Kings of Leon (Rock A-Z) Part #50

Formed in Nashville, Tennessee in the first year of the 21st century, Kings of Leon started life as a backing band in churches for the Rev. Followill, father to brothers Caleb, Jared and Nathan, founder band members together with cousin Matthew. The travelling roadshow moved from one trailer park to the next before deciding to go it alone with the release of the Southern Fried debut EP ‘Holy Roller Novocaine in early 2003.

This was closely followed by a break into the charts a few months later with ‘What I saw’ and ‘Youth & young manhood’ which made it into the UK top 5. Being picked up by the NME ¬†gave them the type they needed though, and the excellent single ‘Molly Chambers’ (also from the ‘Holy Roller’ EP) shot into the UK charts in its own right, sealing the band’s future success.

Janis Joplin (Rock A-Z part #49)

Janis Joplin is (unfortunately) also a post-humous member of the infamous ’27 club’. However, like all of her fellow club members, her gift to the music industry in the short time she was with us lives on 45 years after her passing.

Born in Port Arthur, Texas in January 1943, she hitched to California in the early 1960’s and started singing in ‘The Waller Creek Boys Trio’ who, in 1963, appeared opposite Jorma Kaukonen (later to join Jefferson Airplane). After a brief return to Texas to rehearse (but never perform) with ‘The 13th Floor Elevators’, she returned to San Francisco in 1966 and joined ‘Big Brother & The Holding Company’.

The band released two albums, the second of which – Cheap Thrills – stayed at the top of the US charts for 8 weeks. Temporarily folding in late 1968 saw Janis going solo, although her alcohol and substance abuse was becoming increasingly pronounced. Although this affected some minor performances, it didn’t stop her selling out at three majors – London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Newport Festival and the New Orleans Pop Festival – and giving subliminal performances at others including Woodstock (August 1969)

Late in 1969 she released ‘I got dem ol’ kosmic blues again’ which made the US top 5 and, early the following year, formed her new band – The Full-Tilt Boogie Band. However, before the band’s debut album was completed, Janis Joplin died from an accidental overdose on 4th October 1970.

Post-humously, her last recording – ‘Pearl’ – was released early in 1971 topping the US charts for 9 weeks and featuring ‘Mercedes Benz’, a tune which, amongst others, had become a standard for her live performances.

INXS (Rock A-Z part #48)

On 22 November 1997, the rock world lost another hero to an untimely demise. No-one really knows how Michael Hutchence came to die – there’s been a lot of speculation – but one thing’s certain, the genius behind Australia’s INXS can now only live on in its twenty year history.

Formed in Sydney in 1977 as ‘The Farriss Brothers’ by Tim, Andrew and Jon Farriss, Michael Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly and Garry Beers. The band briefly moved to Perth but in 1978 retuned to Sydney as INXS, gigging extensively and eventually landing a deal with ‘Deluxe’, a subsidiary of ‘RCA’. Their second single, ‘Just keep walking’ was a domestic hit in 1980 and, after a couple of off-the-shelf rock efforts, the band were picked up by the American-based Atlantic-affiliated ‘Atco’ label.

Their major label debut ‘Shabooh Shabooh’ in 1982 eventually reached the lower fringes of the US top 40 on the strength of single ‘The One Thing’ which MTV had latched onto. And the band’s new-groove rock sound combined with Hutchence’s classic rock-god looks made them hot property in the emerging video generation.

The band’s big break though came with 1985’s ‘Listen like Thieves’, a top 20 album in Britain with the single ‘What you need’ reaching the UK top 5. Following this with ‘Kick’ in 1987, the band moved into the mega-stardom league with the album spawning no less than five international hit singles – ‘New Sensation’, ‘Devil Inside’, ‘Need you tonight’, ‘Never tear us apart’ and (of course) ‘Kick’

‘X’ in 1990 trod the same path as ‘Kick’ albeit without quite as big an impact. It still spawned two reasonable singles – ‘Suicide Blonde’ and ‘Disappear’ though. However, having packed out London’s Wembley Stadium in 1991, the band attempted a different path with the experimental ‘Welcome to wherever you are’ in 1992. The album contained the lovely ‘Beautiful Girl’ single, as good as anything the band had recorded to that point.The album idea was a reasonable one but the band saw the wood through the trees again the following year ‘Full Moon, Dirty Hearts’, an attempted return to their earlier rock roots. It was, however, something of a flop, failing completely in the UK.

Despite the ‘Full Moon, Dirty Hearts’ flop, the band continued to release some remix singles followed by a very successful ‘Greatest Hits’ album in 1994. But the last album before Michael Hutchence’s death/suicide came with the release of ‘Elegantly Wasted’ in April 1997. Here’s the title track, typically INXS, typically Hutchence, typically brilliant.