised by Brian Crosby of Bell X1 and featuring a variety of mainly Irish musicians.

In 2006, whilst on tour, the band did a Take-Away Show video session shot by Vincent Moon. Most recently,[when?] the first ten or so seconds of “Tonight We Fly” was used as the ending tune to BBC7’s Digi Radio. The song was also used for an advertisement for the Airbus A340 airliner.

Meanwhile, Neil took part in various projects: he recorded “Perfection as a hipster”, included in “God help the girl” soundtrack, a soon-to-be-released musical film by Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch as well as the LP The Duckworth Lewis Method, together with Thomas Walsh of Pugwash.

In March 2007 Neil Hannon’s relationship with Parlophone came to an end.

On 31 May 2010 The Divine Comedy released their tenth album entitled Bang Goes the Knighthood on DC Records. As with Victory for the Comic Muse it was recorded in RAK studios in St John’s Wood by Guy Massey and the orchestra was conducted by Andrew Skeet who was the arranger on this album. It was the first Divine Comedy album where Neil Hannon did not write the orchestral arrangements himself. The album charted at 20 in the first week of release, making it their highest charting album since Regeneration in 2001. The album itself was preceded by the download-only single “At The Indie Disco” which gained airplay, but failed to chart.

The Divine Comedy are kick ass! AH Smeets & Smeets Music!

Cast

Cast are an English rock band from Liverpool, formed in 1992 by John Power (vocals, guitar) and Peter Wilkinson (backing vocals, bass) after Power left The La’s and Wilkinson’s former band Shack had split. Following early line-ups with different guitarists and drummers, Liam “Skin” Tyson (guitar) and Keith O’Neill (drums) joined Cast in 1993.

Emerging from the Britpop movement of the mid-1990s, Cast signed to Polydor Records and their debut album All Change (1995) became the highest selling album for the label. Further commercial success continued with the albums Mother Nature Calls (1997) and Magic Hour (1999), however the band’s fourth album Beetroot (2001) was far less successful which led to the band’s split soon after. Cast reunited for a UK tour in November 2010.

Noel Gallagher of Oasis described watching the band live as being like a “religious experience”and they were labelled “The Who of the 90’s”. It has been suggested that the name “Cast” was taken from the final word on The La’s eponymous album (the song “Looking Glass” ends with the repeated line “The change is cast”), though John Power stated when interviewed that this was a coincidence. The name Cast came from an area in Liverpool where the band are from, near to the docks, where in the 1990s were lots of shipping containers stored with the name ‘Cast’ on them.

1992–1994: formation and early years

John Power was previously the bass player, backing vocalist and only constant member along with Lee Mavers in The La’s. He left the band on the 13th December 1991 after becoming frustrated with the ever increasing number of aborted studio sessions, having played essentially the same set of songs since 1986 and emerging as a songwriter in his own right. Power later commented that by that point he was more interested in his own songs “than anyone else’s”.

Having switched from bass to rhythm guitar whilst residing at Brucklay House – a near derelict squat in Mossley Hill,where the seeds of legendary dance label 3 Beat Records were sown, Power began jamming with friends and with an ever changing line up began to form Cast. The first addition to the band was ex-Shack bassist Peter Wilkinson who had seen Power performing acoustically at a free festival in Liverpool, and who Power had seen around town.”. Embryonic lineups of the band, featuring several guitarists including Ged Malley, ex-La’s members Barry Sutton and Cammy and drummer Russell Brady started gigging in mid 1992 and supported the likes of Pele and The Stairs. Power would later state that he was never happy with these lineups. Unhappy with the band and the demos recorded with Who sound engineer Bob Pridden, he split the band up and extricated himself from his Go! Discs contract in Summer 1993, with whom he was still signed to following his departure from The La’s and set about forming a new lineup with Wilkinson.

The first new member to be recruited was Keith O’Neill who had previously played in The Empty Hours,The Windmills and Tommy Scott’s pre-Space band The Australians and who Power had seen playing in local band The Windmills, fronted by Howie Payne later of The Stands and then guitarist Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson, who Wilkinson knew from college and had previously played in Pyramid Dream. When approached to join the band, Tyson initially declined as he had sold all of his musical equipment to teach canoeing at an outdoor centre in Alston in Cumbria. Tyson, who witnessed one of the band’s early London shows and commented that “John had these songs, but not the band”, joined the band in November 1993 and the new lineup played their first gig in Hull in January 1994. Within months the band secured high profile support slots with Elvis Costello on two UK tours, including 2 nights at the Royal Albert Hall and Oasis. It was during the tour with Oasis that Polydor head of A&R Paul Adam, surprised that the band had not already been snapped up, approached the band to sign them. The band signed to Polydor on the 13 December 1994, three years to the day that Power left The La’s.

 

The band released their debut single “Finetime” in July 1995, which went straight in at #17. The follow-up single “Alright”, a song originally written and performed a handful of times whilst still in The La’s under the original title “Fly On” became the band’s first Top 15 hit in the UK, peaking at #13 in the singles chart.

The band’s debut album All Change, released October 1995 was produced by John Leckie who had previously worked with The Stone Roses and The Verve and had also previously worked with Power in The La’s. The album shot to #7 in the UK charts, reaching double platinum and went on to become the fastest selling debut album in the history of the Polydor label, outselling the likes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and The Jam. A further two singles were taken from the album in “Sandstorm” (#8) and “Walkaway” (#9), both top tens hits.

A stand-alone single was released in October 1996 titled “Flying”, which reached #4 on the UK singles chart, giving the band their highest chart position in the UK yet.

With their second album Mother Nature Calls, released April 1997 the “rockier material was now sounding looser and cockier in a Stonesy or Faces-ish way and the moodier tracks awash with melancholic atmosphere”. The band worked again with John Leckie. The album peaked at #3, reaching platinum and stayed in the Top 40 for over 6 months. The album spawned three top ten hits in “Free Me” , “Guiding Star” , “Live the Dream”  and one top twenty hit with the 4th single from the album “I’m So Lonely” (, a ballad written during a period of bleak loneliness in a Japanese hotel room. Power revealed that the album title was supposed to be tongue in cheek, because Mother Nature is always calling because of man’s mortality, but also because he was on the toilet at the time he came up with the name. Although The Daily Telegraph proclaimed “Employing the spiritual terms of Power’s lyrics, Cast may be the perfect Taoist band. They don’t seem to try. Cast just are.”, the album received largely mixed reviews in the press, Power later blamed this on the fact that it was more of a slow burner than the more instant All Change and claimed that a number of critics later told him that repeated listens had changed their perceptions of the album.

By the time the band set to work on their third album, Magic Hour, released May 1999 the Britpop movement was faltering – a number of Cast’s contemporaries, such as Kula Shaker and The Seahorses had disbanded, Suede and Mansun were experiencing a drop in record sales from their previous efforts and label mates Shed Seven and Medal had been dropped by Polydor. Amid the changing musical climate, the band enlisted Gil Norton who had previously produced The Pixies and the band moved towards a heavier riff based sound. Power described the album as “21st century rock’n’roll” and “Walt Disney doing Quadrophenia”.

The first single from “Magic Hour” was “Beat Mama”, with the band using loops and samples on the record for the first to give the material a more modern feel, Power described the song as “a call to everyone, a beat for everyone to move to, like the old Kia-Ora advert with the dog and the crows”. The song became the band’s last top ten hit, peaking at #9. In a chart now awash with teen pop the album shot to #6. A second and final single was taken from the album “Magic Hour”, which stalled at #28. Momentum was lost due to a lack of touring and Power also later criticised the choice of single, suggesting the band should have gone with something more uptempo. A planned third single was scrapped after disagreements between the band and label. Following the release and short lived promotion of the album, Power stated that he believed with three albums under Cast’s belt that a chapter had finished.

Power began writing in early 2000 for the follow-up, Beetroot, released July 2001. Although initially set to work again with Leckie, Power met producer and programmer Tristin Norwell and was interested in working with him as he was “up on now, the sounds of now and someone who I can talk to with an acoustic”. The pair began working on the album together for 3 months before moving to another studio, where other members of the band contributed. Bassist Peter Wilkinson was not present for much of the recording due to the birth of his son, guitarist Skin Tyson mostly featured only as rhythm guitarist and most of the drums were cut up and looped. The album was based largely on loops and featured heavy use of horns and flutes and deliberately moved away from the bands guitar sound as Power claimed the band “wanted to come back with something that feels fresh and enticing” and described the material as groovier and talked of having a desire of “combining this sort of Marley and funkadelic stuff or Sly and the Family that I’ll get into as much as I get into Townshend and Lennon”.

Only one single was released from the album, “Desert Drought” which stalled at #45 in the charts. The album fared worse, failing to make the Top 75, crawling to #78 on the charts. Following the cancellation of a planned UK Autumn tour due to “internal band circumstanes”, Cast split in August 2001 just one month after the release of the album. It had been rumoured in the UK tabloid press that the band had been dropped by Polydor and that Power had walked out of the band. However, a spokesman for the band at the time denied the band were splitting, that they were merely taking time out to work on solo projects.John Power released a statement to deny any rifts in the band and that this was “just the beginning of a new musical chapter”, but would later admit that there were lots of internal differences in the band by the end and admitted “When Cast split, it was the same as when The La’s fell apart. You pretend everything is okay, but it’s not. I was really down, really depressed”.
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Following the split, John Power released a solo album entitled Happening For Love in 2003 through Eagle Rock Entertainment and 2 further solo albums more in the acoustic folk vein through his own record label Tanuki Tanuki. He has toured regularly as The John Power Band (which has featured Steve Pilgrim of The Stands and Jay Lewis and Nick Miniski of the 2005 lineup of The La’s) as well as performing solo acoustic shows. In 2005, Power played a series of gigs with newly-reformed The La’s. The band didn’t showcase any new material and have not been heard from again.

Peter Wilkinson, along with the band’s live keyboardist Paul Ellison joined Echo & The Bunnymen and appeared on the 2005 album Siberia before leaving shortly after to rejoin the re-formed Shack. In 2002 he released a solo album via The Viper Label under the guise of Aviator with help from O’Neill, Paul Ellison and former La’s guitarist Paul Hemmings. In 2003 Wilkinson and O’Neill briefly joined Kealer with Manchester singer-songwriter Jason Kelly and then set to work with ex-Stairs guitarist Carl Cook on a follow-up to the first Aviator album in early 2004 which was seemingly shelved. He then formed the short lived DC-10. Wilkinson has also recorded and toured with a number of other artists including Ian McCulloch and The Hours and more recently has started composing music for TV commercials.

Keith O’Neill, following stints with Aviator and Kealer went on to work as part of the management team at Deltasonic Records before going on to work as a tour and production manager with bands such as the now-defunct Liverpool band Dead 60s,Babyshambles, Art Garfunkel, Lostprophets. and Foals.

Liam Tyson joined Robert Plant’s band, Strange Sensation in early 2002, touring Plant’s album Dreamland before appearing on and co-writing the follow-up Mighty ReArranger. He then set about working on his Men From Mars project in 2004, originally set to feature Wilkinson and O’Neill,with others members of Strange Sensation.

Power undertook a “Cast Acoustic Show” tour in June 2010, where he played a set of Cast songs along with new tracks written over the past year for a potential new Cast album.[43] On 22 June, it was officially announced by NME that the band were to reform, with plans to work on new material. The band toured the UK in November and December to mark the 15th anniversary of All Change.A deluxe edition of All Change was released on 25 October that year, to tie in with the re-union and 15th anniversary of the album, containing the original album re-mastered plus b-sides, outtakes, demos and live recordings.

On 6 November, John Power appeared on British TV show Soccer AM, and stated that Cast would be starting work on a new album in early 2011, and that it would be released via Pledgemusic.

Cast released their fifth studio album, Troubled Times, produced by John Leckie, initially as a download to pledgers through Pledgemusic on 2 November 2011, with a planned physical release in March 2012. The album featured drummer Steve Pilgrim, who also completed a short tour with the band in December. The future of original drummer O’Neill is uncertain with the band, as he is regularly unable to take part in recording and touring due to work commitments as a tour manager. In response to a fan’s query on Twitter, he stated that a tour in early 2012 should feature the original line-up unless he is “called upon by a major client”.

AH Smeets The Boo Radleys Page

The Boo Radleys, 1993

The Boo Radleys, 1993 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

AH Smeets – The Boo Radleys were an English alternative rock band of the 1990s who were associated with the shoegazing and Britpop movements. They were formed in Wallasey, Merseyside, England in 1988, with Rob Harrison on drums, singer/guitarist Sice Rowbottom, guitarist/songwriter Martin Carr, bassist Timothy Brown . Their name is taken from the character Boo Radley in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.Shortly after the release of their first album, Hewitt replaced Rob Harrison on drums and he was in turn replaced by Rob Cieka. The band split up in 1999.

In 1990, the band’s first album Ichabod and I was released on a small British indie label, Action Records. Although not a commercial success, this release brought the band to the attention of Rough Trade Records, to whom they signed. Around this time, Hewitt was replaced on drums by Rob Cieka.

Almost immediately after the release of the Every Heaven EP in 1991, Rough Trade collapsed and the Boo Radleys were signed by Alan McGee’s Creation Records. Their first for Creation was Everything’s Alright Forever in 1992, and Giant Steps (1993) followed. The record was awarded 9/10 by the UK music magazine NME, which stated, “It’s an intentional masterpiece, a throw-everything-at-the-wall bric-a-brac of sounds, colours and stolen ideas. That The Boo Radleys (of all people!) have decided to accept their own challenge and create a record as diverse and boundary-bending as this is, at first glance, staggering. Isn’t this the job of the U2s and the leisured idols of rock, unable to do anything without the tacit approval of history? Fortunately not. The Boo Radleys are sifting through time (the mid-’60s, mostly) and conjuring up something that’s as cut-up and ambitious as anything you’d care to mention”. Reviewing the album’s re-release in 2008, Sic Magazine wrote, “For 64 minutes they were the greatest band on the planet.”

Giant Steps placed second to Debut by Björk in the 1993 NME album of the year list, voted by the paper’s contributors, although it came in first place in the subsequent NME readers’ poll. The now-defunct Select magazine declared Giant Steps their album of the year for 1993″.

Despite critical acclaim and a cult fanbase, the Boo Radleys were still largely unknown to the general public by the time the Britpop phenomenon broke into the mainstream in 1995. This changed when the band released the upbeat single “Wake Up Boo!” in the spring of that year.It made the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 9. The single remained on the chart for two months, by far the band’s longest run for any of its singles; later, on 26 October 2009, BFBS Forces Radio launched its live Afghanistan studio output with the track after it topped a listeners poll seeking a suitable first track. Carr describes writing the song watching The Big Breakfast after a night on acid. The follow-up release, “Find the Answer Within,” was the band’s only other single to chart for more than two weeks. Their fourth album Wake Up! (1995), was their commercial peak. Interviewed in 2005 by the BBC, Carr said: “I tried to have nothing to do with what was being called Britpop. Our whole career was spent trying not to ‘fit in’. We just carried on doing what we had been doing. I didn’t like most of the new bands or the flag-waving. I didn’t like New Labour or idolise Paul Weller and I hated media-generated movements within music”.

In 1996, the Boo Radleys released their fifth album C’mon Kids. As explained by Rowbottom in an interview in 2005: “We didn’t want to scare away the hit-kids, we wanted to take them with us to somewhere that we’d not been before. All we wanted to do was make a different type of album than Wake Up… All we wanted to do was try something new – to keep ourselves fresh and interested. We were very surprised to find that it was seen as a deliberate attempt to scare away newly created fans. That would have been an extremely foolish thing to do.”

The Boo Radleys’ final album was 1998’s Kingsize. One single was released from the album, “Free Huey!”. The title track was due to have been released as a second single, but the band decided to split up.

A compilation album, Find The Way Out, was released in 2005, and a further compilation The Best of the Boo Radleys appeared in 2007.

The Boo Radleys disbanded in early 1999. Brown built a popular recording studio before going on to John Moores University for teacher training. He progressed on to teaching information technology at St Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, and also taught at Park High School in Birkenhead.

Under the name Bravecaptain, Carr has since released six albums, including The Fingertip Saint Sessions Volume 1, Go With Yourself, Advertisements for Myself (2002) and All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2004). His most recent album was titled Distractions. Carr has since announced that he will be retiring the Bravecaptain name to work on new projects, but these will not include reforming the Boo Radleys. His first solo album Ye Gods (And Little Fishes) was released in mid 2009. Cieka is now a member of the band Domino Bones, alongside Mark “Bez” Berry, formerly of the Happy Mondays.

After an album in 1996 (First Fruits) under the name Eggman, while still a member of the Boo Radleys, Rowbottom walked away from music for several years after the split. Then, following a guest vocal on Bravecaptain’s, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, and also two songs with the Japanese musician Ryo Matsui’s solo project, Meister, he formed Paperlung. The band featured Rowbottom on vocals, Simon Gardiner on bass, Ben Datlen on guitar and Guillaume Jambel of Transcargo on drums. They released two singles, “The Days That God Sold You” and “Do What Thou Will”, and an album, Balance.

Blur

English: Damon Albarn and Alex James of Blur o...

English: Damon Albarn and Alex James of Blur on stage at the Newcastle Academy, June 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

AH Smeets – Blur are an English alternative rock band. Formed in London in 1988 as Seymour, the group consists of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur’s debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change—influenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTC—Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a famous chart battle with rival band Oasis dubbed “The Battle of Britpop”.

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, showing influence from the lo-fi style of American indie rock groups. “Song 2”, one of the album’s singles, brought Blur mainstream success in the US. Their next album, 13 (1999) saw the band members experimenting with electronic music and gospel music, as Albarn wrote more personal lyrics. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn’s growing interest in hip hop and African music. After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects. In 2009 Blur reunited, with Coxon back in the fold, for a series of successful concerts.

Childhood friends Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon met Alex James when they began studying at London’s Goldsmiths College in 1988. Albarn was in a group named Circus, who were joined by drummer Dave Rowntree that October.Circus requested the services of Coxon after the departure of their guitarist. That December Circus fired two members and James joined as the group’s bassist. This new group named themselves Seymour in December 1988, inspired by J.D. Salinger’s Seymour: An Introduction. Seymour performed live for the first time in summer 1989. In November, Food Records’ A&R man Andy Ross attended a Seymour performance that convinced him to court the group for his label. The only concern held by Ross and Food was that they disliked the band’s name. Food drew up a list of alternatives, from which the band decided on “Blur”. Food Records finally signed the newly christened Blur in March 1990.

From March to July 1990, Blur toured the UK, opening for The Cramps, and testing out new songs. In October 1990, after their tour was over, Blur released the “She’s So High” single, which reached number 48 in the UK Singles Chart. The band had trouble creating a follow-up single, but they made progress when paired with producer Stephen Street. The resulting single release, “There’s No Other Way”, became a hit, peaking at number eight. As a result of the single’s success, Blur became pop stars and were accepted into a clique of bands who frequented The Syndrome club in London dubbed “The Scene That Celebrates Itself”. NME magazine wrote in 1991, “are [the] acceptable pretty face of a whole clump of bands that have emerged since the whole Manchester thing started to run out of steam.”

The band’s third single, “Bang”, performed relatively disappointingly, reaching only number 24.Andy Ross and Food owner David Balfe were convinced Blur’s best course of action was to continue drawing influence from the Madchester genre. Blur attempted to expand their musical sound, but the recording of the group’s debut album was hindered by Albarn having to write his lyrics in the studio. Although the resulting album Leisure (1991) peaked at number seven on the UK Albums Chart, it received mixed reviews,and according to journalist John Harris, “could not shake off the odour of anti-climax”.

After discovering they were £60,000 in debt, Blur toured the United States in 1992 in an attempt to recoup their financial losses. The group released the single “Popscene” to coincide with the start of the tour. Featuring “a rush of punk guitars, ’60s pop hooks, blaring British horns, controlled fury, and postmodern humor”, “Popscene” was a turning point for the band musically. However, upon its release it only charted at number 32. “We felt ‘Popscene’ was a big departure; a very, very English record,” Albarn told the NME in 1993, “But that annoyed a lot of people … We put ourselves out on a limb to pursue this English ideal and no-one was interested.” As a result of the single’s lacklustre performance, plans to release a single named “Never Clever” were scrapped and work on Blur’s second album was pushed back.

During the two-month American tour, the band became increasingly unhappy, often venting frustrations on each other, leading to several physical confrontations.The band members were homesick; Albarn said, “I just started to miss really simple things … I missed everything about England so I started writing songs which created an English atmosphere.” Upon the group’s return to the United Kingdom, Blur (Albarn in particular) were upset by the success rival group Suede had achieved while they were gone.After a poor performance at a 1992 gig that featured a well-received performance by Suede on the same bill, Blur were in danger of being dropped by Food. By that time, Blur had undergone an ideological and image shift intended to celebrate their British heritage in contrast to the popularity of American grunge bands like Nirvana. Although sceptical of Albarn’s new manifesto for the band, Balfe gave assent for the band’s choice of Andy Partridge of the band XTC to produce their follow-up to Leisure. The sessions with Partridge proved unsatisfactory, and were abandoned after only three songs,but a chance reunion with Stephen Street resulted in him returning to produce the group.

The band completed their second album Modern Life Is Rubbish in December 1992, but Food Records said the album required more potential hit singles and asked them to return to the studio for a second time. The band complied and Albarn wrote “For Tomorrow”, which became the album’s lead single.”For Tomorrow” was a minor success, reaching number 28 on the charts. Modern Life Is Rubbish was released in May 1993. The announcement of the album’s release included a press photo featuring the phrase “British Image 1” spraypainted behind the band (who were dressed in a mixture of mod and skinhead attire) and a mastiff-breed dog. At the time, such imagery was viewed as nationalistic and racially insensitive by the British music press; to quiet concerns, Blur subsequently released the “British Image 2” photo, which was “a camp restaging of a pre-war aristocratic tea party”. Modern Life Is Rubbish peaked at number 15 on the British charts, yet it did not make much of an impression in the U.S.

The success of Parklife (1994) revived Blur’s commercial fortunes. The album’s first single, the disco-influenced “Girls & Boys”, found favour on BBC Radio 1. It peaked at number five on the UK singles chart and number four on the US Modern Rock chart, where it remains the band’s highest-charting single.Parklife entered the British charts at number one and stayed on the album charts for 90 weeks. Enthusiastically greeted by the music press—the NME called it “a Great Pop Record … bigger, bolder, narkier and funnier [than Modern Life is Rubbish]”—Parklife is regarded as one of Britpop’s defining records. The album generated further hit singles, including the ballad “To the End” and the mod anthem “Parklife”. Blur won four awards at the 1995 BRIT Awards, including Best Band and Best Album for Parklife. Coxon later pointed to Parklife as the moment when “[Blur] went from being regarded as an alternative, left field arty band to this amazing new pop sensation”.

Blur began working on their fourth album The Great Escape at the start of 1995. Building upon the band’s previous two albums, Albarn’s lyrics for the album consisted of several third-person narratives. James reflected, “It was all more elaborate, more orchestral, more theatrical, and the lyrics were even more twisted … It was all dysfunctional, misfit characters fucking up.”The release of the album’s lead single “Country House” played a part in Blur’s public rivalry with Manchester band Oasis termed “The Battle of Britpop”. Partly due to increasing antagonisms between the groups, Blur and Oasis ultimately decided to release their new singles on the same day, an event the NME called “The British Heavyweight Championship”. The debate over which band would top the British singles chart became a media phenomenon, and Albarn appeared on the News at Ten. At the end of the week, “Country House” ultimately outsold Oasis’ “Roll With It” by 274,000 copies to 216,000, becoming Blur’s first number one single.

The Great Escape was released in September 1995 to rapturous reviews, and entered the UK charts at number one. The NME hailed it as “spectacularly accomplished, sumptuous, heart-stopping and inspirational”. However, opinion quickly changed and Blur found themselves largely out of favour with the media once again. Following the worldwide success of Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (which went quadruple platinum in America), the media quipped that “[Blur] wound up winning the battle but losing the war.”Blur became perceived as an “inauthentic middle class pop band” in comparison to the “working class heroes” Oasis, which Albarn said made him feel “stupid and confused”. Bassist Alex James later summarised, “After being the People’s Hero, Damon was the People’s Prick for a short period … basically, he was a loser – very publicly.”

An early 1996 Q magazine interview revealed that relations between Blur members had become very strained; journalist Adrian Deevoy wrote that he found them “on the verge of a nervous breakup”.Coxon, in particular, began to resent his band mates; James for his playboy lifestyle, and Albarn for his control over Blur’s musical direction and public image. The guitarist struggled with drinking problems and, in a rejection of the group’s Britpop aesthetic, made a point of listening to noisy American alternative rock bands such as Pavement. In February 1996, when Coxon and James were absent for a lip-synced Blur performance broadcast on Italian television, they were replaced by a cardboard cutout and a roadie, respectively. Blur biographer Stuart Maconie later wrote that, at the time, “Blur were sewn together very awkwardly”.

Although he had previously dismissed it, Albarn grew to appreciate Coxon’s tastes in lo-fi and underground music, and recognised the need to significantly change Blur’s musical direction once again. “I can sit at my piano and write brilliant observational pop songs all day long but you’ve got to move on”, he said. He subsequently approached Street, and argued for a more stripped-down sound on the band’s next record. Coxon, recognising his own personal need to—as Rowntree put it—”work this band”, wrote a letter to Albarn, describing his desire for their music “to scare people again”. After initial sessions in London, the band left to record the rest of the album in Iceland, away from the Britpop scene.
The result was Blur, the band’s fifth studio album, released in February 1997. Although the music press predicted that the lo-fi sonic experimentation would alienate Blur’s teenage girl fan-base, they generally applauded the effort. Pointing out lyrics such as “Look inside America/ She’s alright”, and noting Albarn’s “obligatory nod to Beck, [and promotion of] the new Pavement album as if paid to do so”, reviewers felt the band had come to accept American values during this time—an about-face of their attitude during the Britpop years. Despite cries of “commercial suicide”, the album and its first single, “Beetlebum”, debuted at number one in the UK.Although the album could not match the sales of their previous albums in the UK, Blur became the bandmost successful internationally. In the US, the record received strong reviews as the album and the “Song 2” single became a hit. Blur reached number 61 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold, while “Song 2” peaked at number six on the Modern Rock chart. After “Song 2” was licensed for use in various media—such as soundtracks, advertisements and television shows—it became the most-recognisable Blur song in the US. After the success of Blur, the band embarked on a nine-month world tour.

In February 1998, a few months after completing the tour, Blur released Bustin’ + Dronin’ for the Japanese market. The album is a collection of Blur songs remixed by artists such as Thurston Moore, William Orbit and Moby. Among the tracks, the band were most impressed by Orbit’s effort and enlisted him to replace Street as producer for their next album, citing a need to approach the recording process from a fresh perspective.Recording sessions for the upcoming album began in June 1998, and in August of that year, Coxon released his debut solo album, The Sky is Too High on his own label, Transcopic Records.

Released in March 1999, Blur’s sixth studio album 13 saw them drift still further away from their Britpop-era attitude and sound. Orbit’s production style allowed for more jamming, and incorporated a “variety of emotions, atmospheres, words and sounds” into the mix. 13 was creatively dominated by Coxon, who “was simply allowed to do whatever he chose, unedited”, by Orbit. Albarn’s lyrics—more heart-felt, personal and intimate than on previous occasions—were reflective of his break-up with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann, his partner of eight years. The album received generally favourable reviews from the press. While Q called it “a dense, fascinating, idiosyncratic and accomplished art rock album”, the NME felt it was inconsistent and “(at least) a quarter-of-an-hour too long”. 13 debuted at the top of the UK charts, staying at that position for two weeks. The album’s lead single, the gospel-based “Tender”, opened at the second spot on the charts. After “Coffee & TV”, the first Blur single to feature Coxon on lead vocals, managed to only reach number 11 in the UK, manager Chris Morrison demanded a chart re-run because of what he deemed was a sales miscalculation.
Blur at the Roskilde Festival, 1999

In July 1999, in celebration of their tenth anniversary, Blur released a 22-CD limited edition box-set of their singles. The accompanying tour in December saw Blur play the A-sides of the 22 singles (in their chronological order of release) at every show. In October 2000, the group released the best-of album Blur: The Best of, which debuted at number three in the UK Dismissed by the band as “the first record we have seen as product”, the tracklisting and release dates of Blur: The Best of were determined on the basis of market research and focus groups conducted by Blur’s record label, EMI By this time, the group had largely disowned the upbeat pop singles from the Britpop era, and favoured the more arty, experimental work on Blur and 13. In an otherwise highly enthusiastic review of the best-of for the NME, Steve Sutherland criticised the band’s “sheer disregard” for their earlier work; “Just because these songs embarrassed them once they started listening to broadsheet critics and retreated wounded from the big-sales battle with Oasis doesn’t mean that we’re morons .

After 13 and the subsequent tours in 1999-2000, the band entered into a hiatus, during which band members pursued other projects. Graham Coxon recorded a string of solo albums, while Damon Albarn dedicated his time to Gorillaz, the animated band he had created with Jamie Hewlett. Alex James worked with Fat Les and co-wrote several songs with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Marianne Faithfull.[52]

Early in 2002, Blur temporarily broke its hiatus to record a song that would be played for the European Space Agency’s Mars Lander; however, the plan fell through when the lander was lost. Recording for Blur’s next album got under way in Marrakesh, Morocco in mid-2002. After several weeks of uncertainty, Coxon confirmed that he had been asked to leave the band for reasons connected with his “attitude”.Coxon stated that “there were no rows” and “[the band] just recognised the feeling that we needed some time apart”. His last contribution to the band was a guitar line on the final track of Think Tank, “Battery in Your Leg” which Albarn said was the only song he ever wrote about the band. Before the album was released, Blur released a new single, “Don’t Bomb When You Are the Bomb” as a very limited white label release. The song is largely electronic, and was part of the band’s protest against war in the Middle East. Albarn, however, attempted to assuage fans’ fears that the album would be electronic by providing reassurances that the band’s new album would be “a rockin’ record”, and also stated that it has “a lot of finely crafted pop songs”.

Think Tank, released in May 2003, was filled with atmospheric, brooding electronic sounds, featuring simpler guitar lines played by Albarn, and largely relying on other instruments to replace Coxon. Coxon’s absence also meant that Think Tank was almost entirely written by Albarn. Its sound was seen as a testament to Albarn’s increasing interest in African music, Middle Eastern music and electronic music, and to his complete control over the group’s creative direction. Think Tank was yet another UK number one and managed Blur’s highest US position of number 56. The album was also nominated for best album at the 2004 BRIT Awards. The band supported the album with a tour and three singles: “Out of Time”, “Crazy Beat” and “Good Song”.

In 2005, XFM news reported that the band would be recording an EP, and denied the idea of hiring a new guitarist to replace Coxon. There were also some aborted recordings done in 2005. Overall the band kept low profile and did no studio recordings or touring as a three-piece. After Coxon significantly thawed about rejoining the band, James announcedin April and August 2007 that the band would reunite and would likely be recording a new album in October. However this didn’t materialise and the subsequent year was spent on solo projects.

In December 2008, Albarn and Coxon stated that Blur would reunite for a concert at Hyde Park on 3 July 2009, but after tickets for the concert sold out within 2 minutes of release, Blur announced an additional performance at Hyde Park on 2 July. A series of June preview shows were also announced, ending at Manchester Evening News arena on the 26th. All the shows were well received; The Guardian’s music critic Alexis Petridis gave their performance at Goldsmiths college a full five stars, and wrote that “Blur’s music seems to have potentiated by the passing of years … they sound both more frenetic and punky and more nuanced and exploratory than they did at the height of their fame”. Blur headlined the Glastonbury Festival on 28 June, where they played for the first time since their headline slot in 1998. Reviews of the Glastonbury performance were enthusiastic, The Guardian called them “the best Glastonbury headliners in an age”. The band released their second greatest hits album Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur in June 2009.

Blur also headlined at other summer festivals, including Oxegen 2009 in Ireland, and the Scottish outdoor show of T in the Park. Their T in the Park headline slot was put in jeopardy after Graham Coxon was admitted to hospital with food poisoning. Ultimately, the band did play, albeit an hour and a half after they were scheduled to appear. After the reunion shows and the subsequent months, bandmembers stated that the band had no immediate plans to continue their reunion, either entering the studio or playing more shows.

In January 2010, No Distance Left to Run, a documentary about the band, was released in cinemas and a month later on DVD. In April 2010, Blur released their first single and the first studio recording with the original line-up since 2003, “Fool’s Day”, for the Record Store Day event as a 7″ limited to 1000 copies.This was released as a free download on their official website the next day.

In December 2010, No Distance Left to Run was nominated as Best Long Form Music Video for the 53rd Grammy Awards, Blur’s first-ever Grammy nomination.

In February 2012, Coxon announced to the Daily Record that Blur will be recording a new album, Later that month, Albarn and Coxon premiered a new track together live, “Under the Westway”. However, producer William Orbit told the NME that Albarn had halted recording of new material. In April, the band announced that a box-set entitled Blur 21—containing all seven Blur studio albums, four discs of unreleased rarities and three DVDs—would be released in July.In June 2012 Graham Coxon stated to Music News that “there is a pressure for us to do more, but we can’t do it just because people want us to. We have to do it because it’s right.”  Blur were awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the 2012 BRIT Awards, where they went on to perform five songs. Blur will headline at Hyde Park, with New Order and The Specials, to celebrate the closing of the 2012 Summer Olympics on 12 August 2012.

During the poetry festival POEM2012 on June 14, 2012, Damon Albarn performed various tracks from his opera Dr Dee, along with a new Blur song, The Puritan On June 19, Blur’s official Twitter and Facebook pages announced there will be an further announcement on July 2nd at 7:15pm GMT. #Blur and #ThePuritan were given as clues.

The Bluetones – Smeets Music

Bluetones badge

Bluetones badge (Photo credit: Maria Keays)

The Bluetones were an English indie rock band, formed in Hounslow, Greater London, in 1993. The band’s members were Mark Morriss on vocals, Adam Devlin on guitar, Scott Morriss on bass guitar, and Eds Chesters on drums. A fifth member, Richard Payne, came on board between 1998 and 2002. The band was originally named “The Bottlegarden”.

The band’s biggest hit, “Slight Return”, was released in 1996. They have achieved thirteen Top 40 singles and three Top 10 albums in the UK charts.

The Bluetones’ commercial success waned after the fall of the Britpop movement, yet they continued to tour and release new records and were therefore often labelled as “Britpop survivors”.

The band’s latest album A New Athens was released on 31 May 2010.

The band split on 1 October 2011 following a farewell tour which ended with a concert in Osaka, Japan

After the release of two singles on Fierce Panda Records, the band signed to A&M Records and released Expecting to Fly on their own sublabel Superior Quality Recordings.The album entered the UK Albums Chart at number one, and featured the singles “Bluetonic” and “Slight Return”, with the latter being beaten to number one by one-hit-wonders Babylon Zoo’s “Spaceman”. Following the touring and promotional duties for Expecting to Fly, the band released stand-alone single “Marblehead Johnson” to bridge the gap between albums.

The second album, Return To The Last Chance Saloon, was released in 1998. While failing to generate the commercial success of their debut, it did spawn hits in the form of “Solomon Bites the Worm” and “If…”.

Whilst many of their mid 1990s peers had disbanded by 2000, The Bluetones released their third album, Science & Nature, which again reached the Top 10 and featured the hit singles “Keep the Home Fires Burning” and “Autophilia”.

After releasing a best-of album in 2002, the band followed up with Luxembourg, an album which received mixed reviews.

A three-album deal was signed in late 2005 with the Cooking Vinyl record label, promptly followed by the limited release of E.P. Serenity Now and a full UK tour.

In early 2006, Universal issued a comprehensive box set of all The Bluetones singles and B-sides released between 1995 and 2003, A Rough Outline.

A single, entitled “My Neighbour’s House”, was released in the UK on 18 September 2006. The single was taken from their self-titled album, which was released on 9 October that year. It failed to chart in the UK Albums Chart after its first week on sale. The album was also released in the US, the first such occurrence since their debut. Although no reason was cited, on 1 October 2006, it was announced that a planned nine-date tour of North America and Australia had been scrapped. However, on 1 November 2006, the band began a month-long tour of Europe in support of their new release, including two sold-out nights at Glasgow’s King Tuts.

In February 2007, the band released BBC Radio Sessions containing tracks recorded for the BBC between 1994 and 2000. This was followed in June with their first full live album, Once Upon a Time in West Twelve, recorded at the Shepherds Bush Empire on 18 November 2005, and was followed on 29 October 2007, by a live DVD of the same concert under the title Beat about the Bush. 2007 also saw the release of a compilation album of early demo recordings, entitled The Early Garage Years. They also released a DVD under the title Blue Movies.

In January 2008, the band began a mini-tour of Scotland, playing five cities (Stirling, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh) in as many nights. In May 2008 a ten-date tour covered Cambridge, Whitehaven, Sheffield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Birmingham, London, Bristol, Manchester and Darwen, including one of the last few concerts at the Astoria. They also played a show with Brit-pop rivals Dodgy on 17 May 2009, at a secret London venue, to benefit the homelessness charity Crisis, as part of the charity’s ‘Hidden Gigs’ campaign against hidden homelessness.

In December 2008, the band embarked on a five-date tour, taking in Lincoln, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. The tour saw them playing their debut album, Expecting to Fly, in full. Some further dates were subsequently announced for February and March 2009.

On 31 May 2010, the band released an album called A New Athens. Despite largely positive reviews by fans and critics alike, the album failed to chart in the UK Albums Chart.

The song “Sleazy Bed Track” from the 1998 album Return To The Last Chance Saloon was featured in the popular 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and also included on the soundtrack.

On 28 March, the band announced they would split after a farewell tour in September 2011, with a message from frontman Mark Morriss saying “After 17 years and 6 albums, The Bluetones have decided that the time has arrived to call it a day and move on to other challenges. Before disappearing forever though, we will be heading out for one last tour, as a chance to say farewell and thank you to all the fans that have sustained us over these years, with a career-spanning Greatest Hits/Best Of… style set of songs. It’s gonna be emotional.” Smeets Music – London

Black Grape

Cover of "It's Great When You're Straight...

Cover of It’s Great When You’re Straight Yeah

AH Smeets presents the Black Grape were a 1990s rock band from England, featuring former members of Happy Mondays. The group’s music was funky and eclectic, using varied instrumentation and samples.

The band was formed in 1993 by former Happy Mondays members Shaun Ryder and Bez. It was Ryder’s first musical project after the disintegration of Happy Mondays due both to his multiple drug addictions and to disagreements about revenues with other bandmembers. The formation of the new band was intended to draw a line between his past life and his new one. Ryder and Bez recruited rappers Kermit and Psycho, drummer Jed Lynch, and guitarist Wags (formerly of the Manchester-based group the Paris Angels). Recording of new material started that year, although the group was not under contract.

In 1995 Black Grape was signed by Radioactive Records (an imprint of major label BMG) and released its debut album It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah. It immediately charted at number one in the UK Albums Chart, and spawned three Top Twenty singles.

The first single “Reverend Black Grape” managed to outsell the Happy Mondays cover of John Kongos “(He’s Gonna) Step On (You Again)”.

The third single, “Kelly’s Heroes” – a song lampooning society’s obsession with celebrities and idols that had much to do with Ryder’s own previous hero worship of people he now saw as wastrels – had its opening lyric changed before recording from “Don’t talk to me about heroes – Most of these guys snort cocaine,” to “Don’t talk to me about heroes – most of these men sing like suggs .” (Ryder initially intended it to be ‘Smurfs’, but feared he could be breaching copyright). Another song on the album, “Temazi Party”, mocked the then-current craze for abusing Temazepam sleeping pills (a.k.a. ‘jellies’), but was deliberately misspelt on the album sleeve as ‘Tramazi’ instead of ‘Temazi’ in order to forestall any legal injunction against the album’s release.

It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah received critical acclaim in the UK, but the group made little impact in the US. However, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich listed it as his favourite album of 1996. The album cover featured a picture of then-recently-imprisoned terrorist Carlos The Jackal.

The subsequent album Stupid Stupid Stupid was less favoured. The group split in 1998 after Ryder fired the rest of the band while touring, starting with Kermit (who was suffering from septicemia) and ending with Bez (who was unsatisfied with his financial situation).

On 2 February 2010, NME reported that Ryder will be reforming Black Grape with Saber and Kermit for a concert as part of the ‘Get Loaded In The Dark’ gig series on 1 April at The Coronet in London.

Ash

Cover of "Jack Names the Planets"

Cover of Jack Names the Planets

Ash are an alternative rock band that formed in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland in 1992. The band has sold 8 million albums world wide.

Ash officially formed in 1992, reportedly having taken their name from the first word they liked in the dictionary. Prior to this, Wheeler and Hamilton were in a Iron Maiden cover band called Vietnam who formed in 1989. They created three demo tapes that year – Solar Happy in June, Shed in September, and the Home Demo in November. These tapes featured their earliest material and the first recordings of some songs that were later on their 1994 release, Trailer, including “Intense Thing”, “Get Out”, “Obscure Thing,” and their future single, “Jack Names the Planets”.

In 1993 the band recorded the Garage Girl demo tape, which featured “Jack Names the Planets” and “Intense Thing” taken from Shed, as well as some new tracks including “Petrol”. Following Garage Girl, they released their compilation demo tape, Pipe Smokin’ Brick later that year, which featured an assortment of songs from the other tapes. Downpatrick musician Ray Valentine recorded Ash’s demos at his studio, Cosmic Rays. At that time, the band were known as “Genuine Real Teenagers,” because they were so young when recording their early material. The demo tapes had not gained much attention yet and the band were still playing small shows at local clubs, but in early 1994, Stephen Taverner came across the Garage Girl demo tape. Taverner put up the money so that they could press 1,000 7″ copies of “Jack Names the Planets” on his own LaLaLand record label. Taverner subsequently became the band’s full-time manager.

Ash released their mini album, Trailer, in October 1994, which only included seven songs. They received some airplay from Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 1 and so followed up their debut single with “Petrol” and “Uncle Pat” on their new label Infectious Records. In 1995, Ash left school and released their breakthrough singles “Kung Fu” (featured over the end credits of Jackie Chan’s North American breakthrough film, Rumble in the Bronx), “Girl From Mars” and “Angel Interceptor”. The movie Angus was released, which featured two of Ash’s songs, “Jack Names the Planets” and “Kung Fu,” and served to introduce Ash to American audiences. The band had offered two other tracks that were cut, along with “Pansy Division’s Deep Water”, which made the soundtrack but was cut from the movie due to time constraints.

Ash in Bangkok, Thailand 1999
1996 saw them release the singles “Goldfinger” and “Oh Yeah” either side of their album 1977, which saw considerable success. The track “Lose Control” from that album was featured in the video game Gran Turismo.On 17 February 1997, Ash released Live at the Wireless, a live album, recorded at the Triple J Studios in Australia. A limited edition version of the album was released in the UK on the band’s own Deathstar label.

During their time touring with Weezer, Ash felt the limitation of a three-piece band. As a result they recruited Charlotte Hatherley who had previously been with the band Nightnurse and she made her gig debut at a few small gigs a week before appearing at the V Festival in 1997. The first single that she appeared on, “A Life Less Ordinary”, featured on the soundtrack to the Ewan McGregor / Cameron Diaz film of the same name.

In September 1998, Ash released “Jesus Says” the following month the second album proper, Nu-Clear Sounds, and in November “Wildsurf”. The stress of near non-stop touring of 1977 and Nu-Clear Sounds began to affect the band’s mentality. In 1999, Tim Wheeler disappeared for a short while following the commercial and critical failure of Nu-Clear Sounds. He eventually emerged in New York making the self-deprecating, blood, drug and sex fueled video for Numbskull. A note for Stephen Taverner attached to the video said, “I’ve killed Bambi”.

Ash nearly became bankrupt as they prepared to release possibly their last album. Luckily, this was not to be the case. The band retreated to Wheeler’s parents’ house, to play and write songs in the same garage where the band began. The single “Shining Light” was released in January 2001, followed by the number one album Free All Angels in April. Subsequent singles released from Free All Angels were “Burn Baby Burn”, “Sometimes”, “Candy”, and “There’s a Star” . The single “Shining Light” won the “Best Contemporary Song” award at the 2002 Ivor Novello awards. A new single “Envy” was released, followed shortly afterwards by the singles collection Intergalactic Sonic 7″s with the bonus disk entitled Cosmic Debris. Q magazine named Ash as #2 of its “50 Bands To See Before You Die”.

In 2003, it was leaked to the music and tabloid press that Ash were working on a horror film described as a ‘teen slasher’. The film, called Slashed, was shot while the band were on tour in America but some scenes were also shot in the UK. The screenplay, written by Jed Shepherd and directed by Alexander Marks included star roles by Chris Martin (Sherbet Bones) and Jonny Buckland (Agent Ford) of Coldplay as a pair of FBI agents hired to track down a supernatural serial killer. Other star performances include that of Moby, James Nesbitt, Dave Grohl and Ash themselves.The film was never generally released to the public.

On 29 June 2004, Ash released Meltdown, which reached number five in the UK. At the same time Hatherley also wrote and recorded her solo side project album Grey Will Fade. The band teamed up with Lucasarts for a new Star Wars game entitled Republic Commando. “Clones”, taken from the album Meltdown is the first licensed music to be used in anything Star Wars-related. “Meltdown” and “Orpheus” are featured on the popular British movie, Shaun of the Dead as well as appearing on the in-game soundtracks for the video games NHL 2005, Burnout 3: Takedown and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition. Also featured is their cover of the Buzzcocks song “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” featuring Chris Martin on backing vocals. The song “Vampire Love” was featured in American Pie Presents: Band Camp. Starcrossed and “Renegade Cavalcade” were later released as singles from the album. Meltdown was released in the US on 8 March 2005, through Warner Bros. Records imprint Record Collection. Also in 2005, Tim Wheeler received a companionship (an honorary degree) from LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts).

On 20 January 2006, Hatherley left the band after nine years leaving only the original members remaining. An official statement reads: “After 9 years Ash and Charlotte Hatherley have mutually agreed to part company. The decision is completely amicable and they wish each other the very best for the future”. In an interview in July 2007, the other band members suggested they asked Hatherley to leave as they “wanted to be a three-piece.

On 6 June 2006, NME reported that Ash were in a New York recording studio and had twenty seven “rough” songs. Wheeler hinted that the eventual album was likely to be more retro sounding than any of their previous material. No shows were planned for the remainder of 2006, but Wheeler stated that they were hoping to test out their new songs “in tiny New York bars” once the album was complete. In early 2007, Ash announced a full-length UK tour for February and March. The tour was a warm-up for their album release in June and their summer festival appearances, including the Isle of Wight Festival on 9 June 2007.

On 19 February 2007 Ash released the first song from their new album, titled Twilight of the Innocents. This new material was a download-only sneak preview track called “I Started A Fire”. The first physical single “You Can’t Have It All” was released on 16 April 2007.The release of “You Can’t Have It All” coincided with an in-store gig and signing session at Virgin Megastore in Belfast. The music video for the song debuted on MTV Two on 11 March 2007. Two further songs from the album, “Polaris” and “End of the World”, were issued as singles in June and September, respectively.

On 12 June 2007 Ash revealed that Twilight of the Innocents would be their last album. They also denied that they were splitting and instead stated that they would only release singles from now on as “(t)he way people listen to music has changed, with the advent of the download the emphasis has reverted to single tracks”.

With the return to their original three-piece line-up, the band had been mainly performing material from albums 1977 and Twilight of the Innocents, this led to the band performing at London Roundhouse on Friday 5 September and Saturday 6 September 2008, which saw the band perform 1977 in its entirety. Both shows sold out and the band went on to release a 3-disc special edition version of the album, featuring remastered and re-edited versions of the tracks, as well as tracks from Trailer and live performances from the time of its release.

In late 2008, the band stated they had been writing and recording new tracks, bassist Mark Hamilton stated, “we’re just taking track at a time and seeing what happens, no limits to where or what it’ll sound like. A few of the songs are barely recognisable as Ash which is pretty exciting to see how people react when they hear them.”A number of track titles were also revealed including “Neon, part 2”.

On 16 April 2009, Ash announced they were to play a one-off gig at Bloomsbury Ballroom, London, to preview new tracks and start promoting their new material. An additional date was also added at the same venue a few days later, along with a handful of warm-up shows.The first single to be released was announced on 30 April titled “Return of White Rabbit”. The three band members hand created 178 sleeves each for the physical singles, each of which will be available to win in different competitions being run through the band’s website. On 18 May it was announced that the band would be releasing 26 singles, one every fortnight for the rest of 2009, known as the A to Z singles series.In August 2009 they played at the Hevy Music Festival in Folkestone, and in June 2010 they headlined the John Peel Stage on the last night of Glastonbury Festival.

In September 2010, Ash made their first appearance in South Africa to support local rock group The Parlotones on the South African leg of their world tour. Ash made an appearance on the South African Idols and have also appeared on various South African radio and television stations, including locally popular MK.

In June 2011, Ash announced that a greatest hits record was in the works.

In August 2011 Ash collaborated with We Are Scientists to release a cover of the song “Washington Parks” by British songwriter Robert Manning,raising money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis and The MS Society. The song was recorded between London and New York by the two bands and join a project already boasting releases from Ed Hardcourt and Emmy the Great.Chris Cain from We Are Scientists said in an interview “We actually recorded a single [with Ash] which is going to come out soon. It won’t be too long until it’s out and it’s for a charity in England called the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It’s a cover of a song called “Washington Parks” by I think Happy Monster but it’s pretty sweet. The concept of the song is that if you listen to it on headphones or stereo the musicians of Ash are on the left channel and all the We Are Scientists guys are playing it in the right channel. We’re playing the same song essentially but in different ways. I’m not playing the same bass line as Mark and Rick isn’t playing the same drum pattern as Andy. I think Keith and Tim sing the same thing but in a different sort of harmony. What’s interesting especially is that not only do we have a unison feel going on but you can also take off one headphone and hear one band and vice versa.”

The band set out as a three piece originally, later recruiting Hatherley as a second guitarist. After nine years in the band, Hatherley was asked to leave so that the band could once again return to a three piece. Without a second guitarist some of the material from Meltdown, Free All Angels and Nu-Clear Sounds has not since been played, while various singles and material from the albums Twilight of the Innocents and 1977 ave made up the majority of material performed recently. McMurray, after the departure of Hatherley has taken over a lot of her backing vocal duties, whilst Mark provides backing vocals occasionally in studio, but not live. The band have stated that whilst there are no immediate plans to tour with the material written and recorded with Hatherley still in the band, “never say never”, and that there was a possibility they may at some point tour with Hatherley again, in NME in June 2009 Hatherley also commented on the split stating her and Wheeler were regularly talking, and that playing together again was a possibility in the future.

In April 2010 Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack joined the band for their UK tour and has since continued to tour with them worldwide throughout 2010.

In June 2011 LaFaro drummer Alan Lynn stood in for Rick McMurray (who was having a baby) for a short European tour.

In September 2011, it was confirmed that Charlotte Hatherley would return for a set of special shows, celebrating the release of their ‘Best of Ash’ album. The shows will include the four piece playing the Free All Angels album in its entirety and a “Best of” set.  AH Smeets, London – Smeets Music!