After the release of their debut, the number-one hit album Expecting to Fly, the Bluetones were unwillingly pushed onto the Britpop bandwagon. “I was never sure what Britpop was in the first place, to be honest,” lead singer Mark Morriss said to Paul Sexton of Billboard. “We were lumped in with so many bands we had nothing in common with, apart from the fact that we all hold guitars.” Moreover, the Bluetones, despite critical raves, have never felt like they fully belonged. “It’s because we’ve always been reluctant to follow the path,” guitarist Adam Devlin agreed in an interview with Independent’s Nick Hasted. “We’re not celebrity people. We don’t do the things other pop stars do. We get a bit of a hard time for it, too; we’d get ridiculed as awkward and dull. We can live with that. It’s just that we don’t hang around with Christ Evans, we don’t put our songs on commercials, we don’t go on compilation albums. It’s a cut-off point we’ve got. We’re not willing to whore ourselves. It comes with a bit of a price.”
Consequently, unlike so many Britpop bands, who appear to do nothing musically and still sustain the public’s interest, the Bluetones, despite making good records, had a problem maintaining their profile, largely because they never really developed a specific image.
Members include Eds D. Chesters (born on October 24, 1971; former member of Puppy Dogs From Hell, Brando, and SOHO; studied chemistry at Newcastle University before dropping out to concentrate on music), drums, percussion; Adam P. Devlin (born on September 17, 1969; former member of the Bottlegarden), six- and twelve-string guitars; Mark James Morriss (born on October 18, 1971; former member of the Bottlegarden), vocals, harmonica; Scott Edward Reginald Ilanthriy Morriss (born on October 10, 1973; former member of the Bottlegarden), bass guitar, vocals; Richard Payne (joined band in 2000; former member of Dodgy and the Unbelievable Truth), keyboards, guitar.
Formed as a quartet just outside London, England, in Hounslow, in 1994; released number-one album Expecting to Fly, 1996; released Return to the Last Chance Saloon, which entered the British charts at number 11, 1998; released Science and Nature, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Superior Quality Recordings, website: http://www.superiorqualityrecordings.co.uk Publicity company —Hall Or Nothing, 11 Poplar Mews, Uxbridge Rd., London, England W12 7JS, website: http://www.hallornothing.com General contact for mailing list— -The Bluetones, P.O. Box 3836, London, England NW3 4XF. Websites—The Bluetones Official Website: http://www.bluetones.co.uk, The Blue-tones Unofficial Homepage: http://www.bsm.ndo.co.uk/TheBluetones.
But Morriss calculated that remaining not the least bit contrived will work to the band’s advantage. “The longer people take to get a handle on us, the longer it will take for people to get bored with us truly,” he pointed out to Melody Maker in March of 1998. “I love reading Oasis and Black Grape interviews,” he added. “And all the naughtiness they get up to, I enjoy it, but we’re not that type of character. It doesn’t suit the way we look, we’re quite unassuming blokes, but no one has hit the nail on the head as far as we go.” Likewise, noted Devlin, “We’re quite keen to steer it away from our personal lives. We’re rock ’n’ roll; we just don’t advertise it.”
The Bluetones formed just outside London, England, in Hounslow, in 1994, as a foursome. Originally, the group consisted of guitarist Adam Devlin, drummer/percussionist Eds Chesters, and brothers Mark Morriss, the band’s lead vocalist and harmonica player, and Scott Morriss, the Bluetones’ bass guitarist and vocalist; all, except Chesters, played together before as the Bottlegarden, and Richard Payne, a keyboardist and guitarist, joined in 2000. “We all made a collective gamble,” Devlin, who, along with the other members, gave up their various jobs and educational pursuits to concentrate on the band, told Melody Maker in March of 1998. “We all quit what we were doing and went on the dole. We spent a good few years on the dole before we got signed. If nothing had happened, we’d have been stuck at 27 years old with no experience of anything.”
Drawing from a well of classic and modern pop/rock influences—such as Buffalo Springfield, Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, the Band, Randy Newman, Arthur Lee, Love, Scott Walker, the Smiths, and the Stone Roses—the band started playing local clubs and writing songs for their debut album. Expecting to Fly, named after an old Buffalo Springfield song, was released in the United Kingdom on February 12, 1996, on Superior Quality and, upon the strength of the band’s previously released singles, entered the British charts at number one on February 18, 1996. Suddenly, the Bluetones were thrust into the limelight, heavily touted by the music press, as well as by the influential John Peel.
The album—which included the tracks “Bluetonic,” “Slight Return,” and “Cut Some Rug,” all British-released singles—was later released by A&M Records in the United States in August of that year. However, Mark Morriss, for one, realized that the chances of breaking through to American audiences wouldn’t happen overnight. “We don’t expect to walk into America, for them to roll out the red carpet, and for us to say ‘What’s wrong with you guys? We’ve had a big song, ’” he conceded to Sexton. “That’s the wrong attitude that too many people have.” But while the group’s debut didn’t top the sales charts in America, it nonetheless received favorable critical responses. Expecting to Fly, commented Mike Flaherty in Entertainment Weekly, “arrives with all of Britpop’s requisite emphasis on strong song craft—then goes it one better. Conjuring a hybrid of once-influential forebears—the textured thoughtfulness of Aztec Camera with the hip- swaying buoyancy of the Stone Roses—accusation and introspection entwine in their sprightly, energized odes.”
After touring extensively to promote their first album, the Bluetones took a year off in 1997 to concentrate on a follow-up record, arriving the following year with Return to the Last Chance Saloon. Released in the United Kingdom on March 9, 1998, the second effort entered the British album charts at number 11 on March 15, 1998. “It’s loads different,” Chesters, who began drumming at age 11, explained in an interview with Rhythm magazine. “We felt a lot more comfortable second time round, and we were definitely wiser, stronger and more relaxed about everything.” The drummer further added, “We really needed a break after the first album, and it’s paid off. As far as the four of us were concerned though, there wasn’t any pressure—in spite of what people were saying about difficult second albums. We knew the songs would come, we just needed some time, and once we’d written a couple of good ones, we knew the album was going to be great.”
Four of the album’s songs— “Solomon Bites the Worm,” “If…,” “Sleazy Bed Track,” “4-Day Weekend,”—were released as singles in the United Kingdom, and despite speculation that the Bluetones could not match the quality of their debut, Return to the Last Chance Saloon was a hit with fans as well as critics. Although James Delingpole in a review for O magazine complained about Mark Morriss’s “unbearably whiny” vocals on the slow, sensitive numbers, the writer overall described the record as “pretty impressive—especially the guitar work, which nods variously toward the Smiths, Led Zeppelin and Radio-head.”
And while sales were not quite so impressive as the Bluetones’ debut, the slight difference never shook the band’s confidence. “I think, after the success of the first album, we were not prepared for the public gaze being fixed on us quite as much as it was,” Mark Morriss admitted to Carol Clerk and Ben Knowles of Melody Maker in December of 1999. “Now we’ve learned to live without it and drift into the background a bit. It’s just fashion. Things move on. It was really no surprise to us that things leveled off, and I’m glad they did. We’d rather play to people who really want to hear us than sell ourselves to people who aren’t interested.”
Unfortunately, the States continued to elude the Blue-tones, but they found audiences in Japan more receptive. The group’s third album, Science & Nature, hit store shelves first in Japan on April 12, 2000, and the Japanese version included a bonus track entitled “It’s a Boy.” Then the next month, on May 15, 2000, Science & Nature was released in the United Kingdom and included videos of the songs “Keep the Home Fires Burning” (a.k.a. “KTHFB”) and “Autophilia.” Both songs were previously released as singles. According to Mark Morriss, as he told Melody Maker earlier in February, Science & Nature “isn’t a major change in direction, but it’s got the most variety and it’ll give people a different perspective on the band. There’s country and western and there’s folk, there’s kind of dark reggae, but it always sounds like us.”
In addition to expanding their music beyond the confines of pop, the Bluetones also intended to spice up their live shows with visuals and film when they hit the road to support the release. “We’re putting together something that’s more of an audio-visual thing than just an audio thing,” Mark Morriss continued. “In the past, we’ve tried to eliminate the stage sets as best we can, but we haven’t taken it further than that. This time there’ll be more for you to look at than just our ugly mugs.”
Expecting to Fly, Superior Quality/A&M, 1996.
Return to the Last Chance Saloon, Superior Quality/A&M, 1998.
Science and Nature, Superior Quality/Mercury, 2000.
Billboard, March 16, 1996; February 22, 1997.
Bradford Telegraph & Argus, January 15, 1999.
Dallas Morning News, July 7, 1996, p. 7C.
Entertainment Weekly, August 23, 1996, p. 124.
Independent, February 4, 1996, p. 3; February 16, 1996, p. 13; February 23, 1996, p. 13; May 13, 1996, p. S20; May 24, 1996, pp. 2-3; March 13, 1998, p. 14; April 10, 1998, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1996.
New Musical Express, February 10, 1996; November 1998; January 29, 2000; February 19, 2000.
Q, March 1998.
Rhythm, July 1998.
Rolling Stone, September 5, 1996.
The Bluetones Unofficial Homepage, http://www.bsm.ndo.co.uk/TheBluetones (May 16, 2000).
"The Bluetones." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bluetones
"The Bluetones." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bluetones
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