While reading Rollingstone.com the other day, I came across an article about a new group featuring the lead singer from AFI, and everyone from No Doubt who isn’t Gwen Stefani. Rolling Stone touted this new gathering as a “Supergroup”.
No it isn’t.
It’s the lead singer of AFI and three lads from No Doubt that most people would be hard-pressed to name.
The term “supergroup” has been bandied about willy-nilly to describe any coming together of people from different bands, and in doing so has rendered the term devoid of all meaning. I’m going to try to define what, in my opinion, does and doesn’t make a supergroup. Here are the rules. Only by satisfying all of the below can a group be defined as Super:
- All of the members of the group must be world-famous. Paul McCartney and Keith Richards forming a group together with Keith’s mate Bosher from the local on drums and Macca’s housekeeper Chet on keyboards is not a supergroup. It’s just Macca, Keef and two nobodies. This rule also knocks out Cream. Yardbird Eric Clapton and two blokes who were in The Graham Bond Organisation did not form a Supergroup. Cream were great, but they weren’t a Supergroup. Nor were Tin Machine. That was just Bowie and three session musicians.
2. The group must contain more than two people – two people is a couple, more than two is a group. This immediately strikes Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr’s duo Electronic off the register, except when Neil Tennant or Karl Bartos guested with them, but that doesn’t count because……
3. The group must have recorded an album together – any group of famouses can get together and knock out a song or two. The release of an album means the members have a vision. They’re making a statement.
4. Allied to the above condition, the album must be good. Yes, this is subjective, but put it this way: how many people still listen to Superheavy’s album?
Yup, thought not.
5. The Supergroup must be its own thing, independent of circumstance. It must purposely exist as an entity on its own terms. Therefore, a bunch of famouses who happen to be on stage together at one concert does not a supergroup make. Were this not the case, the gathering at Live Aid’s London and Philadelphia finales would render moot any future use of the term
6. The “Wow!” factor:
Search your mind and ask yourself – is anybody other than existing fans of No Doubt and/or AFI really gonna care a tuppenny curse about their new group? There’s not enough wow factor to make this a supergroup. See also The Transplants, Son Of Sam, and, yup, Audioslave.
7. The term cannot be applied retrospectively to a group – in otherwords, say there are 3 huge groups in 2017. We’ll call them Billy and The Fishwives, Terry and The Gimps, and Big Joe’s Afterparty. Now let’s presume that a few years back, Billy, Terry and Big Joe were all in a band together called Scumlick, who achieved NO success. Scumlick cannot be described as a supergroup because of the subsequent success of its individual members. Scumlick were a launchpad, and, also a bit shit. To use a real-world example, Temple Of The Dog are not a supergroup.
Assuming all the above to be true, in the history of music, by my reckoning there have only been 12 supergroups:
Blind Faith – Eric Clapton & Ginger Baker (post-Cream), Steve Winwood, Ric Grech
Crosby Stills & Nash (with or without Young) – David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Neil Young
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer
Asia – John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, Steve Downes
The Power Station – John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson
Trio – Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris
The Highwaymen – Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings
The Traveling Wilburys – Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison
The Three Tenors – Placido Domingo, José Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti
Passengers – Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton, Brian Eno
Neurotic Outsiders – John Taylor, Steve Jones, Duff McKagan, MAtt Sorum
Them Crooked Vultures – John-Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, Josh Homme
Hollywood Vampires – Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry
Glad we cleared that up.