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  • Writer's pictureLouise Higginbottom

Are you super groups that super?

A super group is a band or group of musicians made up of already established artists either from other bands or as soloists. For me, they already have to have had some degree of success to be considered “super”.

For example, ABBA. I’ve seen them listed as a super group but I’ve never heard of Benny and Bjorn’s previous bands, and I expect only die-hard ABBA fans have.

Temple of the Dog are another question mark, as although Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Eddie Vedder feature, this was before Pearl Jam became successful. Chris Cornell did eventually end up in Audioslave, with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine which is definitely a super group.

There are few examples where the band have become more successful than their origins, thus forgetting that they actually are a super group. The best example of this is Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl being the drummer of globally famous Nirvana and Nate Mendel (bass) having experienced some success as part of emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate. Being later joined by Taylor Hawkins who had been a key member of Alanis Morrisette’s band adds more experience to justify the super group status, but Dave didn’t know how that debut album would go and Foo Fighters have gone on to be the most successful of the members’ previous ventures.

Supergroups go way back, with the first notable ones emerging in the 1960s with the likes of Cream and Led Zeppelin. Eric Clapton had achieved success in The Yard Birds prior to meeting legendary drummer Ginger Baker, who had grown tired of Bond’s drug affected behaviour in the Graham Bond Organisation (I had not heard of this band!). Clapton suggested, Baker’s bandmate, bassist Jack Bruce joined in too and Cream was formed.

Led Zeppelin also link to the Yard Birds. Jimmy Page was recommended by Clapton when he left to join pre-Cream band John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. Page played dual lead guitar with Jeff Beck, giving the Yard Bards a sort of retrospective super group status.

Robert Plant had been the lead singer of Band of Joy, and brought with him the drummer, John Bonham. Originally Chris Dreja, Page’s Yardbirds bassist was part of the project but eventually dropped out. John Paul Jones, who Page had known from being a session musician asked to join the project upon hearing this and Page agreed cementing the line-up for one of the greatest bands in the world.

Both Cream and Led Zep enjoyed long careers achieving iconic status. In the 80s there were a couple of recognisable but more short-lived groups.

The Power Station, made up of Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson (drummer of Chic) and John and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran enjoyed success with hit Some Like It Hot. The band started as a vessel for the Duran Duran members to branch out into something heavier than the synth led new wave pop of their main band. Success of an album and some video releases led to a tour, though Robert Palmer never actually performed with them on this, bailing on it and stating the sound had come from him and that it “wouldn’t set him up for retirement”. Drama!

Another slightly longer lasting ensemble was the Travelling Wilburys. Made up in 1987 by George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. So, fairly super!

Unlike The Power Station, the Wilburys seemed to genuinely like each other and would have possibly continued much longer had Roy Orbison not died in 1988. The band never replaced Orbison and George Harrison continued plugging the band in interviews, being the main face, whilst waiting for his bandmates to “finish being solo artists” so a follow up to the successful first album could be made.

Eventually a second and final album was released in 1991, but with less commercial success than the first. According to Petty, it was Harrison’s enthusiasm that waned and despite talk of touring, a tour never did come about.

Slash formed the first of a few super groups in 1994 upon return from Guns n’ Roses’ extensive Use Your Illusion Tour. He set up a studio in his home called the Snake Pit and began working on music, only for it to be rejected by singer Axl Rose for the next G n’ R album, putting the band on hiatus. The fall out from this then resulted in the formation of Slash’s Snakepit with Eric Dover of Jellyfish on vocals, Mike Inez (Alice in Chains) on bass and his two G n’ R bandmates Gilby Clarke (guitar) and Matt Sorem (drums).

Slash’s Snakepit created an album with lyrics venting at his relationship with Axl Rose, which unsurprisingly followed with Slash confirming his departure from Guns n’ Rose in 1996. The album achieved positive reviews and commercial success, however, Guns n’ Roses returned, which caused the record label to pull funding for Snakepit. Slash kept busy touring with various musicians until a new formation featuring members of Alice Cooper eventually began rehearsing, releasing another album in 2000.

Just as I was getting into heavier and alternative music as a young teen, Slash emerged once again as part of another super group – Velvet Revolver, also consisting of G n’ R’s Duff McKagen and Matt Sorem and completed by Dave Kushner who had played with McKagen in Loaded and Stone Temple Pilots frontman, Scott Weiland. I really liked their album Contraband and still listen to it today. It had a blatant classic rock influence, but also sounded modern and relevant to other music that was around in 2004. Velvet Revolver released a second album, but whilst on tour decided to fire Scott Weiland and then never reformed with a new singer.

Slash has since gone on to live the super group dream by regularly recording and writing music with everyone from Miles Kennedy of Alter Bridge (who is often Slash’s main touring singer) to Adam Levine from Maroon 5.

I can’t write a blog post about super groups without mentioning Blink-182. Throughout their career they have spawned several side projects as the The Transplants and Boxcar Racer consisting of current members plus others.

When the band went on “indefinite hiatus” in 2005, music fans benefited from another two new bands, +44 (Mark and Travis) and Angels and Airwaves (Tom).

Following Travis’ plane crash Blink did once again reform as the original trio, but all did not stay well and eventually Tom left the band to be replaced by Matt Skibia of Alkaline Trio, pretty much making Blink-182 a super group in their own right.

Never one to turn down a side project, Mark also formed Simple Creatures with Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low releasing an EP in 2019.

There is a debate with all of the above whether these artist fit into the category of side project or super group though. What do you think?

A band I thought I was sure to love was Them Crooked Vultures involving Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and John Paul Jones. I love all of the bands that these members come from but I actually found the music released under-whelming, so perhaps not the most super of the super groups.

So, are super groups really super or not. Yes, if they involved Slash, or have a member of Blink-182 in them. Maybe the next group we need is a Slash/Tom Delonge collab.

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