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Few new wave groups were as popular as Culture Club. During the early '80s, the group racked up seven straight Top Ten hits in the U.K. and six Top Ten singles in the U.S. with their light, infectious pop-soul. Though their music was radio-ready, what brought the band stardom was Boy George, the group's charismatic, cross-dressing lead singer. George dressed in flamboyant dresses and wore heavy makeup, creating a disarmingly androgynous appearance that created a sensation on early MTV. George also had a biting wit and frequently came up with cutting quips that won Culture Club heavy media exposure in both America and Britain. Although closely aligned with the new romantics -- they were both inspired by Northern soul and fashion -- Culture Club had sharper pop sense than their peers and they consequently had a broader appeal. However, their time in the spotlight was brief. Not only could they not withstand the changing fashions of MTV, but the group was fraught with personal tensions, including Boy George's drug addiction. By 1986, the group had broken up, leaving behind several singles that rank as classics of the new wave era.
The son of a boxing club manager, Boy George (b. George O'Dowd, June 14, 1961), found himself attracted to the glam rock of T. Rex and David Bowie as a teenager. During the post-punk era of the late '70s, he became a regular at London new romantic clubs. Along with his cross-dressing friends Marilyn and Martin Degville (a future member of Sigue Sigue Sputnik), George became well-known around the London underground for his extravagant sense of style, and Malcolm McLaren invited him to join an early version of Bow Wow Wow. George briefly appeared with the band as Lieutenant Lush before leaving to form In Praise of Lemmings with bassist Mikey Craig (b. February 15, 1960). Once guitarist Jon Suede joined the group, they changed their name to Sex Gang Children. Within a few months, the band met Jon Moss (b. September 11, 1957), a professional drummer who had previously played with Adam & the Ants and the Damned.
By 1981, Boy George had renamed the group Culture Club and Suede had been replaced by Roy Hay (b. August 12, 1961), a former member of Russian Bouquet. Toward the end of the year, they recorded a set of demos for EMI, but the label turned them down. Early in 1982, the band landed a contract with Virgin Records, releasing "White Boy" in the spring. Neither "White Boy" or its follow-up, "I'm Afraid of Me," made the charts but the British music and fashion press began running articles about Boy George. In the fall, Culture Club released their breakthrough single, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," which rocketed to the top of the charts. Shortly afterward, the band's debut, Kissing to Be Clever, climbed to number five on the U.K. charts and the non-LP single "Time (Clock of the Heart)" reached number three. Early in 1983, Kissing to Be Clever and "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" began climbing the U.S. charts, with the single peaking at number two. "Time" reached number two in the U.S. shortly after the non-LP British single "Church of the Poison Mind," attained the same position in the U.K. "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" became a Top Ten hit in America that summer.
By the time Culture Club's second album Colour By Numbers was released in the fall of 1983, the band was the most popular pop/rock group in America and England. "Karma Chameleon" became a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic, while the album reached number one in the U.K. and number two in the U.S. Throughout 1984, the group racked up hits, with "It's a Miracle" and "Miss Me Blind" reaching the Top Ten. In the fall, the group returned with its third album, Waking Up With the House on Fire. While "The War Song" reached number two in the U.K., the album was a disappointment in America, stalling at platinum; its predecessor went quadruple platinum.
Following a brief tour in February, Culture Club went on hiatus for 1985, with Craig, Moss, and Hay pursuing extracurricular musical projects in the interim. During the year, Boy George -- who had previously denounced drugs in public -- became addicted to heroin. Furthermore, his romance with Moss, which had always been rocky, began to disintegrate. All of these problems were kept hidden, but it became evident that something was wrong when Culture Club returned to action in the spring of 1986. Though their comeback single, "Move Away," became a hit in April, its accompanying album From Luxury to Heartache stayed on the charts for only a few months. Rumors of George's heroin addiction began to circulate, and by the summer, he announced that he was indeed addicted to the drug. In July, he was arrested by the British police for possession of cannabis. Several days later, keyboardist Michael Rudetski, who played on From Luxury to Heartache, was found dead of a heroin overdose in George's home. Rudetski's parents unsuccessfully tried to press wrongful death charges on Boy George.
While Boy George was battling heroin addiction, and his subsequent dependence on prescription narcotics, Culture Club broke up. George confirmed the group's disbandment in the spring of 1987, and he began a solo career later that year. While his solo career produced several dance hits in Europe, George didn't land an American hit until 1992, when his cover of Dave Berry's "The Crying Game" was featured in the Academy Award-nominated film of the same name. In 1995, George published his autobiography, -Take It Like a Man. Culture Club reunited in 1998, issuing the two-disc set VH1 Storytellers/Greatest Hits.
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An institution in their homeland, a two-hit wonder in the U.S., and, during the last half of their ten-year career, bona fide stars in the U.K. and most of Europe, Crowded House recorded some of the best pop music of the late '80s and early '90s. Leader Neil Finn's carefully crafted songs, meticulous eye for lyrical detail, and gift for melody are matched by few other songwriters.
Crowded House formed in 1985 when Finn dissolved Split Enz rather than carry on after his brother Tim, the group's founding member, left to pursue a solo career. Instead of carrying through with the new wave direction of latter-day Split Enz, Neil moved in favor of a stripped-down, back-to-basics combo featuring ex-Enz drummer Paul Hester, bassist Nick Seymour, and guitarist Craig Hooper. Initially, the group dubbed itself after Finn's middle name, touring Australia and recording demos under the name the Mullanes; Hooper was dropped shortly after this formative period. In June of 1985, the group headed to Los Angeles to shop for a record label, eventually signing with Capitol Records. Capitol requested that the band change its name, and the group settled on Crowded House, a reflection of the bandmembers' living conditions in L.A. They began work on their debut, enlisting the help of then-unknown producer Mitchell Froom. A partnership between the band and the producer formed, making Froom nearly a fourth member. The partnership benefited both the band and the producer -- the band was helped by Froom's direct approach and more "American" sound as well as his input as a musician, and Froom was able to build a career as a high-profile producer.
Crowded House's self-titled debut didn't gain much attention upon its release in the summer of 1986, due to insufficient promotion from Capitol Records. In wake of the weak support from Capitol, the band members took matters into their own hands. Rather than setting out on an expensive large-scale tour, the group took a more low-profile route, playing acoustic sets for industry insiders and for small crowds at ethnic restaurants and in record stores. This unorthodox approach began a buzz within the industry. On the talk-show circuit, they won over American and Canadian audiences with their charm and wit as well as their wacky antics. By February of 1987, the album broke into the American Top 40, eventually peaking at number 12. The album spawned the number two hit single "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," which reached number seven. In Australia and New Zealand, multi-platinum success followed.
Released in 1988, Temple of Low Men was anything but a sophomore slump -- Finn's new songs were among his finest, showcasing a notable progression in his songcraft. The album's slightly darker material, however, made for a more difficult listen and, although the material was stronger, the record lacked the immediate appeal of the debut. This, coupled with Capitol's lack of promotional support, led to disappointing sales -- the album barely broke the U.S. Top 40 and the single, "Better Be Home Soon," stalled at number 42. Since hope had basically run out for the album, they abandoned plans for a major U.S. tour. A three-month break in touring revitalized the band for a well-received Australian and Canadian tour, but by mid-1989 the band had effectively broken up.
Late in 1989, Neil reunited with his brother Tim and the duo began writing songs together for the first time, with the intention of releasing the material on a proposed Finn Brothers album. The collaboration was successful and the duo was prolific, writing 14 songs in a very short time. After the initial sessions with Tim, Neil began working on a new set of songs, designed for the next Crowded House album, but he soon found the new material unsatisfactory. Neil decided to combine the better moments of the Finn Brothers project and the scrapped third album, adding his brother as a fourth member of Crowded House.
Crowded House's third album, Woodface, released in the summer of 1991, proved the decision to combine the material from the two scrapped records was sound -- the album certainly represents their finest recorded moments. Although the choice of "Chocolate Cake" as a leadoff single was both misleading and off-putting to American audiences, effectively sinking the album's chances of success in the U.S., England and Europe embraced the band for the first time. After about six months of dormancy, they began charting in the U.K. and Europe with several singles, including the smash "Weather with You." The British success of "Weather with You" helped Woodface achieve platinum status in the U.K. and led the group to several headlining concerts at Wembley Arena. Tim, for all of his invaluable contributions in the writing and recording of Woodface, proved extraneous to the band's live show. He left the band in November 1991, as the band was in the middle of its tour and just prior to its breakthrough success in England. Following the success of Woodface, both Neil and Tim were awarded OBEs from the Queen of England in 1993; the honor was bestowed for their contributions to the arts.
In early 1993, Crowded House regrouped to record their fourth album, adding American guitarist Mark Hart (who had briefly toured with the band around the time of Temple of Low Men) to the band and dropping Mitchell Froom as their producer, opting instead for ex-Killing Joke member Youth. Together Alone was released in October 1993 (January 1994 in North America) to unanimously positive reviews and solid sales in every country except the United States. Upon its release, Together Alone entered the English charts at number four; at the time, Woodface was still in the U.K. charts. After the album was released, Crowded House embarked on a successful European tour. They were beginning an American tour when Hester decided to leave the band to spend more time with his new family. Hiring a session drummer, the band rounded out the tour, eventually returning to Australia.
By the end of 1994, Neil decided to cut back on the touring to work on side projects, which included some production work for Dave Dobbyn and a second try at a Finn Brothers album with Tim. The Finn Brothers finally released their long-awaited duet album in the fall of 1995. In June of 1996, Neil officially broke up Crowded House. That same month, Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House was released, entering the U.K. and Australian charts at number one. After a handful of "final shows" in various locations, on Sunday, November 24, 1996, Crowded House played their official farewell show at the Sydney Opera House to 100,000 fans as a benefit for the Sydney Children's Hospital Fund.
In 1997, Hester formed a new band, Largest Living Things, releasing two EPs and playing regular gigs in Australia as well as hosting his own television show. Neil made his debut as a solo artist in June 1998 with Try Whistling This. In December 1999, Afterglow, an album's worth of Crowded House leftovers and rarities, was issued in Australia and New Zealand; the album was released in the U.K. during January of the following year.
Neil continued recording both as a solo artist and as part of the Finn Brothers with Tim. In 2005, Hester, after years of battling depression, took his own life near his home in Australia. A year later, the archival release Farewell to the World captured the Sydney farewell show on both CD and DVD. In 2007, Neil reactivated the band with Nick Seymour, Mark Hart, and a new drummer, Matt Sherrod. The album Time on Earth followed soon after. ~ All Music Guide
Dressed in glam clothing, wearing heavy eyeliner, and shouting political rhetoric, the Manic Street Preachers emerged from their hometown of Blackwood, Wales, in 1991 as self-styled "Generation Terrorists." Fashioning themselves after the Clash and the Sex Pistols, the Manics were on a mission, intending to restore revolution to rock & roll at a time when Britain was dominated by trancey shoegazers and faceless, trippy acid house. Their self-consciously dangerous image, leftist leanings, crunching hard rock, and outsider status made them favorites of the British music press and helped them build a rabidly dedicated following.
For much of the band's early career, it was impossible to separate the rhetoric from the music and even from the members themselves -- the group's image was forever associated with lyricist/guitarist Richey James carving the words "4 Real" into his arm during an early interview. As the British pop music climate shifted toward Britpop in the wake of Suede, the Manics didn't achieve fame, but they had notoriety. Legions of followers emerged, including many bands that formed the core of the short-lived "new wave of new wave" movement.
But as the group climbed toward stardom, the story didn't get simpler -- it got weirder. James' behavior became increasingly bizarre, culminating on the group's harrowing 1994 album The Holy Bible. Early in 1995, James disappeared, leaving no trace of his whereabouts. The remaining trio carried on with 1996's Everything Must Go, the album that established them as superstars in England, yet that came at the expense of the arrogant, renegade gender-bending and revolutionary rhetoric that earned them their initial fan base.
It was a bizarre, unpredictable journey for a band that once proclaimed that all bands should break up after releasing one album. James Dean Bradfield (vocals, guitar), Nicky Wire (born Nick Jones; bass), Sean Moore (drums), and Flicker (rhythm guitar) formed Betty Blue in 1986. Within two years' time, Flicker had left the band and the group had changed its name to the Manic Street Preachers. In the summer of 1988, a fellow student of Wire's at Swansea University, Richey James (born Richey Edwards), who had been the group's driver, joined the band as rhythm guitarist. They began recording demos, eventually releasing the single "Suicide Alley" in August. "Suicide Alley" boasted a cover replicating that of the Clash's first album, which indicated the sound of the group at the time -- equal parts punk and hard rock. A year after the single's release, the NME gave it an enthusiastic review, citing James' press release -- "We are as far away from anything in the '80s as possible."
Indeed, the Manics were one of the key bands of the early '90s, and their career didn't get rolling until 1991. The New Art Riot EP appeared in the summer of 1990, followed by a pair of defining singles -- "Motown Junk" and "You Love Us" -- in early 1991 on Heavenly Records. The singles and the Manics' incendiary live shows, where they wrote slogans on their shirts, created a strong buzz in the music press, which only escalated in May. James gave an interview with Steve Lamaq for the NME in which Lamaq questioned the group's authenticity; after an argument, James responded by carving the words "4 Real" on his arm. The incident became a sensation, attracting numerous magazine articles, as well as a major-label contract with Sony. Many observers interpreted the action as a simple stunt, but over the next few years it became clear that the self-mutilation was the first indication of James' mental instability.
"Stay Beautiful" was the Manics' first release for Sony, and it climbed into the British Top 40 late in the summer of 1991, followed early in 1992 by a re-recorded "You Love Us," which peaked in the Top 20. By the time they released their much-hyped debut album, Generation Terrorists, in February 1992 -- a record the band claimed would outsell Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction -- they had already cultivated a large and devoted following, many of whom emulated their glammy appearance and read the same novels and philosophers the group name-dropped. The Manics had been claiming that they would disband following the release of their debut, yet it became clear by the fall, when a non-LP cover of "Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H)" became their first Top Ten hit, that they would continue performing. Nicky Wire and Richey James had become notorious for their banter throughout the British music press, and while it earned them countless articles, it also painted the group into a corner. Comparatively polished and mainstream compared to its predecessor, Gold Against the Soul, the group's second album, appeared in the summer of 1993 to mixed reviews.
Shortly after the release of Gold Against the Soul, the Manics' support began to slide as the group began to splinter amidst internal tensions, many of them stemming from James. Nicky Wire ran into trouble over on-stage remarks about R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe dying of AIDS, but Richey James was in genuine trouble. Suffering from deepening alcoholism and anorexia, James entered prolonged bouts of depression, highlighted by incidents of self-mutilation -- most notoriously at a concert in Thailand, when he appeared with his chest slashed open by knives a fan gave him. Early in 1994, he entered a private clinic, and the band had to perform a number of concerts as a trio. James' mental illness surfaced on the group's third album, The Holy Bible. Reportedly recorded in a red-light district in Wales, The Holy Bible was a bleak, disillusioned record that earned considerable critical acclaim upon its late-summer release in 1994.
Although the Manics' critical reputation was restored and James was playing with the band, even giving numerous interviews with the press, all was not well. Prior to the American release of The Holy Bible and the band's ensuing tour, James checked out of his London hotel on February 1, 1995, drove to his Cardiff apartment, and disappeared, leaving behind his passport and credit cards. Within the week he was reported missing and his abandoned car was found on the Severen Bridge outside of Bristol, a spot notorious for suicides. By the summer, the police had presumed he was dead. Broken, but not beaten, the remaining Manics decided to carry on as a trio, working the remaining lyrics James left behind into songs.
The Manic Street Preachers returned in December 1995 opening for the Stone Roses. In May 1996, they released Everything Must Go, which was preceded by the number two single "A Design for Life." Their most direct and mature record to date, Everything Must Go was greeted with enthusiastic reviews, and the Manics became major stars in England. Throughout 1996, the band toured constantly, and most U.K. music publications named Everything Must Go Album of the Year. Despite their growing success, several older fans expressed distress at the group's increasingly conservative image, yet that didn't prevent the album from going multi-platinum.
Everything Must Go didn't just go multi-platinum -- it established the Manics as superstars throughout the world. Everywhere except America, that is. The album received a belated release in the U.S., appearing in August of 1996, and the group attempted an American tour, opening for Oasis. It should have led to increased exposure, but a blowup between the Gallaghers led to Oasis cancelling the entire tour, leaving the Manics at square one. They returned to the U.K. and toured, receiving a number of awards at the end of the year. They didn't deliver their much-anticipated follow-up, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, until August of 1998. The album was another blockbuster success in the U.K., Europe, and Asia, but it didn't receive a release in America, since the Manics were in the process of leaving Epic in the U.S.
For a while, there was simply no interest in the Manics by American labels, but another multi-platinum album and numerous awards in Britain revived interest. The band signed with Virgin, which released This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours in June 1999 -- nearly a year after its initial release. Know Your Enemy followed in 2001, although it was not well-received, and the band moved to Sony for British distribution of 2004's Lifeblood. Both vocalist/guitarist James Dean Bradfield and bassist Nicky Wire followed this release with solo albums, and then reconvened in 2007 to record the edgier, punk-influenced Send Away the Tigers with producer Dave Eringa. ~ All Music Guide
For the Record....
Following the disbandment of the British indie pop group the Housemartins in 1989, vocalist Paul Heaton and drummer David Hemmingway formed the Beautiful South. Where their previous group relied on jazzy guitars and witty, wry lyrics, the Beautiful South boasted a more sophisticated, jazzy pop sound, layered with keyboards, R&B-inflected female backing vocals and, occasionally, light orchestrations. Often, the group's relaxed, catchy songs contradicted the sarcastic, cynical thrust of the lyrics. Nevertheless, the band's pleasant arrangements often tempered whatever bitterness there was in Heaton's lyrics, and that's part of the reason why the Beautiful South became quite popular within its native Britain during the '90s. Though the group never found a niche in America -- by the middle of the decade, their records weren't even being released in the U.S. -- their string of melodic jazz-pop singles made them one of the most successful, if one of the least flashy, bands in Britain. Their popularity was confirmed by the astonishing success of their 1994 singles compilation, Carry on Up the Charts, which became one of the biggest-selling albums in British history.
Heaton and Hemmingway formed the Beautiful South immediately after the breakup of the Housemartins, who were one of the most popular and well-reviewed British guitar pop bands of the mid-'80s. The Housemartins had earned a reputation for being somewhat downbeat Northerners, so the duo chose the name Beautiful South sarcastically. To complete the lineup, the pair hired former Anthill Runaways vocalist Briana Corrigan, bassist Sean Welch, drummer David Stead (formerly a Housemartins roadie), and guitarist David Rotheray, who became Heaton's new collaborator. In the summer of 1989, they released their first single, "Song for Whoever," on the Housemartins' old record label, Go!. "Song for Whoever" climbed to number two, while its follow-up "You Keep It All In" peaked at number eight in September, 1989. A month later, the group's debut, Welcome to the Beautiful South, was released to positive reviews.
"A Little Time," the first single from the group's second album, Choke, became the group's first number one single in the fall of 1990. Choke was also well-received, even though it didn't quite match the performance of the debut, either in terms of sales or reviews. In particular, some critics complained that Heaton was becoming too clever and cynical for his own good. The Beautiful South released their third album, 0898, in 1992; it was their first record not to be released in the United States, yet it maintained their success in Britain. Following the release of 0898, Corrigan left the group, reportedly upset over some of Heaton's ironic lyrics. She was replaced with Jacqui Abbot, who made her first appearance on the band's fourth album, 1994's Miaow.
While both 0898 and Miaow were popular, they were only moderate successes. Their respectable chart performances in no way prepared any observers, including the band themselves, for the blockbuster success of Carry on Up the Charts, a greatest-hits collection released at the end of 1994. Carry on Up the Charts entered the charts at number one. It was one of the fastest-selling albums in U.K. history and its success outlasted the Christmas season. The album stayed at number one for several months, going platinum many times over and, in the process, becoming one of the most popular albums in British history. Its success was a bit of a surprise, since the popularity of the Beautiful South's previous albums never indicated the across-the-boards success that greeted Carry on Up the Charts. The album wasn't released in America until late 1995, after it broke several U.K. records.
Members include Paul Heaton, vocals and song writer; Dave Rotheray, guitar and songwriter; Dave Hemingway, vocals; Brianna Corrigan (left band 1992), vocals; Sean Welch, bass; David Stead, drums; Jacqueline Abbott, (joined band 1993), vocals.
Formed 1989 in Hull, England. Heaton and Hemingway had previously been in the band, the Housemartins, which disbanded 1989; released first album, Welcome to the Beautiful South, 1990; album received good reviews and the band toured America, 1990; released 0898 Beautiful South which contained the controversial song "36D," 1992; Corrigan left band, 1992; compilation, Carriy on Up the Charts-The Best of the Beautiful South, became third fastest selling album ever in the UK, 1994.
Addresses: Record company—Polygram Records, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019.
The Beautiful South released their follow-up to Miaow, Blue Is the Colour, in the fall of 1996. Quench followed three years later, then Painting It Red in fall 2000, and Gaze in 2003. ~ All Music Guide
Welcome to the Beautiful South, Go! Discs, 1989.
Choke, Go! Discs, 1990.
0898 Beautiful South, Go! Discs, 1992.
Miaow, Go! Discs, 1994.
Blue Is the Colour, Go! Discs Records, 1996.
Quench, Go! Discs Records, 1998.
Painting It Red, 2000.
Gaze, Go! Discs Records, 2003.
Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs, Sony Inrernational, 2004.
Superbi, Sony BMG, 2006.
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Hunting High and Low, Warner Bros. Records, 1985.
In their small snowy country of Norway, members of the 1980s super group A-ha are considered close to royalty. The pretty boys of Oslo were the first Norwegian band to make it big in pop-music. By the end of 1980s, they had amassed numerous awards and platinum albums.
Two of the band members, Magne Furuholmen and Pal Waaktaar, grew up in Oslo. Their first band together, Spider Empire—formed in 1977—was heavily influenced by the music of the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Spider Empire evolved into another band called Bridges in 1979 and took on a bassist and drummer. Soon they released their first album, Fakkeltog —Torchlight Procession—on their own label, Vakenatt. The Bridges were working on their second album when Morten Harket entered the scene. Influenced by the falsetto of Freddy Mercury of Queen, Harket had been singing in other Oslo bands.
After deciding to work together, the band, with Harket on lead vocals and Furuholmen writing many of the lyrics, the band began tossing around ideas for a new name. They decided upon A-ha because, as Furuholmen explained, it was easily memorized and familiar exclamation in any language. "Originally, we were trying to find a Norwegian word that people would be able to say in English. Eventually Harket spotted a song called "a-ha" in Waaktaar's song notebook. It was a terrible song, but a great name. I mean, you say it, a-ha, all the time," Furuholmen said online.
In 1982, the band began changing its tune and started working on becoming a more commercial, synth-pop sounding band, like pop kings Duran Duran. The trio began looking toward England for a record label to offer them a contract. Even with their chiseled good looks and snappy sound, success would take a while.
983 was to be the dawning for the Norwegian music marvels. After ringing in the new year by relocating to London in January, the trio managed to purchase some recording time at Rendezvous Studios. One demo, "Lesson One," caught the ear of John Ratcliff, manager of the recording studio. Ratcliff in turn played it for Terry Slater, a former record company executive who once worked with the Everly Brothers. Slater was so impressed with the band that he agreed to manage the trio immediately and arrange a series of influential auditions.
As a Christmas present for their families and compatriots, A-ha brought home a worldwide contract with Warner Bros. Records. The first album Hunting High and Low, included the single "Take On Me." Released in early 1984, it was re-worked version of "Lesson One." The band experienced a successful Norwegian debut, but failed to reach audiences over in England and abroad. Only 300 copies of the album were sold outside its native Norway. In 1985, the band, at the urging of Slater, remixed and re-released the single.
During the summer of 1986, Warner Bros. Records decided to invest some money on a revolutionary video for the struggling band. "Take On Me," directed by Steve Barron, was a charcoal animation of the band members was a fore-runner in semi-animated video-market. At the third MTV Music Awards in 1986, the video won for Best New Concept Video, Best New Artist Video, Best Special Effects, Best Direction, Most Experimental and the Viewers Choice awards, among others awards. According to the Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, it was a record number of wins by one act for both the fledgling ceremony and band.
In 1986, A-ha released it's sophomore album, Scoundrel Days. Although less successful than Hunting High And Low, the album did include the hit single "Cry Wolf." A year later, the band was commissioned to create the theme song for the new James Bond movie, The Living Daylights. Their third album, Stay on These Roads, almost entirely written by guitarist Pal Waaktaar continued A-ha's popularity in England while marking its journey into obscurity in the United States. The album entered the English charts early in 1988 at number two.
After a two year holiday, A-ha released their fourth album, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, in November 1990. This new album shows a departure from the heavy synth-ladled albums of the past. In 1991, after a string of little noticed singles,, A-ha released a six year retrospective album entitled Headlines and Deadlines, The Hits Of A-ha.
During the fifth annual World Music Awards, the darlings of Norwegian pop music were named Best Selling Norwegian Artist of the Year two years in a row 1992-93. In 1993, the band releases Memorial Beach, which featured the single "Dark Is the Night." More than previous A-ha albums, this album highlighted the talents of the other band members including new members bassist J.B. Bogeberg and Per Hillestad on drums. Much of the album reflects time spent in America.
After feeling "spent out" artistically, the band took a two year sabbatical according to an online interview at http://www.wwiv.com/a-ha/a-ha-faq.html. The trio decided to pursued individual artistic challenges. Furuholmen co-wrote the soundtrack for the Norwegian movie Ten Knifes in the Heart, which world premiered in 1994. He also created a wood carving for the cover design for the album Songs from the Pocket, a solo project of his fellow tour mate J.B Bogeberg. During this time apart, the band did regroup to record "Shapes That Go Together, " theme song for the 1994 Special Olymics that were held in Lillehammer, Norway.
Harket recorded the Frankie Valli hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" for the Coneheads soundtrack in 1983. The movie was directed by Steve Baron, the gentleman behind the record shattering "Take On Me video." In 1995, Harket released Wild Seed, his first solo album with Warner Brothers Records International. In 1996, Pal Waaktaar also released an album with Warner Brothers Records International. With his band Savoy, he released Mary is Coming in early 1996 in Europe and the United States writing all the songs on the album.
For The Record:
Members include Magne Furuholmen (born November 1, 1962), keyboards, vocals; Morten Harket (born September 14, 1959), lead vocals; and Pal Waaktaar (born September 6, 1961), guitar, vocals.
Group formed in 1977 as Spider Empire, changed name to A-Ha in 1982. Released debut album Hunting High and Low on Warner Bros. Label, 1986; other releases on the Warner Bors. Labes include: Scoundrel Days, 1986; Stay on These Roads, 1988; East of the Sun, West of the Moon, 1991; Headlines & Deadlines, The Hits of A-Ha, 1991; Memorial Beach, 1993. Contributed "The Living Daylights" for soundtrack of the same name, 1987.
Awards: MTV Video Awards for Best New Concept Video, Best New Artist Video, Best Special Effects, Best Direction, Most Experimental and Viewers Choice Awards, all in 1986.
Address: Record company—Warner Bros. Records, 10907 Magnolia Blvd., Box 419, North Hollywood, CA.
Source: Gretchen Monette
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The Offspring's metal-inflected punk became a popular sensation in 1994, selling over four million albums on an independent record label. While the group's credentials and approach follow the indie rock tradition of the '80s, sonically the Offspring sound more like an edgy, hard-driving heavy metal band, with their precise, pulsing power chords and Dexter Holland's flat vocals. Featuring Holland, guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, bassist Greg Kriesel, and drummer Ron Welty, the Offspring released their self-titled debut album in 1989.
Four years later, their second album, Ignition, became an underground hit, setting the stage for the across-the-board success of 1994's Smash. The Nirvana sound-alike "Come Out and Play," the first single from the album, became an MTV hit in the summer of 1994, which paved the way to radio success.
The Offspring were played on both alternative and album rock stations, confirming their broad-based appeal. "Self Esteem," the second single, followed the same soft verse/loud chorus formula and stayed on the charts nearly twice as long as "Come Out and Play." The group got offers from major labels, yet chose to stay with Epitaph.
While they were able to play arenas in the U.S., their success didn't translate in foreign countries. Nevertheless, the band's popularity continued to grow in America, as "Gotta Get Away" became another radio/MTV hit in the beginning of 1995. The Offspring recorded a version of the Damned's "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack in the summer of that year; it kept the group on the charts as the band members worked on their third album.
Following a prolonged bidding war and much soul-searching, the Offspring decided to leave Epitaph Records in 1996 for Columbia Records. The move was particularly controversial within the punk community, and many artists on the Epitaph roster, including Pennywise and owner Brett Gurewitz, criticized the band.
After much delay, the Offspring finally released their Columbia debut, Ixnay on the Hombre, in February of 1997. Expectations for the record were high and it did receive good reviews, but Ixnay on the Hombre failed to become a crossover hit on the level of Smash, and the group also lost a significant portion of its hardcore punk audience due to the album's major-label status.
Americana followed in 1998, scoring the hit "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)." In mid-2000, the Offspring made controversial headlines with their decision to offer Conspiracy of One free of charge via the Internet prior to the initial November release date. Sony Music did not adhere to such a move and threatened a lawsuit; therefore, the band nixed plans to release the album in such a manner. Individual singles, however, were made available on the band's official website and other music-related sites such as MTV Online.
The Offspring returned in 2003 with Splinter. The album was released through Columbia, proving the band's flouting of the record biz hadn't soured the major labels. It also featured the single "Hit That," which returned to the smarmy, pop-referential feel of "Pretty Fly." The Offspring toured the world in support of Splinter, and in the process they hit nearly every continent at least once.
They returned in June 2005 with a greatest-hits set; in addition to their major hits, it included the new track "Can't Repeat." In 2008, after several delays, the band returned with its first studio release in four and a half years, releasing the highly anticipated Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace.
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When they appeared in the early '80s, Asia seemed to be a holdover from the '70s, when supergroups and self-important progressive rockers reigned supreme. Featuring members of such seminal art rock bands as King Crimson (John Wetton), Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Carl Palmer), and Yes (Steve Howe), as well as Geoff Downes from the Buggles, Asia did feature stretches of indulgent instrumentals on their records. However, they also could be surprisingly poppy, and that is what brought them to the top of the charts with their debut album, Asia, and its hit single, "Heat of the Moment." Alpha, their second album, also had a couple of hits ("Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes") but its follow-up, Astra, was a flop. The group disbanded in 1985, only to reunite in 1990 without John Wetton; John Payne took his place. After churning out a couple of new songs for a greatest-hits collection, the band hit the road, including two sold-out dates in front of 20,000 fans in Moscow, of all places. Thereafter, they toured sporadically and released the albums Aqua (in 1992) and Aria (in 1994).
Asia began with the apparent demise of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, two of the flagship bands of British progressive rock. After the break-up of King Crimson in 1974, various plans for a super group involving bassist John Wetton had been mooted, including the abortive British Bulldog project with Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman in 1976. Wakeman left this project at the urging of management, according to Bill Bruford. In 1977, Bruford and Wetton were reunited in UK, augmented by guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. Their eponymous debut was released in 1978. By January 1980, UK had folded after one lineup change and three recordings. A new supergroup project was then suggested involving Wetton, Wakeman, drummer Carl Palmer and (then little known) guitarist Trevor Rabin, but Wakeman left this project too shortly before they were due to sign to Geffen and before they had played together.Wetton's Caught in the Crossfire solo album (1980) did not fare very well in England.
In early 1981, Wetton and former Yes guitarist Steve Howe were brought together by A&R man John Kalodner and Geffen Records to start writing material for a new album. By this point, progressive rock bands such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer had folded, so many qualified musicians were available for this proposed group. They were eventually joined by drummer Carl Palmer, and finally by Howe's recent Yes cohort, keyboardist Geoff Downes. Two other players auditioned and considered during the band's formation were former The Move and ELO founder Roy Wood and South African guitarist/singer Trevor Rabin, who would go on to be part of a reformed Yes in 1983. Rabin, in a filmed 1984 interview included in the DVD 9012Live, said that his involvement with Asia never went anywhere because "there was no chemistry" among the participants.
The band's first recordings, under the auspices of Geffen record label head David Geffen and Kalodner, were considered disappointing by music critics and fans of traditional progressive rock, who found the music closer to radio-friendly Album-oriented rock. However, Asia clicked with fans of popular arena acts such as Journey, Boston and Styx. Indeed, Kalodner had once introduced Wetton to Journey's short-lived frontman Robert Fleischman, who had penned such Journey classics "Anytime" and "Wheel in the Sky," with a view to Fleischman becoming Asia's lead-singer. Fleischman was already known to bandmember Carl Palmer. However, as they worked on material together, Fleischman was impressed by Wetton's singing and felt the voice best suited to the new material was Wetton's own. Leaving Asia amicably, Fleischman returned to America eventually to work on several projects with ex-KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent. Rolling Stone gave Asia an indifferent review, while still acknowledging the band's musicianship was a cut above the usual AOR expectations.
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For many years, The Charlatans were perceived as the also-rans of Madchester, the group that didn't capture the zeitgeist like the Stone Roses or the band that failed to match the mad genre-bending of Happy Mondays. Of course, they were more traditional than either of their peers. Working from a Stonesy foundation, The Charlatans added dance-oriented rhythms and layers of swirling organs straight out of '60s psychedelia. At first, The Charlatans had great promise, and their initial singles - including 'The Only One I Know' - were hits, but as Madchester and 'baggy' faded away, the group began to look like a relic. It was commonly assumed that their third album, 1994's 'Up to Our Hips', was the end of the line. However, The Charlatans made a remarkable comeback in 1995 with their eponymous fourth album, which found them embracing not only the flourishing Britpop movement, but also underground dance and techno, as well as their mainstay of classic rock. 'The Charlatans' debuted at number one, and the group was hailed as survivors. Unfortunately, few knew how literal that term was - as the band was recording its follow-up album in 1996, organist Rob Collins, who had defined the band's sound, died in a car crash. The Charlatans decided to continue as a quartet, and their subsequent album, 'Tellin' Stories', debuted at number one upon its 1997 release, suggesting that they had become one of the great British journeyman bands of the '90s.
At the time of their formation in 1989, it appeared that The Charlatans were all about transience. Inspired by the emergence of the Stone Roses, Rob Collins (keyboards), Jon Baker (guitar), Martin Blunt (bass), and Jon Brookes (drums) formed The Charlatans, rehearsing with a variety of vocalists before Tim Burgess joined as their singer. The group attempted to land a record contract with no success, so they formed Dead Dead Good Records and released their debut 12' single, 'Indian Rope' in January 1990. Collins' dynamic, sweeping Hammond organ distinguished the group from their Madchester peers, and the single became a number one hit on the indie charts. By the spring, they signed with Beggars Banquet, releasing 'The Only One I Know' a few months later. Borrowing heavily from the Stones, jangle pop, and funk, 'The Only One I Know' became a monster hit, climbing into the pop Top Ten and becoming the group's signature single. Following another hit single, 'Then' the band's debut album, 'Some Friendly', was released in the autumn, debuting at number one.
It was a remarkable beginning to their career, so perhaps it was inevitable that bad luck hit early in 1991. As they launched their first American tour, The Charlatans were forced to add 'U.K.' to their name since a San Franciscan garage rock band from the '60s already had claims on the name. The group returned to Britain, where they played a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Following the gig, Baker announced he was leaving the group. He was replaced by Mark Collins (no relation), yet the group was sidetracked further by Blunt's bout with severe depression. By the time the group finally released their second album, 'Between 10th and 11th', Madchester had become passé, and the album was ignored by the public and earned mixed reviews.
Despite their declining popularity, The Charlatans soldiered on, yet hit their biggest setback to date in late 1992, when Rob Collins was arrested as an accessory to armed robbery. The situation had been entirely accidental - Collins had been drinking with an old friend and wound up following him into a liquor store - but he was sentenced to eight months imprisonment. Before he went into jail, he laid down the tracks for the band's third album, which was released in early 1994, once he had left prison. 'Up to Our Hips' received stronger reviews than its predecessor, and its single, 'Can't Get Out of Bed' was a bigger hit than anything on 'Between 10th and 11th'. It was the beginning of a comeback that culminated the summer of 1995.
Prior to the release of the group's eponymous third album, Tim Burgess sang on The Chemical Brothers' 'Life Is Sweet' which re-established his hip indie credentials and gave him, and The Charlatans, credibility in electronica circles. Appropriately, The Charlatans demonstrated a deeper dance sensibility, as well as more concise tunes, and it unexpectedly entered the British charts at number one. Following the release of the album, The Charlatans re-entered the front rank of British rock bands and were at the peak of their popularity, as well as critical acclaim. The group was still unable to crack the American market - initially, they were barred from touring the country due to Collins' arrest - yet they remained popular throughout Europe and Asia.
As the group was recording its follow-up to 'The Charlatans', Collins was killed in a drunk driving accident as he headed to the studio. Although Collins was pivotal to the band's signature sound, they carried on without him, completing their fifth album, 'Tellin' Stories', with the assistance of Primal Scream's keyboardist, Martin Duffy. 'Tellin' Stories' was released in the U.K. in the spring of 1997 to generally strong reviews, and it entered the charts at number one. Two years later 'Us And Us Only' came out, followed in 2001 with the dance-inspired 'Wonderland'. The next year saw two releases, 'Live It Like You Love It', recorded live in the band's hometown in December 2001, and 'Songs from the Other Side', a collection of B-sides from 1990-1997. The Charlatans' eighth studio album, 'Up At The Lake', was issued in 2004, and two years later 'Simpatico' hit the shelves.
The Charlatans hit the headlines in 2008 when their tenth album, 'You Cross My Path' was released as a free download courtesy of Xfm.
Some Friendly, Dead Dead Good Records, Situation Two, Beggars Banquet Records, 1990.
Between 10th and 11th, Situation Two, Beggars Banquet Records, 1992.
Up to Our Hips, Beggars Banquet Records, 1994.
The Charlatans, Beggars Banquet Records, 1995.
Tellin' Stories,Beggars Banquet Records, 1997.
Us and Us Only, Universal Records, 1999.
Wonderland, Universal Records, 2001.
Up at the Lake, Island, 2004.
Simpatico, Sanctuary Records, 2006.
You Cross My Path, Cooking Vinyl, 2008.
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The Divine Comedy is the alias for Neil Hannon, a British pop singer/songwriter with aspirations of becoming a new wave fusion of Scott Walker, Morrissey, and Electric Light Orchestra. During the early '90s, he built up a strong cult following with a pair of idiosyncratic, critically acclaimed records before his third album, Casanova, became a mainstream success in the wake of Britpop and Pulp's popularity. "Becoming More Like Alfie" and "Something for the Weekend," both pulled from Casanove, became hits after receiving significant airplay from Radio 1 DJ Chris Evans, and The Divine Comedy moved from British indie rock favorites to a minor mainstream cult in their own right.
Originally, The Divine Comedy was an R.E.M.-influenced guitar-driven trio, formed in Londonderry, Ireland, by Neil Hannon (vocals, guitar; born in Londonderry, Ireland, November 7, 1970), John McCullagh (bass), and Kevin Traynor (drums). Inspired by R.E.M., the trio released an EP, Fanfare for the Comic Muse, in the spring of 1990 and supported the record with a few concerts, including a supporting slot for My Bloody Valentine. In 1991, John Allen joined the band as lead vocalist, and the group released the EP Timewatch, which was recorded when Hannon was still vocalist, that fall. The following year, they relocated to London, where they regularly supported Suade on club gigs. Produced by Edwyn Collins, the Europop EP was released later in 1992. It was the last recording the original lineup would release.
Following Europop, The Divine Comedy fell apart, and Hannon went back to Londonderry, where he began to write songs again. In 1993, he was signed to Setanta as The Divine Comedy and released Liberation to positive reviews. Promenade followed in 1994, again to positive reviews throughout the U.K. music press; it appeared on year-end lists from NME, Melody Maker, and Q, among others. Following the release of Promenade, Blur, Oasis, and Pulp made British indie rock acceptable for the pop mainstream, and The Divine Comedy benefited from their progress. Released early in 1996, Casanova was greeted with enthusiastic reviews and it slowly began to build an audience. "Something for the Weekend" became a staple on Chris Evans' radio show, and he had The Divine Comedy on his TFI Friday television show, the first TV appearance for Hannon. When it was released as a single a month later, "Something for the Weekend" entered the charts at 14. Soon, Hannon was appearing not only on the cover of Melody Maker, but there were articles about him throughout mainstream press, from The Guardian to Just Seventeen. "Becoming More Like Alfie" was released in August, and while it peaked at 27, it nevertheless expanded the band's audience, as did "The Frog Princess," which reached 15 in November. The Divine Comedy supported the final single with a tour with a 30-piece orchestra, culminating with a concert at Lond Shepherds Bush Empire, which provided the basis for the band's next album, A Short Album About Love. Released to coincide with Valentine's Day 1997, A Short Album About Love was greeted with positive reviews and the strongest initial sales of any Divine Comedy record to date.
In 1999, The Divine Comedy celebrated ten years; they also ended their deal with Setanta Records. The release of A Secret History marked the occasion, but Hannon had his hand in other projects. He contributed vocals to Tom Jones' Reload as well as Ute Lemper's album Punishing Kiss. A new deal with Parlophone surfaced at the dawning of the new millennium and Hannon headed into the studio with producer Nigel Godrich. The end result was the stunning Regeneration. This particular album focused on the seven bandmembers as a whole, probably their finest effort since 1996's Casanova. Unfortunately, it was also the last release with the band. Hannon expressed a need to go solo, and he picked up an acoustic guitar and played several club gigs before joining piano man Ben Folds for a slew of American dates in spring 2002. In 2004, after moving to Dublin and becoming a father, Hannon -- the only remaining member -- released the critically acclaimed, self-produced Absent Friends, a sincere return to form that reunited him with Godrich and longtime collaborator Joby Talbot. Hannon returned to the studio in 2006 for The Divine Comedy's ninth album, Victory for the Comic Muse, which utilized 28 other musicians and was recorded in just two weeks.
Members include Miggy Barradas (born Miguel Barrados in Trinidad; member 1994-present), drums; Stuart "Pinkie" Bates (member 1994-present), organ; Rob Farrer (member 1998-present), percussion; Neil Hannon (born on November 7, 1970, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland; married Orla Little, 1999), vocals, guitar; John McCullagh (born in Ireland; member 1990-92), bass, vocals; Bryan Mills (member 1994-present), bass; Ivor Talbot (born in Ireland; member 1994-present), guitar; Joby Talbot (born in England; member 1994-present), piano; Kevin Traynor (born in Ireland; member 1990-92), drums, percussion.
Formed in 1990 by Hannon, McCullagh and Traynor in Ireland and moved to England, where they signed with indie label, Setanta Records; released Fanfare for the Comic Muse, 1990; McCullah and Traynor returned to Ireland, the Divine Comedy becomes a solo project for Hannon, 1991; released Liberation, 1993; released Casanova, 1996; released A Short Album About Love, 1997; worked with contemporary classical composer Michael Nyman called Grizzly Knife Attack, which performed at the Edinburgh new music festival, 1997; incorporated the Brunei Ensemble orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Choir for Fin de Siede, 1998; signed to Parlophone Records, 1999; released Gin Soaked Box/, 2000; released Regeneration, 2001.
Fanfare for the Comic Muses, Setanta, 1990.
Liberation, Setanta, 1993.
Promenade, Setanta, 1994.
Casanova, Setanta, 1996.
A Short Album About Love, Setanta, 1997.
Fin de Siecle, Setanta, 1998.
Regeneration, Parlophone/EMI, 2001.
Absent Friends, Parlophone/EMI, 2004.
Victory for the Comic Muse, Parlophone, 2006.
Bang Goes the Knighthood, DC Records, 2010.
Sources: artistdirect.com; Nathan Sweet
This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you. Content@rokpool.com.
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R.E.M. mark the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock. When their first single, "Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981, it sparked a back-to-the-garage movement in the American underground. While there were a number of hardcore and punk bands in the U.S. during the early '80s, R.E.M. brought guitar pop back into the underground lexicon. Combining ringing guitar hooks with mumbled, cryptic lyrics and a D.I.Y. aesthetic borrowed from post-punk, the band simultaneously sounded traditional and modern. Though there were no overt innovations in their music, R.E.M. had an identity and sense of purpose that transformed the American underground.
Throughout the '80s, they worked relentlessly, releasing records every year and touring constantly, playing both theaters and backwoods dives. Along the way, they inspired countless bands, from the legions of jangle pop groups in the mid-'80s to scores of alternative pop groups in the '90s, who admired their slow climb to stardom. It did take R.E.M. several years to break into the top of the charts, but they had a cult following from the release of their debut EP, Chronic Town, in 1982. Chronic Town established the haunting folk and garage rock that became the band's signature sound, and over the next five years, they continued to expand their music with a series of critically acclaimed albums. By the late '80s, the group's fan base had grown large enough to guarantee strong sales, but the Top Ten success in 1987 of Document and "The One I Love" was unexpected, especially since R.E.M. had only altered their sound slightly. Following Document, R.E.M. slowly became one of the world's most popular bands. After an exhaustive international tour supporting 1988's Green, the band retired from touring for six years and retreated into the studio to produce their most popular records, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992). By the time they returned to performing with the Monster tour in 1995, the band had been acknowledged by critics and musicians as one of the forefathers of the thriving alternative rock movement, and they were rewarded with the most lucrative tour of their career. Toward the late '90s, R.E.M. was an institution, as its influence was felt in new generations of bands.
Though R.E.M. formed in Athens, GA, in 1980, Mike Mills (born December 17, 1958) and Bill Berry (born July 31, 1958) were the only Southerners in the group. Both had attended high school together in Macon, playing in a number of bands during their teens. Michael Stipe (born January 4, 1960) was a military brat, moving throughout the country during his childhood. By his teens, he had discovered punk rock through Patti Smith, Television, and Wire, and began playing in cover bands in St. Louis. By 1978, he had begun studying art at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he began frequenting the Wuxtry record store. Peter Buck (born December 6, 1956), a native of California, was a clerk at Wuxtry. Buck had been a fanatical record collector, consuming everything from classic rock to punk and free jazz, and was just beginning to learn how to play guitar. Discovering they had similar tastes, Buck and Stipe began working together, eventually meeting Berry and Mills through a mutual friend. In April of 1980, the band formed to play a party for their friend, rehearsing a number of garage, psychedelic bubblegum, and punk covers in an converted Episcopalian church. At the time, the group was played under the name the Twisted Kites. By the summer, the band had settled on the name R.E.M. after flipping randomly through the dictionary, and had met Jefferson Holt, who became their manager after witnessing the group's first out-of-state concert in North Carolina.
Over the next year and a half, R.E.M. toured throughout the South, playing a variety of garage rock covers and folk-rock originals. At the time, the band was still learning how to play, as Buck began to develop his distinctive, arpeggiated jangle and Stipe ironed out his cryptic lyrics. During the summer of 1981, R.E.M. recorded their first single, "Radio Free Europe," at Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studios. Released on the local indie label Hib-Tone, "Radio Free Europe" was pressed in a run of only 1,000 copies, but most of the those singles fell into the right hands. Due to strong word of mouth, the single became a hit on college radio and topped the Village Voice's year-end poll of Best Independent Singles. The single also earned the attention of larger independent labels, and by the beginning of 1982, the band had signed to I.R.S. Records, releasing the EP Chronic Town in the spring. Like the single, Chronic Town was well received, paving the way for the group's full-length debut album, 1983's Murmur.
With its subdued, haunting atmosphere and understated production, Murmur was noticeably different than Chronic Town and was welcomed with enthusiastic reviews upon its spring release; Rolling Stone named it the best album of 1983, beating out Michael Jackson's Thriller and The Police's Synchronicity. Murmur also expanded the group's cult significantly, breaking into the American Top 40. R.E.M. returned to a rougher-edged sound on 1984's Reckoning, which featured the college hit "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)." By the time the band hit the road to support Reckoning, they had become well known in the American underground for their constant touring, aversion to videos, support of college radio, Stipe's mumbled vocals and detatched stage presence, Buck's ringing guitar, and their purposely enigmatic artwork. Bands that imitated these very things ran rampant throughout the American underground, and R.E.M. threw their support toward these bands, having them open at shows and mentioning them in interviews. By 1985, the American underground was awash with R.E.M. sound-alikes and bands like Game Theory and the Rain Parade, which shared similar aesthetics and sounds.
Just as the signature R.E.M. sound dominated the underground, the band entered darker territory with its third album, 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction. Recorded in London with producer Joe Boyd (Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake), Fables of the Reconstruction was made at a difficult period in R.E.M.'s history, as the band was fraught with tension produced by endless touring. The album reflected the group's dark moods, as well as its obsession with the rural South, and both of these fascinations popped up on the supporting tour. Stipe, whose on-stage behavior was always slightly strange, entered his most bizarre phase, as he put on weight, dyed his hair bleached blonde, and wore countless layers of clothing. None of the new quirks in R.E.M.'s persona prevented Fables of the Reconstruction from becoming their most successful album to date, selling nearly 300,000 copies in the U.S. R.E.M. decided to record their next album with Don Gehman, who had previously worked with John Mellencamp. Gehman had the band clean up its sound and Stipe enunciate his vocals, making Lifes Rich Pageant their most accessible record to date. Upon its late summer release in 1986, Lifes Rich Pageant was greeted with the positive reviews that had become customary with each new R.E.M. album, and it outstripped the sales of its predecessor. Several months after Lifes Rich Pageant, the group released the B-sides and rarities collection Dead Letter Office in the spring of 1987.
R.E.M. had laid the groundwork for mainstream success, but they had never explicitly courted widespread success. Nevertheless, their audience had grown quite large, and it wasn't that surprising that the group's fifth album, Document, became a hit shortly after its fall 1987 release. Produced by Scott Litt -- who would produce all of their records over the course of the next decade -- Document climbed into the U.S. Top Ten and went platinum on the strength of the single "The One I Love," which also went into the Top Ten; it also became their biggest U.K. hit to date, reaching the British Top 40. The following year, the band left I.R.S. Records, signing with Warner Bros. for a reported six million dollars. The first album under the new contract was Green, which was released on election day 1988. Green continued the success of Document, going double platinum and generating the Top Ten single "Stand." R.E.M. supported Green with an exhaustive international tour, in which they played their first stadium dates in the U.S. Though they had graduated to stadiums in America, the group continued to play clubs throughout Europe.
The Green tour proved to be draining for the group, and they took an extended rest upon its completion in 1989. During the break, each member pursued side projects, and Hindu Love Gods, an album Buck, Berry, and Mills recorded with Warren Zevon in 1986, was released. R.E.M. reconvened during 1990 to record their seventh album, Out of Time, which was released in the spring of 1991. Entering the U.S. and U.K. charts at number one, Out of Time was a lush pop and folk album, boasting a wider array of sounds than the group's previous efforts; its lead single, "Losing My Religion," became the group's biggest single, reaching number four in the U.S. Since the band was exhausted from the Green tour, they chose to stay off the road. Nevertheless, Out of Time became their biggest album, selling over four million copies in the U.S. and spending two weeks at the top of the charts. R.E.M. released the dark, meditative Automatic for the People in the fall of 1992. Though the group had promised a rock album after the softer textures of Out of Time, Automatic for the People was slow, quiet, and reflective, with many songs being graced by string arrangements by Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Like its predecessor, Automatic for the People was a quadruple platinum success, generating the Top 40 hit singles "Drive," "Man on the Moon," and "Everybody Hurts."
After piecing together two albums in the studio, R.E.M. decided to return to being a rock band with 1994's Monster. Though the record was conceived as a back-to-basics album, the recording of Monster was difficult and plagued with tension. Nevertheless, the album was a huge hit upon its fall release, entering the U.S. and U.K. charts at number one; furthermore, the album won praise from a number of old-school critics who had been reluctant to praise the band, since they didn't "rock" in conventional terms. Experiencing some of the strongest sales and reviews of their career, R.E.M. began their first tour since Green early in 1995. Two months into the tour, Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm while performing; he had surgery immediately and had fully recovered within a month. R.E.M. resumed their tour two months after Berry's aneurysm, but his illness was only the beginning of a series of problems that plagued the Monster tour. Mills had to undergo abdominal surgery to remove an intestinal tumor in July; a month later, Stipe had to have an emergency surgery to remove a hernia. Despite all the problems, the tour was an enormous financial success, and the group recorded the bulk of a new album. Before the record was released in the fall of 1996, R.E.M. parted ways with their long-time manager Jefferson Holt, allegedly due to sexual harassment charges levied against Holt; the group's lawyer, Bertis Downs, assumed managerial duties.
New Adventures in Hi-Fi was released in September 1996, just before it was announced that the band had re-signed with Warner Bros., reportedly for a record-breaking sum of 80 million dollars. In light of such a huge figure, the commercial failure of New Adventures in Hi-Fi was ironic. Though it received strong reviews and debuted at number two in the U.S. and number one in the U.K., the album failed to generate a hit single, and it only went platinum where its three predecessors went quadruple platinum. By early 1997, the album had already begun its descent down the charts. However, the members of R.E.M. were already pursuing new projects, as Stipe worked with his film company, Single Cell Pictures, and Buck co-wrote songs with Mark Eitzel and worked with a free jazz group, Tuatara.
In October of 1997, R.E.M. shocked fans and the media with the announcement that Berry was amicably exiting the group to retire to life on his farm; the remaining members continued on as a three-piece, soon convening in Hawaii to begin preliminary work on their next LP. Replacing Berry with a drum machine, the sessions resulted in 1998's Up, widely touted as R.E.M.'s most experimental recording in years. It was only a brief change of direction, since the band's next album, 2001's Reveal, marked a return to their classic sound. Around the Sun followed in 2004. A worldwide tour followed in 2005, which included an appearance at the London branch of Live 8. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, they began work on Accelerate, which was released in 2008.
Sources: artistdirect.com; Brenna Sanchez