CD cover for the Supergrass single "Alright".
Supergrass was formed by Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey, who had been members of the shoegaze band The Jennifers along with Nick Goffey and Andy Davis. The band played gigs at various venues around Oxfordshire, and were successful enough to release one single, “Just Got Back Today”, on Nude Records, before disbanding. When Coombes began working at a local Harvester restaurant, he befriended co-worker Mick Quinn. Realizing they had common musical interests, Coombes invited Quinn to jam with him and Goffey. In February 1993, they formed Theodore Supergrass, later shortened to Supergrass. Gaz’s brother, Rob Coombes, played flute on their first gig; he soon became the keyboardist, although he wasn’t credited as a band member until a decade later. In mid-1994, they released their debut single, “Caught by the Fuzz”, on independent Backbeat Records. The limited release sold out fairly quickly, thanks in part to support from John Peel. The band was signed to Parlophone, who re-released the single in autumn of the same year. In February 1995, “Mansize Rooster” was released, their second single and first U.K. Top 20 single. This was followed by “Lenny”, their first U.K. Top 10 hit; in May 1995, “I Should Coco” was released, their debut album. The album sold over a million copies worldwide. The album contained their fourth single, the double A-side “Alright” b/w “Time”, which stayed in the U.K. Top Three for a month. This is today’s featured single.
“Alright” begins with a keyboard playing a monotonous melody, followed by guitars and Gaz Coombes’ vocals: “We are young, we run green/Keep our teeth, nice and clean/See our friends, see the sights, feel alright”. The melody is simple, using a grand total of only five chords, yet this is an infectious little song, one which is reminiscent of both British pop of the 1960s and power pop of the 1970s. The minor-key melody during the chorus provides an interesting contrast with the verses. There’s an brief but punchy-sounding instrumental break about 1 minute and 40 seconds into the song as well. Although “Alright” may be a bit annoying for 1990s Britpop detractors, I found it to be an enjoyable song.
The B-side of the single, “Time”, is a more languid, laid-back sounding, melodic song, an interesting contrast with the more anthematic “Alright”. Rather, this is a relatively simple love song: “The time, is on the way/My love/I know I’m going away/My love”. The keyboards play a less prominent role, but compliment the main melody quite well, and we even have a harmonica on this track for musical texture. The vocal harmonizing between Coombes and Goffey is a nice touch as well. “Time” may not be the teenage rallying cry that “Alright” is, but that does not mean it is any less compelling as a slice of Britpop, and even those who generally disliked the genre might take a liking to this tune.
The single (catalog #: CDR 6413) was released on Parlophone in the U.K. in July 1995. Shown here is the cover for the CD version; it was also released on colored vinyl. Supergrass toured for eighteen months in support of “I Should Coco”, then returned to Sawmills studio to record their follow-up album “In It for the Money” (1997), featuring a darker sound than its predecessor. Their third album, “Supergrass” (1999), received good reviews, but was not as successful commercially as its predecessors, although the single “Moving” from “Supergrass” did reach the Top Ten in the U.K. Their next album, “Life on Other Planets” (2002), was the first on which Rob Coombes was credited as a full member of the band; the album was not as successful as the first three albums but once again was a hit with critics. In 2004, the band released the greatest hits compilation “Supergrass Is 10” to celebrate their tenth anniversary. “Road to Rouen” (2005) was released next and was well-received by fans and critics alike. Their sixth album, “Diamond Hoo Ha”, was their lowest charting album (peaking at #19 in the U.K.) with none of the three singles from the album reaching the Top 40. The band was working on their fourth album when they announced their split in April 2010.
Urge Overkill's "Positive Bleeding" CD single.
Urge Overkill was formed in Chicago by Nash Kato (vocals/guitar) and Eddie “King” Roeser (vocals/guitar/bass), who met at Northwestern University in 1985. They formed Urge Overkill the following year with drummer Pat Byrne, and released an EP, “Strange, I…” (1986) on Ruthless Records. The EP was produced by Kato’s friend Steve Albini. Kriss Bataille replaced Pat Byrne on drums, and Urge Overkill signed with Touch and Go Records. They released their first full length album, “Jesus Urge Superstar” (1989), again produced by Albini. Both their initial EP and “Superstar” featured a noise-rock sound common to other Chicago acts of the period. Their next album, “Americruiser” (1990), in which Jack “The Jaguar” Watt replaced Bataille on drums, saw a shift in style to “a Stonesy fusion of arena rock and punk”. The album was produced by Butch Vig and featued the college radio hit “Ticket to L.A.”. Watt left the band and was replaced by Blackie Onassis for their next album, “The Supersonic Storybook” (1991). A mainstream breakthrough seemed inevitable as the band opened for Nirvana on their “Nevermind” tour and for Pearl Jam on their “Vs.” tour. They released an EP, “Stull” (1992), before signing with Geffen Records. Their jump to the majors angered the whole label, particularly their old producer Steve Albini, who publicly criticized the band in several interviews. Nevertheless, their Geffen debut, “Saturation” (1993), which was produced by the Butcher Bros., received strong reviews upon its release in June 1993. The third single from this album, “Positive Bleeding”/”Quality Love”/”Nite and Grey”, is today’s featured single.
“Positive Bleeding” is a prime example of Urge Overkill’s then-new, more commercial direction in practice. Starting off with a catchy riff punctuated by some punchy drum fills (accompanied by a sitar for musical texture), which is soon accompanied by Kato’s vocals: “Hey! Look around today/Everything don’t need to be the same./Feel. I’m feelin, lonely people/People just like me who go it alone/I guess I’m gonna go it alone”. The way Kato’s guitar follows his vocals ascending and descending during the chorus is memorable (punctuated by his “hoo-hoo-hoo” at the end of every line). While the band’s musical landscape is bare-boned, they make the most of it on this track, with catchy hooks that justify its release as a single. As a nod to their origins as a noise rock band, we get a weird, atonal coda with what sounds like backward masking. Overall, “Positive Bleeding” is arguably the best of the four singles from “Saturation”.
“Quality Love (Hong Kong Demo)” is a non-album single which also doubled as the “B-side” of the “Dropout” CD single (I guess the group didn’t have a lot of extra songs to serve as B-sides back then). We get a catchy tune about a man who wants “something more than fast action guaranteed” (i.e. “quality love”). I like the distorted guitar on this track, which figures prominently during a very brief instrumental break which takes place 1 minute and 45 minutes into the track. This song also distinguishes itself with an interesting coda, the music stopping about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the song for a full seconds, before returning with a funky bass line and Kato singing “quality love – believe it”, once again punctuating his chorus with a “hoo-hoo-hoo”, before fading out completely. This track is probably not of much interest to casual fans, but was an interesting track nonetheless.
U.K. release of "Positive Bleeding" single (with "Nite and Grey" on the B-side but without "Quality Love") on red vinyl.
The third track on this single, “Nite and Grey”, is another track from “Saturation”. It is about someone who “was set up”; the song’s protagonist urges the person to “[l]et us help you get them”. The chorus is catchy (“Night and day/Night and grey/This is the last time/This is the last time”), and the coda, which consists of a simple melody repeated monotonously over someone saying “[i]s he on the clock or off the clock”, takes up the last minute of the track. The guitars sound crisper than on some of the other tracks on the album, and provides an interesting contrast with the somewhat more commercial-sounding “Postiive Bleeding”.
The single (catalog #: GEFDM 21864) was released in March 1994 on Geffen Records. Although “Positive Bleeding” became a minor radio hit and other tracks from “Saturation” received significant airplay, the album did not provide the breakthrough for which the group had hoped. In the meantime, the band became the target of a few anti-Urge campaigns in the indie rock underground. Still the band forged ahead, and while recording a follow-up to “Saturation”, they recorded a track for the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack, a cover version of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”. The movie became an unexpected hit, and “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” reached the Top 50 in the Billboard Hot 100. The band thus had high hopes for their next album, “Exit the Dragon” (1995), but the first single, “The Break”, flopped, and the following tour, which took place in the fall of 1995, proved a disaster, with the opening act, Guided By Voices, being kicked off amidst much controversy just a few weeks into the tour. A few weeks later, the remaining concerts were cancelled altogether and never rescheduled. Blackie Onassis was arrested for heroin possession towards the end of the year. No charges were pressed and the incident was kept quiet, but the album was a commercial failure. In the aftermath, Urge Overkill was reduced to continuing as a duo consisting of Kato and Roeser, and the band left Geffen Records for 550 Music in early 1997. Kato and Roeser began feuding, which resulted in Roeser leaving the band. Roeser was replaced by Nils St. Cyr, but 550 Music was unhappy with the results, and dropped Urge Overkill from the label. At this point, the group disbanded, with Kato pursuing a solo career. In 2004, Kato and Roeser reunited and formed a new Urge Overkill lineup with Mike “Hadji” Hodgkiss on bass, Chris Frantisak on keyboards, and Nate Arling on drums, later replaced by Brian “Bonn” Quast. The band played several dates and toured Europe, North America and Australia. In May 2011, the band released “Rock and Roll Submarine”, on OU Records, their first album of new material in over fifteen years.
This week on Six of One: featured artist is The Raspberries; tribute to #56; OTR with “Boston Blackie”; Hollywood Report with Yvette Vickers; a song parody about Ventrilo.
Six of One can be heard Thursday nights at 9 PM EDT on RFD and Radio Free New Jersey.
The Pretty Things' "Rosalyn" 45 RPM single (U.K. release).
Once upon a time there was a London band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, which consisted of Dick Taylor on guitar, Keith Richards (also on guitar), and Mick Jagger (vocals). When Brian Jones joined the band, Taylor switched from guitar to bass guitar and the band changed its name to the Rolling Stones in 1962. Taylor left the band to attend the London Central School of Art, where he met Phil May. Together they formed the Pretty Things, recruiting Brian Pendleton on guitar, John Stax on bass guitar, and Pete Kitley on drums. Kitley was later replaced by Viv Broughton, who in turn was replaced by Viv Price. The band soon made an impact in England, and although they never had a hit in the United States, they became a huge influence on garage bands such as the MC5s and The Seeds. Today’s featured single is their first ever single: “Rosalyn” b/w “Big Boss Man”.
“Rosalyn” starts with a simple riff accompanied by maracas, soon joined by the band’s rhythm section just before Phil May’s hoarse vocals make their first appearance. The lyrical content doesn’t match the brilliance of some of the early British Invasion gems like “Gloria”, “Where Have All The Good Time Gone”, or “Satisfaction” – and the song doesn’t rank in my mind as a classic, although it’s fun to listen to and worthy of being remembered. Whereas the other songs mentioned can be appreciated on many levels, “Rosalyn” is basically a simple love song, with lyrics like these: Hey Rosalyn, tell me where you’ve been/Hey Rosalyn, tell me where you’ve been/All the night and all the day/Hide and seek’s the game you play/Treat me as sure as sin/Oh Rosalyn, yeah Rosalyn”. Still, May comes off as sincere when he screams the ultimately unanswerable question: “Do you really love me?” The drums and other percussion play a large role in anchoring the sound; they are loud and constitute the more obvious portion of the rhythm section. The David Bowie version (on “Pin Ups”), by the way, is excellent, and for the most part remains faithful to the original.
“Big Boss Man” is the B-side of the single and is a cover version of a blues song written by Luther Dixon and Al Smith and originally recorded by Jimmy Reed in 1960. It’s a simple twelve bar blues song, and gives May the opportunity to play harmonica, which he does quite well. There is also some great laid-back guitar picking from Taylor. The song is an indictment against all bosses who have abused their authority: Yeah, you keep me working, boss man, a workin’ around the clock/I want a little drink of water, you won’t let me no drop/Big boss man, don’t you hear me when I call?/Well, you ain’t so big, kinda tall, that’s all”. Although any connection May has with the protagonist in the song may be more spiritual than actual, he sings the song with considerable energy. Again there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in this song, although the guitar solo about halfway through the song is entertaining enough.
The single (catalog #: TF 469) was issued on the Fontana label. I’m not sure what the label looked like, although it was probably the white Fontana label with the Fontana logo across the top and the band name and song title across the bottom.
Picture sleeve for the U.K. vinyl release of the Posies' "Dream All Day" single.
The Posies had their genesis in a collaboration between core members Jon Auer (guitar, vocals) and Ken Stringfellow (guitar, vocals) that began in late 1986 when Ken was a student at the University of Washington. They began to perform together as an acoustic duo during the summer of 1987 when Ken was home in Bellingham. In late 1987 and early 1988, Stringfellow drove home on weekends to join Auer in recording a demo at Auer’s family’s home studio. Although their intention was to record a demo with the intention of using it to recruit other band members, the demos were so good that they became the Posies’ first self-released album, “Failure” (1988). Interest in the group increased as cassette copies of the album circulated, and soon Mike Musberger (drums) and Rick Roberts (bass) joined, allowing the band to play their first live shows in Seattle and Bellingham. “Failure” was re-released on vinyl in late 1988 by independent label PopLlama. The band subsequently signed with Geffen subsidiary DGC Records. The band released its second album, “Dear 23”, on DGC in August 1990. After an extensive U.S. tour, the band returned to Washington in late 1991 to record a third album; the band scrapped the sessions when they decided Rick Roberts’ songs did not fit the band and scrapped the sessions. Roberts was asked to leave around this time. The remaining three members developed new songs, and eventually their third album, “Frosting on the Beater”, was released in April 1993. The first single from the album was the leadoff track, “Dream All Day”. This is today’s featured single.
“Dream All Day” starts off with distorted guitar chords, which leads to a melodic tune that is an admirable slice of power pop. Although the song only employs five chords, the structure of the song is somewhat complex, with the speed of the riff changing often. And there is the lyrical content, terse yet eloquent in its own way: “I’ve got a lot of thoughts/Got a lot of plans/I lost a lot of sleep/Trying to understand/I could dream all day”. About 1 minute and 58 seconds into the track, there is a brief but intense guitar solo during the instrumental break. The vocals on the song are excellent, and the harmonization between Auer and Stringfellow is compelling. “Dream All Day” may not be the high water mark of the Posies, but it is a well-crafted song and certainly one of their better songs.
The second song on this single, “How She Lied By Living”, has a haunting minor-key melody, in which the protagonist tells about a woman that lied, and admonishes here during the chorus: “You told me, you told me you loved life/Don’t tell me, don’t tell me you loved life/Don’t tell me you loved life”. The drumming in this song is more distinct than on “Dream All Day”, and the rhythm section plays a more prominent role here. The melody, repeated almost monotonously during the instrumental break about 1 minute and 25 seconds into the song, gives the song a dark feel. Overall, “How She Lied By Living” is a solid track, and worthy of inclusion on “Frosting”.
The single (catalog #: GFS50) was issued on DGC Records in the United States and Geffen in the U.K. The single was issued with a picture sleeve (shown here is the picture sleeve for the U.K. vinyl release). Although most of the album was recorded by the trio of Auer, Stringfellow and Musberger, Dave Fox joined the band on bass during the last recording sessions for the album. Fox would leave the band in 1994. During a subsequent European tour, Musberger had a falling-out with Auer and Stringfellow and left the band. In late 1994, Brian Young took over on drums and Joe Howard took over on bass. This lineup recorded their fourth album, “Amazing Disgrace” (1996). After touring the U.S. and Europe, the band members occupied themselves with solo projects, leading to rumors that the Posies were finished. In fact, they did re-record a dozen older songs, with the intention of making it their swan song. The resulting album, “Success”, was released in February 1998. During the subsequent tour, a live album, “Alive Before the Iceberg” (2000) was recorded. After a period of inactivity, Auer and Stringfellow recruited a new rhythm section: Darius Minwalla (drums) and Matt Harris (bass). This lineup recorded “Every Kind of Light” (2005) and “Blood/Candy” (2010).