SHED SEVEN: A MAXIMUM HIGH

A Maximum High is the second studio album by the British rock band Shed Seven, released in April 1996 via Polydor Records. The album was written by all four band members at the time of release; Rick Witter, Paul Banks, Tom Gladwin and Alan Leach. The album title comes from lyrics in the song “Parallel Lines”.

Shed Seven held writing and rehearsal sessions at a local potato plant, RS Cockerill’s of York, prior to recording the album. One of the first tracks recorded, with their new producer Chris Sheldon, was the lead single, “Where Have You Been Tonight?”, written in late-1994 and debuting live at the band’s Christmas show on 23 December.[2] It was one of five tracks completed during a three-week recording session at RAK Studios in February 1995, before the band departed midway through the mixing process at Metropolis to embark on their first tour of Japan, satisfied with what they had achieved;

Along with the lead single, they completed a further four songs during their first stint in the recording studio; “This Day Was Ours”, “Bully Boy”, an untitled track, which was said to be the first Shed Seven song to feature drummer Alan Leach on lead vocals, and “Lies”. This version of “Lies” was previewed on an NME compilation cassette given away free with their 6 May 1995 issue, almost a year before the album was released. Following gigs in Spain and Japan, the band headed back to the studio in May 1995 to begin work on further material for inclusion on the album, which, at that point, was titled In Colour. Numerous tracks recorded in this period feature the highly renowned session musicians, The Kick Horns and The Phantom Horns, adding a brassier undertone to the featured songs and marking a notable change in sound to that of the band’s previous output.

JIMI HENDRIX: ARE YOU EXPERIENCED

Are You Experienced is the debut studio album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Released in 1967, the LP was an immediate critical and commercial success, and it is widely regarded as one of the greatest debuts in the history of rock music. The album features Jimi Hendrix‘s innovative approach to songwriting and electric guitar playing which soon established a new direction in psychedelic and hard rock music.

By mid-1966, Hendrix was struggling to earn a living playing the R&B circuit as a backing guitarist. After being referred to Chas Chandler, who was leaving the Animals and interested in managing and producing artists, Hendrix was signed to a management and production contract with Chandler and ex-Animals manager Michael Jeffery. Chandler brought Hendrix to London and began recruiting members for a band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, designed to showcase the guitarist’s talents.

In late October, after having been rejected by Decca Records, the Experience signed with Track, a new label formed by the Who‘s managers Kit Lambertand Chris Stamp. Are You Experienced and its preceding singles were recorded over a five-month period from late October 1966 through early April 1967. The album was completed in 16 recording sessions at three London locations, including De Lane Lea Studios, CBS Studios, and Olympic Studios.

Released in the UK on May 12, 1967, Are You Experienced spent 33 weeks on the charts, peaking at number two. The album was issued in the US on August 23 by Reprise Records, where it reached number five on the US Billboard Top LPs, remaining on the chart for 106 weeks, 27 of those in the Top 40. The album also spent 70 weeks on the US Billboard Hot R&B LPs chart, where it peaked at number 10. The US version contained some of Hendrix’s best known songs, including the Experience’s first three singles, which, though omitted from the British edition of the LP, were top ten hits in the UK: “Purple Haze“, “Hey Joe“, and “The Wind Cries Mary“.

In 2005, Rolling Stone ranked Are You Experienced15th on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The magazine placed four songs from the album on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: “Purple Haze” (17), “Foxy Lady” (153), “Hey Joe” (201), and “The Wind Cries Mary” (379). That same year, the record was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress in recognition of its cultural significance to be added to the National Recording Registry. Writer and archivist Reuben Jackson of the Smithsonian Institution wrote: “it’s still a landmark recording because it is of the rock, R&B, blues … musical tradition. It altered the syntax of the music … in a way I compare to James Joyce‘s Ulysses.”

Are You Experienced and its preceding singles were recorded over a five-month period from October 23, 1966 to April 4, 1967.[10] The album was completed in 16 recording sessions at three London locations, including De Lane Lea Studios, CBS, and Olympic. Chandler booked many of the sessions at Olympic because the facility was acoustically superior and equipped with most of the latest technology, though it was still using four-track recorders, whereas American studios were using eight-track.[11]

Chandler’s budget was limited, so in an effort to reduce expenditures he and Hendrix completed much of the album’s pre-production work at their shared apartment.[12] From the start, Chandler intentionally minimized the creative input of Mitchell and Redding. He later explained: “I wasn’t concerned that Mitch or Noel might feel that they weren’t having enough—or any—say … I had been touring and recording in a band for years, and I’d seen everything end as a compromise. Nobody ended up doing what they really wanted to do. I was not going to let that happen with Jimi.”[13] When the Experience began studio rehearsals, Hendrix already had the chord sequences and tempos worked out for Mitchell, and Chandler would direct Redding’s bass parts.[12]

October to December 1966Edit

Chandler and the Experience found time to record between performances in Europe.[14] They began on October 23, recording “Hey Joe” at De Lane Lea Studios, with Chandler as producer and Dave Siddle as engineer.[15] The song featured backing vocals by the Breakaways.[16] Soon after the session began, Chandler asked Hendrix to turn his guitar amplifier down, and an argument ensued. Chandler commented: “Jimi threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t let him play guitar loud enough … He was playing a Marshall twin stack, and it was so loud in the studio that we were picking up various rattles and noises.”[13] According to Chandler, Hendrix then threatened to leave England, stating: “If I can’t play as loud as I want, I might as well go back to New York.”[13] Chandler, who had Hendrix’s immigration papers and passport in his back pocket, laid the documents on the mixing console and told Hendrix to “piss off”.[13] Hendrix laughed and said: “All right, you called my bluff”, and they got back to work.[13]Redding wrote in his diary that they completed two songs during the October 23 session, but the second one has never been positively identified. Author Sean Egan speculated that it might have been Howlin’ Wolf‘s “Killing Floor” or Wilson Pickett‘s “Land of a Thousand Dances“.[17] Chandler decided that they should use an Experience original for the B-side of the single, so he encouraged Hendrix to start writing; he composed his first Experience song, “Stone Free“, the following day.[18][nb 1] Chandler, in an effort to minimize studio expenses, purchased rehearsal time at the Aberbach House in London.[21]He abandoned this practice after realizing how quickly the group could learn songs while warming up in the studio.[22] On November 2, 1966, the Experience returned to De Lane Lea to continue work on their first single.[23] During the session, they recorded “Stone Free” and a demo version of “Can You See Me”.[23] This marked the first time that the Experience recorded a song that was eventually included on the original UK release of the album.[24]

Chandler had been dissatisfied with the sound quality at De Lane Lea, so he took the advice of Kit Lambert and booked time at CBS Studios.[25] On December 13, 1966, after taking a five-week break from recording while they performed in Europe, the Experience reconvened at CBS.[26][nb 2] Assisted by engineer Mike Ross, the band were especially productive during the session, recording instrumentation and vocals for “Foxy Lady” and basic instrumental tracks for “Love or Confusion”, “Can You See Me”, and “Third Stone from the Sun“.[28] Ross recalled the impact of Hendrix’s Marshall stacks: “It was so loud you couldn’t stand in the studio … I’d never heard anything like it in my life.”[29] When Ross asked Hendrix where he would like the microphone placed Hendrix replied: “Oh, man, just put a mic about twelve feet away on the other side of the studio. It’ll sound great.”[29] Ross agreed, and with a Neumann U87 tube mic he recorded Hendrix’s guitar playing in a large room that, according to Ross, “was absolutely vital to the uniquely powerful Experience sound.”[30] Ross noted that input from Mitchell and Redding was minimized, and he asserted that Chandler was clearly “the one in charge” of the sessions.[31] The band played together live at CBS; the lead and backup vocals were overdubbed.[31] Despite his dwindling finances, Chandler encouraged the Experience to record numerous takes of a song, affording them the luxury of repeated attempts at a satisfactory recording.[32]With a live instrument track as the foundation of the recordings, they eschewed the common practice of piecing together parts of several takes to make one continuous piece.[32] After the December 13 recording session, the band made their television debut, on Britain’s Ready Steady Go![33]

On December 15, 1966, finishing touches were made on the four rhythm tracks that were recorded the previous session.[34][nb 3] Although Chandler enjoyed working at CBS and he appreciated the high quality of the recordings they made there, he ended his professional connection with the studio after a disagreement between him and owner Jake Levy over his failure to make payment.[35] Chandler had planned to pay Levy for the sessions after the album was completed, but Levy demanded payment upfront. Chandler viewed this as an unreasonable expectation, and he vowed that he would never again do business with CBS.[35][nb 4] The fifth and final song recorded there was “Red House“.[36] As stereophonic sound was not yet popular among music fans, these recordings were all monauralmixes; Ross explained: “back then … mono was king. All the effort went into the mono.”[37] He estimated that they spent no more than 30 minutes mixing any one track.[37][nb 5]

The first Experience single, with “Hey Joe” as the A-side and “Stone Free” as the B-side, was released in the UK on December 16, 1966.[39] Track Records was not yet operational, so their distributor, Polydor Records, issued the single with their logo.[40] It reached number six on the UK chart in early 1967.[41] On December 21, 1966, Chandler and the Experience returned to De Lane Lea with Dave Siddle as engineer.[39] They recorded two alternate versions of “Red House” and began work on “Remember”; both tracks were significantly re-worked in April 1967 at Olympic Studios.[42]

January to April 1967Edit

JanuaryEdit

After a three-week break from recording while they played gigs in England, including a December 29 appearance on Top of the Pops, the Experience reconvened at De Lane Lea on January 11, 1967.[43]As “Hey Joe” was gaining chart momentum in the UK, they began working on their second single, which featured Hendrix’s second songwriting effort, “Purple Haze”, as its A-side.[44] The track presented a more complex arrangement than the band’s previous recordings, and required four hours of studio time to complete, which Chandler considered extravagant. The session was the first time that he and the group had experimented with guitar effects.[44] Acoustic engineer Roger Mayerintroduced Hendrix to the Octavia, an octave-doubling effect pedal, in December 1966, and he first recorded with the effect during the guitar solo of “Purple Haze”.[45] When Track Records sent the master tapes for “Purple Haze” to Reprise for remastering, they wrote on the tape box: “Deliberate distortion. Do not correct.”[46]

On January 11, 1967, the Experience worked on their third A-side, “The Wind Cries Mary”, a song that marked their first use of overdubbing in lieu of retakes as a method of achieving a satisfactory track.[44] Chandler explained: “There were five guitar overdubs all linking in together to sound like one guitar.”[44] The song, which Redding and Mitchell had not yet heard before that day, was completed during the session.[47] Chandler had decided that they should discard the rough version of “Third Stone from the Sun” from December 13 and re-record the song; they completed a basic track for the piece, but were unable to achieve a finished master. The group managed to produce an acceptable live recording of the basic track for “Fire” after seven takes.[48] Next, they attempted Hendrix’s newly written ballad, “The Wind Cries Mary“.[49] Without the benefit of rehearsals, the band recorded the song in one take, to which Hendrix added several guitar overdubs; Chandler estimated that they spent approximately 20 minutes on the completed rhythm track.[49] According to Chandler, by this time Redding and Mitchell had begun to complain about their limited input. Chandler explained that financial considerations influenced the creative dynamic: “[They] were sort of fighting the fact that they had no say during recording sessions … they were starting to come up with suggestions, but … We didn’t need to be arguing with Noel for ten minutes and Mitch for five … We just couldn’t afford the time.”[49]

Between January 12 and February 2, 1967, the Experience took a break from recording while they played 20 dates in England, including a second appearance on Top of the Pops, on January 18.[50]Chandler was dissatisfied with the sound quality of the January 11 recordings and frustrated by the large number of noise complaints that they had received from people living and working near De Lane Lea. He explained: “There was a bank above the studio … and it was at the time when computers were just coming in … we would play so loud that it would foul up the computers upstairs.”[51] Brian Jones and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones encouraged Chandler to try Olympic Studios, which was considered the top independent London studio. Despite the growing chart success of their first single, Chandler’s money problems persisted. Olympic required advance payment for studio time, but Polydor had not yet released any funds to Track for disbursement.[51] When Chandler went to Polydor asking for relief they responded by guaranteeing him a line of credit at Olympic.[51]

FebruaryEdit

“I would fill the four basic tracks with stereo drums on two of the channels, the bass on the third, and Jimi’s rhythm guitar on the fourth. From there, Chandler and I would mix this down to two tracks on another four-track recorder, giving us two more tracks to put on whatever we wanted, which usually included Jimi’s lead guitar and vocals as well as backing vocals and some additional percussion.”[52]

Eddie Kramer

With his budget concerns alleviated, Chandler booked time at Olympic, where on February 3, 1967, he and the Experience met sound engineer Eddie Kramer.[51] During Kramer’s first session with the group, he deviated from the standard recording method that they had been using at CBS and De Lane Lea, which was to record bass and drums in mono on two tracks.[53] He instead recorded Mitchell’s drums on two tracks in stereo, leaving the remaining two tracks available for Redding’s bass and rhythm guitar parts played by Hendrix. Kramer’s unorthodox approach, which was inspired by Hendrix’s complaints regarding the limitations of four-track recordings, captured the live sound of the band using all four available tracks.[54][nb 6] Kramer and Chandler then pre-mixed and reduced the first four tracks down to two, making two more tracks available for lead guitar overdubs and vocals. This method satisfied both Hendrix’s perfectionism and Chandler’s desire to reduce the number of takes required for a satisfactory rhythm track, thus minimizing their expenses. Another change instigated by Kramer was the use of a mixture of close and distant microphone placements when recording Hendrix’s guitar parts whereas, during previous sessions, the microphones had been placed about twelve feet away from Hendrix’s amplifiers.[55] In addition to the usual choices, Kramer used Beyer M1 60 ribbon microphones, which were typically not used to record loud music.[56]

During the February 3, 1967, session at Olympic, the Experience improved the January 11 master tape of “Purple Haze” by re-recording the vocal and lead guitar parts, and adding another Octavia guitar overdub, which was sped-up and panned at the end of the song.[54] The group reconvened at Olympic on February 7, continuing their work on “Purple Haze” by recording Hendrix’s rhythm guitar and vocal parts, as well as Redding’s background vocals.[54] They spent time overdubbing ambient background sounds by playing tapes through a set of headphones that were held near a microphone, creating an echo effect as the headphones were moved closer; they completed a final mix of “Purple Haze” the following day.[57] During the session, they worked on the De Lane Lea master tape of “Fire”, replacing everything except Redding’s bass line, which he double-tracked in an effort to accentuate the recording’s lower frequencies.[58] Kramer placed the second bass line on a dedicated track and blended Redding’s original bass line with Mitchell’s newly recorded drum part. They also recorded Mitchell and Redding’s backing vocals.[58] “Foxy Lady” was also reworked on February 8; Redding recorded a new bass line and Hendrix and Mitchell added overdubs to their existing parts. After recording backing vocals by Redding and lead vocals from Hendrix, Kramer prepared the song’s final mix.[58]

Hendrix was not as confident a singer as he was a guitarist, and because he strongly disliked anyone watching him sing he asked the engineers at Olympic to construct a privacy barrier between him and the control room.[59] This created problems when the studio lights were low, and the engineers were unable to see him, making his visual cues and prompts difficult to communicate.[59] As was the case at De Lane Lea, Hendrix’s penchant for using multiple amplifiers at extreme volume drew criticism and complaints from the people living and working near to the studio.[60] Olympic tape operator George Chkiantz recalled: “Sometimes, it got so loud we’d turn the [control booth] monitors off and there was really very little difference.”[61] Chkiantz noted that reactions to Hendrix’s music were not always positive: “I seem to recall a lot of musicians, a lot of people, saying, ‘I can’t see what all the fuss is about myself’, or ‘I don’t know how you listen to all that noise; I’d be scared to work with him’ … Chas was convinced that he was on to something. Not everyone was convinced that Chas was right.”[62]Another issue that complicated the sessions were the large number of female fans who would show up at the studio wanting to watch the Experience record. As a habit, Hendrix would indiscriminately tell people where they would be on any given day, which led to large groups of fans following him everywhere. Olympic employees were tasked with keeping them under control and at a safe distance so as to not unduly burden the recording process.[62] Chkiantz commented: “It was extraordinary. I worked with the Stones. I worked with the Beatles. I worked with Led Zeppelin. I was not as jumpy; it was not as difficult as with Hendrix. It was something of an open house. Hendrix was not difficult at all, but I personally would have preferred not to have loads of girls lurking in the woodwork.”[62]

On February 20, 1967, the Experience continued working on Are You Experienced, but scheduling conflicts at Olympic led Chandler to book time at De Lane Lea.[63] During the session they recorded “I Don’t Live Today“, which featured a manual wah effect that predated the pedal unit.[64] They managed to complete a working master by the end of the day, though Hendrix eventually recorded a new lead vocal at Olympic.[65]

March and AprilEdit

The Experience took a week break from recording while playing gigs in England, and returned to De Lane Lea on March 1, 1967, to attempt a studio recording of Bob Dylan‘s “Like a Rolling Stone“.[66]Although the song had long been a staple of the group’s live show, they failed to achieve an acceptable basic track, owing mostly to Mitchell’s inability to keep consistent time during the session.[67]

The second Experience single, “Purple Haze”/”51st Anniversary”, was released on March 1.[68] It entered the UK singles chart on the 23rd, peaking at number three.[69] During that month, the band took another long break from recording while they played gigs in Belgium, Germany, and the UK, including appearances on the UK television show Dee Timeand the BBC radio show Saturday Club.[70]Scheduling conflicts at Olympic led Chandler to book a March 29 session at De Lane Lea.[71] On this date the band worked on another newly written Hendrix composition, “Manic Depression“; they finished a rough mix by the end of the session that was later rejected in favor of a re-mix completed at Olympic.[71] On April 3, the Experience returned to Olympic, adding overdubs and completing final mixes on several unfinished masters.[72] During the eight-hour session, the band recorded three new songs, including “Highway Chile”, “May This Be Love“, and “Are You Experienced?“.[73] As the album’s title track featured backwards rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, replication of the beat caused Mitchell some consternation when attempting the song live.[74][nb 7] Chandler completed final mixes for “I Don’t Live Today”, “Are You Experienced?”, and “May This Be Love” before the end of a session that Kramer described as “very organized.”[74]

In an effort to free up space for Hendrix’s lead vocals, further reduction mixing was completed for “Are You Experienced?” during a session at Olympic on April 4, 1967.[75] With the title track complete, the Experience shifted their focus to the January 11 rough demo of “Third Stone from the Sun”. Chandler decided that they should discard the original De Lane Lea tape and record a new version of the song. During the session, Kramer prepared a reduction mix of “Highway Chile”, which made two tracks available for Hendrix’s lead guitar and vocal overdubs.[75]Though stereo and mono mixes were completed for the song, Chandler preferred the mono version, which he paired with “The Wind Cries Mary” for release as the group’s third UK single. A reduction mix was prepared for “Love or Confusion”, and Hendrix took advantage of the newly vacant tracks by adding lead guitar and vocals. A final mix was completed before the end of the session. On April 5, Chandler participated in a mastering session at Rye Muse Studios for “Highway Chile” and “The Wind Cries Mary”, during which preparations were made so that Track could begin manufacturing vinyls.[75]On the 10th, he and the Experience returned to Olympic, spending the bulk of the session on editing dialogue segments for “Third Stone from the Sun”, which were then slowed down and mixed into the song.[76] Kramer concentrated his efforts on the song’s complicated mix: “The song was like a watercolor painting … each track was composed of four, fairly dense composite images.”[76]

After the April 10, 1967, recording session, the Experience spent the next two weeks playing shows and attending promotional appearances in England, including a spot on the BBC television program Monday Monday and BBC2‘s Late Night Line-Up.[77]Chandler, Hendrix, and Kramer completed the final mixing of Are You Experienced at Olympic by 3 a.m. on April 25. Chandler had agreed to audition the finished LP for Polydor’s head of A&R, Horst Schmaltze, at 11 a.m., so after a few hours of sleep he prepared a suitable vinyl demo and traveled to Polydor. Chandler recalled: “As Horst started to put the needle on the record, I broke out in a cold sweat, thinking … when he hears this, he’s going to order the men in white coats to take me away … Horst played the first side through and didn’t say a word. Then he turned the disk over and played the other side. I started thinking about how I was going to talk my way out of this. At the end of the second side, he just sat there. Finally, he said, ‘This is brilliant. This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.'” Horst immediately became an ardent supporter of the album and the band, championing the marketing and distribution of their debut LP.

CHARLATANS: SOME FRIENDLY

Recorded at The Windings near Wrexham, Wales in 1990, the sessions proved somewhat fraught – the band fell out with the owners of the studio; “it was one of those studio bust-ups … Rob and Martin were up to their old tricks, smashing stuff up and that” said singer Tim Burgess later.

However, lack of songs proved to be the major problem. Having been together for less than a year, the band hadn’t had the opportunity to stockpile songs. The album suffered as a result, featuring a few tracks that “had to go on there just to make up the numbers” (Burgess again).

The band also felt that some songs (especially “White Shirt” and “Polar Bear”) were overproduced, with the bass being lost in the mix and that the whole album sounded rather ‘thin’.

Both “The Only One I Know” and “Then” provided the Charlatans with hit singles, peaking at #9 and #12 respectively in the pop charts. In the UK the record went straight in at #1 in the album charts.

The original vinyl release of Some Friendly did not include “The Only One I Know”, as it was the band’s wish to take only one single from each album.

LINKIN PARK: HYBRID THEORY

On October 24, 2000, a little-known band from California called Linkin Park released their debut full-length, Hybrid Theory. And while the unsuspecting sextet didn’t realise it at the time, that album would go on to become not only the biggest-selling record in the world the following year, but also, more importantly, a generation-defining modern rock classic.

Its fusion of razor-edged metal riffing, slick electronic beats, twisting raps, eye-gouging screams and effortless pop sensibility saw it catapult the six nobodies from nowheresville to rock superstardom in a fashion that will probably never be equalled. An absolute dreadnought of a record, to call Hybrid Theory a phenomenon would be to almost undersell it.

Yet, as a wise man once said, even the greatest of journeys starts with the smallest of steps, and the story of Linkin Park’s world-beating debut begins in the same way that most bands’ tales do – in a kid’s bedroom.

“The very earliest incarnations of the songs from Hybrid Theory were written at my parents’ house when I had just finished high school,” recalls rapper, keyboardist and creative mastermind Mike Shinoda. “A Place For My Head was one of those first songs, but I wasn’t thinking of writing an album – I was barely considering starting a band!”

The young Shinoda’s ‘studio’ was, at best, rudimentary. “I had a four-track recorder, a guitar that we plugged directly into a tiny little amp, and a vocal mic,” he laughs. “The whole set-up was maybe worth $300. We actually sent out a bunch of tapes of those recordings, including to a guy who we knew had signed Incubus and Korn. Amazingly, he called us back! When I told him about my set-up, he was like, ‘That doesn’t make any sense – these songs sound really good!’ And even though he was never in the position to sign us, that was really the start of it.”

With his ambitious creativity and Spartan work practises already earning praise, Shinoda began to form the nucleus of what would become Linkin Park. A merry-go-round of endless demoing ensued, but something was missing from the fledgling line-up. The answer, it turned out, would be found in the form of a flame-haired vocalist from Arizona.

“I had basically decided to retire from music,” says Chester Bennington, reflecting on his frustrating early years trying to make it in a band. “I’d got a job in real estate and thought that while I would probably still make tunes for fun, I would need to find something else to do full-time.”

That’s a fairly remarkable statement for someone who had only just turned 21 at the time, but Bennington, it turned out, was not a man to do things by halves.

“A dude who had been working with my old band gave me a call, going, ‘I’ve got these guys and they’re writing this great music but they really need a singer.’ I immediately was asking all sorts of questions, like, ‘How old are they? How long have they been doing this?’ because I didn’t want to waste my fucking time. He said, ‘Well, I’ll just send you this demo,’ which turned out to have two tracks on one side and instrumentals on the other. I listened to the instrumental side first and immediately I was like, ‘This is it, these are the ones.’ The next thing I know, I’d flown to California and was sat outside Zomba Music Publishing, opposite Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Strip.”

Such quick movement, though, meant that at this stage, Chester hadn’t even set eyes upon the men who would become his new bandmates. “When I finally met the guys, I remember that they seemed very nice, very smart, very serious and, most importantly, they had a plan, which was pretty refreshing.”

If meeting your singer through A&R teams and label suits seems a little – or maybe even a lot – businesslike to you, then you’re not alone in your thinking. When Hybrid Theory did eventually blow up in spectacular fashion, the band had to fend off the accusations of being corporate puppets from all quarters.

“We did get a reputation for being a business rather than a band,” admits Shinoda. “But that was because we were so focused on getting our stuff done. It wasn’t in the name of business – it was in the name of building up this thing we had worked so hard to create. We were prepared to do everything in our power to be successful on all levels.”

The proof of Shinoda, Bennington and co.’s unwavering, singular dedication? Consider the unshakeable faith they had to display as they tried to score the record deal that would turn Hybrid Theory into a reality. “We showcased for every fucking label there was,” sighs Shinoda, “and they all turned us down.”

“No one wanted us, but we knew we had something fucking special,” offers a defiant Bennington. “We just kept pushing. Most bands probably try out in front of three labels, get rejected and give up. We played in front of 45 but our attitude was, ‘These guys are fucking stupid if they can’t see what we’ve got.’ We knew what we had and never doubted it.”

Fortunately, the band’s faith in themselves would be repaid, as the A&R manager who took them through that seemingly infinite run of soulless pony shows in a bid to score a label deal bagged himself a job at Warner Bros. As part of his contract with the multinational, it was agreed that he would get to sign up Linkin Park as his first band. “We got lucky,” reflects Bennington.

Or so they thought. In fact, the battle to get Hybrid Theory out in the way they intended was just beginning. For Shinoda in particular, it was a tough time. “We had to fight tooth and nail to maintain the vision of the record all the way through. The attitude of the label was: ‘Impress us, and you might get to make a full album.’”

The young band refused to be cowed even in the face of such ham-fisted boardroom fuckwittery, continuing to wage a quiet war to ensure that their music was heard in the way they knew it should be.

The final straw would come when the label, in a move that now seems unimaginably brazen, tried to oust Shinoda from the band. “These guys sat me down and were like, ‘Oh, you’ve got such an amazing voice, you could be such a shining star,’” says Bennington, audibly still angry at the encounter over a decade on. “They wanted to see if I would pull a coup to get Mike out. These dudes were so fucking stupid, man. They told me I’d be the face of the band and that Mike had no story ’cos he was just some kid from Agoura – all these dumb, superficial things.

“They wanted some fucking rapper from New York who no one knew to come and do vocals on the record. I just wanted to punch those idiots in the face because they couldn’t see that golden fucking teat of awesomeness that was right in front of them. Mike’s one of the most productive songwriters of our era, I think. God knows how many Number Ones we’ve had, but if he wasn’t in the band, we wouldn’t have had any of those!”

It’s the sort of display of loyalty that plenty of brothers-in-arms hardcore bands could learn a lot from, and one that pours cold water on the notion that Linkin Park are just a band of mercenaries assembled to achieve global success. Yet when Hybrid Theory did blast forth, infiltrating the airwaves with its infectious bounce, certain sections of the press were quick to brand them as nothing more than a nu metal boy band. Having worked so ceaselessly to get to where they were, it was a tag that stuck in the craw somewhat.

“Yeah, that was a real moment for a while, huh!” remarks Shinoda wryly. “We had to defend ourselves from that absurd shit forever but it was totally out of left-field. We never thought anyone would think something so ridiculous, but all of a sudden people were talking about it!”

Did it piss them off? You’d better believe it. “It gave us something to prove and drove us on, for sure,” notes Bennington. “There was a lot of false perception about us but what we did, instead of talking about it, was make it our mission that when we played, we wanted everyone who played after us to go, ‘Fuck!’ We wanted to be the band that no one wanted to tour with because we would turn up, crush the fucking crowd and then everyone would want to leave after us. We wanted to kick people in the face.”

The sextet would get the chance to prove their reputation as show-stoppers on an international scale throughout 2001, racking up hundreds of gigs across all corners of an increasingly Linkin Park-obsessed world in support of a record that was now storming the charts.

That determination to steal the limelight didn’t go down so well with everyone they hit the road with, though. An ill-fated UK run with the already established Deftones came as they were surfing a wave of success, but extended periods of touring were already taking their toll.

“That tour was one of the most stressful stints we’ve ever done,” confides Shinoda. “We basically followed winter around the world for six months and we were all always sick. And then to top it off, the guys in Deftones started to get a bit jealous and began treating us really poorly. Steph and Chino said some pretty nasty things in interviews. We tried not to say anything back because we didn’t want more tension on the tour but it was pretty miserable.”

The success the band had strived so hard to achieve wasn’t proving to be the bed of roses they had expected. “I even saw some fans doing heroin outside one of those shows. Totally fucking horrible shit, man. It was a dark period overall, even though things were, ostensibly, going so well.”

So what would drive both the press and Linkin Park’s peers to get so wound up by six guys who were, to all intents and purposes, just pursuing their dream? Maybe it was the consensus that they were nice, hard-working, middle-class boys who had nothing to be angry about. Or perhaps that by comparison to larger-than-life figures like Jonathan Davis and Fred Durst, they seemed, frankly, a little dull.

“People don’t fucking know us. Nobody knows me. You can’t look at a picture of our band and come to a conclusion about what our life is,” snarls Bennington. “We wanted to create art that spoke for itself: nothing more, nothing less. We know that a lot of people didn’t like it but that achieved another thing I love – when people hate you so much they can’t stop talking about you.”

Shinoda has his own view on the way his band were perceived. “I think that the difference between us and someone like Korn or Limp Bizkitis that, to me, a lot of that music was made for a frat party, a drunken brawl, slutty dudes taking their tops off and feeding off their own testosterone. What we didn’t connect with in that scene was that there wasn’t a lot of room for more introspective emotion. People would ask us, ‘Well, Jonathan Davis practically grew up in a morgue and was molested and all these horrible things. What gives you the right to be angry?’ But you don’t have to have gone through the worst things in the world to be sad. I think that’s something that ultimately really connected with our fans: that you don’t have to be an outcast and a fuck-up to take something from this music on an emotional level. If that makes us dull, then fine.”

It must be said, though, that while their debut album was breaking records for sales and at the same time converting a generation of kids to rock music, Linkin Park weren’t exactly indulging in the rock-star fantasies you might imagine. Even as they were handed the keys to the castle as the biggest band in the world, it was still a case of ‘work hard’ rather than ‘party hard’.

“I guess by most standards we were pretty reserved. We were doing so much that it didn’t leave too much time to get crazy,” jokes Shinoda. “I mean, there was this one time in Minnesota that by the end of the night we had thrown a beer keg through a hotel window and had a snowball fight in the lobby, so we weren’t totally fucking boring, but we were so focused on achieving the next goal.”

Do they wish they had been a bit crazier at the time of their peak? “We did it our way and I wouldn’t change a single thing,” reasons Bennington. “Not a thing.”

All the graft, indisputably, paid off. Hybrid Theoryremains the biggest-selling debut album of the 21st century and Linkin Park’s influence can palpably be felt across a whole new wave of emerging acts. A little over 10 years down the line, how do the band reflect on the record that changed their lives irrevocably?

“I’m still enormously proud of that album,” beams Bennington. “Every now and then I will listen back to everything that we’ve done and I still enjoy that record.”

For perfectionist Shinoda, there are still specific moments that get his pulse racing. “Papercut is one of those songs that pairs up some of my favourite kinds of rock music and some of my favourite kinds of dance music,” he enthuses. “Chester and I are both rapping, both singing, and it really sums up what our band was all about. That’s why we put it at the start of the record because it was such a great introduction to who we were and who we are. I still love it to this day.”

Hybrid Theory is that rarest of things: a once-in-a-generation record as definitive of a place and time as a mosquito trapped in amber. “What happened with Hybrid Theory felt like someone had stuck me in a wormhole and fired me into a new dimension,” says Chester. “And you know what? Nothing was ever the same again.”

VERVE: IRBAN HYMNS

Richard Ashcroft – Vocals, Rhythm

guitar

– Nick McCabe – Lead guitar

– Simon Tong – Rhythm guitar, Keyboards

– Simon Jones – Bass

– Peter Salisbury – Drums

—— Track Listing ——

1: Bittersweet Symphony (5:58)

2: Sonnet (4:21)

3: The Rolling People (7:01)

4: The Drugs Don’t Work (5:05)

5: Catching the Butterfly (6:26)

6: Neon Wilderness (2:37)

7: Space and Time (5:36)

8: Weeping Willow (4:49)

9: Lucky Man (4:53)

10: One Day (5:03)

11: This Time (3:50)

12: Velvet Morning (4:57)

13: Come On (Includes hidden track “Deep Freeze”) (15:15)

—— Background ——

Before Urban Hymns, The Verve has release two other studio albums, A Storm in Heaven (1993) and A Northern Soul (1995) and experienced some mild success. After the release of A Northern Soul, infighting within band caused them to break up, however this was quickly reversed as frontman Richard Ashcroft reformed the group, with old and new members. This new incarnation of the band began to write and record what would eventually become Urban Hymns. Instead of creating songs from jams, like the band do on their previous albums, for this record they focused on taking time with their songs and finely tuning them to be the best they could be, and as a result the album came together slowly. The album was recorded at Olympic Studios in London, England between October 1996 and May 1997, eventually being released in September 1997.

The album was released towards the end of the britpop era, but is still classified as a britpop album. Despite this, the record does not sound like your typical britpop album, and draws inspiration from many different musical styles. These range from ballads (“Sonnet” and “The Drugs Don’t Work”), all out rockers (“The Rolling People” and “Come On”) to psychedelic (“Catching the Butterfly”) and even ambient (“Deep Freeze”). Maybe because this album is so dynamic is one of the reasons that album went on to see enormous success upon its release.

The albums lyrical content takes in all different aspects of everyday life, with Ashcroft’s lyrics exploring how life goes on no matter what, drug use, relationships and growing up.

The cover for the album was taken in Richmond Park in London, and simply shows a shot of the band sitting on the grass. Other images used in the album art were also taken here (as seen below).

——————————

—— Singles ——

In this section I’ll be going over the albums singles, discussing their quality as singles and giving my thoughts on them. 4 singles were released for Urban Hymns.

1: Bittersweet Symphony

Released: 16 June 1997

Peak UK singles chart position: #2

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony (Official Video)

The albums single is also the bands most well known song. The song is instantly recognisable to anyone who lives in England, as British TV channel ITV plays the song before England’s international football matches. Rolling Stone magazine and NME names the track single of the year in 1997. But the looped violin section that makes the song instantly recognisable is also its biggest downfall. Let me explain. It’s a very long and complicated story, but it boils down to the strings being a sample that former The Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein owned the rights too. Richard Ashcroft was given the green light use the sample, but then Klein said that he broke their agreement and sued. The dispute was settled out of court but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were added to the writing credits, so The Stones profited from the track.

Despite this, the track has gone on to be the song that defined the band, and became a live staple. The songs lyrical content describe life as a symphony, but a bittersweet one as you have to conform to the rules and regulations of society and governing bodies.

”Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony this life/ Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to the money then you die.”

2: The Drugs Don’t Work

Released: 1 September 1997

Peak UK singles chart position: #1

The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work (Official Video)

After the lead singles symphonic prowess gave everyone the first taste of this incredible record, the second single the band opted to release was a somber ballad track. Now I think that this was the right thing for the band to do, they had shown the upbeat lighter side of the album, and it was time make things darker. As it turned out, this was the right thing to do, as this track became the bands first UK number 1 single, and it’s not hard to see why. It centred around an acoustic guitar chord progression, and as the track moves on we get another taste of those strings frost introduced on Bittersweet Symphony.

This song had been written in 1995 and was performed on the bands tour for their second album “A Northern Soul”. The track, as the title suggests, is about Richard Ashcroft‘s drug use, as he explained in a 1995 interview:

“There’s a new track I’ve just written, It goes ‘the drugs don’t work, they just make me worse, and I know I’ll see your face again’. That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take ‘em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape.”

The track was released in the UK the day after the death of royal family member Princess Diana, and English tv channel Channel 4 noted in their programme “100 greatest #1 singles”, that the song “Unintentionally captures the spirit of the nation” on that day.

”Cause baby, ooh, if heaven falls, I’m coming too / Just like you said, if you leave my life, I’m better off dead”

3: Lucky Man

Released: 24 November 1997

Peak UK singles chart position: #7

The Verve – Lucky Man (Official Video)

After the somber tones of The Drugs Don’t Work, the band flipped that vibe upon its head once more with their next single, the upbeat and cheery Lucky Man. This track may be my personal favourite out of the albums singles, due to the highly infectious vocal melodies and the excellent guitar work and sweeping string sections that elevate the track to that next level. The song has two different music videos, a UK one (the one shown above) and a different one for the US, which can be found on YouTube.

The song was another successful single, going to number 7 on the UL charts. U2 frontman Bono has cited the song as one of 6 songs released between 1986 and 2006 that he wishes he had written.

”Happiness / More or less / It’s just a change in me / Something in my liberty / Oh, my, my”

4: Sonnet

Released: 2 March 1998

Peak UK singles chart position: #74

The Verve – Sonnet (Official Video)

Sonnet was the fourth and final single to be released from this album, and like Bittersweet Symphony it has a bit of a story. From looking at this tracks peak uk chart position you may wondering “why is it so much lower than all the others?”, well, there’s a reason for this, and it’s not because the single bombed, because it did receive massive radio air play and has become one of the bands staple tracks.

At the start of 1998, the bands label wanted them to put out one more single from the album, but the band didn’t really want to. After the label persisted that they release a single, the band decided to release sonnet as the next single, but in a format that meant it wouldn’t chart. The band released the single as part of a set of four 12 inch vinyls, and was limited to 5000 copies. However, fans turned to buying an imported version of the single which meant that it did end up charging in the UK, at number 74.

The track itself is another ballad, as the name suggests, and features more acoustic guitar and string arrangements, in almost the same structure as The Drugs Don’t Work, but in a much lighter tone.

”My friend and me / Looking through her red box of memories / Faded I’m sure / But love seems to stick in her veins you know”

——————————

—— Deep Cuts ——

Now that I’ve discussed the albums singles, I’m now going to go over what I think are the more important deep cuts on this album. All the tracks on here are amazing, but I’ve selected a few that are must listens.

The Rolling People: This track is the first song that shakes up the albums structure, as the first two tracks on the album, Bittersweet Symphony and Sonnet are lighter tracks, but The Rolling People is an all out rocker that gives you the first taste of the bands energy. The lyrics on this one, like most of the album, seem to concern life and living it to the fullest.

Catching the Butterfly: This track showcases the bands psychedelic side, with a driving bass line and dreamy instrumentals. The lyrics to this one talk about Ashcroft’s childhood and chasing his dreams:

”As though you were born / And so you thought / The future’s ours /To keep and hold

A child within / Has healing ways / It sees me through / My darkest days

I’m gonna keep catching that butterfly / In that dream of mine / I’m gonna keep catching that butterfly / In that dream of mine”

The child in the song says he’s going to keep chasing after the butterfly in his dreams, which in this case is metaphor for following ones dreams, and the instrumentals in this track make it feel like a dream.

Space and Time: This track is just simply beautiful, it takes you to another world with its airy guitars and excellent vocal melodies. The lyrics here seem to be dealing with a relationship between two people that are only together because they’re scared of being alone, which is evident in the line “We have existence and it’s all we share”. This is a true album highlight and one of my favourites from the record.

——————————

—— Legacy ——

At the time of this albums release in 1997, it was included in many publications end of year best of lists, and even topped some of them. The album topped the UK album chart at number 1 and stayed there for 12 weeks. It went on to become one of the best selling albums of that year.

Over time, the album has received even more acclaim, being appointed on many lists as one of the best albums ever made. The album has gone on to sell over ten million copies worldwide and has become 19th best selling album ever in the UK. The album achieved over three million sales alone in the UK and went on to be certified 11x platinum. Songs from the album have been used countless times in popular culture and the album is still revered as a classic to this day.

THE CLASH: LONDONS CALLING

  • This is an apocalyptic song, detailing the many ways the world could end, including the coming of the ice age, starvation, and war. It was the song that best defined The Clash, who were known for lashing out against injustice and rebelling against the establishment, which is pretty much what punk rock was all about. 

    Joe Strummer explained in 1988 to Melody Maker: “I read about ten news reports in one day calling down all variety of plagues on us.”

  • Singer Joe Strummer was a news junkie, and many of the images of doom in the lyrics came from news reports he read. Strummer claimed the initial inspiration came in a conversation he had with his then-fiancee Gaby Salter in a taxi ride home to their flat in World’s End (appropriately). “There was a lot of Cold War nonsense going on, and we knew that London was susceptible to flooding. She told me to write something about that,” noted Strummer in an interview with Uncutmagazine.

    According to guitarist Mick Jones, it was a headline in the London Evening Standard that triggered the lyric. The paper warned that “the North Sea might rise and push up the Thames, flooding the city,” he said in the book Anatomy of a Song. “We flipped. To us, the headline was just another example of how everything was coming undone.”

  • The title came from the BBC World Service’s radio station identification: “This is London calling…” The BBC used it during World War II to open their broadcasts outside of England. Joe Strummer heard it when he was living in Germany with his parents. >>
  • The line “London is drowning and I live by the river” came from a saying in England that if the Thames river ever flooded, all of London would be underwater. Joe Strummer was living by the river, but in a high-rise apartment, so he would have been OK.
  • The line about the “Nuclear Error” was inspired by the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown in March 1979. This incident is also referred to in the lyrics to “Clampdown” from the same album.
  • The Clash recorded this album after returning to England from a short US tour. The band was intrigued by American music as well as its rock’n’roll mythology, so much so that the album cover was a tribute to Elvis Presley’s first album.
  • This was recorded at Wessex Studios, located in a former church in the Highbury district of North London. Many hit recordings had already come out of this studio, including singles and albums by the Sex Pistols, The Pretenders and the Tom Robinson Band. Chief engineer and studio manager Bill Price had developed a slew of unique recording techniques suited to the room. 

    Fellow punk band The Damned were recording overdubs to their album Machine Gun Etiquette in the studio, and as they were old touring buddies of The Clash they roped Strummer and Mick Jones into record backing vocals for the title song to their album – the shouted lines of “second time around!” in that song are actually Strummer and Jones in uncredited cameos.

    Interestingly, the band initially wrote most of the London Calling album at the Vanilla rehearsal studios near Vauxhall Bridge in London. Roadie Johnny Green explained: “It had the advantage of not looking like a studio. Out front of a garage. We wrote a sign out front saying ‘we ain’t here.’ We weren’t disturbed.”

    With a great vibe going in the studio and having already recorded some demos with The Who’s soundman Bob Pridden, Strummer had the crazy idea to record the entire album there and bypass expensive studio time. CBS refused point blank, so Wessex was chosen because it had a similar intimacy to Vanilla. The original Vanilla demos were made available on the 25th anniversary edition of London Calling.

  • At the end of the song, a series of beeps spells out “SOS” in morse code. Mick Jones created these sounds on one of his guitar pickups.

    The SOS distress signal has often been used metaphorically in songs (like the 1975 Abba song), but in “London Calling” it’s more literal, implying that the disaster has struck and we are calling for help.

  • London Calling was a double album, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The band were angry that CBS had priced their previous EP, The Cost of Living at £1.49, and so in the interests of their fans they insisted that London Calling be a double LP. CBS refused, so the band tried a different tactic: how about a free single on a one-disc LP? CBS agreed, but didn’t notice that this free single disc would play at 33rpm and contain eight songs – therefore making it up to a double album! It then became nine when “Train in Vain” was tacked on to the end of the album after an NME single release fell through. “Train” arrived so late on that it isn’t on the tracklisting on the album sleeve, and the only evidence of its existence is a stamp on the run-out groove and its presence on the end of side four. So in the end, London Calling was a 19-song double-LP retailing for the price of a single!
  • Rolling Stone magazine named London Calling the best album of the ’80s. Pedantic readers noted that it was first released in the UK in December 1979. In the US it was released two weeks into January 1980, meaning that from a US perspective, it’s a 1980s album. And if anyone can come up with a better alternative to best album of the ’80s, Rolling Stone would love to hear from you!
  • According to NME magazine (March 16, 1991), we know that Paul Simonon smashed his bass guitar – as photographed on the cover of the album – at exactly 10:50 pm. This is because he broke his watch in the process and handed the busted bits to photographer Pennie Smith, who snapped the photo.

    Smith thought the photo wouldn’t be good for an album cover, citing that it was too blurry and out of focus. “I was wrong!” she admitted in the Westway to the Worlddocumentary!

  • As a tribute to Clash singer/guitarist Joe Strummer, who died in 2002, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello and Little Steven Van Zant played this at the close of the 2003 Grammys as a tribute to the band. All four played guitar and took turns on vocals. The Grammys is the type of commercialized event The Clash probably would have avoided, although they did win their first Grammy that night when “Westway To The World” won for Best Long Form Music Video.
  • In 2003, The Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it was rumored that Bruce Springsteen would join them to perform at the ceremony. The classic lineup of Strummer/Jones/Simonon/Headon were in talks to reunite to perform at the ceremony and play on stage for the first time since 1982, but Simonon was always against a reunion. In the end, Strummer’s death in December 2002 put paid to the reunion of the original lineup, and the remaining members declined to play. Said Simonon: “I think it’s better for The Clash to play in front of their public, rather than a seated and booted audience.”
  • According to Mick Jones, his guitar solo was played back backwards (done by flipping over the tape) and overdubbed onto the track.
  • This is one of the most popular Clash songs, and has been used in many commercials and soundtracks. It was used in promos counting down the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, as well as the film soundtracks for Intimacy, Billy Elliot, and the James Bond movie Die Another Day (2002).
  • The lyrics contain an observation about how society often turns to pop music to make them feel better about world events, and how The Clash didn’t want to become false idols for folks looking for escapism. This can be heard in the line, “Don’t look to us – phoney Beatlemania (a reference to The Beatles’ massive fanbase in the ’60s) has bitten the dust!” (Mick Jones said the line was “aimed at the touristy soundalike rock bands in London in the late ’70s.)

    There’s also a subtle reference to Joe Strummer’s brush with Hepatitis in 1978 with the mention of “yellowy eyes.”

  • A check of the archives reveals that this song – hailed by many music journalists as a monumental track – received far from unanimous praise from critics when it was released. David Hepworth in Smash Hits criticized the band for playing too loud in the studio. “Why won’t Joe Strummer let us hear more than one word in every three? Until they face those elementary facts, sides like ‘London Calling’ will always fail to condense all that fury and grandeur into a truly great record,” he wrote.

    The sales figures and continuing popularity of the song suggest that not many other people had the same problem!

  • The video was filmed at Cadogan Pier, next to the Albert Bridge in Battersea Park in London. It was directed by longtime friend of the band Don Letts, and made on a wet night in December 1979 which sees the band performing on a barge. Letts didn’t have a happy time doing the video. He explained:

    “Now me, I am a land-lover, I can’t swim. Don Letts does not know that the Thames has a tide. So we put the cameras in a boat, low tide, the cameras are 15 feet too low. I didn’t realize that rivers flow, so I thought the camera would be bouncing up and down nicely in front of the pier. But no, the camera keeps drifting away from the bank. Then it starts to rain. I am a bit out of my depth here, but I’m going with it and The Clash are doing their thing. The group doing their thing was all it needed to be a great video. That is a good example of us turning adversity to our advantage.”

  • Joe Strummer does some ominous echoed cackling about two minutes into this song. He was essentially imitating a seagull, as heard on the Otis Redding song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”
  • Many cover versions of this song have been recorded, including variants by One King Down, Stroh, and the NC Thirteens. Bob Dylan covered the song during his 2005 London residency, and Bruce Springsteen has followed up from his performance of the song at the 2003 Grammys by performing it at some of his concerts, including on his 2009 London Calling: Live in Hyde Park DVD, which is named after the song.
  • In late 1991, the Irish folk-punk band The Pogues sacked lead singer Shane MacGowan just at the height of their fame. Joe Strummer, by now well split up from The Clash, agreed to take over on vocals for a couple of years until he departed in 1993 on good terms – he didn’t want to be the permanent replacement for MacGowan and wanted to do his own thing. During his time with the Pogues, the band would often play a searing version of “London Calling” at live shows. Like many strong Clash songs, Strummer took it with him to play with his solo band the Mescaleros in the late 1990s.
  • Authorship of this song was credited to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, but at some point the other two members of the band, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon, were added.
  • This was featured in the October 13, 2013 Funny Or Dieepisode, where a costumed Fred Armisen interviewed the real Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.

THE PIXIES

Fans of the Pixies will be mildly interested to learn that the resurrected 2010s version of the band has a new album coming in September. The as-yet-untitled album was recorded in December, and features the same Kim Deal-less lineup as the previous quasi-reunion Pixies album, 2016’s Head Carrier: Frank Black on vocals and guitar, Joey Santiago on guitar, David Lovering on drums, and Paz Lenchantin on bass and vocals.

The band is also producing a podcast called Past is Prologue, Pixies, hosted by music journalist Tony Fletcher, which documents the creation of the new album and the history of the band, with one new episode released every week beginning June 27.

After first breaking up in 1993, the Pixies reunited for a series of shows in 2004, at first with founding bassist/vocalist Deal as part of the lineup. Deal left the band in 2013, and was replaced first by Kim Shattuck, who soon reported that she’d been fired in favor of Lenchantin. The band didn’t start recording new material until after Deal’s departure: first a series of EPs that were collected as the album Indie Cindy in 2014, and then Head Carrier two years later. If we ever meet in public and you can demonstrate your ability to sing or even hum just one of the songs from these records from memory, I will happily give you one dollar.

Before the album’s September release, the band will go on a five-week arena tour with Weezer. Find the dates below, and a trailer for the podcast after that. And whatever you do, don’t get too excited.

DEFINITELY MAYBE

One of the defining albums of the Britpop movement, it went on to be certified 7x Platinum with more than 2 million sales and is often cited as Oasis’ best – regularly featuring highly in ‘Greatest Albums Ever’ lists.

To celebrate the album reaching adulthood, here Gigwise has put together a series of photos, facts and info about the album’s writing, recording, artwork and a few typical inter-band dramas…

  • Frustrated by various scrapped recording sessions for their debut album, Oasis handed the tapes for ‘Definitely Maybe’ to engineer/producer Owen Morris to mix in desperation. In a few days, Morris’ mixing yielded the beefier sound Noel was after.

  • ‘Live Forever’ was released as Oasis’ third single on 8 August 1994, just prior to the release of Definitely Maybe. It became the band’s first top 10 hit and one of the defining songs of Britpop, reaching No.7. The cover art for the single is a photo of John Lennon’s childhood home in Liverpool. 

  • Speaking on Oasis’ ‘Stop The Clocks’ DVD, Noel said Live Forever was written while he was working on a building site as a response to depressing lyrics in US grunge music, such as Nirvana’s ‘I Hate Myself and I Want To Die’. “Seems to me that here was a guy who had everything, and was miserable about it,” said Noel. “And we had fuck-all, and I still thought that getting up in the morning was the greatest fuckin’ thing ever.”

  • The photograph of the band on the front of ‘Definitely Maybe’ was taken in guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs’ house. Pictures in the room include footballers Rodney Marsh and George Best (Bonehead was a Man Utd fan, whereas the Gallaghers were Man City fans). There is also an LP sleeve of Burt Bacharach shown, as Noel is a big fan.

  • Eagerly anticipated, ‘Definitely Maybe’ was released on 30 August 1994 and went straight to No.1 as the fastest selling debut LP of all time in the UK. This record was later broken by Arctic Monkey’s debut LP in 2006 and then by Leona Lewis ‘Spirit’ album in 2007.

  • Oasis are reportedly named after a leisure centre in Swindon (Oasis Leisure Centre) – a venue that was listed on an Inspiral Carpets tour poster.

  • Fan favourite ‘Slide Away’ was considered as a fifth single from the album, but Noel Gallagher eventually refused, saying: “You can’t have five [singles] off a debut album.” Noel wrote the song about the difficult relationship with his then girlfriend Louise Jones.

  • Noel temporarily quit Oasis (for the first time) while touring Definitely Maybe in the US. Noel was angry after a drug-induced incident onstage which saw Liam hit him with a tambourine. He rejoined only days later, writing the song ”Talk Tonight” (Some Might Say b-side) about his time spent away from the band in San Francisco.

  • The band had to pay out $500,000 in damages after being successfully sued by Coca-Cola for single ‘Shakermaker’s similarity to the version of ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)’ that was featured in a Coke TV advert. “Now we all drink Pepsi” Noel later quipped.

  • “Your music’s shite, it keeps me up all night” – a line from the final song on the album ‘Married With Children’, is allegedly something one of Noel’s ex-girlfriends told him after she heard some early versions of Oasis songs.

ENTER THE WU-TANG

Years ago, the Wu-Tang Clan blessed the world with their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Masterminded by the group’s de facto leader RZA, the album paired grit-sodden, lo-fi production with razor sharp rhyming skills from the nine-man troupe who claimed Shaolin (as they’d re-christened Staten Island) as their fortress. The album’s influence has become legendary: It helped restore New York City rap pride in the face of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s g-funk dominance, Raekwon and Ghostface’s rhyme styles inspired the subsequent work of Nas, Jay Z and the Notorious BIG, and RZA’s tick of speeding up soul samples struck a chord with a young Kanye West who then embraced the technique for his own early break-through productions.

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was the first stage of worldwide dominance for the Clan. (Meth even claims that as their goal on one of the album’s slang-saturated skits.) But while the album, its iconography and its lead singles are now solid pop culture fixtures, there’s also a mysterious underbelly to the project. Here’s15 factoids about the Wu’s jump-off moment that might have passed you by.

1. The Demo Tape Off-Cuts
The demo tape which begat Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is a fascinating affair. “Bring the Ruckus” is fleshed out with a (subsequently unclearable) sample and some alternate lyrical performances, while tracks that never made the final album include “Wu-Tang Master,” “Problemz” and “The Wu Is Comin’ Through.” Most intriguing though is “It’s All About Me,” which references De La Soul’s “Me Myself And I” and flows forth in an uncharacteristically lackadaisical manner. 

2. Passing the Bone
During “Clan In Da Front,” the GZA makes one of the album’s many references to weed when he implores, “Pass the bone, kid, pass the bone.” But beyond the blunt craving, the line also nods to the rapper’s prior unsuccessful career when he called himself the Genius and was signed to the Cold Chillin’ label; “Pass the Bone” was a ruggedly chugging production that was left off his debut album, 1991’s Words From the Genius, but added to a 1994 re-release. (The song also features RZA in his Prince Rakeem guise and he name-checks Raekwon.) Self-referentially, the bone passing saga continued when Masta Killa updated the song for 2006’s Made in Brooklyn

3. The Album Was Fueled by Canned Goods
The Clan’s early image involved the idea that they were a bunch of scrappy, striving artists from the slums of Shaolin. ODB certainly mined a look you could kindly call “disheveled poverty chic.” According to 9th Prince, RZA’s younger brother, the low budget living was a true part of their life and Ghostface would frequently make shoplifting trips to the local store to help feed the Clan. “Ghostface would throw on his big, oversized coat and just stack four or five cans in his coat pockets, and we’d walk out,” he told the Village Voice.

4. “Protect Ya Neck” Cost $300 to Record
The Wu recorded their debut album at Firehouse Studios, which also facilitated rap hits from Audio Two, MC Lyte and Das-EFX. According to Yoram Vazan, the studio’s owner, the crew’s first single, “Protect Ya Neck,” cost $300 worth of studio time to complete. They apparently paid him in quarters.

5. The Tenth Wu-Tanger
The official ranks of the Wu-Tang Clan number nine: RZA, GZA, Ghostface, Raekwon, U-God, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Method Man and the now departed Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Cappadonna became something of a semi-member but never secured water-tight Wu status. According to the RZA though, he came close to offering a local Staten Island MC named Scotty Wotty an official place in the crew. You’ll hear the character’s name shouted out later on occasional Wu releases, and he also put in an appearance on a 1998 indie rap release by Shadez of Brooklyn under a new guise as Jackpot.

6. They Paid for Syl Johnson’sHouse
A large part of the charm of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is its lo-fi sonic ambiance. But that still didn’t stop the group (or its label, Loud) paying up to sample a chunk of classic soul or funk. In the case of blues man Syl Johnson, whose “Different Strokes” ended up being part of the Clan’s funky fanfare on “Shame on a Nigga,” they paid handsomely enough to let him snaffle up some real estate. As he put it in a 2010 interview, “I’m sitting in the house now that was built with the Wu-Tang money!”

. The Home Office
Perusing the credits to the original vinyl release of “Protect Ya Neck” reveals the Wu were using a Staten Island address as the headquarters of Wu-Tang Records. Google mapping 234 Morningstar Road today shows a squat domestic house next to a law office. Apparently, the building last sold for just under a quarter of a million dollars back in 2002.

8. The Masked Men
The story behind the album’s iconic cover has also become one of hip-hop’s favorite ruses. Only six members of the Wu-Tang Clan are pictured on it, and all are sporting stocking masks over their faces. The regular rumor has it that with certain members of the Clan otherwise inconvenienced for various reasons, some of the group’s management team stepped in to take their place.

9. RZA Used Borrowed Studio Equipment
Before the Wu-Tang Clan, Staten Island’s rap scene was focussed on the UMCs, a duo whose debut album, Fruits of Nature, peddled in post-De La Soul positivity. When it came time to record Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), RZA reportedly tapped up UMCs producer RNS and borrowed his Ensoniq sampler. Somewhat repaying the favor, RNS went on to work with Wu spin-offs the Gravediggaz and kid rapper Shyheim, while the UMCs themselves cut a second album in 1994 that seemed to take a creative cue from the success of the Wu’s grimy sound. 

. Method Man Might be the Clan’s Big Kid at Heart
The husky-voiced Method Man’s solo contribution to the album, the humbly-titled “Method Man,” opens with him invoking a line from the Rollings Stones’ defiant “Get Off of My Cloud.” But elsewhere in the song he decides to get inspired by family favorites like Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, the nursery rhyme “Pat-A-Cake, Pat-A-Cake Baker’s Man,” a snatch of the Tweety Pie and Sylvester cartoon, and Dick Van Dyck’s calling card “Chim Chim Cheree.” Consider it the least kid-friendly but child-referential song of the Nineties. 

11. The Snow Beach Jacket
For the group’s introduction to the world, the Wu showed a foppish commitment to mid-Nineties utilitarian fashion: Timberlands and Carhartt attire were the fabrics of the day. But for the “Can It be All So Simple” video, Raekwon donned what has become one of the most iconic pieces of hip-hop fashion: the Ralph Lauren Polo Snow Beach jacket. It now fetches high figure amounts among collectors. Consider it the ’93 equivalent of Kanye sporting an all-over bespoke Louis Vuitton body-suit.

12. The Sample Circle
RZA’s use of soul samples on the album is now well documented, but the Clan’s own grooves have been pilfered by other non-hip-hop artists in return. One early adopter were UK beat merchants the Prodigy, who nabbed the opening part of “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’” to add some pep to their fiery “Breathe.”

13. Chronic Competition
The track that closes out the album, “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber, Pt. 2,” is a stripped-down remix to a song that appears earlier in the line-up. It’s propelled by a cavernous bass-line whose monstrous tenor might well be capable of inspiring night terrors. Amping up the rebellious nature of the Wu’s assault, RZA has claimed that the album’s low-end attack was his attempt to out-do the deep bass work that Dr. Dre employed on his melodious The Chronic album the year prior.

14. Track-listing Anomalies
“Protect Ya Neck” was originally released on Wu-Tang Records in 1992. It’s the group’s official bow and features “After The Laughter Comes Tears” on the b-side. (The latter song would be renamed as the curt “Tearz” on the album.) But two different pressings of “Protect Ya Neck” exist, with a later version in 1993 swapping in “Method Man” as the new b-side cut. In other track-listing shenanigans, the vinyl and CD versions of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)contain slightly different running orders (which largely amount to the positioning of “Protect Ya Neck” in the proceedings).

15. Low Charting
Despite Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)becoming a worldwide phenomenon, its original attack on the charts was a limp affair. The album itself scaled only as far as number 41 on the Billboardcharts, while its four official singles fared little better with “C.R.E.A.M.” the highest placed at a sober number 61. The album eventually crawled to platinum status in 1995.

THE STONE ROSES

Unpicking the brilliance of The Stone Roses’ classic debut album, 30 years since its glorious release

An album’s greatness can be measured by the number of generations it influences, and The Stone Roses‘ debut has enjoyed multiple resurgences since its release. The most prominent was during Britpop, a cultural movement that wouldn’t have existed without the poppy and positive sound of the Roses-led baggy scene that came before it. It would have had different figureheads, too, as the Gallagherbrothers and Damon Albarn have all credited The Stone Roses with igniting their interest in music. But ‘The Stone Roses’ lives on more broadly, too. Any band that’s ever decided – consciously or otherwise – to fuse rock and dance music is cribbing from the work the Roses did in the late ’80s. Squire, Reni and Mani are all maestros on their instruments and made a then-daring collision of genres seem effortless.

But, really, the most timeless aspect of the album is the lyrics. Ian Brown gets a lot of shit for his vocal ability, but that’s like slagging off a great author for their handwriting. The important things here are the mood and the message, and the Roses singer is an underrated philosopher. Many great songs contain a meaning that’s poignant whenever and wherever they’re played because they speak to fundamental aspects of the human condition: Pulp‘s ‘Common People’, LCD Soundsystem‘s ‘All My Friends’, Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘Born To Run’. On ‘The Stone Roses’ there are 11 of them. Optimism and hope reign supreme.

The artwork

The Stone Roses’ love of Jackson Pollock was well known prior to the release of the band’s debut. Two of the singles that came before it – ‘Elephant Stone’ In October 1988 and ‘Made Of Stone’ in February 1989 – both featured B-sides (‘Full Fathom Five’ and ‘Going Down’ respectively) that referenced the American artist in the lyrics, and featured Pollock-inspired artwork by John Squire. For the album, Squire produced a painting titled ‘Bye Bye Badman’ that was his take on the May 1968 Paris riots. So it’s obvious why the French flag is on there. But why the lemons? Ian Brown explains: “When we were in Paris we met this 65-year-old man who told us that if you suck a lemon it cancels out the effects of CS gas. He still thought that the government in France could be overthrown one day; he’d been there in ’68 and everything. So he always carried a lemon with him so he could help out at the front. Sixty-five – what a brilliant attitude.”

The lyrics

Throughout ‘The Stone Roses’, Ian Brown softly delivers lyrics that combine anger at the Monarchy (“It’s curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear“) and the government (“Every member of parliament trips on glue“) with sacrilegious arrogance (“I am the resurrection and I am the light“) and the unbridled optimism of talented youth (“Sometimes I fantasise, when the streets are cold and lonely and the cars they burn below me“). These are mood-lifting and perspective-changing anthems. Best of all, from ‘She Bangs The Drums’: “The past was yours but the future’s mine“. Any young person who doesn’t have that attitude is doing it wrong.

The studio

One of the myths around The Stone Roses is that their success came out of nowhere. But the band formed in 1983, six years before their debut came out, and had been through a lengthy process of trying out different sounds, line-ups and and band names. Nothing they did was simple. The same went for picking a studio to record ‘The Stone Roses’ in. It was made in between June 1988 and February 1989, and spread between Stockport’s Coconut Grove Studios, Battery Studios and Konk Studios in London, and Rockfield Studios in Wales. One constant producer was John Leckie, who’d worked on ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’ and ‘Real Life’ by Magazine. He described the Roses as a band who were “very well rehearsed” and keen to “try lots of things”.

The Recording Sessions

On the first day of recording, Reni was late and had to borrow £10 from producer John Leckie to get there in reasonable time. Yet Leckie has positive memories of the band: “They weren’t frightened. What you hear is the band. That’s the way I work, really. They play and I record them and we enhance everything with overdubs and double-tracking – any number of different things. You have to do a degree of arranging, but that’s part of the recording process. They didn’t seem to feel any pressure other than that they were a band making their first album and didn’t want to lose the opportunity to make it good. So there wasn’t any pressure to prove themselves – they knew they were good”.