The story begins with the formation in 1984 of a band called Shake Appeal in the student town of
Oxford , England. Shake Appeal was the name of a Stooges song and also a Stooges pink vinyl
bootleg EP. Unsurprisingly, Shake Appeal's primary influence was Iggy and the Stooges. They
picked up on the whole Detroit petrolhead vibe and developed a healthy obsession with American
car culture, although few of them actually owned cars. The line up was Graham Franklin (vocals),
Adam Franklin (guitar), Paddy Pulzer (drums) and Adrian "Adi" Vynes (bass). The band went through
a couple of bass players before finding Adi.
Shake Appeal recorded a single in 1988. It was called "Gimme Fever" and it came out on Notown
Records. Around 1988, Shake Appeal discovered the new American sounds of the likes of Dinosaur
Jr. and Sonic Youth. They took these new influences on board and began to evolve a new sound.
Adam says at the time they were "trying to push out the boundaries of electric guitar within a
In 89, they recorded a demo including "Son of Mustang Ford" and "Afterglow". Adam sang, and
Graham shifted to backing vocals. Shortly after the recording, Graham left to do dance music, and
Paddy left, eventually to join the group Jack. By this time, there wasn't much left, personnel or
sound-wise, of the original Shake Appeal, so upon finding two new members, the band changed its
name to Swervedriver.
Swervedriver's initial line up was Adam (guitar, vocals), Adi (bass, vocals), Jimmy Hartridge
(guitar) and Graham Bonner (drums). Adam and Adi were (apparently) the principal songwriters,
although group compositions have always been credited to "Swervedriver".
Swervedriver combined the petrolhead rock n roll aesthetic of the Stooges with the experimental
noise of their new-found influences, to produce a song called "Son of Mustang Ford". The song's
escapist lyrics suggested the influence of authors like Hunter S. Thompson ("Fear and Loathing
in Las Vegas") and J. G. Ballard ("Crash"). An obvious love of car-based American films also made
itself known for the first of many times ("the radio still plays / amongst the mangled metal
frames" - a reference to the final scene of John Carpenter's "Christine").
They sent the "Son of Mustang Ford" demo (as recorded by Shake Appeal) to Creation Records, then
home of My Bloody Valentine and former home of the Jesus and Mary Chain. The demo went unheard
until Creation boss Alan McGee put it in the tape deck of his limo whilst cruising around
(appropriately) inner city L. A. He signed the group almost immediately.
The "Son of Mustang Ford" E.P. was released in 1990 to widespread critical acclaim. It was
followed later that year by the "Rave Down" E.P. Swervedriver had a mixed response from the
notorious British tabloid music press - the recordings were recognised as being excellent, but
the band itself was afforded little of the hype given those bands who fit more easily into the
"shoegazer" pigeonhole. The Melody Maker's Everett True made Swervedriver the target of numerous
slaggings, as he had just "discovered" Hole and proclaimed Riot Grrls the future of rock.
Swervedriver, a great rock band who were almost the complete opposite of Hole, obviously didn't
fit into his plans. The U.K. metal press, on the other hand, were happy to embrace Swervedriver
as Britain's answer to all the new Seattle groups. The first few Swervedriver records charted in
both the Indie and Metal charts.
In 1991, Swervedriver released the "Sandblasted" E.P. and their first album "Raise". In an
unusual move for a Creation band in the early 90's, they included all 3 A sides from the singles
on the L.P. Having already toured the UK extensively, Swervedriver embarked on a tour of North
America in two legs - one supporting Soundgarden and one supporting Ride, reflecting their
unusual crossover audience.
At the end of the U.S leg of the tour, en route to Vancouver for the band's first Canadian gig
(Feb 6, 1992), Graham Bonner announced that he was going out to get a sandwich and didn't come
back. Graham had apparently had some kind of breakdown and done a runner. He managed to enter
Canada before the border police caught him and dumped back at the feet of his bandmates. He
refused to speak to anyone but Jimmy. At the end of the conversation, Swervedriver had a vacancy
for a drummer. Graham remained in the States and now plays in a band in San Francisco.
They finished the tour with a ring-in (Danny Ingram from Washington band Strange Boutique) and
arrived back in the U.K. amidst rumours of an impending split.
In 1992, Swervedriver briefly debunked the rumours with the stunning "Never Lose that Feeling"
E.P.(apparently recorded before Graham left - i.e. before the start of the American tour). The
E.P. was well received in both the U.S. and the U.K., but nothing was done to capitalise on the
record's momentum because as soon as it came out, Adi Vynes announced his departure from the
group. Adi was leaving to form the power trio Skyscraper along with Milk guitarist Vic Kemlicz.
Following Adi's departure, people started to read a lot more into the title "Never Lose that
Feeling". The press reasoned that with no rhythm section, and without Adi, who they thought of as
a crucial member, Swervedriver could not possibly continue - and if they did, they would be a
shadow of their former selves. Although it was never officially announced, everyone assumed
Swervedriver were no more.
For the rest of 92, and most of 1993 (it seemed like an eternity at the time!), the complete lack
of public Swervedriver activity appeared to confirm what most people had assumed. But in August
of 1993, the doomsayers were proved wrong in the most emphatic way possible.
Swervedriver hadn't split up after all - they'd spent the last year quietly rebuilding after
recruiting their new drummer, "Jez". Jez was put in touch with Adam & Jim via Marc Waterman at EMI Publishing,
where I had been working with another EMI band of the time - 5:30 they were called (Marc had produced their debut album).
Jez had slobbered up to Adam in a pub and offered his
services, which included his 16-track home studio. With Adam and Jimmy sharing bass guitar
duties, and with hot producer Alan Moulder at the controls, they had recorded a new album,
"Mezcal Head"s lead single was "Duel", named after Spielberg's legendary early 70's car flick and
featuring the opening couplet "You've been away for so long / you can't ask why". The NME were so
keen to give "Duel" their coveted "Single of the Week" award that they did so a week before it
was released, retitling the honour "Single of Next Week".
When the album came out, it was once again widely acclaimed. The band's sound was essentially the
same, but with more colour and broader scope and influences. In interviews from this period, Adam
begins to namecheck Elvis Costello, and his influence can be heard in the stream-of-consciousness
narrative lyrics of songs like "Harry and Maggie", "Last Train to Satansville" and "Hands".
Musically, there was some acknowledgement of their British labelmates, including "Duress",
co-written with Marc Waterman (producer of Ride's first album). The U.S. and Australasian
releases of Mezcal Head were delayed, supposedly because Sony (new owners of Creation) wanted to
release it themselves, but then changed their mind.
In 1994, the band toured extensively on the back of "Mezcal Head", visiting the UK, North
America, Europe, Australia and Japan. The second single from the album was "Last Train to
Satansville" in early 94. That year they also released the single "My Zephyr (A Sequel)" on the
boutique label Flower Shop. This single was the first with their new bassist Stephen George. Also
in 1994, Swervedriver contributed covers to two tribute albums: "Jesus" on "Heaven and Hell vol.
3" (Velvet Underground), and "In The City" on "Who Covers Who".
August 1995 saw the release of Swervedriver's third and most controversial album "Ejector Seat
Reservation" (preceded by the single "Last Day on Earth"). The album managed to be more
accessible to newcomers while at the same time presenting a challenge to existing fans with its
cleaner, more conventional sound. The new rhythm section got their first proper outing, pumping
driving grooves all over the album in sharp contrast to Adi's more melodic style. The basic
Swervedriver elements remained intact, however. Opening track is "Bring me the Head of the
Fortune Teller", its title an obvious reference to Sam Peckinpah's legendary redneck epic "Bring
me the Head of Alfredo Garcia".
Immediately after the release of "Ejector Seat Reservation", it was revealed that Swervedriver
were no longer with Creation. Explanations for this varied depending on who you asked. The press
thought they'd been dumped for releasing an unadventurous album. The band claimed the usual "we
weren't getting the support we needed", which tends to be a dumped band's version of "musical
differences". One rumour suggests that "Ejector Seat" was a contractual obligation album,
Swervedriver having jumped ship before recording even started. Whatever the reason, the immediate
effect of having no label was no touring and next to no promotion in support of the album.
For a brief period, Swervedriver were officially label-less, and the "they got dumped" rumours
quickly turned into hysterical "they've split up" rumours. These were silenced in early 96 when
it was revealed they'd signed a three album deal with DGC, for release on the Geffen Worldwide
label. Originally, the first of these albums was to have been the US release of "Ejector Seat
Reservation". Unfortunately for US based Swerve fans, Creation weren't about to let go of the
masters, so the album is only available on import in the States (domestic versions were released
in the UK, Japan and Australasia).
Swervedriver spent the rest of 1996 recording their 4th album for Geffen. In late 96, they
released a boutique single "Why Say Yeah" as a split double seven inch with American act Sophia.
Early 1997 saw another boutique seven inch - "93 Million Miles from the Sun... and Counting" on
Sessions, and a second Who cover. "Magic Bus" was from the soundtrack of the snowboarding movie
"Day Tripper", and was released as a single on A&M (their US label while they were on Creation).
The 4th album was in the can, was called "99th Dream", and was scheduled for release on May 7th,
The latest Swervedriver rumours say that their relationship with Geffen has cooled considerably
following the sacking of their original A&R man. Although they're not officially dumped (yet),
its looking increasingly unlikely that Geffen will release "99th Dream". It doesn't look like
they'll stand in the way of its release on another label, if Swervedriver find one.
Whatever happens with Geffen, don't hold your breath for "99th Dream"s release in ANY territory.
That makes three albums in a row where they've had hassles with record labels - a different label
being the offender each time. Looks like they're one of the unluckiest bands around, as well as
one of the most underrated.
UPDATE: Swervedriver were dropped from Geffen just 2 weeks before 99th Dream was scheduled for
release. After losing 2 band members and being dropped from 2 record labels, they still decide to
stick together and get the 99th Drem album out. So they signed to the US Independent label
Zerohour and released 99th Drem in February of 1998.
They are currently touring in support for their album and are also recording material for the
followup for 99th Dream.
Originally Appeared at Ajay's old Swervedriver site