::Literate Blather::
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Flame Outs

5 Bands That Should Have Been Enormous – But Blew It.

The Replacements

Origin: The ‘Mats (as their dedicated fan base used to refer to them) were formed in Minneapolis as a punk rock garage band in 1979. One of the band members – Tommy Stinson – was just 12 years old at the time. They played punk rock music with pop sensibilities and the crackling energy of an arena rock band.

Band Members: Paul Westerberg (vocals, guitar); Chris Mars (drums, vocals); Bob Stinson (guitar); Tommy Stinson (bass)

Best Album: “Tim” (1985)

Second Best Album: “Let It Be” (1984)

Best Song: “Can’t Hardly Wait”

Second Best Song: “Bastard of Young”

Why They Should Have Made It: Rock and roll magazine “Trouser Press” once declared the Replacements “the world’s greatest rock and roll band.” The band played legendary live shows – filled with seething energy and punk-rock power. They toured with R.E.M. and Tom Petty. For awhile the Replacements were the darlings of the music press and popular with their peers in the industry.

What Went Wrong: They were drunks. The band often showed up to gigs totally shit-faced. They refused to release any videos for MTV at a time when it was necessary in order to break into the national scene (they submitted a video for “Alex Chilton” that showed the band sitting on chairs and a couch doing nothing). They were banned from “Saturday Night Live” because they were drunk on stage and Paul Westerberg swore during their performance. In the end, they all hated each other and broke up.

Shrewd DP Observation: They were so damn close, but arrogance proved to be their downfall.

Where Are They Now?: Paul Westerberg launched a solo career. Bob Stinson died at age 35 in 1995 after years of drug and alcohol abuse. His brother, Tommy Stinson, is a member of Guns ‘N Roses. Chris Mars joined Golden Smog and then had a solo career and is a talented artist.

Screaming Blue Messiahs

Origin: The Screaming Blue Messiahs formed in 1983 in London. The trio had a distinct sound: a hard-driving, punk-infused rockabilly with amazing guitar work from Frontman Bill Carter.

Band Members: Bill Carter (vocals, guitar); Chris Thompson (bass, vocals); and Kenny Harris (drums)

Best Album: “Gun Shy” (1986)

Second Best Album: Bikini Red” (1987)

Best Song: “Wild Blue Yonder”

Second Best Song: “Let’s Go Down to the Woods”

Why They Should Have Made It: The album “Gun Shy” is an alternative gem – a ferocious foray into Americana. The band tour with Echo and the Bunnymen and David Bowie once declared them his favorite band. They became extremely popular in England – often showing up on the cover of “Sounds” magazine. In a review of “Gun Shy,” Melody Marker magazine said: “This is the album The Clash meant to make when they recorded ‘Cut the Crap’.”

What Went Wrong: The band’s first top 10 hit was “I Wanna Be a Flintstone,” a novelty song (although a good one). It was a pop-infused number that didn’t do justice to the driving, angry rock from their previous efforts. It was simply the wrong image and ultimately it killed them. Dropped by their label, increase infighting among the members, finally led them to call it quits in 1989.

Shrewd DP Observation: The Screaming Blue Messiahs should have stuck to their roots. The Flintstones? Come on, man!

Where Are They Now?: In 2005, Bill Carter joined MySpace and released three previously unreleased Screaming Blue songs. He works as an artist in England. We don’t have any information on Chris Thompson or Kenny Harris (although Harris is the main contact on the SBM’s web page).

The Rave-ups

Origin: The band was formed in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s, but relocated to Los Angeles were they became an alternative cult hit. They played straight alternative rock and garnered strong reviews from critics.

Band Members: Jimmer Podrasky (vocals); Tim Jemenez (drums); Chuck Wada (guitar); and Douglas Leonard (bass)

Best Album: “Town and Country” (1985)

Second Best Album: “Chance” (1990)

Best Song: “Positively, Lost Me”

Second Best Song: “Respectfully, the King of Rain”

Why They Should Have Made It: The Rave-Ups were damn fun. They were the “it” band of Hollywood’s young actors in the 1980s – including Molly Ringwald. They played two songs in the movie “Pretty in Pink,” which lead to them being signed by Epic Records. Their punchy, pop-infused tunes were hits on college and alternative radio stations. Many critics predicted them as the “next-big-thing.”

What Went Wrong: The producers of “Pretty in Pink” screwed the Rave-ups by leaving them off the bestselling movie album – which most likely would have propelled them to stardom. Then the band became embroiled in a lawsuit with their record labels which put them on a three year hiatus at the peak of their popularity. In a nutshell? Bad luck ruined their chances.

Shrewd DP Observation: After a Rave-Ups show in Providence, Rhode Island in the late 1980s, DP spoke with Frontman Jimmer Podrasky and he was still bitter about being rejected by the producers of “Pretty in Pink.”

Where Are They Now?: Jimmer Podrasky has reformed the band and has an album – but no record contract. No word on the other band members.

Treat Her Right

Origin: Boston blues rock band, Treat Her Right, was founded in 1984. The band is often mentioned as helping make punk-blues (known as cowpunk) popular.

Band Members: Mark Sandman (guitar, vocals); Billy Conway (drums); Dave Champagne (guitar, vocals) and Jim Fitting (harmonica, vocals)

Best Album: “Treat Her Right” (1986 – reissued 1988)

Second Best Album: “Tied to the Tracks” (1989)

Best Song: “I Think She Likes Me”

Second Best Song: “I Got A Gun”

Why They Should Have Made It: Treat Her Right could play – and their concerts were dynamite. Their bluesy, barroom grind became popular on college radio. They signed with RCA records that reissued their debut and put a lot of money into the band’s second album. They were also popular with other musicians. Rolling Stones backup guitar player Bob Anderson urged them to reform in 1995 and under his direction they released an acoustic album of cover songs.

What Went Wrong: Another talented, original band screwed by their record label. When “Tied to the Tracks” didn’t sell well, RCA basically pulled the plug.

Shrewd DP Observation: Mark Sandman and Billy Conway went on to form the band Morphine, which had some success in the 1990s with albums like “Cure for Pain” and “Yes.”

Where Are They Now?: Mark Sandman died during a Morphine concert in Italy in 1999. His death was deemed a heart attack. He was 46. Billy Conway works for Hi-N-Dry, an independent record label he helped found. He still plays. Jim Fitting went on to play with the band The The. Dave Champagne founded the Jazz Popes and occasionally plays with his wife under the name the Heygoods.

The Screaming Trees

Origin: The band was founded by high school students in Ellensburg, Washington (about 90 miles from Seattle) in 1985. They were part of the growing grunge scene and their music mixed elements of psychedelic, punk, and heavy metal music. They were named after a guitar distortion pedal. And they were damn good.

Band Members: Van Conner (bass); Gary Lee Conner (guitar); Mark Lanegan (vocals); Mark Pickerel (drums)

Best Album: “Sweet Oblivion” (1992)

Second Best Album: “Uncle Anesthesia” (1991)

Best Song: “Nearly Lost You”

Second Best Song: “Shadow of the Season” (1993)

Why They Should Have Made It: The Screaming Trees were one of the few grunge acts that got great reviews. They were the peers of Nirvana and Soundgarden – both bands which became huge acts when the grunge sound went national. The band’s single “Nearly Lost You” was one of the best songs on the movie soundtrack for “Singles,” which was an enormous commercial success. They were a headline act in 1996’s Lollapalooza tour.

What Went Wrong: The Screaming Trees just couldn’t put personal difference aside. In-fighting, bickering, and various side projects got in the way. When “Nearly Lost You” hit big the band already had a new drummer. After the tour to support the bestselling “Sweet Oblivion” album, they basically broke up. The grunge scene passed by and well – that’s all she wrote.

Shrewd DP Observation: Dedication proved to be The Screaming Trees downfall. All the band members had side projects. Van Conner played with Dinosaur Jr. for most of 1991 rather than help support the release of the band’s first major studio album “Uncle Anesthesia.” Bad move.

Where Are They Now?: Mark Lanegan has been a vocalist for many bands since The Screaming Trees broke up. Gary Lee Conner has a new band called Amanita Caterpillar. He works as a newspaper courier in Texas. Van Conner (Lee’s brother) has a band called VALIS and works for Boeing in Seattle. Mark Pickerel left the band in 1992. He has a band called Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands.

Read our interview with Treat Her Right's Billy Conway here

Read our picks for the 10 Best Soundtracks ever here

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