Hype - Springs Eternal

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Aggressive PR is an integral part of the music industry - but what happens when there's no talent to support it?

Hype is fun. Everyone that worked in the music industry has been involved in it in some way, since acts sometimes need a kick-start to get the audience in front of them. Highlights of my hyping skills include talking up Kevin Shields to be a Brian Eno-like genius (when in fact you could put a monkey in the studio with Alan Moulder and make it sonically interesting), and the Boo Radleys, who were signed to demonstrate to Kevin that I could take anybody doing "his" music and make it a number one. However, hype can go horribly wrong. Would you put your life in the hands of these rock'n'roll bands?

The Roaring Boys

In 1985, these pseudo-Roxy Music types received the biggest advance for a new band that decade. Their only single House of Stone then failed to chart. However, that didn't stop the record company from producing a documentary about the band and heavily plugging them as a tip for the top. As always, history repeats itself: eleven years later the Melody Maker championed a new Romo movement (complete with manifesto!) lead by the equally atrocious Orlando.

Sandi Thom

You had honest-to-goodness propulsion on the internet for the Artic Monkeys, Lily Allen and the Libertines. Then you had Sandi Thom, the punk rocker with flowers in her hair. That single, co-written by her manager Ian Brown, was originally released on a fishing magnate's label to little acclaim. So Thom started a series of webcasts called 21 Nights in Tooting, where she performed live nightly because she couldn't "afford" to tour. It quickly translated into PR that morphed into a record contract with Sony. Yet a novelty song is a novelty song and Thom couldn't maintain her success.

The Datsuns

During the great garage rock revival of the early 00s, the Datsuns were hailed as the new Led Zeppelin. When their debut album finally came out, the NME review praised its utter genius but the rest world ignored it. See also the Vines. NME once did a PowerPoint presentation pointing out how rock'n'roll they were, but failed to notice their Nirvana-lite lack of substance.

Gay Dad

Gay Dad were led by Cliff Jones, a former journalist for Mojo and the Face. Originally, a psychedelic band produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, they abruptly decided to become pop stars by welding Jonathan King's glam rock moves to the more commercial face of arty post-punk, the result being an absolute mess. Armed with their infamous Pete Saville-designed "walking man" logos and some rent-a-quotes from Cliff, they were the last of the mediocre bands of the 90s to get a cocaine supernova record deal (the others being half the cast and crew of Damon Albarn's TV show Britpop Now). Of course, Leisure Noise was claimed to be the greatest debut album, like, ever in all the magazines, but the public disagreed and it flopped.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik

Sigue Sigue Sputnik mastermind Tony James wanted the band to be the greatest rock'n'roll swindle ever. To this end, adverts were sold in between tracks, soundbites were spewed about transsexuals and "ultraviolence", and an 80s cyber-punk-cocaine look was devised - all of which were considered more important than the music. Fantastic - but the debut album died on the vine. Sputnik's second album cover had the slogan "This time it's music". Since nobody cared about the music in the first place, it condemned them to the bargain bin. It wasn't until Fischerspooner signed for £1m to Ministry - nearly bankrupting it in the process -that people suddenly remembered them.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Now the internet is such well-trodden territory, death by blog-hype is becoming de rigueur. Both Beirut and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had been called the indie second coming, and enforced an A&R policy of "Sign anything above an eight in Pitchfork" that caused certain bands to be picked up and dispensed with very quickly. Beirut's poor live performances were his death knell while Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's second album was (perhaps unfairly) dismissed.


Having won the NME unsigned band contest, Utrasound caused a hype war within the music industry (Nude records eventually got their signatures). They then took a year off to record their painfully awful double album Everything Picture, before breaking up to terrible reviews.


Sometimes record companies overspend on their acts . Other times, record companies really overspend on their act. Daniel Miller nearly bankrupted Mute in his quest to establish Goldfrapp as international superstars. Unfortunately, nobody told Miller that Supernature, their last album, only had one good song - Ooh La La.

Moby Grape

Moby Grape was the invention of Alexander Lee "Skip" Spence and an ex-manager of Jefferson Airplane, Spence's former band. The band was put together in order to make Spence a star and the record company took the hype to almost surreal levels, painting elephants pink, releasing every song as a single and spend-spend-spending on their debut album. The band managed one passable effort after their debut before disappearing completely from the musical landscape.

© Words – Alan McGee (Original article appeared in The Guardian – Used by Kind permission)

Read 3032 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:36
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