Friday, 13 July 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: The Soup Dragons - I'm Free

Must be hard being in a band whose biggest hit was a cover version. But that was the fate handed to baggy combo The Soup Dragons, who formed in Glasgow back in 1985 and who were apparently named after a character in children's animation series The Clangers. After the band split, lead singer Sean Dickson formed The High Fidelity, a group who I was very familiar with in the late 90's, and recently I noticed guitarist Jim McCulloch's name in the songwriting credits to Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's brilliant 'Hawk' album, on which McCulloch also played guitar on a few tracks. 

The line up was Sean Dickson (vocals, lead guitar), Jim McCulloch (guitar, second voice) who replaced Ian Whitehall and Sushil K. Dade (bass). The original drummer, Ross A. Sinclair, left the group after the first proper album, This Is Our Art, to pursue a career in art, and was replaced by Paul Quinn. Most of their songs were written by Dickson, while some were co-written with McCulloch.

The band signed to The Subway Organization in early 1986 and their first proper single (The Sun in the Sky EP) was Buzzcocks-inspired pop punk. The band's big breakthrough came with their second single for Subway, "Whole Wide World", which reached #2 on the UK Independent Chart in 1986. The band were signed by Jaz Summers' label Raw TV with further indie hits (and minor UK Singles Chart hits) following during 1987 and 1988. Over the course of six singles they gradually developed a more complex rock guitar sound, which culminated in their first album proper 'This Is Our Art', now signed to major label Sire Records. After the single 'Kingdom Chairs' failed to chart, the band were dropped by Sire and returned to Raw TV.

In the year following 'This Is Our Art' their sound underwent a change from an indie rock sound, to the rock-dance crossover baggy sound, popular at the time with the release of the album 'Lovegod'. This change mirrored that of fellow Scottish band Primal Scream, and can be attributed to the rise of the ecstasy-fueled acid house rave scene in the UK. In 1990, they released their most successful hit single in the UK, 'I'm Free', an up-tempo cover of a Rolling Stones song with an added toasting overdub by reggae star Junior Reid, which reached number five. Subsequent albums continued the rock-dance crossover sound. In 1992 they enjoyed their biggest U.S. hit with "Divine Thing" which reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit number three on the Modern Rock chart and its video was nominated by MTV as one of the year's best, though beaten by Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The band split in 1995 with Quinn joining fellow Bellshill band, Teenage Fanclub. Sushil K. Dade formed the experimental post rock group Future Pilot A.K.A., and singer Sean Dickson formed The High Fidelity. Jim McCulloch joined fellow Glaswegians Superstar, formed musical collective Green Peppers, wrote and recorded with Isobel Campbell and formed the folk group Snowgoose."

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