The 1997-2002 Del Amitri line-up on stage at the Guildhall in Southampton on 16 May 2002
|Labels||Chrysalis, A&M, Mercury|
James M Scobbie
Del Amitri is a Scottish alternative rock band, formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1983. The band grew out of Justin Currie's Jordanhill College School band and came together after a teenaged Currie placed an advertisement in the window of a music store asking for people who could play to contact him. The band was formed with the original line-up of Currie (bass and vocals), Iain Harvie (lead guitar), Bryan Tolland (guitar) and Paul Tyagi (drums). Currie and Harvie are the only members of the band to remain present throughout its history. They are also the main songwriters of the group.
The band has repeatedly stated a story that Del Amitri "Started at school in 1980, originally called Del Amitri Rialzo in order to confuse the public (name was invented for its meaninglessness; all other stories are fabrications) in west Glasgow, Scotland."
The liner notes of one album state: "...if you ask us what the name means - expect violence". Speculation about the name's origins have included the Greek for "from the womb", and a handbag brand name. At the very end of the band's 1996 tour diary video release, titled Let's Go Home, Currie supposedly reads an entry from the "Wonders" section of Volume 5 in Arthur Mee's The Children's Encyclopædia which, he says, refers to a false god from Greek mythology called Delametri, largest of all false gods, 458 feet (140 m) tall and made entirely of gold. It was built on sand and collapsed, killing the entire population of Tarros, the town that built it. He ends the reading saying, "There you have it: false gods built on stupidity."
When asked about the origin of the band's name again in a 2010 interview, Currie stated: "It was invented to be meaningless. Just a corruption of the Greek name "Dimitri," basically. In... various books, it says "Del Amitri, which is Greek for 'of the womb'" -- [but] it's not Greek for "of the womb" in any Greek dialect. But that's become almost a fact even though it's not a fact."
After becoming popular on the local music scene in Glasgow and having demo material played on DJ John Peel's show on BBC Radio 1, the band broke through in 1984 when they were signed by Chrysalis Records, who released their eponymous début album in 1985. The band also appeared on the front cover of influential weekly music magazine Melody Maker and supported The Smiths on tour. Despite this exposure, neither the album nor its singles were a success.
The band was dropped by Chrysalis but continued working together, touring the US in 1986 on a tour that was financed partly by themselves and partly by their small but enthusiastic fan base. The time they spent working on new material proved worthwhile, as they were eventually signed again in 1987, this time by A&M Records. However, that same year they underwent their first change of personnel as Tolland was asked by the others to leave the band and was replaced by Mick Slaven.
During the recording of the new album, which eventually came to be released as Waking Hours in 1989, the band's line-up was further augmented by the arrival of keyboard player Andy Alston, who outside of Currie and Harvie has proven to be the longest-serving member of the band's line-up. Slaven, on the other hand, proved to be one of the shortest-serving members, as he left the band before the album had even been released. His place was taken by David Cummings, whose photograph appeared on the record sleeve. Tyagi also left during the recording of the record, the drums on the album being played by The Commotions' Stephen Irvine and on the subsequent tour his place was taken by Brian McDermott.
Despite these fluctuations in their line-up, Waking Hours proved to be Del Amitri's breakthrough, reaching No.6 in the UK Albums Chart and also providing them with their biggest ever single chart hit at home when the song "Nothing Ever Happens", rose to No 11 in the corresponding singles listing. They also gained some mainstream exposure abroad for the first time, as Waking Hours was a success in several territories with the single "Kiss This Thing Goodbye" flirting with the lower reaches of the US Billboard Hot 100's Top 40. In between Waking Hours and their next album, the band released the single "Spit In the Rain" which, although it did not chart in the US, reached No. 21 in the UK.
The Currie / Harvie / Alston / Cummings / McDermott line-up proved to be a stable and successful one for the group. They stayed together for the recording of the follow-up album Change Everything, which was released in 1992 and became the band's biggest chart success, reaching No. 2 in the UK, being held off top spot only by The Best of Lionel Richie. The single "Always the Last to Know" was another Top 20 UK hit, peaking at No. 13, and again provided them with an entry into Top 40 in the US. The video for the song was directed by Oil Factory's Pedro Romhanyi. Their increasing success in the USA led to appearances on the television show Late Night with David Letterman. Their international tours saw them playing to increasingly larger audiences. The popularity in the US saw them being invited to play at the Woodstock '94 anniversary festival, although they were forced to do so without McDermott who had decided to leave the band. At Woodstock they played with Ashley Soan on drums, but he was not hired until the band had finished recording their fourth album which featured drummer Chris Sharrock who had previously played with The Icicle Works, The Las and World Party.
The resulting album, Twisted, was released in 1995 and peaked at No. 3 in the UK. From the resulting tour onwards, Soan joined the band as a permanent member, in time to see the single "Roll to Me", only a moderate hit in the UK where it reached No. 22, reach the Top 10 in the US charts, a noteworthy achievement during an era when British acts were finding success in the US difficult. There was less good news however at the conclusion of their American tour, when Cummings decided to leave the group. He chose to move into scriptwriting where he subsequently enjoyed success as a member of the team behind popular BBC sketch show The Fast Show. Cummings had attended the University of East Anglia with Fast Show mainstays Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson in the early 1980s, and in 1995 Del Amitri had appeared in a Fast Show sketch. Cummings was replaced by Jon McLoughlin, who toured with the band and played on their next album, Some Other Sucker's Parade (1997), which was another Top 10 hit in the UK, reaching No. 6.
The band found it harder to capitalise on their previous successes in the US, however, and lost out on more airplay at home when their record company took the decision to withdraw the album's planned third single "Medicine" in September 1997, putting out a false press story that the lyrics could be interpreted as a critique of the then recently deceased Diana, Princess of Wales. Following the recording of the album, both McLoughlin and Soan exited the band, causing yet further disruption. They were replaced on tour and on subsequent recordings by Kris Dollimore (guitars) and Mark Price (drums). McLoughlin died in March 2005, aged 42, due to complications arising from diabetes.
Five years passed before Del Amitri released another album. In 1998, however, they recorded the official anthem for the Scottish World Cup squad, "Don't Come Home Too Soon". It reached No. 15 on the charts, becoming their third biggest UK hit and their last Top 20 entry to date. They also released their best of album, Hatful of Rain: The Best of Del Amitri, which was a No. 5 success in the UK Albums Chart and was accompanied by a new track, "Cry to Be Found", which reached No. 40. The best of album had been released by Mercury, who took over the band's contract after A&M had gone out of business.
The band's final album to date, Can You Do Me Good?, was released in the spring of 2002, which the band backed up with a successful UK tour. Despite their time away from the public eye, both the album, and the single "Just Before You Leave", reached the Top 40. However, sales were not as high as Mercury had wanted and later in the year, the band was dropped from the label.
In 2004, Currie was involved with a project called the Uncle Devil Show, whose first album, A Terrible Beauty, contained six songs sung by him.
In March 2005, Currie announced on their US website that he was finishing up his solo album and was also 'more than halfway through' a record he had been writing together with Harvie for the last eighteen months. At the end of August of the same year Currie added that his solo album was now finished. In April 2007, Currie announced that he had signed with RYKODisc to release this album, What is Love For.
Currie released his second album, The Great War, on 3 May 2010. He recorded a new album with session musicians during October 2012, according to blog entries on his own website. The resulting album, Lower Reaches, was released in August 2013.
During an interview with Terry Wogan on his BBC Radio 2 programme on 18 August 2013 Currie hinted at a possible Del Amitri reunion, stating that he had been in contact with Harvie and Alston and they had agreed that the time was right. Further news of a reunion tour appeared when the band's official Facebook page posted the following in early September 2013: "Well now. Get a load of this... It looks like the three Glasgow boys (Justin, Andy and Iain) are going to be able to get together with Kris and Ashley to do some shows early next year. UK only at the moment, I'm afraid (but we are working it). There should be a details later this week." The full tour was subsequently announced on delamitri.org. As part of the tour, Del Amitri played to 8,000 people in the SSE Hydro, Glasgow on 24 January 2014. A live album was released following the tour. The album was called "Into the mirror".
In November 2017 the band announced a UK tour to take place in July 2018 and hinted that they might be playing new material.
Australian country singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers has also covered "Driving with the Brakes On" when the song appeared on her CD-single for "Pony".
Welcome back to the program -- Del Amitri!