Del Amitri

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The original Del Amitri line-up as seen on the cover of Melody Maker magazine in February 1985
Del Amitri are a British pop-rock guitar band, formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1982. They came together after teenager Justin Currie placed an advert in the window of a music store asking for people who could play to contact him, and the band was formed with the original line-up of Currie (bass and vocals), Iain Harvie (lead guitar), Bryan Tolland (guitar) and Paul Tyagi (drums). Currie and Harvie were the only members of the band to remain present throughout its history Ė they were also the main songwriters of the group. The name ĎDel Amitrií is often reported as being Greek for Ďfrom the wombí, but this is not correct. There have been many suggestions as to what the name really means, but it seems likely that it was simply a collection of syllables that appealed to Currie.

The group is regarded by both fans and reviewers as one of the best British groups to have recorded during the 1990s, although their success sales- and chart-wise has not always reflected this. They are often mentioned as a kind of back-handed compliment to be one of the best bands never to have had a top ten hit in the UK singles chart, although they have had several top ten albums in Britain.

After becoming popular on the local music scene in Glasgow and having demo material played on popular DJ John Peelís show on BBC Radio 1, the band broke through in 1985 when they were signed by Chrysalis Records, who released their eponymous debut album the same year. The band also appeared on the front cover of influential weekly music magazine Melody Maker and supported The Smiths on tour, but despite this exposure neither the album nor its singles were a success.

The band were dropped by Chrysalis, but continued to work and play together, touring the USA in 1986 on a tour that was financed partly by themselves and partly by their small but enthusiastic fanbase. The time they spent working on new material proved worthwhile as they were eventually signed up again in 1988, this time by A&M Records. However, that same year they underwent their first change of personnel as Tolland decided to leave the band and was replaced by newcomer Mick Slaven.

During the recording of the new album, which eventually came to be released as Waking Hours in 1990, the bandís line-up was further augmented by the arrival of multi-instrumentalist Andy Alston, who outside of Currie and Harvie has proven to be the longest-serving member of the bandís line-up. Slaven proved to be one of the shortest-serving members, however, as he left the band before the album had even been released, and his place was taken by David Cummings, whose photo appears on the record sleeve. Tyagi also bowed out after the recording of the record, and on the subsequent tour his place was taken by Brian McDermott.

Despite these fluctuations in their line-up, Waking Hours proved to be Del Amitriís breakthrough, reaching No. 6 in the UK album charts and also providing them with their biggest ever single chart hit at home when the iconic Nothing Ever Happens rose to No. 11. They also gained some mainstream exposure abroad for the first time, as Waking Hours was a success in several territories with the single Kiss This Thing Goodbye flirting with the lower reaches of the US Billboard Chartís Top 40.

The Currie / Harvie / Alston / Cummings / McDermott line-up proved to be a stable and successful one for the group, as they stayed together for the recording of the follow-up album Change Everything, which was released in 1992 and became the bandís biggest ever chart success, reaching No. 2 in the UK, being held off top spot only by The Best of Lionel Richie. The single Always the Last to Know was another Top 20 UK hit, peaking at No. 13, and again provided them with an entry into the Billboard Chart Top 40 in the US. Their increasing success in that country led to an appearance on the popular David Letterman show there, and their tours across the world saw them playing to increasingly larger and more loyal audiences.

The popularity in the USA saw them being invited to play at the Woodstock '94 anniversary festival, although they were forced to do so without McDermott who had decided to leave the band, necessitating their first line-up change since the beginning of the decade. At Woodstock they played with Ashley Soan on drums, but he was not available to record the album with them, so in the studio they played with World Party drummer Chris Sharrock guesting on drums.

The resulting album, Twisted, was released in 1995 and peaked at No. 3 in the UK. From the resulting tour onwards, Soan re-joined the band as a permanent member, in time to see the single Roll to Me, only a moderate hit in the UK where it reached No. 22, peak at No. 9 in the US charts. This was an incredible feat for the band, especially during an era when British acts were finding success in America notoriously difficult. There was less good news however when Cummings decided, at the conclusion of their American tour, to leave the group, wanting to move more into scriptwriting where he subsequently enjoyed success as a member of the team behind popular BBC sketch show The Fast Show. Cummings had attended the University of East Anglia with Fast Show mainstays Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson in the early 1980s, and in 1995 Del Amitri had appeared in a Fast Show sketch.

Cummings was replaced by Jon McLoughlin, who toured with the band and played on their next album, Some Other Suckerís Parade (1997), which was another top ten hit in the UK, reaching No. 6. The band found it harder to consolidate on their previous successes in the US, however, and lost out on more airplay at home when they took the decision to withdraw the albumís planned third single Medicine in September 1997, over the fear that the lyrics could be interpreted as a critique of the then recently deceased Diana, Princess of Wales. Following the recording of the album, both McLoughlin and Soan had left the band, causing yet further disruption, and they were replaced on tour and on subsequent recordings by Kris Dollimore (guitars) and Mark Price (drums).

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The 1997-2002 Del Amitri line-up on stage at the Guildhall in Southampton on May 16 2002.
It was to be five years before Del Amitri released another album, although they were busy in 1998, recording the official anthem for the Scottish World Cup squad, Donít Come Home Too Soon, which at No. 15 in the charts gave them their third biggest UK hit and their last Top 20 entry to date. They also released their best of album, Hatful of Rain, which was a No. 5 hit in the UK album charts and was accompanied by a new track, Cry to Be Found, which reached No. 40.

The best of album had been released by Mercury, who took over the bandís contract after A&M had gone out of business. It was Mercury who released what is to date the bandís final album, Can You Do Me Good?, in the spring of 2002, which the band backed up with a successful UK tour. Even though despite their time away from the public eye, both album and single reached the top forty, sales were not as high as Mercury had wanted and later in the year the group were dropped from the label.

The current status of the band is something of a mystery. Although there had been no official word of them splitting up, it is believed that Dollimore and Price have left the band. The remaining members may or may not be currently working under the name Uncle Devil Show.


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