Posts Tagged With: Saturday Night Live

Pure gold: Corrosion of Conformity

DRACOCRyan Adams may not play in his native state of North Carolina anymore (as we’ve covered), but he definitely remembers and represents where he came from. For example, there’s this Instagram photo he posted a few days ago, in which he’s wearing a T-shirt bearing the classic spiked-skull logo for Raleigh hardcore legends Corrosion of Conformity.

COC has been around since the early 1980s, becoming enough of a thrash-metal trademark to inspire a 2010 “Saturday Night Live” sketch starring a middleaged band called “Crisis of Conformity.” They were one of the main reasons that Ryan’s Patty Duke Syndrome bandmate Brian Walsby was inspired to move to Raleigh in the mid-’80s and still pretty much ruled the town at the time Ryan himself arrived from Jacksonville in the early ’90s. And COC is still at it all these years later, with a tour opening for Lamb of God on this year’s schedule.

Despite never having anything like a mainstream “hit,” COC stands as a great example of how staying power is what really counts over the long haul. The band’s best-selling album, Deliverance, peaked at just No. 155 on the Billboard 200 album-sales chart after it was released in the fall of 1994. And yet Deliverance has never stopped selling, to the point that it’s very close to reaching a very significant milestone.

I recently checked in on Deliverance‘s U.S. sales figures via Nielsen Soundscan, and it now stands at 499,000 copies — within just 1,000 copies of earning a gold record for half-a-million copies sold. So sometime in 2016, it should become official.

Somehow, COC earning a gold record before Ryan seems right and just. I expect Ryan himself would agree.

ADDENDUM (10/15/2016): A piece of long-ago COC history from 1984.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Backsliding away

Back in the mid-1990s, Whiskeytown was hardly the only great alternative-country band on the scene. There was the aforementioned Kenny Roby’s 6 String Drag, as well as the Backsliders — dear Lord, THE BACKSLIDERS — who could give any band on the planet a run for their money on a good night. They were a bit older and more grizzled than a lot of their fresh-faced peers in the Triangle, but the Backsliders were just so damn good that they inspired awe far and wide.

As good as they were, however, the Backsliders rivaled Whiskeytown when it came to bad interpersonal vibes between their co-leaders, Chip Robinson and Steve Howell. Oil and water, Hatfields and McCoys, Tar Heels and Wolfpack — whatever metaphor suits ya, they just did not mix.

“Those guys,” Backsliders bassist Danny Kurtz once told me, “are both their own worst enemies.”

Commercial success might have been enough to keep the Backsliders together, but it was not to be. After 1996’s brilliant Throwing Rocks at the Moon (produced with great aplomb by Dwight Yoakam guitarist Pete Anderson), Howell left the band. And while that wasn’t a mortal blow, Howell did take a lot of the Backsliders’ cool country flavor with him. Robinson carried on with replacements, releasing 1998’s still-good-but-not-as-great Southern Lines; neither album sold, however, so that was that.

(ADDENDUM: Producer Eric Ambel says of Southern Lines that, “90 percent of that record was cut with Howell, Chip, Brad, Danny and Jeff. Changes happened before the record was released with one song getting re-cut and a couple others overdubbed; but the bulk of that record is the original band.”)

The Backsliders dissolved, and Kurtz and lead guitarist Brad Rice wound up in one of the umpteen late-’90s versions of Whiskeytown. Rice later played with Ryan in various incarnations, including the Pinkhearts. He was Ryan’s lead guitarist on “Saturday Night Live” in 2001; and as Rice told me when I interviewed him for “Losering,” he was just starting a guitar solo at the 2004 show in Liverpool where Ryan fell off the stage and broke his wrist. Brad has done plenty more sideman work since then, including a long stretch with Keith Urban a few years back.

Robinson and Howell kept busy with bands and projects of their own, all of them good — especially Robinson’s terrific  solo album Mylow — but neither was as good apart as they had been together. In 2003, they did reunite to play a benefit show for Alejandro Escovedo (who was ailing and without health insurance, a sadly common situation in the music business nowadays). They were still great and it felt as if no time at all had gone by, but it was a one-off…

…Until now. Saturday night, four-fifths of the classic mid-’90s Backsliders lineup (everyone except Brad Rice) will play as the Howell/Robinson Quartet at Slim’s in Downtown Raleigh. It’s another benefit, this one for the Inspirality Elder Project; and I’m told it’s the first time the co-leaders have spoken since that 2003 reunion.

This will probably be yet another one-off with no followup, the Backsliders scattering to their separate corners afterwards. But hey, I can dream.

ADDENDUM (9/30/12): I was otherwise occupied Saturday night, but multiple witness reports say that Backsliders drummer Jeff Dennis went up to Chip’s microphone toward the end of their set and hollered, “David Menconi oughtta write a book about THAT shit!”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ben Folds Five: Chapel Hill, represent!

I think one reason I was able to write this book so quickly was that I’d already been writing chunks of it for 20 years, kind of. Not specifically for “Losering,” of course. But Ryan emerged from the Triangle music scene, which I’ve been covering for the newspaper since the early 1990s.

That gave me a front-row seat to watch a lot of very cool things from close range, like the improbable rise of Ben Folds Five. The trio emerged in the mid-1990s as a genuine oddity, a three-piece pop band with piano as centerpiece instrument. I wrote a bunch of stories and reviews about them for the N&O, as well as a short feature for Billboard magazine when their debut album Ben Folds Five came out in 1995.

Like everyone else, I had no idea just how huge they were going to be back then. But danged if they didn’t go and get enormous in 1997-98, with a platinum album and the first “Saturday Night Live” appearance in local-music history. Somewhere in there, Folds also found time to contribute piano overdubs to Whiskeytown’s never-released 1998 album Forever Valentine.

Ben Folds Five ended abruptly in 2000, citing burnout as the reason for disbanding. But the trio of Ben Folds, Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge is back together, with their first new studio album of this century. You’ll find details of that, and also a 2008 story previewing a one-off reunion show they played that year in Chapel Hill, here.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.