Thursday, 28 April 2011

28th April 2011: H:B:19: How Nirvana Made Some Bands But Broke Others

Todays album was picked at random by Craig Wijckaans who you can follow on Twitter here

Craig picked the combination H:B:19 which lead me to this album.

Weezer - Weezer (Blue Album)

Major label record companies are generally idiots.

I am sure you don't need me to tell you that and you are perhaps wondering what area of idiocy I am pinpointing too exactly when it comes to Weezer's d├ębut album. The list is surely long and endless. To explain my point we need to go way back to late 1991 / early 1992. This is when Nirvana's Nevermind was released and changed the face of music for some years to come.

The release of Nevermind was a rather small affair with rather modest aspirations from both DGC Records (Geffen) and the band itself. But off the back of the success of Smells Like Teen Sprit, Nirvana found themselves knocking Michael Jackson's 'Dangerous' album off the number 1 spot in America. Alternative rock music was suddenly in the mainstream.

As soon as the major labels cottoned on, every A&R man in the country was dispatched with the instructions "find another one of those and make us some money"

Similar groups were signed at an alarming rate and many fell by the wayside. A feature on these bands in Punk Planet magazine sometime in 2000 still resonates in my mind, as bands, relationships and financial security were all destroyed by this short sighted scramble for the 'next Nirvana'

One such band was an American outfit from Berkeley, California (a hotbed of brilliant punk and rock bands of the 1990's) called Samiam. By 1994 they had already released three albums through independent label New Red Archives before Atlantic Records came knocking.

The relationship between the two bands didn't last long. Atlantic were expecting immediate success for very little financial outlay and, if memory serves me right, were trying to get involved on an artistic level, in the music being produced by the band at the time. One album later (Clumsy) and the deal was off.

Oddly if you listen to Samiam's 1997 follow up album 'You Are Freaking Me Out'  released on another major label, you will notice a passing resemblance to Foo Fighters, who were also achieving huge success at this time. Again it could be right to assume outside influences were involved.

Music history of the time is littered with these stories and there were a lot of bands who never recovered and some who were left with record company bills at the end of it.

What have Weezer got to do with this I hear you ask? Well they were one of the few success stories of the era.

Despite hailing from California, Weezer found success thanks to signing with Geffen, who had already successfully sold Nirvana to the masses. They were the pros at this and initially decided not to release a single to try and succeed initially through word of mouth alone.

The tactic was a master stroke. Firstly the reduced overheads must have created less pressure on the band to gain an instant hit and second it made the very influential Seattle DJs interested enough to check Weezer out.

Two Spike Jonze directed videos later - which were both massive hits to the new MTV generation - and Geffen had another platinum seller on their hands.

Weezer were one of the ones that made it, but sadly I find they often make me think of the bands who fell by the wayside on their way up.

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