39 Steps (band)

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39 Steps
Origin Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Genres Alternative rock
Punk rock
Years active 1984 (1984)–1993 (1993)
Labels RCA
Blackheart/Cargo
Members Chris Barry (vocals)
Pierre Major(guitar)
Richard Paul (guitar)
Joe Cerratto (bass)
Andre Gagne (drums)

39 Steps were a Canadian alternative rock/punk rock band from Montreal, Quebec best known for their single "Slip into the Crowd", a song they originally performed in the late 1970s as the The 222s, which they are featured playing in the Woody Allen film Hannah and Her Sisters in a scene set at CBGB's NYC.

Their name is taken from the classic work The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Status[edit]

The band is no longer active. Lead singer and principal songwriter Chris Barry [1] reunited with his first well known band, The 222s in 2010 for a short series of stellar performances in Montreal and Toronto. As of the summer of 2014 the 222s were still occasionally playing festival gigs in Canada, the most recent being the annual FME festival in Rouyn Noranda, Quebec where they played to a sell-out crowd on a split-bill with the Vibrators.

History[edit]

The 222s evolved into the 39 Steps in 1983/4 after Barry returned to his home town Montreal from a two year stint playing music in London, England. Keen to start a new domestic musical project after soaking up the emerging Batcave goth scene in London, he invited his old 222s bandmates Pier Major and Joe Cerratto to join him in the endeavor. By the end of the year they were joined by Richard Paul on second guitar and Andre Gagne on drums, and a few months after that invited by Woody Allen to appear in his multiple Academy Award winning film, Hannah and her Sisters, playing the band in the classic scene where Dianne Wiest brings Allen down to CBGBs to hear the group. "Don't you realize your witnessing genius?" In the film, Allen is less than impressed with 39 Steps musical gifts, more concerned about his physical safety than appreciating the groups anthem addressing teenage alienation, the Barry/Major penned cult hit "Slip into the Crowd". In 1986 their indie debut album, Slip into the Crowd, was picked up and released on RCA Records in the United States and Canada, with the accompanying videos for "Stay Faithless" and "Slip into the Crowd" garnering significant rotation on MTV and MuchMusic in Canada. In 1987 they recorded a follow-up album produced by Blondie's Chris Stein, much of it recorded in Stein and Debby Harry's home studio in the Chelsea district of New York City. On the strength of these recordings and the relative success of their Slip into the Crowd album, amongst much hoopla 39 Steps were signed to Polygram Records in 1988 only to be dropped by the label six months later.

39 Steps enjoyed a considerable amount of commercial and critical success for a band of their ilk in the 1980s, with their sound gradually devolving back to the stripped down punk of the 222s from the initial goth-tinged rock of their early recordings. Over a three year period in the mid-late 1980s, the group was signed and dropped by both Polygram and Chrysalis Records without any new 39 Steps albums being released. Held up in a legal limbo that would eventually destroy the group, 39 Steps nevertheless continued to tour America throughout the decade, often as the support act for groups as diverse as the Cult, the Kinks, Psychedelic Furs, and apparently at one point even Meatloaf, before being kicked off of the tour for allegedly ridiculing the headliner to his face. In 1990 they relocated to NYC permanently in a desperate move to revive their career, playing a series of high-profile gigs with the likes of the Dictators. Joan Jett and the Ramones, but by this time, with the advent of "grunge", the aggro-rock of 39 Steps had fallen even more out of fashion and eventually in 1991, the long-suffering 39 Steps finally called it a day, with all members, save for Chris Barry, returning to their hometown Montreal thoroughly defeated.

In 1993, almost two years after the band's dissolution, longtime 39 Steps fan Joan Jett managed to salvage some of their Polygram recordings and released their long delayed sophomore effort "Neon Bible" on her Blackheart Records label. By that point, however, Chris Barry was already touring and recording with his new NYC-based band, Pillbox NYC, whose only album, Jimbo's Clown Room, is now widely considered to be a classic of the "sleaze rock" genre pioneered by groups like the MC5, Stooges, Velvet Underground and New York Dolls.

In spite of Barry's raw, uber-catchy and lyrically insightful musical compositions, 39 Steps brand of balls to the wall rock and roll and dirgy ballads were largely out of step with both the commercial pop and indie college rock of their day. In recent years, however, 39 Steps have been re-discovered by the YouTube generation with many of their songs being utilized in various films and TV shows.

In 2007, Chris Barry recorded an album of entirely new compositions called Let It Writhe as The Throbbing Purple on Montreal's Sonik Chicken Shrimp label.

Discography[edit]

  • 39 Steps (Line) (1984)
  • Slip Into The Crowd (RCA) (1987)
  • Neon Bible (Blackheart/Cargo) (1993)

External links[edit]