When Supergroups Suck, Episode One: Chequered Past


From the moment there were two or three certified stars in the music world, somebody with dollar signs in their eyes immediately began trying to bring them together. After all, what easier way to make tons and tons of money than with proven commodities? Unfortunately, the results have not always been as successful as those involved may have hoped. No supergroup illustrates this point better than Chequered Past.

Imagine this school boy's glee to read about a band comprised of the rhythm section from Blondie (Clem Burke and Nigel Harrison), Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Tony Sales (Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop) and journeyman singer Michael Des Barres.



It must have initially seemed as if the stars had aligned perfectly, Blondie had broken up, Des Barres' last solo album had tanked, Jones was "in-between gigs", and Tony Sales had just awakened from an eight-month coma after a car accident..

On paper, there was absolutely no way a band with such an impeccable pedigree could fail to deliver the goods. In reality, Chequered Past remains the storybook case of the gathered whole being much lass than the sum of its parts.

One look at the song titles from their lone EMI studio album is all you need to see to realize the thematic depths this supposed gathering of mega-talents had plunged: "A World Gone Wild", "Only The Strong (Will Survive)", "How Much Is Too Much?", "Tonight And Every Night", "Let me Rock", "Never In A Million Years". If that wasn't bad enough, the band also tackles Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?", leading this listener to respond with a resounding "No."



Des Barres, who was perhaps best known at the time for fronting the fictional band Scum of The Earth in an episode of WKRP, would go on to replace Robert Palmer in The Power Station and perform at Live Aid while Clem Burke would join the Eurythmics. Tony Sales would bounce around various projects before reuniting with his brother Hunt in David Bowie's Tin Machine.

Nigel Harrison, who'd already been in one unsuccessful supergroup (Ray Manzarek's Nite City) prior to joining Chequered Past, went into artist management and music supervision. His first project was the John Cusack-Tim Robbins film "Tapeheads".

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