What? Isn’t the Beatles a supergroup???
In the late 1960s, the term supergroup was coined to describe a rock music group whose performers are already famous from having performed individually or in other groups.
In some cases, an act will later be referred to as a supergroup when multiple members from said group end up securing individual fame later on. Supergroups are often short-lived, lasting only for an album or two, although this is not always the case. They are sometimes formed as side projects that are not intended to be permanent, while other times can become the primary project of the band members’ careers.
Sorry…Did I put you to sleep?
Click on the Audio link below to hear what happened with a couple members once the Beatles broke up and moved on…
Hey…did you know that Journey started out as a Santana splinter group, dedicated to performing portentous art rock instead of radio-friendly AOR?
(For those who might not know…AOR = Album Oriented Rock)
The band was masterminded in 1973 by Santana manager Herbie Herbert, who coaxed vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon away from Carlos, bassist Ross Valory and rhythm guitarist George Tickner out of psych outfit Frumious Bandersnatch, then corralled journeyman drummer Aynsley Dunbar (ex-Mothers, Retaliation, Jeff Beck Group, etc.) into the fold. And, while Journey’s first three albums didn’t lack for the occasional, muso-pleasing highlight, the group didn’t truly become ‘super’ in the commercial sense until sole survivors Schon and Valory brought in new singer Steve Perry towards the end of the decade, ushering the arena-conquering second phase of their career.
How about Asia?
Boasting four egos so large not even a continent-sized name seemed big enough to contain them, Asia assembled the considerable talents of reformed prog rockers, vocalist/bassist John Wetton (King Crimson, Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash and others), guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), keyboardist Geoff Downes (Yes, The Buggles) and drummer Carl Palmer (the ‘P’ in ELP, Atomic Rooster, etc.). Together, they proceeded to celebrate surviving the ravages of punk rock with some relatively ‘light entertainment,’ in the shape of sleek, bombastic ‘80s AOR. A stunning departure from their shared, overwrought musical past, the quartet’s blockbuster 1982 debut took off like a shot, on the strength of several arena rock hit singles and music videos eagerly replayed again and again on the nascent MTV. But they almost as quickly disintegrated upon reentry into the stratosphere, leaving fans coughing in a cloud of debris and hubris for decades thereafter – suffice to say that two competing versions of the band are currently on the road.
And Derrick & The Dominoes – bad-ass session men like drummer Jim Gordon (Beach Boys, Everly Brothers, and countless others), keyboardist Bobby Whitlock (a former Stax regular) and bassist Carl Radle (Delaney, Bonnie & Friends) lending their considerable talents, alongside some red-headed dude on slide guitar named ‘Skydog’ (er, Duane Allman!), there was no chance in hell of that happening. Heck, even the producer in charge of 1970’s ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’ – recording technology pioneer Tom Dowd – added some more ‘super’ to this super bunch; and while ‘Layla’ also proved to be yet another one-off LP (albeit a double) and no Dominoes tour ever took place, that curious bogus named still reverberates louder down the years than many, non-invented monikers in rock.
What band has been considered THE FIRST supergroup…?
Cream. Formed in 1966, the original ‘power trio’ literally comprised ‘the cream’ of Swinging London’s instrumentally-accomplished musical elite, having been conceived as a custom-built vehicle for none other than ‘GOD’ – as former Yardbirds and Bluesbreaker guitarist Eric Clapton had by then been anointed – and Graham Bond Organization alums Jack Bruce (vocalist, songwriter and bassist extraordinaire) and Ginger Baker (a versatile drummer as proficient with rock and R&B as he was jazz and other , more exotic styles). Over the course of just three years and four, almost universally acclaimed albums (the first and last had their flaws, but second and third efforts, ‘Disraeli Gears’ and ‘Wheels of Fire,’ remain utterly essential), Cream would also go on to define virtually all of the chart-topping highs (thanks to timeless singles like ‘Sunshine of your Love’ and ‘Badge,’ etc.) and self-indulgent lows (see their seemingly endless, ego-driven on-stage jams and solo sections) of the supergroup life cycle, plus every triumph and pitfall in between.
Oh and Yes…George and Ringo also had their own Supergroups: George’s group – The Traveling Wilburies. consisting of members Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and George Harrison.
George Harrison first mentioned the Traveling Wilburys during a radio interview with Bob Coburn on the Rockline radio station in February 1988. When asked what he planned to do as a follow-up for his Cloud Nine album, George replies: “What I’d really like to do next is… to do an album with me and some of my mates… a few tunes, you know. Maybe The Traveling Wilburys… it’s this new group I got: it’s called the Traveling Wilburys, I’d like to do an album with them and later we can all do our own albums again.”
“Wilbury” was a slang term first used by Harrison during the recording of Cloud Nine with Jeff Lynne. Referring to recording errors created by some faulty equipment, Harrison jokingly remarked to Lynne, “We’ll bury ‘em in the mix”. Thereafter, they used the term for any small error in performance and the term was used again when the group were together. Harrison suggested “The Trembling Wilburys” as the group’s name; instead, Lynne suggested “Traveling”, with which the group agreed.
And Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band with members: Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren (From the E Street Band, and Crazy Horse), Clarence Clemons, Dr. John, Rick Danko (The Band), Garth Hudson (The Band), Levon Helm (The Band), Jim Keltner (Well-sought after session player), Zak Starkey (Nepotism at it’s finest with Ringo’s son but he’s worked with Oasis, and The Who on their Quadrophenia tour among other bands)