Brother brother brother sang Marvin Gaye on What’s Going On, to all like-minded fellow men and women everywhere. Gathering the clans, uniting everyone, making us (and Marvin) feel part of a bigger thing. Spiritual if not actual family. Family is a big thing in music. Whether it’s monobrowed Mancs or hard-rockin’ hairy Aussies with Scottish roots, there’s plenty of instances where brothers, sisters, cousins, husbands and wives have managed to work harmoniously (or otherwise) in a band. Happy Mondays featured the Ryder brothers. Radiohead the Greenwoods. The Kinks the Davies. The Stooges the Ashetons. Kim and Kelly Deal were half of The Breeders. Karen and Richard Carpenter were able to leave any sibling rivalries at the door and, as The Carpenters create some of the finest easy listening you could ever want to hear. The Arcade Fire count the matrimonial duo of Win and Regine Butler amongst their ranks. The Beach Boys were a heady mix of brothers, cousins and close friends. The White Stripes? Well, depending on what you read were either some, none or or all of the above. Brother and sister? Husband and wife? 3rd cousins twice removed? Who knows?
Some bands like to show unity and strength through their familial ties. We are family sang the four sisters in Sister Sledge. Sly & the Family Stone were really Sylvester and the family Stewart. Sly, his brother Freddie, his sister Rose plus assorted cousins…a true family band (with added token honkies, if you hadn’t noticed). Here‘s the little-known Jane Is A Groupee, an (assumingly) biographical tale, given Sly’s penchant for the fairer sex. Sample lyric –
She’s got a thing for guys in the band.
Every musicians’ biggest fan
Claps her hands, but without a doubt, has no idea what the song’s about,
She’s too busy trying to figure out the shortest route to take the drummer home
Fuzz bass, fuzz guitars and drum rolls that sound like they’re playing at the bottom of a deep, deep well, what’s not to like?
Not so prog rockers Family. They were no more related than me to Tina Turner. Spare a thought though for the artists who chose to go it alone in defiant acts of pride/stupidity regardless of the fact that their sibling achieved massive success. Chris Jagger. Mike McCartney. I’m thinking of you. The lesser-known Jagger’s stubbornness to continue his well-worn path of 12 bar blues in ‘intimate’ venues while his more well-known, internationally super-famous brother struts around the larger stadiums of the planet should be commended. The 0ther McCartney is a tad more interesting. Changing his name to Mike McGear and teaming up with poet Roger McGough, (father of Happy Mondays manager Nathan), in 1968 he released a terrific slice of Hendrixian psych rock that (it’s alleged) features Our Paul on production duties and yer actual Jimi on 6 string duties. I’ve blogged So Much In Love before, but have a listen here.
Ronnie Wood’s big brother Arthur formed The Artwoods (gettit?) in the mid 60s and for a few short years carved out a decent career as an in-demand R&B/mod/freakbeat group. Art Wood had that standard gritty white-man-sings-soul voice, and coupled with the much-favoured guitar plus Hammond line-up might have expected his band to have been as popular as The Small Faces in another world. Fate saw that that wouldn’t be the case, which is disappointing as amongst the assortment of standards and expected covers du jour they cut Goodbye Sisters, a terrific piece of mid 60s psych, replete with descending bassline, swirly Hammond and some decent cooing backing vocals. I think you’d like it.