Friday 16 April 2021

Neurotic Outsiders

Bringing together well known names under a single umbrella often achieves success.  And why wouldn't it each member of the new collective has their own fan-base- so if you form a super trio, then it follows that your album sales will be 3 times the size of your previous bands efforts.
Good logic, but not exactly correct.

wikipedia defines a Supergroup as:

A musical group whose members are already successful as solo artists or as part of other groups or well known in other musical professions.
The term is sometimes applied retrospectively when several members from a group later achieve notable success in their own right. Supergroups are sometimes formed as side projects and thus not intended to be permanent, while other times can become the primary project of the members' careers. 

I wanted to say "see them Supergroups?  They're not all that super you know."
And then I started looking a bit deeper, and I fear I may be wrong.

When it works:

  • Million Dollar Quartet
    Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash - now that's a SUPER Group (OK, not so much a Supergroup, more of a glorified jam session.  But it fits the bill)
  • The Highwaymen
    The great and good of Outlaw Country -  Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson - come together to produce the best album of their latter years careers
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
    Mancunian Pop bloke relocates to Laurel Canyon, hooks up with a Byrd, 2 Canadians from Buffalo Springfield, and a big bag of grass.  Close harmony country-infused folky soft rock has never sounded this good - before or after.
  • Cream
    Quite simply the best Jazz-Blues players in London at that time (OK, there were a couple of others ..).  In the space of 3 years and 4 albums, and not always the most cordial of relationships, they started and finished on a high, and their influence and legend remains undimmed after 50 years
  • Emerson, Lake and Palmer
    Key players from The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster, virtuosity was the key, as eventually representing all that was over-blown and pompous about 70s Prog and Rock.  The albums were well received and bear repeated listening (up to about 1977).  But their legend now involves taking 12 Trailers full of kit on Tour, a 2 and a half ton drum kit with a 6 foot diameter gong, and a £6000 Persian rug for the singer to stand on.
  • Bad Company
    Another escapee from King Crimson links up with 2 members of Free and 1 from Mott The Hoople.  Securing the advocacy of Led Zeppelin, the management of Peter Grant, and a fist signing to the Swansong label, Bad Company were pretty much at the top before recording anything.  And when they did, it only re-enforced opinion.  And that opinion continues across 3 further albums (after that it's "tread carefully time").  Like their sponsors - Led Zeppelin - the 80s were not the right time or place fro Bad Company, and they slowly dissolved, save for a couple of (unsuccessful) reformations.
  • Travelling Wilburys
    George Harrison said in the late 80s "I want to be in a band with a bunch of mates and just have a bit of a laugh", and then a couple of years later he was.  He was already working with Jeff Lynne, Jeff Lynne drafted in Roy Orbison (whose album he was producing), George Harrison pulled in Bob Dylan (and not just because he had a studio available), and when he went to retrieve a guitar from Tom Petty, he was invited in too.  The 2 albums they produced were quite simply joyous, harking back to 50s/60s Rock n Roll, with a Country twist, and an update production sheen.
    The Travelling Wilburys were based on the West Cost - shame really, as I think if they'd pulled in Bruce Springsteen it might have been even better.
  • Tin Machine
    Now here's a divisive one - David Bowie wanted to get out of the spotlight and be an equal member of a band.  He took his current guitarist and combined with Iggy Pop's rhythm section to form the band that either adds to his legend (it certainly does in my opinion) or is seen as little more than a footnote or folly.

Seemed like a good idea at the time:

  • The Firm
    Paul Rodgers was still under 30 when Bad Company fell apart - so why not join up with his sponsor Jimmy Page?  The finest set of pipes aligned to the finest plank spanker in Christendom.
    I mean what could possibly go wrong?  Apart from the lack of great songs, a lack of energy in the recording, and the lack of a real audience (only the staunchest of Zep, Free, and Bad Co fans seemed to be on board).
    And denying their past by refusing to play "the hits" can't have helped their case much either.
  • Asia
    Prog Rockers loved a supergroup - members were forever moving between themselves - John Wetton and Carl Palmer being among the most prolific mover-abouters.  But other Steve Howe and Geoff Downes did a fair bit of supergrouping too.  Asia arrived in the early 80s, but were up against it trying to sell Prog in the decade of decadence.  Forever known for their one big song - "Heat Of The Moment".  It was a moment taht, over the course of 4 years never roise above tepid again. 
  • Gogmagog
    2 ex-Iron Maideners (Paul Di'anno and Clive Burr), a soon to be Maidener (Janick Gers), 1 previous Leppard (Pete Willis), and a bass player adding to his already long CV (was it Neiul Murray's ambition to be in every British Heavy Metal band?).
    Brought together by Jonathan King for a purpose long since lost to history (Eurovision probably, knowing the ideas King had), there life span was one EP before they ran out of songs, inspiration, and Mr King lost interest.
  • Power Station
    Take one of Britain's finest Blues singers (Robert Palmer), two parts Duran Duran (John Taylor and Andy Taylor), and the drummer from Chic (Tony Thompson).  Add in Bernard Edwards on the production desk, and what comes out is a collision of Led Zeppelin riffs against a backdrop of Chic grooves.  Well, nearly ...  But it all sounded a bit flat - every player made a contribution, but you just get the feeling they were treading water and filling time until the next shiny thing came along.
  • Velvet Revolver
    Outside of Guns n Roses, is has Slash really achieved that much?  First there's Slash's Snakepit - all well and good, but a tad predictable in sound and delivery.  He then recovened with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, added Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots, and set about taking the world by storm.  Problem is they didn't - the album is "OK" but not exactly essential. 
  • Hollywood Vampires
    Named after the 1970s drinking club featuring Alice Cooper, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nillson, John Belushi,and anyone else in LA who liked a drink.  The band was put together by Alice Cooper, Joe Perry amd Johnny Depp with the intent to honour the fallen by covering their songs.  Their first album of covers is (honestly) only let down by the inclusion of a coupe ot original songs.  By the second album, more originals were tried with no real success - what the band failed to realise was that as a bar room covers band they were at the top of their game.  But not with original material.

Straddling the 2 camps?

  • Sky
    Musicality to the fore, but their lack of image or public persona may have hampered their chances.  Not everything they did found an audience, and in truth I'm not sure what audience they were aiming for.  Made some good music though.
  • Electronic
    Johnny Marr and Barney Sumner join forces with (variously) Neil Tennant and Kraftwerk's Klaus Bartos.  Sounds like a winner, and in the main it is.  I remain unconvinced by their longevity or intent, and see (hear) some of it as being "a bit experimental" for the sake of it, with the songs getting a bit drowned in the production values.
  • Them Crooked Vultures
    Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones join forces and produce a sound that is a combination of it's parts (Nirvana/Foo Fighters meets Queens Of The Stone Age meets Led Zeppelin).  The debut album gives a clue what Led Zep may have sounded like in the 2000a, but as the album goes on it becomes more of a QOTS record with guest players.  Properly great guest players, but I'm not convinced they could've sustained for a second album.  

The Neurotic Outsiders probably belong in the Straddling 2 Camps category (but have a tendency to veer into "Seemed like a good idea at the time" territory) - it was an idea that looked good on paper (or a Viper Room beer mat) but didn't fully translate to the studio.

Formed in the aforementioned Viper Room Nightclub in Hollywood, and like The Hollywood Vampires above as a bar room Jamming band, Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Duff McKagen and Matt Sorum (Guns n Roses) and John Taylor (Duran Duran) were signed up by the moneyed up Maverick label and produced one album of attitude-laden, loud rock music (albeit with a slight nod to late 80s Hair Metal).
But don't let that put you off - songs like "Angelina", "Revolution" and "Jerk" rock and swing with the best of them - hook laden, earworm-esque melodies.  Myabe there is one too many Clash cover versions (there is only one on the album), but on the whole it all works.  There's even a change of pace as Steve Jones becomes almost melancholic on "Union" (his view of the Pistols, and how he wanted the inter-band relationships to be better) and "Story Of My Life".
OK, it's not going to win any awards, but if you want some loud stuff, that isn't trying too hard to be clever, then the Neurotic Outsiders will do the job.

The Neurotic Outsiders lifespn was one album and an EP, so I don't think the Supergroup idea was a career move of all involved, more a way of filling up time until the next Cash Cow arrived - for Duff and Sorum thsat would be the Guns n Roses reformation, John Taylor returned to Duran Duran, and Steve Jones landed a radio presenting gig on LA Radio - Jonesy's Jukebox.  Episodeas are available on YouTube, and those I've seen, it looks like Jonesy can't believe his luck, and every one has been a good watch/listen



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