Swervedriver – in concert at Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia -February 28, 1998 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Swervedriver to start the week. One of those bands that have gone through a veritable revolving door of personnel changes but have fortunately remained together (reforming after breaking up at the end of 1998). In concert during a U.S. tour – live in Philadelphia at the Theatre of Living Arts on February 28, 1998.
Swervedriver formed in Oxford in 1989 around core members Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge. Between 1989 and 1998, the band released four studio albums and numerous EPs and singles despite a considerable flux of members, managers, and record labels. By 1993 the band’s lineup had settled with Franklin on vocals/guitar, Hartridge on guitar, Jez Hindmarsh on drums, and Steve George on bass. They had emerged with a heavier rock sound than their shoegaze contemporaries, and over the next five years it evolved to include elements of psychedelia, classic pop, and indie rock.
Record label issues and waning interest within the group led to their split at the end of 1998. A decade later, Swervedriver reunited and toured periodically over the next five years, releasing their first new material in fifteen years with the 2013 single “Deep Wound”. They have since released two full-length albums, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You in 2015 and Future Ruins in 2019, with touring stand-ins drummer Mikey Jones and bassist Mick Quinn permanently joining the band.
The band have their roots in Oxford when schoolmates and aspiring guitarists Franklin and Hartridge along with Franklin’s older brother and vocalist, Graham, and drummer Paddy Pulzer formed the band Shake Appeal in 1984. In 1987, bass player Adrian “Adi” Vines, from Yorkshire, joined the band, and the following year they released their solitary single “Gimme Fever” through Notown Records. Shake Appeal were influenced by late ’60s garage rock bands like The Stooges and MC5, drawing similar influences from the sights and sounds of the British Leyland car factory Franklin and Hartridge walked past every day on the way to school. When influence turned to emulation, the members felt they needed to develop a sound of their own. They had meanwhile turned their attention to American alternative rock acts Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr., and subsequently were inspired “to push out the boundaries of electric guitar within a pop format.”
In 1989, after Shake Appeal disbanded, Adam Franklin composed the songs “Volcano Trash”, “Afterglow”, and “Son of Mustang Ford” (which would become Swerverdriver’s first single). The former band mates were impressed with his work and assembled at Union Street Studios in Oxford to record a demo, with Adam Franklin shifting to lead vocals and his brother singing backup. Soon thereafter, Graham Franklin and Pulzer left the band to pursue other musical interests. Growing tired of the local scene, the group had decided to head to London, and there they met drummer and Edinburgh-native Graham Bonnar, formerly of the post-punk band The Shattered Family. Before leaving Oxford, they had handed their demo to Mark Gardener of local band Ride, who in turn passed it on to Alan McGee of Creation Records. McGee signed them almost immediately after listening to the tape (while driving around downtown Los Angeles in the back of a limousine) and Swervedriver was born.
For a reminder of the band during their initial phase, crank up this Philadephia concert. The sound mix could be a lot better – the voice is drowned out, although part of that is intentional. Nonetheless, it makes for spirited listening.
Go for it.