|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,
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
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.
Peel, the barometer of all things cool, quickly picked up on the band and
gave "LA Rain" a lot of air play.
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.
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
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
The Rose of Avalanche Line Up #2
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
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