By Geoffrey Rowlands
Older readers may well remember Shed Seven. The English quintet was major player during the Britpop era in the 1990s. They achieved 15 top 40 singles on the UK chart. This included six in 1996, more than any other artist during that year. They also notched up four UK top 40 albums three of which made the top ten.
Although the band never lost popularity among their fans, it was continuing problems with record labels which eventually led to Shed Seven’s demise in 2003.
“We originally signed a six-album deal with Polydor,” recalled singer, songwriter and front man Rick Witter, now 44. “That was back in 1993. Everything was fine until 1999 when the label insisted we should issue a greatest hits album.
“We thought this was far too early in our career. But we agreed to do it on the understanding that the album would also contain two new songs which would be released as singles.
“The first single, Disco Down, did really well and we were all prepared to follow it with High Hopes. The video script was approved and it was ready to go to radio when some higher authority at the label decided it would be better to re-release Going For Gold, the 1996 single which had been the biggest hit of our career.
“We put our foot down and said there was no way we were doing that. We didn’t even like the idea of a greatest hits album so we were definitely not going to rip off our fans by releasing old material as our new single.”
Shed Seven’s refusal to comply with the record company’s wishes led to ill feeling and a breakdown in their relationship which saw the band part ways with Polydor later in 1999.
A new deal was signed with Artful Records. This brought the release of their fourth studio album from which came another two hit singles. But all was not well. The band were frustrated by what they felt was a lack of promotional support from Artful combined with apparent mismanagement and delayed releases.
Things came to a head when Artful changed the single, Step Inside Your Love, from a chart-eligible format to a non-eligible four-track EP. This decision ended Shed Seven’s chances of a 15th consecutive chart hit.
“That was just about the last straw for us with Artful,” Rick stated. “We quit the label in 2002 and signed with Taste Media in 2003. That was another bad move. We released one single on Taste. This was a hit and we had an album of new songs ready and waiting to be released. But the label demanded another hit single from us before they were willing to release the album.
“By this time, we were so frustrated with record labels that we just decided to quit. We were doing a UK tour in November and December of 2003 and announced on our website that this would be our farewell tour.
“We’d always loved playing for the fans. We were determined to make the shows a celebration of our career, something for Shed Seven fans to always remember.”
When Rick walked off stage after the band’s final concert at the Barbican Centre in their hometown of York, he never imagined there would be a future for Shed Seven. Apart from drummer Alan Leach, who co-founded the Speed Quizzing company, each band member undertook some other musical enterprise although none matched the success of Shed Seven.
Four years after their supposed farewell, the band reunited for a greatest hits concert tour.
“Fans kept asking us to get back together,” Rick revealed. “There had been no arguments between us. We quit because of the record label problems. We originally planned to do 14 shows. But the demand was so great that it eventually turned into the biggest tour we’d ever done.”
With no record company dealings to worry about, the original reunion tour has since been followed by a string of tours and festival appearances with Shed Seven always performing selections from their back catalogue.
The band still get a massive buzz from playing their old material as do their fans from hearing the songs. But the fans have always hoped to one day hear new material. This desire has now been fulfilled with the release of Instant Pleasures, Shed Seven’s first album of new songs since 2001’s Truth Be Told.
“We’d been writing and secretly demoing new material for the last two years,” Rick explained. “We had more than an album’s worth of quality songs so it was difficult to cut them down to the final 12 tracks.
“We felt this was the right time to release the new songs. We’re doing our usual November and December tour so we’ll play all the old songs which the fans expect to hear and top things off with a sprinkling of new music.”
The band, guitarists Joe Johnson and Paul Banks, bassist Tom Gladwin plus Alan and Rick, may have to play more than a few of their new songs. Instant Pleasures shot straight into the UK albums chart at number eight.
“We put out the album to see if people were interested in new songs from us,” Rick remarked. “It looks like they are so we’re obviously very happy about this. We’ll see if the fans really enjoy Instant Pleasures. But if the response is as good as it seems to be, there might be another new Shed Seven album in the future.”
The recent death of emo-rapper and singer Lil Peep saddened the music world. Tributes were paid to the man born Gustav Ahr by a variety of artists ranging from Ty Dolla Sign to Sam Smith and Post Malone to Charli XCX.
Saddened as they may have been, how many of those who posted online sympathy were actually shocked. Although he always advised his fans not to take drugs, Lil Peep frequently referenced addictions to cocaine, ecstasy and the anti-anxiety prescription drug Xanax in his song lyrics and social media posts. He also spoke of suicidal thoughts on numerous occasions and said he wanted to be “the new Kurt Cobain.”
The Nirvana front man took his own life. Whether Lil Peep did likewise or not will not be determined for some weeks until toxicology results are announced.
There seems little doubt that he died from a drug overdose. It remains to be seen if this was deliberate or accidental. In the hours before his death, Instagram posts claimed Lil Peep had ingested psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana concentrate and Xanax pills. He also captioned one post with ‘When I die, you’ll love me.’
Lil Peep died in his sleep shortly before a scheduled performance in Tucson, Arizona. It was thought he was simply taking a nap prior to the show. But his manager found him unresponsive. Lil Peep was just two weeks past his 21st birthday.
His musical output consisted of one album, four mixtapes and one EP. Some of his work can be heard at (no www.) soundcloud.com/lil_peep His videos can be viewed at www.youtube.com/channel/UC0gOw4iy-6HwO01q-gA1B0Q
Lil Uzi Vert
If there is one good thing to emerge from Lil Peep’s death, it is the attention drawn to the overuse of Xanax and other prescription drugs.
Lil Uzi Vert was one of the artists who posted online tributes to Lil Peep. Real name Symere Woods, the 23-year-old Philadelphia native has announced his intention to wean himself off Xanax. The first few days have been a struggle.
After posting his desire to stop on social media, Uzi’s next post told the tale of his first day off Xanax.
“Sober 2 day, I have been shaking. I have been cursing my loved ones out and fighting. In the studio with no thoughts in my head. Teeth biting down because I just wanna be angry at something.”
Let’s give all good wishes to Lil Uzi Vert and everyone else who is trying to get off drugs.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
San Francisco rock trio Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will issue their eighth studio album, Wrong Creatures, on January 12. It is their first LP since drummer Leah Shapiro underwent life-saving surgery for chiari malformation, a rare disorder which restricts the flow of fluid between the brain and spine.
The band have already released three tracks as singles, Little Thing Gone Wild, Haunt and Question of Faith. These have now been augmented by their latest single, King of Bones.
Audio postings of all four tracks can be found in the videos section at www.youtube.com/BRMCOfficial A music video has been made to accompany Little Thing Gone Wild. This can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBjg8zSqvQc
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