The Late Movies: Supergroups


The term supergroup was coined in the late 1960s to describe rock bands made up of musicians that were already well known from performing in other bands or individually. (For some reason, it seems to only apply to rock bands. There are plenty of instances of the titans of jazz playing together—The Count Meets the Duke or Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane—but the term is never used). Some are one-off projects or side projects that do one or two albums and a tour before disbanding (Hindu Love Gods, Mad Season), while others take on a life of their own, have a prolonged existence and even and become the members' main project (Fantomas, the Bad Seeds). Sometimes the bloat of all that rock star ego can really make a group insufferable (Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Velvet Revolver), but sometimes supergroups are pretty awesome, too. Like these groups...

Liquid Tension Experiment
This instrumental progressive rock group features Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci and on drums and guitar, respectively, Dixie Dregs' Jordan Rudess on keyboards and King Crimson's Tony Levin on bass and Chapman stick. Here they are performing "Acid Rain" at a 2008 LA concert.


Doom/stoner metal fans have been waiting for this project to see the light of day since Scott "Wino" Weinrich ( The Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed), Al Cisneros (Om, Sleep) and Scott Kelly (Neurosis, Tribes of Neurot, Blood and Time) began kicking the idea for a new group around in 2006. When drummer Dale Crover (Melvins) joined, they finally started putting material together and released an album last fall. This is "The Architect" live in NYC last November.

The Highwaymen
Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, the fathers of "outlaw country" recorded and performed as the Highwaymen between 1985 and 1995, releasing three albums and touring the country. Here's their cover of Jimmy Webb's "Highwayman" from a 1990 show in Long Island.

Oysterhead, featuring Les Claypool (Primus) Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Stewart Copeland (The Police), was conceived to perform a single show at the 2000 New Orleans Jazz Fest. The next year, though, the group reformed to record and release The Grand Pecking Orderand go on tour. The reunited once more in 2006 to perform at Bonnaroo, which is where this footage of "Little Faces" comes from.

And here are some clips from the recording The Grand Pecking Order and their debut at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is fronted by Nick Cave (The Birthday Party) and has counted among its members Mick Harvey (Crime and the City Solution, The Birthday Party), Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten) and Warren Ellis (Dirty Three), among others. Their fourteen albums span a range of sonic territory, from hard-edged blues like "Jack the Ripper"... piano-driven ballads like "Love Letter."

You guys should know by now that I can't write about music without squeezing in a little Springsteen. While the Boss is too big for any group but the mighty E Street Band to handle, he did perform one song with a supergroup at the Grammy Awards show in 2003. The Grammys were awarded just a few months after Joe Strummer, singer-guitarist for the Clash, died at the age of 50. Springsteen, E Street Band guitarist Little Steven Van Zant, Elvis Costello, Foo Fighters singer-guitarist Dave Grohl and No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal paid tribute to Strummer with a cover of the Clash's "London Calling."

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