December 31, 2014

Basic Food Groups (Pt. 2)

Welcome back shoppers. In our previous article, we wheeled our cart through the fruit section of the supermarket to spot inspiration for band names. Now, let’s move on to the vegetable rack.

Thinking along all-encompassing strokes, the group The Vejtables, sprouted forth in 1965 with a healthy dose of San Francisco folk-rock. The distinguishing factor that set these Vejtables apart from others was the fact that Jan Errico was one of the first female rock drummers. She also wrote the majority of the band’s songs. The Vejtables did not stay very fresh though. After Errico left in 1966, the band scored a moderate success with their single “Feel The Music” before being tossed to the compost heap in 1967.

Some of the longest lasting vegetables can be found in the pepper family. Specifically, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. As rock’s premier speed-funk, rap, metal maestros, this Southern California quartet formed in 1983 and have been keeping the bass lines thumping ever since. Famous for wearing strategically-placed sock apparel, the band’s 1991 album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” took its time, well over a year, to rise to number 3 on the U.S. charts, bringing with it a number 2 single titled “Under The Bridge.” In June 1999, their album “Californication” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. The flame still burns bright for this veggie band.

Wandering out of the produce section, we’ll steer our cart over to the juice aisle for a fresh pick-me-up. Orange Juice, a Scottish band, fit this energizing bill in the early ‘80s. Deciding to venture down a different path than the popular punk leanings of the moment, this quartet fashioned romantic pop hooks much to the delight of critics. A 1982 single, “Rip It Up,” broke the British top ten charts, before this band’s expiration date came to pass in 1985. Frontman Edwyn Collins went on to sing the solo hit “A Girl Like You” in 1995.

Right near this aisle, we spot the dairy case, and it’s only proper that we include a little Cream on our rock ‘n’ roll shopping binge. This blues-rock favorite from the mid-‘60s continues to receive accolades from rock purists today. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker all had previous musical credibility when they formed the band in 1966, and they quickly secured a record contract. Taking longer to catch on as a phenomenon in the United States, the band’s brand of pure rock took off almost immediately in Britain. The songs “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” eventually broke into the Billboard Top 10, but by 1969, Baker and Clapton split from Bruce to form the band Blind Faith.

Hungering for a little more sustenance, we’ll pull up to the meat department and see if they have any Meat Loaf on hand. Named after stepping on his high school coach’s foot, Marvin Lee Aday, otherwise known as Meat Loaf, toured the country as an actor in theatrical renditions of “Hair” and “Rainbow” in the early ‘70s. In 1977, he released the rock-opera-sounding “Bat Out Of Hell” album, which produced the hits “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights” and “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.” In 1993, he delivered his number 1 hit, “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That),” which stayed on the Billboard chart for 5 weeks. Proving he’s no slacker, this Loaf has continued to appear in films and has toured extensively since the early ‘90s.

Turning down the canned goods aisle you may notice the various types of soup. A particular Scottish brand, or should we say band, was known as The Soup Dragons. This quartet shifted their style of music from hard guitar to psychedelia to dance pop and back to softer guitar over a period of 1985 to 1992. Only their single “I’m Free,” borrowed from the early Rolling Stones’ repertoire, garnered the most attention, breaking the UK’s Top Ten, and being a most-requested video on MTV. By the end of 1992, their bowl was dry, and the Soup members split up.

Moving over to the condiments section, those bags of sugar speak to the sweet tooth in all of us. In 1992, hardly one for sweet excess, ex-Husker Du guitarist Bob Mould did happen to sprinkle his creativity on a new band called Sugar. With hard, loud guitars embracing punkish melodies, the band’s 1992 album “Copper Blue” was heralded as a success by critics and fans alike. The singles “Helpless” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” met with loads of airplay on independent stations and MTV. By 1995, Sugar had released three more slightly inferior albums, and Mould decided to let the Sugar run out.

Sugarcubes seem easier to handle than powdered sugar, yet this Icelandic alternative band from the mid-80s sure were hard to grasp ahold of. Screeching frontwoman Bjork sometimes made Yoko Ono’s early work seem positively soothing, but critics and high-minded alternative listeners scooped up the jerky-jangled melodies as a sweet addition to the post-punk, post-New Wave, no-man’s-land of mid-80’s music. Their 3 albums broke into the top 20 on the U.K. charts, flirted with America’s lists, but by 1992, the band had dissolved, and Bjork began her more successful solo career in earnest.

Time to get a little starch in our diet. Let’s grab a little Bread. The light fluffy kind from the early ‘70s. Kneaded in the Los Angeles area in 1969, the four members of Bread brought soft rock into the mainstream with the number one hit “Make It With You” in August 1970. Their five albums all broke the top 20 Billboard chart in America and made them a lot of dough. But by the mid-‘70s, their style of ballad rock had grown stale amongst the hard guitar rock stylings which were resurfacing, and Bread molded around 1978, only to rise for a handful of reunion gigs in the coming years.

Snack-time favorites, Cracker, got together in 1991 to play mainstream rock ‘n’ roll. Led by former frontman of Camper Van Beethoven, David Lowery, the band traversed the early ‘90s with independent radio exposure, which peaked with 1993’s album “Kerosene Hat.” The single “Low” was a moderate success, and although the band’s country-rock leanings became more defined and polished, Cracker crumbled by the end of 1996.

For a strictly British treat, snag a little Half Man Half Biscuit. This Birkenhead quartet had their tongue firmly planted in their cheeks when they unleashed their satirical punk-rock ditties on proper England in the mid-‘80s. Choosing to focus song topics on local celebrities and the hum-drum existence of middle class Britain, fans adored Half Man Half Biscuit’s tear-down tunes like “Rod Hull Is Alive, Why?” and “Outbreak of Vitas Gerulaitis.” The Biscuits still tend to appear from the cupboard for a live show from time to time.

Wheeling up to the deli counter, let’s ask for a slice of Coldcut. Capitalizing on the new strain of electronica pulsing out of the club scene in London in 1986, Coldcut founders, Jonathon More and Matt Black, were one of Britain’s prime remix producers through the mid-‘80s. Billing themselves under other projects, like DJ Food, the duo brought together other singers and musicians to conceive acid, funk, house grooves that were captured on two albums “What’s That Noise?” and “Philosophy.”

Adding a Salad to the sandwich, you would hear the sounds of an art-pop band from London which was fronted by a former MTV VJ, Marijne van der Vlugt. Not particularly embraced by the record-buying public or critics, Salad dressed up their act with Vlugt’s natural good looks and a dose of appropriate mid-‘90s cynicism in their tunes. Their debut album in 1995, “Drink Me,” showcased the best of their early material, but by the turn of the century, their Salad days appeared to be terminally tossed.

One item we like to fill up on at the deli counter is a tangy cup of Ambrosia. This delectable dish of sliced oranges and flaked coconuts might have actually been the mythological food of the gods that conferred immortality. Okay, and it was also the name of a late-‘70s soft rock band whose top forty tunes melted the hearts of many a working single girl. This quartet consisted of quite accomplished musicians, able to play a multitude of instruments. Their notable song successes were reflected in the hit singles “How Much I Feel” and “Biggest Part Of Me,” both of which reached Number 3 on America’s charts. Ambrosia still weaves its magical spell on sporadic tours.

Entering the frozen foods aisle, we are bound to spot those mouthwatering Mexican favorites, burritos. The Flying Burrito Brothers conversely have nothing to do with the culture that lies south of the border. Formed loosely in 1968, with Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman leading the jams, the band were truly the pioneers of country-rock. Pedal steel guitars laced with rock stylings defined a new approach that was admired by Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. The Burritos debut album, “The Gilded Palace of Sin,” sold very few copies but, in hindsight, is seen as a landmark album preceding the efforts of bands like The Allman Brothers Band. The group splintered and changed its line-up thereafter, but their early work still leaves a lingering heartburn of fondness in fans.

We must leave room for dessert. Rolling onto the final aisle, you might choose to take a bite out of some Humble Pie. Rock guitarists Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott had just departed their bands, The Herd and The Small Faces respectively, when they mounted Humble Pie in late 1969. Needless to say, the guitar-driven group, which became a quartet, played crunching rock music that sold moderately well on both sides of the Atlantic. The 1972 album, “Smokin’,” was their most successful release, hitting #6 on America’s charts. Frampton departed to make groundbreaking history with his double album, “Frampton Comes Alive,” in 1976, while Marriott made a go of reforming Humble Pie through the ‘80s until his tragic death by fire in early 1991.

A strange man may pass by you in this aisle, and when you ask him the time, you may notice his fanciful Chocolate Watchband. Okay, so, maybe he only appears after you stop into the supermarket after a hard night of drinking. Nonetheless, The Chocolate Watchband had its time in the musical vat over the period of 1965 to 1968, and this northern California group tried to make the most of it. Releasing three albums, and shuffling band members, the Watchband played gritty r&b rock that had a remote affinity with early Stones covers. Although they never charted, an early ‘80s interest in The Chocolate Watchband rekindled the reissue of their catalog.

You might be tempted to peel back the cover of a Vanilla Fudge and take a bite. That’s exactly what the members of this 1960s psychedelic band were renowned for. Actually, they took a bite out of covers. Long, slow bites. The long-haired quartet took songs like The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch,” and The Supremes “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (this latter version went to #6 on the U.S. charts) and stretched them into languid, rock-jamming opuses. By 1970, the Fudge went mushy and aside from a handful of “reunions,” the group was strictly a rock footnote.

Well, while we’re passing by the bakery section, why don’t we have our cake and eat it? We could just have plain old Cake, a Sacramento-based quintet that formed in 1994, whose guitar rock sometimes straddles into minimalist jams and whose trumpeter lends a distinctive flourish to an otherwise ordinary rock outfit. Or we could sample The Sea and Cake (based on a misinterpretation of the Gastr del Sol song “The C in Cake”), a Chicago alternative pop-rock quartet who churned out four albums between 1994 and 1997 and who favor jazzy titles for songs like “A Man Who Never Sees A Pretty Girl That He Doesn’t Love Her A Little.”

No, let’s just stop and have Mary’s Danish for now. This darling quintet of the Los Angeles indie scene of the late ‘80s was fronted by two female lead singers. Their 1989 album “There Goes The Wondertruck” whipped up a tantalizing blend of country, funk and rock into its flaky crust. After alternative radio embraced songs like “Foxey Lady” and “Don’t Crash The Car Tonight,” the individual members of Mary’s Danish left to embark on their own sweet projects by the mid-90s.

Okay, the cart’s full of inspired food group bands, so to the checkout line we go. Wait, I think I forgot the Spice Girls on aisle 9! Naw. Let’s just leave them for another visit.

© 2000 Ned Truslow

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