What were my first impressions of Happy Mondays? Being American, sadly, I was not able to be introduced to the band's music the way most of their fans were: by shaking my ass to their funky rhythms whilst high on E at some heady UK rave.
Something tells me that's all part of the band's charm and, well, I missed it.
So my read of the band first came from semi-regular reports and appearances on MTV's "120 Minutes" and the many mentions that appeared in the British and indie rock press. based on Shaun Ryder's "Shane MacGowan with more teeth" persona, it was hard to take the band seriously. I mean, can you imagine this eternally blitzed lot ever getting down to the business of writing, rehearsing and recording?
As if that weren't enough, they were part of the whole acid house movement, which was really nothing more than another co-opting of underground black music (Chicago house music) by a largely white (and British) audience that sold it to the masses.
For a band that was hell-bent on selling us the "we don't give a fuck about anything" vibe, they sure did have the ears of some impressive folks. Their 1985 EP came out on Factory Records. Yes, THAT Factory Records (Joy Division, New Order, OMD, James).
Not bad for taking part in a local talent show at the Hacienda club, owned by factory records honcho Tony Wilson. Then, of course, they went on to cut their first proper LP with John Cale. Yes, THAT John Cale (Velvet Underground).
As if that weren't bad enough, they would later cut their pivotal album Bummed with Martin Hannett. Yes, THAT Martin Hannett (Joy Division, New Order, Magazine).
Sadly, those records are, by and large, easily forgettable. Think "jam band with a sampler" and you'll get the idea..
It was their union with Paul Oakenfeld (yes, THAT Paul Oakenfeld) that led to the inspired and anthemic Pills n Thrills And Bellyaches, which finally delivered on all the promise and hype the band had been afforded by the media. The album was a smash in the UK and was their only album to chart in the States, spawning the worldwide hit, "Step On".
1992 saw the band facing an immense amount of pressure to repeat their success. Teaming with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (yes, THAT Chris and Tina, ugh, this bit is getting old), the band took forever to cut their next album, driving Factory Records into bankruptcy in the process. Yes Please was a critical and commercial failure and would be the last studio album the band would make.