After Happy Mondays disbanded in 1992, most observers would have guessed
that the group's leader, vocalist Shaun Ryder, would succumb to the myriad of
drug addictions that hastened the breakup of the group. Instead of dying, Ryder
recouped his strengths and came back with a new band, Black Grape, in the
summer of 1995. Black Grape were embraced by both the British public and
press, making Ryder one of the more unexpected comebacks in rock & roll
Ryder formed Black Grape in 1993, recruiting ex-Happy Monday Bez (dancing,
percussion), rappers Kermit (born Paul Leveridge) and Jed from the Ruthless
Rap Assassins, and ex-Paris Angels guitarist Wags. Black Grape began recording
demos only weeks after the implosion of Happy Mondays. Over the course of
recording and writing It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah, Ryder recruited a
number of musicians, most notably producer and bassist Danny Saber,
keyboardist/producer Stephen Lironi, and former Bluebells and Smiths guitarist
Gary Gannon. Black Grape's debut album was recorded over a period of seven
weeks in late 1994 and early 1995; after it was completed, the band signed with
Radioactive Records. The group's first single, "Reverend Black Grape," entered
the Top Ten upon its release. The group's debut album, It's Great When You're
Straight...Yeah, was released in August of 1995. The album entered the U.K.
charts at number one.
"In the Name of the Father" and "Kelly's Heroes" followed "Reverend Black
Grape" into the Top 20 later in 1995. Toward the end of the year, Kermit
suffered a severe case of septicemia, a form of blood poisoning caused by bad
water he drank while in Mexico; although he came close to death -- bits of his
heart and liver were flaking off -- he had recovered by the spring of 1996. Black
Grape were prepared to head to America early in 1996 when the group was
denied entry into the country due to its members' prior drug convictions. After a
couple of months, the passports were cleared and the band was admitted into
the U.S. Due to his illness, Kermit had to miss the tour, and his spot was filled by
Psycho, who became a permanent member of the band after the completion of
the tour. Before Black Grape launched their U.S. tour in spring of 1996, Bez left
the band due to financial disagreements with the record company.
In May 1996, Black Grape returned with the single "Fat Neck," which entered
the U.K. charts in the Top Ten; the song featured former Smiths member
Johnny Marr on guitar. A month after the release of "Fat Neck," the group
released its football anthem "England's Irie," which was recorded with Joe
Strummer. Like "Fat Neck" before it, "England's Irie" became a Top Ten hit.
Stupid, Stupid, Stupid followed in 1997.
The The Bish Stage on Sunday 5th May 2019 at 22:00