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14 Bands We Failed To Make Famous

Killed by the internet: in praise of rock's lost generation of bands, 1998-2014

The last 16 years – the years of Classic Rock's lifetime, from issue 1 to 200 – have been tough on new bands. People stopped buying records. People (idiots, obviously) stopped reading music magazines. They got access to dozens of radio stations across DAB, FM and online, to hundreds of TV channels, millions of websites. The entire recorded history of music was available via YouTube, Spotify, Last.FM etc. If you hadn't gotten in early and already sold millions of records, building a fan base was harder than ever – no-one was listening to the same thing, so getting any kind of momentum was nigh on impossible. The traditional route to stardom – release record, attract buzz, pay your dues on the road, have drug-fuelled-breakdown, make masterpiece – was screwed. So it's no surprise that some bands fell by the wayside. Here are 14 bands from that lost generation that we loved and lost…

1. Damone

If we had to put money on one band to make it big back in 2006, it would have been Damone.

A four-piece from Boston, they were selling out 500-capacity clubs, supporting Bon Jovi in 15,000-seat arenas and their music was making the soundtracks of films from Rugrats to Freaky Friday (oh, yeah: all the greats). More than that, on second album Out Here All Night, they’d knocked out 45 minutes of perfect pop-metal and infectious, punkified power pop. “They’ve got the heaviness and the hooks,” wrote Sleazegrinder, “the crunch and the killer choruses. World domination surely awaits.”

It didn’t. Bassist Michael Vazquez suffered a near-fatal brain haemorrhage during the recording of Out Here All Night and tragedy, averted once, wasn’t finished with them: drummer Dustin Hengst died in 2011 of liver and kidney failure after battling ill health his whole life. Singer Noelle formed the Organ Beats with her brother Danny (they recorded a version of Shake A Leg for our Back In Black Redux CD) and you can hear their latest album here. Noelle has also released a limited edition solo album and single.

Top YouTube comment: “The guitarist is my guitar teacher.”

2. Endeverafter

LA sleaze rockers Endeverafter made it all look easy. They signed to a major label months just after they formed, went on tour with Poison and Cinderella, and then promptly set about showing the old guys how to do it, with tunes that were like supercharged 80s anthems, Slash-quality solos, undeniable star quality in singer Michael Grant and X-rated music videos (see below).

“We shot two videos in two days. Baby, Baby, Baby was first. I didn’t sleep for three days,” frontman Grant told us. “The party went on for a while, then we all went home with somebody. It was basically a sea of girls, dude. We were swimming in pussy.”

The moral: enjoy it while it lasts, dude. The album Kiss Or Kill had a limited release on the UK on Classic Rock’s own short-lived record label Powerage (our attempt to champion undervalued acts) but they never toured the UK and the band fizzled out. Michael Grant’s 2012 solo project Kickstarter campaign reached just $485 of a $50,000 goal.

Top YouTube comment: “Unlike other YouTube videos I find this pretty easy to masturbate to.”

THE SORTA SAFE-FOR-WORK VERSION

THE NOT SAFE FOR WORK VERSION: 

3. Big Linda

Were Big Linda damned by their name? Some people thought so. The Guardian said it was demeaning to women. Others thought it sounded like they were a Thin Lizzy tribute band. When Classic Rock’s Powerage label got into talks with them we later heard that the A&R had insisted on a name change.

The men themselves would not budge. “We don’t care what The Guardian thinks,” drummer Geoff Holroyde, told us. “We’re happy with Big Linda and we’re going to stick with it. Damn the consequences.”

Back in 2007 we claimed that Big Linda’s first and only album I Loved You was the debut of the year, sounding like Oasis one minute, Mother Love Bone the next, and invoking the spirits of AC/DC and the Glitter Band for good measure.

Maybe they were just too hard to pigeonhole in a rock scene that sometimes can be too conservative for its own good. Frontman Rob Alder had short hair, a distinct lack of tattoos or facial piercings and, wait for it, wore white shirts onstage. O.M.Fucking.G etc. Whatever the problem, despite support slots with Velvet Revolver, an appearance at Download, a video with a demented Muppet-thing (on I.D.E.L.Y. aka I Don't Even Like You – see below) and rave reviews from us dolts, by 2010 Alder packed it in to become a carpenter while various Lindas appeared with Chrissie Hynde on the rather good JP, Chrissie and The Fairground Boys album Fidelity! of 2010. Shame.

Top YouTube comment: “You know 'I don't even like you’ comes from when one of the band members proposed and she said, ‘Marry you? I don't even like you!’ right?”

4. Black Robot

You really kinda havta actually HAVE a hit to be a One Hit Wonder but we played Black Robot’s Baddass so much in 2010 it kind of feels like it was one. Buckcherry founder Jonathan Brightman made his former band look a little lame with the sheer delirious delight of Baddass’s riff-driven update of Bad To The Bone-via-Riff Raff. In truth, it made the big album of that year, Black Ice, seem a little bit pedestrian too. The band parted ways with singer Harold Johns, and recorded a new album with singer Jeremy Aric which was released last year in the US and is available on Spotify (we recommend the track Louise).

Top YouTube comment: ”B! A! D! D! A! S! S! B! A! D! D! A! S! S! ....D! I! C! T! I! O! N! A! R! Y!”

5. Louis XIV

Decadent Texan Europhiles Louis XIV got into a load of trouble for being sexist filth mongers when they came out. “We are still very much gentlemen,” frontman Jason Hill told us, “but we do have… certain addictions. For some people it’s smoking. For us it’s usually women.”

2005’s The Best Little Secrets Are Kept album strutted like Ziggy-era Bowie and had the Bolan Boogie down pat. It was gawdy and glam – and with a girl’s bare arse on the cover and Hill’s risqué lyrics, it was also a bit saucy (Pledge Of Allegiance: ‘We don’t have to go to the pool for me to make you wet’).

The band, naturally, played it up, taunting the politically correct by releasing a salacious video for Paper Doll exclusively on alt. porn website Suicide Girls.

“We’ve been picketed in places like Indianapolis by people with pamphlets and signs saying ‘Don’t listen to this band’,” Hill says. “Very odd. Then we had a four-page article in the San Francisco Weekly about why you shouldn’t listen to our music. The writer said that she actually liked our music but she couldn’t let herself like it because it’s misogynistic. The best bit was at the end when she said: ‘I just think rock’n’roll should be more responsible’. I’m thinking: ‘What?! I don’t want rock’n’roll to be more responsible’. The problem I have with it sometimes is that it’s too politically correct. Rock’n’roll has always been sexual.”

The band split in 2009 after touring with The fucking Killers. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

Top YouTube comment: "Anybody mind if I... take off my pants?"

And that Paper Doll video:

6. Pride Tiger

We signed Pride Tiger to our Powerage label. The rest is, of course, history. Six multi-platinum-selling albums. Headlining the Olympics opening ceremony. Beheading Paul McCartney on the roof of Buckingham Palace. The Beyonce sex tape.

Yeah, well that was the plan anyway.

Formed by 3 Inches Of Blood alumni, the band bonded over a love of 70s rock, finally growing hair on their balls and out of their early punk and metal roots. “You’re young, you’re angry and you have something to prove,” said singing drummer Matt Wood. “Now it’s more about writing good songs, not just turning up loud and screaming.”

Their Lizzy-esque soulful hard rock caught the ear of EMI Canada. They were managed by the guys behind metalcore legends Alexisonfire. Those guys gave a CD to James Gill on Metal Hammer. Gill recommended it to us. He always recommended stuff. This time it wasn’t shit. Actually it was amazing: chockfulla riffs and choruses and groove. We wrote about 'em. We signed 'em. And… tumbleweeds. Where were you?

(We got them a show at Hard Rock Hell. Opening the second stage on a Sunday morning. A tough slot. What started out with a crowd of 50 or so, ended with a packed hall with their pint glasses in the air. Inspirational.)

Top YouTube comment: “PRIDE TIGER!!!! True Rock & Roll!!! I know these dudes... raddest dudes on this side of the earth! They are the shit up in this bitch!!!!!! Holla!”

7. Diamond Lights

2005’s Popsicle, the first and only album from New York hard rockers Diamond Nights, was laced with gritty Lynott-influenced rockers like Destination Diamonds, sultry Bolanesque glam-pop like Snakey Ruth and whimsical acoustic trips like Ordinary Life (“The neighbours are such a noisy breed/Have alligators round for tea/And herds of sheep are playing touch football/Out in the halls… Maybe I’ll stop over with champagne and join the game… Mine is such an ordinary life’).

These weren’t rock classicists, they were young guys imagining their own version of classic rock: “When I think about what made me want to make music,” said singer/guitarist Morgan Phalen, “I think about when I was a kid and I’d go to the playground. I’d go up into the little canopied section of the slide, and scrawled into the paint there’d be things like ‘Ozzy’ and ‘Def Leppard’, and I always wondered what that stuff would sound like. I built up an idea of what it’d sound like without even hearing it. I’m a visual person, primarily. I went to art school, so I always wanted to make music that was inspired by everything but the music itself.”

They split not long after the release of Popsicle. Phalen moved to LA and guitarist Rob Laakso joined indie band Amazing Baby. But, for getting us through a few months back in 2005, we salute them. 2005 was shit, let’s face it.

Top YouTube comment: “Been to three [of their] concerts. These guys unload the pony! The best band ever in concert. They rock the house no matter the size.”

And "unloading the pony":

Continued below...

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8. Jeff Lang

I once saw Jeff Lang play in a pub in Buckingham. He was stood in a corner of The Kings Head doing unbelievable things with an acoustic guitar while the locals smoked rollups, scoffed Scampi Fries and tried their hardest to ignore him. It was heartbreaking. He’d just released a minor classic of an album, Whatever Makes You Happy (two years after it’d come out in his native Australia), and only Classic Rock was interested. Poor bastard. Strictly speaking it wasn’t really our thing, but it was a brilliant mixture of country, folk and blues rock with unbelievable guitar playing and amazing lyrics: “Rejected Novelist Fails Again came from a Japanese article,” he says. “It was about a suicidal failed author who went into Tokyo with a sledgehammer and smashed people’s cars up, hoping that the owners would beat him to death.”

Since then, Lang has done what he does - recorded more albums (his latest I Live In My Head A Lot These Days is out on ABC/Universal in Australia) and toured all over, drowning out Scampi Fries scoffers in every corner of the globe.

“Being a musician is always gonna be an outsider life,” he told us back in 2006. “You skim through places and you meet people, but you have to make a choice to feel like you’re really engaging with the real world.”

Top YouTube comment: “I'm ashamed to say that the one dislike registered for this clip was my wife, titting about after listening to me play this eight times in a row. I am incredibly jealous of Jeff Lang's talent…”

9. Semi-Precious Weapons

Back in 2008 it looked like Semi Precious Weapons were unstoppable. As we put it back then, they had “a media-savvy marketing plan, a clutch of irresistible cock’n’roll songs, an X-rated video that debuted on Perez Hilton’s gossip blog and racked up 57,000 plays in a week, and a super-sleazy new album We Love You executive produced by Tony Visconti”. They had a 6ft tall blonde pan-sexual called Justin for a singer (“My beauty, and my attraction to beauty, crosses gender lines on an hour-to-hour basis,” said Justin).

They were campy and outrageous (the chorus for Her Hair is On Fire: ’Her hair, her hair, her hair is on fire/She don’t need no water, let her fucking head burn’). And their signature glitter-punk anthem Magnetic Baby was, wrote Sleazegrinder, “a riot of fishnets and Sex Pistols guitars, an apocalyptic make out scene starring drag queens, hooker-waitresses, kung-fu fighters and, quite possibly, your girlfriend”.

And the truth is, the Semis are, like, still rising. Sort of. Last seen supporting Lady Gaga, and raved about by Katy Perry, and Ke$ha, they’ve gone pop. Which means we’ve lost 'em anyway.

Top YouTube comment: "I feel so betrayed and homo right now.. I don't like this song any more, yes i do, maybe, idk, whatever, stfu."

10. Silvertide

“You guys know how to drink; you know how to party. When you go to a rock club, to a festival, or to any type of concert, you wanna get loaded, you wanna try to get laid. You wanna grab some alcohol, some pills possibly, drop some acid or whatever and basically have a good time.”

When we interviewed Silvertide’s Walt Laffy in 2004 he’d only been to the UK a few times, including a spot at that year’s Download, but he’d clearly brought out the best/worst in UK rock fans. Of course he had. Silvertide’s debut EP had ears perking up across the country. Here was a new band that seemed to have the full package. They were like The Black Crowes and vintage Aerosmith, “injecting the fun back into rock after the dour years of grunge and nu metal”. Then debut album Show & Tell got a US-only release, the victim of record company mergers, and their rise was restricted to 27 solid months of support slots for Godsmack, Alice Cooper, Velvet Revolver and Van Halen.

A spot in a movie wasn’t the break it should have been – the movie signalled the start of M. Night Shyamalan’s less-than-purple-patch, The Lady In The Water – and after their record company was swallowed by another the band split in 2011. Laffy and guitarist Nick Perri formed alt.rock band Sinai. In June this year they announced that Silvertide had reformed and would release a new single, Try Try Try in September, 10 years after the release of their debut album. For more information follow the band on Facebook and visit their official website.

Top YouTube Comment: “I though all of 00s rock was incessant and incoherent screaming and shouting. Thank god I was wrong.”

11. Pure Reason Revolution

Pure Reason Revolution split up in 2011, just as prog rock was reborn, victims of all the usual bullshit: personnel changes, record company switcheroos, and a stubborn refusal to play the game. Calling card single The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning was a 12 minute statement of intent that at times sounded like Metallica remixed by Massive Attack, Pink Floyd on a pub crawl with Portishead. Sure it was indulgent, heavy of keyboard, thick with the voices of multi-tracked choral choirs, but it still sounded like a band of the 21st century – i.e. progressive – rather than a bunch of nerds trying to ape the 70s.

Top YouTube comment: "Only 11000 views!? Who ever is Jessie J? She's got over 115 million views."

12. Manooghi Hi

I have no idea where this lot came from. I mean, I know (because I looked it up) that Manooghi Hi are a rock band from Seattle fronted by an Indian pop singer called Mehnaz Hoosein, but how did we end up listening to them? Who introduced their classic track Om Baba to the office, or got it on one of our cover mount CDs? I forget. Geoff Barton has to be chief suspect – it has that Bartonesque balance of cunning pop-suss matched by sheer ludicrousness – but on the other hand, Sian Llewellyn could always be counted on as the one blasting it through the office stereo on deadline day, puncturing the stress with it’s otherworldly eastern wail and gonzo ‘om-baba-ba-ba-ba-ba-om-babba-ba’ backing vocals. It took the office by storm – hear it once and you’re singing it for days – and drove Metal Hammer mad (usually a good sign) but had little impact outside of the office. Maybe that’s because rock fans still like their music to be western and male and an Indian woman singing in multiple languages while riffs crunch and tablas are battered doesn't resonate with Fat Mick from Dunstable – but I prefer to think it’s because we weren’t set up to do it justice.

Maybe now, with an online community of hundreds of thousands of people, we could earworm the entire rock world with a tune like this.

Top YouTube comment: "Just discovered this on a Classic Rock CD and really like it as a yoga lover and non reconstructed rock fan!"

13. Rose Hill Drive

I was going to write something here about how Rose Hill Drive’s distinct lack of personality – without looking it up, the only thing I can remember out them is that they’re from Boulder, Colorado, a three-piece and the singer had long hair – possibly summed up the problem their generation of bands had: uniqueness. Charisma. Personality. That thing that makes you standout from the crowd – the thing that Lynott, Lemmy, Slash, Hetfield, Kurt, Cornell etc etc – had in spades at their age. But I think that’d be unfair. The bands above were bursting with personality, looked good, had songs. It didn’t help them any.

So Rose Hill Drive might just have been A BAND – three hairy guys from Shitsville USA who nevertheless had the dynamics of The Who and the songwriting nous of Todd Rundgren – but that's OK. We're about music, right? We're not editing fucking Vogue. The band's second album, Moon Is The New Earth, has one of the worst album sleeves of all time but was like The Beatles-go-stoner-rock. Single Sneak Out appeared on Guitar Hero 5. Which means a lot of today's teenagers probably gave up any thought of learning to play guitar to their music.

Top YouTube comment: "Is this that group JET? Did they change their name?"

14. Marah

Marah had famous fans (among them Nick Hornby, Steve Earle, Stephen King and Bruce Springsteen) and, in a world before there was a thousand earnest Gaslight Anthem soundalikes, looked like being the natural successors to The Boss, with their heart-on-their-sleeve anthems about their home town of Philly and the effortless way they blended soul and folk, doo-wop and rock.

Built around two brothers, Dave and Serge Bielanko, Marah (it rhymes with ‘hurrah’, translates to ‘bitter’) released their first album in 1998, the year Classic Rock was born. Let’s Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later On Tonight was as direct and promising as its title implied. Follow-up Kids In Philly (2000) garnered more plaudits and earned them a recording budget big enough to get them across to the UK and Rockfield Studio in Wales. Long-time admirers of Oasis – they had occasionally included the band’s Acquiesce in their live show – they persuaded that band’s producer, Owen Morris, to work with them on what would become their third album, Float Away With The Friday Night Gods. And that’s where it all started to go wrong.

“We were into Owen’s work so much,” said Dave. “When he eventually heard our stuff he told us he liked the words but he hated the bluesy music…”

Doh. Morris turned Marah’s E-Street shuffle into over-produced Britrock bluster. On the back of Kids In Philly, Marah filled three nights at London’s Borderline quite comfortably. In support of its ailing follow-up, they were reduced to one night. Despite a return to their earlier sound on follow ups 20,000 Streets Under The Sky and If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry (which Stephen King acclaimed as his favourite album of 2005), they never seemed to quite recover.

They’re still going. Now with nine studio albums under their belt, Serge has left and lineups have changed, but this year they released Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, taking lyrics from old folk ballads and turning them into new songs. Recorded in a small town church and featuring an eight year-old on fiddle, it forsakes the band’s earlier urban sound for a sort of Appalachian punk – an album that could almost be a companion piece to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack or Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome album. They’re lost in the mountains.

Top YouTube comment: “MOTÖRHEAD!!!!!!!! :D”

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