The Rose of Avalanche

Rose of Avalanche Biography

 

Part 1: The Formative Years

The Rose of Avalanche were founded by Leeds school friends Phil Morris, Paul James Berry and Alan Davis. From an early age the trio hung out together, skipping school, listening to music and making plans to form their own band. Many of these early influences were American bands like Hendrix, MC5, The Stooges and Lou Reed, and these influences would be directly referenced in the bands song writing and Phil's novel, if a little odd, decision to sing in a mock American style accent.

The name for the band was chosen to represent the band�s music - the "rose" for the beauty and the "avalanche" representing the power.

Although specific date information is sketchy, working backwards it seems these plans were put into motion around 1984. 

The initial line up of Morris / Berry / Davis wrote the first batch of songs that would establish the band as one of the hottest upcoming acts in the UK Indie scene. These songs would make up the bulk of the tracks appearing on the bands first four singles released between '85 and '86.

The Rose of Avalanche Line Up #1

Promotional Shot From Parkside Shivers

Phil Morris: Vocals

Paul James Berry: Guitars

Alan Davis: Bass

 

By their own admission they were young, naive, and still learning their craft. However right from the off they portrayed a self assured swagger and belief in their potential.

Paul noted of this early period: "There was no calculated master plan like there is with some bands, we were just young and naive and we were really into what we were writing. Especially the first 3 of us. The Early stuff we thought could be mega big. The biggest influence for me personally was Alan (the first bass player) we used to have a really cool rapport. We didn�t just get things and slap them together, we tried to, I don�t know, make a spiritual thing out of it."

Their first major step was contributing two songs to a compilation album, called "Parkside Shivers", released by Leeds Independent Label (LIL). These tracks were "LA Rain" and "American Girls".

At this point the lads were only 18 / 19 years old, but the maturity of the song writing and the lyrical theme's being explored portrayed an experienced band delivering a finely tuned slab of sleazy, guitar driven rock, belying their actual years.

The reaction to the band off the back of this initial exposure was sudden and overwhelmingly positive.

John Peel, the barometer of all things cool, quickly picked up on the band and gave "LA Rain" a lot of air play.

"LA Rain" was quickly released as a 12" single in its own right, backed with "Rise To The Groove" and "Conceal Me". For a full review of this single click here. Off the back of the Peel exposure and the growing buzz, "LA Rain" reached Number 1 in the UK Independent Charts. LA Rain - 1st Single

Whilst in the studio recording "LA Rain", the band felt that it needed a little something extra. A classically trained guitar player, Glenn Shultz, was working at the Parkside Studio's and The Rose asked him to play some 12 string guitar on "LA Rain". Impressed with how quickly Glenn slotted into the vibe the band were trying to create, he was asked to join as a full time member.

This was a landmark move for the band, with both a positive and a negative side. Glenn was older and technically much more proficient that the other members of the band. Glenn's advanced playing and penchant for the "solo" would come to define The Rose sound for the next 5 years, however this did deviate the band from their original aims, and did not allow them to mature into their own style at their own pace.

Paul commented: "I was told by a lot of people at the time it was a big mistake, but a really liked Glenn as a person, but I knew he was too advanced for us, and I felt we didn�t evolve at our own pace. Like I don�t know, a band like U2, their early stuff like Boy was pretty simple, and their later stuff is still pretty simple but there�s a definite progression. If we�d have spent 5 or 6 years, it would have changed , we�d have all got better as musicians, and we would have found our own identity. Instead we got someone in too soon, and too good. We were one chord and take over the world - totally."

Glenn himself also recognised the potential for tension: "I think that, possibly, I was a kind of a shortcut � by being there and having more experience the sound evolved somewhat faster but I think that they�d have got to a similar place without me eventually, but it could be argued that I was a detrimental influence (and not just musically!!) because I brought a more standard, �old school� rock sound in which took them slightly away from the original direction.  Some of the very early songs had changes and ideas that I found quite bizarre and left field.  That kind of thing vanished almost totally"

The Rose of Avalanche Line Up #2

Vocals: Phil Morris  
Guitar: Paul James Berry  
Bass: Alan Davis  
  Guitar: Glenn Schultz  

Rose Ver 2, with Glenn Shultz joining

The Rose were invited to record a Peel session (recorded on 28th May 1985) and things were buzzing in the Rose camp.

So very quickly this young band found itself in the enviable, if slightly bizarre, situation of having released a Number 1 Indie single and recorded a Peel Session, and all without playing a single gig!

The Rose now had to promote themselves by getting on the road and establishing a live following. A series of sporadic gigs were arranged from the summer of 1985 through most of 1986. They didn't play any consecutive dates in a tour format, so were often travelling up and down the M1 to play one off gigs in London.

Following up "LA Rain" was the second single "Goddess" (click for full review). This again replicated the success of "LA Rain" by going to Number 1 in the UK Indie Charts, and being named as "Single Of The Week" in Sounds.

So although the band were basking in the success of their recorded output, they were still very much finding their feet playing live. With the great level of expectation off the back their chart success, they were expected to deliver from the off. Music press reviews of their early live shows referenced "wooden" performances, which I guess was understandable considering their age and experience levels. 

The whole American / 60's Rock thing also fixated the music press. Rather than wanting to judge the band for what they were, journalists often lazily pigeon holed the band into one of two camps...Firstly the Hippy / 60's revival that was happening in the mid 80's, due to Phil's mock accent, and hair length / style of the band (or lack of!), or secondly the Goth tag due to them hailing from Leeds, using a drum machine, and having swirly art covers. (Note the band was NOT named after The Sisters of Mercy's drum machine!)

Although frustrating, it is understandable that the music press did this, after all there are very few truly genre shifting bands that come along. I think the band were a little naive in their dealings with the press, and rather than using them to their advantage to push what they were doing to a wider audience (which Wayne Hussey of The Mission was adept at), The Rose came across as awkward and obtrusive in many dealing with the press. Again, this is perhaps reflective of their age and the naivety of thinking the music should do the talking. However this coupled with the "wooden" live reviews, perhaps started to undermine the initial positivity of their recorded output.

1985 closed out on a high with "LA Rain" being named at #26 in John Peels annual "Festive 50".

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