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Del Amitri were 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 teenager 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 were the only members of the band to remain present throughout its history. They were also the main songwriters of the group.
Despite having had several Top 10 albums in the UK, the group has never managed a Top 10 single in the UK Singles Chart, although they did achieve one Top 10 single, "Roll to Me", on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.
There have been many suggestions as to what the band's name really means. The band has repeatedly stated a story corroborated on their official website 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", strongly suggesting that the band have long since tired of this question. 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' Steven Irvine and on the subsequent tour his place was taken by Dan Saleh.
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 / Saleh 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. Their increasing success in that country 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 Saleh 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 consolidate 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. Mercury also released the band's final album to date, Can You Do Me Good?, in the spring of 2002, which the band backed up with a successful UK tour. Despite their time away from the public eye, both album and single reached the Top 40, sales were not as high as Mercury had wanted. Later in the year, the group was dropped from the label.
The current status of the band is something of a mystery, although Currie states on his own website that he is still a member of Del Amitri. Although there had been no official word of them splitting up, it is believed that Dollimore and Price have left the band. Rumours that the remaining members are working with or under the name of The Uncle Devil Show have been strenuously denied on the band's official website. However, the tone of the denial is very much in keeping with the humorous spirit of the whole Uncle Devil Show project, and even non-fans will be able to recognize the songs and voice of Currie on their first album, A Terrible Beauty, which was released in 2004 and contained six songs sung by one Jason Barr whose voice is strangely reminiscent of Currie's.
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 his solo album What is Love For.
In May 2007, Canadian country group Doc Walker had a number five hit single on the Canadian Country Music chart with the Currie penned "Driving With The Brakes On".
Australian country singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers has also covered "Driving With The Brakes On". The song appears on her CD single for "Pony".
Currie released his second album 'The Great War' on 3 May 2010. He was recording a new album with session musicians during October 2012, according to blog entries on his own website.
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Image from Discogs