A supergroup is a group/band made up of the best parts of lesser groups. The way I see it, there are three different types out there.
First, there are bands formed from the members of other successful bands. The first band to do this was Crosby, Stills and Nash. All three members had previous successful projects, most notably, David Crosby’s work with The Byrds and Stephen Stills work with Buffalo Springfield. And okay fine, Graham Nash’s work with the Hollies is nothing to shake a chip soaked in vinegar at. However, in today’s musicologic climate it’s easy to dismiss a supergroup formed in this manner as an easy cash-grab. The band forms with an instant fan base across multiple markets and in this day and age, that’s really the trick. In fact it’s hilarious to me that “Them Crooked Vultures” named themselves so fittingly. But in CS&N‘s case, you can’t blame the guys for feeling they needed to reinvent themselves given the unforgiving music landscape that was the late 60s.
On a side note, take a listen to CS&N’s “Long Time Gone”, apart from the signature vocal harmonies, it’s all pretty Black Keys.
Second, there are bands formed from artists in more obscure groups who have seen meagre success then move to create something much much bigger as a group. Reaching back in time, Cream is a great example of this type of supergroup. All three members had some success but were by no means “rock stars” when they formed. Bands like The New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene would fit into this category.
Finally there are bands who are considered supergroups after they have put out multiple platinum selling albums as well, the separate members have found success on their own. The Beatles may be the first band to be considered a supergroup in this way but calling a band a supergroup is kind of reaching. They are super because of the time they have spent together and not necessarily because they were super in a past project. Think of it like the Superfriends.
What is really interesting is just how the frequency of supergroups has been ever increasing since the late 60s. I attribute it to the sheer number of successful working musicians in the industry with deep pockets, and the diminishing attention spans of music listeners.
So back to the original question. Who is your favourite supergroup?
The twitter user @dandiddleana said “Tomahawk, I guess. Do they count?” Of course they do! Mike Patton has been at the helm of many supergroups including Praxis, Fantômas, Tomahawk and Pain Killer. Probably one of the most versatile front men ever. I mean, who tops Patton? Bowie? I dunno?
CiTR’s Luke Meat suggested Superconductor is a supergroup, fronted by Carl Newman (A.C. Newman, The New Pornographers). There is this weird period in the late 80s through the early 00s where bands who pre-dated myspace or the internet altogether and didn’t have wide-spread distro deals kind of have no internet history. Superconductor is one of these bands (their Last.fm site says they released their records on 8-track – case in point). So I do not know if this band fits into the supergroup category. Whatever the case, I just typed super a lot in this paragraph.
Back to the twitter, @ironkeith said his favourite supergroup was Damn Yankees then a winky face, which, while certainly a supergroup, I suspect that @ironkeith’s actual favourite supergroup is Tinted Windows.
The twitter user @hipsterdesigner hit close to home when he suggested The Travelling Wilburys as his top supergroup. If Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Chopin got together and dropped a few Fugues on 180 gram wax it would about half as cool as the Travelling Wilburys. Though easily one of my favourite supergroups, the Wilburys fall short only because they chose to make another record after the death of Roy Orbison and kind of cheapened the whole thing.
My favourite supergroup has to be the Dirty Mac. Put together for the Rolling Stones’ TV special “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” by John Lennon, they played one song. Yes ONE SONG. They played “Yer Blues” off the White Album and then never played again. Nope. Not ever. I swear. Okay fine, they backed up Yoko Ono for a song too which almost cheapens it enough to discount it BUT it is an amazing line up when you prefer to have Keith Richards to play bass for you.
Supergroups, supergroups, supergroups. That’s all I got. Follow us on the twitter for all the goods @newbsradio !