SUPERGROUPS: How SUPER Are They? – Audioslave, Velvet Revolver and THE REST
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 4 Episode #27

ALL ABOUT IT

 

FEATURED SONG: REC – “I’m Gone” (from Parts and Labour)

 

First off, we need to agree on what makes a supergroup. There are lists based on the conventional definition that it’s a group made up of members from other groups. I’m gonna take that two steps further. STEP ONE (yes, I’ve now planted the NKOTB song in your head): The groups these people came from needed to have been famous on their own – i.e. successful & known, i.e. “super”. This can include solo careers. STEP TWO: The new group they form has to have had some measure of success & renown as well. In short, a supergroup is “a famous new group formed by members of famous old groups.”

 

This stricter definition rules out a ton of groups otherwise called “super”. Some categories that no longer apply:

  • Groups whose members were in groups no one has heard of. Example: Can anyone name one other group members of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons came from?

  • New groups almost no one has heard of or remembers. Example: We probably all know Filter, Nine Inch Nails & Stone Temple Pilots, but does anyone remember Army of Anyone?

  • Glorified side projects, – people mostly from one band, with some side dudes from other lesser known bands. Examples: GTR, A Perfect Circle, Zwan.

  • Established bands that had another famous person join in for a while. Examples: RHCP with Dave Navarro; Mars Volta with John Frusciante, Queen with Paul Rodgers.

  • Glorified solo projects – one famous musician forming a band with a bunch of non-famous people. Example: Wings.

  • Personal favorites – a new group of famous musicians you wish everyone else knew but never quite got there. Example: Tinted Windows.

I’m not saying any of these deserve less praise or respect. They’re just not really supergroups. Now that we’ve established the criteria, let’s look at a much shorter list of actual supergroups:

 

  • 1968 CSNY (The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Hollies)

  • 1969 Blind Faith (The Yardbirds, Cream, Traffic, The Spencer Davis Group)

  • 1973 Bad Company (Free, Mott the Hoople, King Crimson)

  • 1982 Asia (King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Yes, The Buggles, ELP)

  • 1984 The Power Station (Chic, Duran Duran, Robert Palmer himself)

  • 1988 Traveling Wilburys (The Beatles, ELO, Dylan, Petty, Orbison)

  • 1989 EVERY Ringo Starr All-Star Band (two-hit wonders)

  • 1990 Temple of the Dog (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, Green River)

  • 1994 Foo Fighters (Nirvana, The Germs, Sunny Day Real Estate)

  • 2001 Audioslave (Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine)

  • 2002 Velvet Revolver (Stone Temple Pilots, Guns n Roses)

  • 2004 Madvillain (MF Doom, Madlib)

  • 2006 Danger Doom (Danger Mouse, MF Doom)

  • 2009 Them Crooked Vultures (Nirvana/Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age)

  • 2010 Broken Bells (Gnarls Barkley, The Shins, Danger Mouse)

  • 2013 Run the Jewels (El-P, Killer Mike)

  • 2015 Hollywood Vampires (Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp, SO MANY GUESTS)

  • 2019 The Highwomen (Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby)

  • 2021 Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak)

 

I’m sure I’ve missed some, but this is more than a damn good start. And it includes the bands I’m talking about this week: Audioslave & Velvet Revolver.

 

One thing everyone assesses right out of the gate is whether the new group is better than the old ones. In a few cases – CSNY, Bad Company, Foo Fighters, Madvillain & Run the Jewels – the new groups ARE better. Their music can stand alone with or without their origin groups – one thing I think truly makes a supergroup super. But in almost every case above and any I’ve missed, the answer is no. Them Crooked Vultures is not better than any of the bands those people came from. Neither Broken Bells nor Hollywood Vampires.

 

And certainly not Audioslave or Velvet Revolver. Were they good bands? Yes. Did they bring something new to the conversation? To some degree, yes. Did they eclipse their old bands? Hell no. It was awesome to hear Cornell & Weiland sing again, and with such esteemed company. And there were several songs from each I really liked (“Cochise”, “Show Me How to Live” & “The Last Fight”, “Fall to Pieces”, to name just a few). But I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that the new bands never came close to the artistic achievements of Soundgarden & STP.

 

It's awesome they existed – both for the artists & for us. But they will always be footnotes. Exceptions like CSNY or Bad Company prove the rule: that supergroups on the whole are usually not so super.

 

I was in several bands before REC, including my own solo career. Members of REC have been in other bands as well. That said, none of us are famous – either before or now. So we would not make this list. Which is totally okay. Take this song with you as a reminder that even non-famous musicians can make awesome music. Plus it’s got kind of an Audioslave meets Velvet Revolver meets techno feel:

 

REC – “I’m Gone” (from Parts and Labour) https://recarea.bandcamp.com/track/im-gone

 

Do you remember Audioslave & Velvet Revolver? How about any of those other bands? Are there bands I missed or misjudged you think deserve to be on the list? Are there bands on my list you think don’t deserve to be on there? Discuss dammit!