Reporting Dan Morgridge
Think, for a moment of four of your favorite ingredients. Purchase them, combine them, and eat them. If you’re lucky, you picked four foods that at least somewhat match each other. If you’re unlucky, you have a plate of marshmallow fluff, buffalo wings, olive tapanade and lime sherbert. Or take the chassis of your favorite car, the spoiler of another, the doors of a Delorean and the wheels of a monster truck. Heck, just take paint of your favorite colors and mix them together. it will likely just come out as a disgusting off-brown sludge of slop. And of all those images, that is the one you should remember – because nine times out of ten, that is what happens when you take a bunch of all-star cogs from other machines and try to make a new one out of them. Suddenly, you really appreciate the Ringos of the world. Well, until he forms his own band, of course…
Let’s start over. We’ve all seen supergroups – The famous (and unofficial band) Million Dollar Quartet. Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, and Stephen Stills – the Super Session that gave us the name in the first place. And that other little group Stephen Stills went on to join. Velvet Revolver – aka the Guns without Rose(s). These bands, you probably know. They were supergroups, but maybe they were actually successful and sane concepts and not what we want from a supergroup. We want weird. We want people pretending they’re all siblings, or partnering with people a third of their age, or just having more than 30 people in a rock band at once. We want weird. Let’s get some excess in our rebellion…
Tier One: Well Hell, That Group Is Pretty Super
The Traveling Wilburys: Pretty much the greatest assemblage of supergroupage that has ever existed. B0b Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy “cling-film” Orbison all took the surname Wilbury, jammed some pleasant light rock jams, and were generally just a bunch of awesome dudes having fun making music together until Orbison’s death in 1988. This will be the last group that we mention here that is sane, fun, and cohesively talented all at the same time.
Oysterhead: Les Claypool of Primus, Trey Anastasio of Phish, and Stu Copeland of the Police, making funk metal. We’d make fun of it, but actually, they’re all talented enough to pull off the ambitious concept (and that is the last time that statement will be true in this article).
Me First And the Gimme Gimmes: A number of punk’s finest punkers (with a combined curriculum vitae of NOFX, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name and the Foo Fighters) got together to make a band. Of course, instead of singing about straight edge skinhead oi anti-nazis, they decided to go REALLY in-your-face and record a bunch of showtunes.Showtunes, 60′s pop, and a bat mitzvah party where they played “Stairway to Heaven” and “O Sole Mio”. No, really.
Tier Two: Past membership now makes up 10% of earth’s population
Broken Social Scene: Toronto’s indie bands were doing pretty well to start, but then, they combined pretty much all of them into one pretty dang successful group peaking at about 20 official members. As you read this sentence, they’ve dropped one member and added two others. Resistance is futile.
Pigface: Martin Atkins of Ministry had a dream of an open-membership band with invited experimentally minded metal musicians contributing to a greater musical concept. Trent Renzor, Flea, Dean Ween, Steve Albini, Alex Patterson of the Orb, and even Cynthia Plaster Caster (famous for…yeah) contributed at some point. A novel and amazing idea!
Praxis: …so of course, someone else tried it too. But Bill Laswell was pretty far removed from the industrial/experimental world of Atkins and company – in fact, most of his early stable of musicians were funk legends like Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell two pros who have credits on more albums than you own. Of course, this isn’t weird yet. For it to get weird, we have to add Buckethead, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Les Claypool (that guy again!), Iggy Pop and Serj Tankian of System Of A Down. That’s a pretty good list of crazy collaborators, right? But some of them were only there for a song or two. What we really want are are bands that make no sense whatsoever, sound ridiculous, and probably exist solely due to a night of getting totally wasted at Brett Michaels place. We need to go deeper.
Tier Three: Reminders That Super-Rich People All Hang Out Together And Sometimes Decide To Make Ludicrous Bands Whilst Chatting At Their Wild Orgies
The Dirty Mac: Although it only happened for a one-off show, what a f&*#ing show! Assembled for a Rolling Stones TV Special, you take one part Eric “God” Clapton, one part John “Bigger Than Jesus” Lennon, one Keith “Seemingly Immortal, So Perhaps Some Lesser God” Richards, and Jimi Hendrix’s Mitch “Wait, Where Did We Get This Reasonable Quiet Bass Player” Mitchell. Where There’s Lennon, there’s Yoko, and that’s why this band’s enduring legacy is this song, where they jammed while letting Ono do her imitation of Janis Joplin imitating a cartoon ghost.
Tinted Windows: Alright, we can see the guy from Fountains of Wayne bringing on James Iha for a supergroup – the mans’ got his supergroup credentials already. And Bun E. Carlos is of an older generation, but so what? He reached out to an idol, and the idol was free that day, and voila! Supergroup almost ready to go. But what the hell got one of the Hanson brothers in there? Who lost a bet? Did a drunk dial prank get misinterpreted and the band was too ashamed to actually send the kid away? All I can say is, the drummer was 32 years old when the singer was born.
Superheavy: Of course, Tinted Windows seems downright sane in the light of Superheavy. Mick Jagger, now roughly 437 years old, decided that he wanted to work with his buddy Dave Stewart of Eurythmics on a band with overlapping musical themes. Totally doable! Except if you want those themes to be ballads, reggae, and traditional Indian music. Young blue-eyed soul singer Joss Stone, Slumdog Millionaire musical maestro A.R. Rahman, and Damien “yep, I’m his son” Marley round out what sounds like a permanent-band version of Carlos Santana’s Supernatural album strategy: “Let’s cash in on every trend that we can on this album with a diffent genre and guest per song!” The result is given the polish and production magic you’d expect for musicians of this pay grade, so it’s at least inoffensive instead of outright terrible. But good gravy, can you imagine the tour bus? Joss trying to teach Mick how to use Facebook so she can friend him. Rahman and Damien just staring at each other, uncertain. Annie Lennox intending to stop by and say hi to David, but just slowly backing out of the room. This is the band that reality television producers have dreams of at night.
Dan Morgridge is working on his killer lineup of Dr. Demento, Michael McDonald, and the cat from that Paula Abdul video.
Dan took on epic music previously with Why Don’t You Have Your Own Theme Music?