Ultrasound (band)

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Ultrasound
Origin London, England
Genres Britpop
Indie
Rock
Pop
Years active 1997–1999, 2010–present
Labels Nude Records
Members Bruce Renshaw
Andrew "Tiny" Wood
Richard Green
Vanessa Best
Bob Birch
Past members Matt Jones

Ultrasound are an English indie band, predominantly active during the late 1990s. Although the band's focal point (in particular for reviewers) was their tall, obese singer/guitarist Andrew "Tiny" Wood, the main songwriter was guitarist Richard Green, with the line-up completed by drummer Andy Peace, keyboardist Matt Jones and bass player/second singer Vanessa Best.

Having split up acrimoniously in 1999, the band reunited in early 2010 with their first concert in eleven years scheduled for a benefit event in September of that year.[1][2]

History[edit]

Origins, including Sleepy People and Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal (1989-1996)[edit]

Three-fifths of Ultrasound originally met at Wakefield College, Yorkshire, England in 1989. Andrew "Tiny" Wood (a mature student) and Richard Green (a 16-year-old classical cellist) met on the Popular and Commercial Music course, where they also befriended Andy Peace. Moving on to a music degree course in Newcastle, they encountered future bass player Vanessa Best.[3]

Following a succession of brief-lived bands, Wood, Green and Peace teamed up with guitarist and songwriter Paul Hope, an old ally and bandmate of Wood's who had worked with him in a band called Step TLV. Joined by Hope's flute-playing wife Rachel Theresa, the four put together a psychedelic rock band called Sleepy People. For the next two years the band toured around the UK playing in various small venues around the UK and gaining underground attention. Wood, Green and Peace all appear on Sleepy People's 1994 cassette album Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall (originally a cassette release, but reissued on CD in 1999 on Org Records).

Tiny Wood and Richard Green left Sleepy People in 1995, taking keyboard player Pete Haslam with them. They also reconnected with Andy Peace (who had left the band some time previously). Moving to London, they formed a new progressive/art rock band, Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal, which began earning underground attention (in particular after supporting cult band Cardiacs). At this point, Green played bass (as he had in Sleepy People) and Wood doubled on guitar and harmonium as well as lead vocals.

Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal released a self-titled cassette EP on Org Records in 1995, but did not prosper. Wood was later to comment that the band "had a bit too much prog-rock about it."[3] Vanessa Best (who had moved to London and was singing as a backing vocalist in a George Michael tribute band,[3] was then added to the Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal line-up as bass player, with Green moving to lead guitar. With the subsequent departure of Haslam, the band began to reduce their more obvious progressive rock influences in favour of a stronger element of 1970s glam rock and a more pronounced "indie" outlook. Circa 1996, Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal changed their name to Ultrasound.

Renamed and rising (1996-1998)[edit]

Despite the more commercially acceptable developments of their sound, the renamed band was initially no more successful. Following a year of struggling to keep going, Ultrasound released their first single "Same Band" on Fierce Panda in July 1997. It brought them some favourable press in NME, who described it as "(sounding) like The Who's Tommy - in its entirety - squeezed into four-and-a-half minutes... utterly heroic and bizarrely, by some distance, their most understated moment."[3] This led to the band performing in the NME sponsored Unsigned Showcase event.

In turn, the Unsigned Showcase appearance led Ultrasound to a recording contract with Nude Records, following a bidding war between various record labels excited by the band's powerful live presence.[4] At around this time, Matt Jones was brought into the band on keyboards to expand the sound.

The band's first two singles for Nude were "Best Wishes" and "Stay Young" (1998), the latter of which reached No. 30 in the UK Singles Chart.[5] The band received favourable reviews for their recorded output, while receiving a good deal of press attention for their energetic live gigs, unusual appearance and determined outsider appeal. Wood, in particular, became a frequent interviewee and subject of attention in the British weekly music press, making a virtue of subjects usually avoided or discouraged in pop music discourse (such as his relative older age as a rock star debutante, his obesity, and his unfashionable enthusiasm for progressive rock). In October 2011, NME placed "Stay Young" at number 109 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[6]

The band compounded their 1998 success by playing a string of music festivals, culminating in a critically acclaimed performance at the Glastonbury Festival during a torrential downpour.[3] One more single followed in October 1998, "I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours" (about a relationship gone sour),[3] and the band toured with Placebo.

Everything Picture (1998-1999)[edit]

During 1998, Ultrasound worked in the recording studio on their debut album, Everything Picture. The band released their fifth single, "Floodlit World" (a re-recording of a B-side from the "Same Band" single) in March 1999. It was both a Melody Maker 'Single of the Week' and a modest chart success reaching number 39.[3][5]

Everything Picture was released in April 1999 as a double album CD, or triple vinyl, release. The album received poor reviews for its length and lack of focus, indicating that Ultrasound's rise might be faltering already. In spite of the negative critical response, Everything Picture reached number 23 in the UK Albums Chart.[2][5] Ultrasound maintained their high media profile via a guest appearance at London Fashion Week, at which Wood contributed to the Red Or Dead fashion house display by posing as a model, and flashing his substantial stomach (on which the word "Unique" had been scrawled in makeup). This particular opportunity gained an appearance on the front page of The Independent newspaper. Peace and Jones also carried out a naked catwalk streak, which was captured on live TV.[3]

Tensions and split[edit]

During the summer, the band cancelled a set of live dates during the festival season, including one at the T in the Park festival in Scotland, although they did fit in a second Glastonbury appearance. The album track "Aire & Calder" was selected as the next single, although the band clashed with record label Nude regarding the editing of the track for airplay.[3] The single was not released. Shortly afterwards, severe existing tensions within Ultrasound reached breaking point and Richard Green walked out on the band. With their main songwriter gone and continuing dissension among the remaining members, the band foundered. Ultrasound officially split up on October 12, 1999.

While the other band members went their separate ways to pursue new projects, Tiny Wood returned alone to Newcastle and briefly attempted to reform Ultrasound with a new line-up. This included drummer Andy Peace, ex-Sleepy People bassist Bill Bailey, keyboard player Carly and guitarist Adam Taylor. The new version of Ultrasound performed their only live show at the Newcastle Arts Centre in the spring of 2000 but disbanded shortly afterwards due to lack of interest from all parties.

Post-split activities[edit]

Following the collapse of his attempt to continue Ultrasound, Tiny Wood remained in Newcastle and formed a new band called Siren with Paul Boundey. The band continued (with varying line-ups) and gigged throughout the Newcastle area and in London between 2002 and 2003, recording an array of demos (unsubmitted to record companies). Although the band petered out in 2003, a version of Siren also played at a Smiths tribute in Newcastle in 2006. Wood also took on the role of lead singer in Blue Apple Boy (featuring his former Sleepy People bandmates) and performed on their debut album Salient (Soma Sound, 2002).

Richard Green settled in Leeds and formed The Somatics, who released two albums. He went on to form The Heavens, for whom he is songwriter, singer and guitarist. Green has also contributed to Corinne Bailey Rae's 2010 album The Sea (providing guitar for the track "Paper Dolls") and provided solo to Blue Apple Boy's Salient.

Matt Jones went on to form Minuteman. After that he played and performed with many musicians, including Black Crowes front-man Chris Robinson's New Earth Mud, Engineers, Iain Archer, Beth Rowley and Baxter Dury. More recently Matt has played with Jamie T. He is currently keyboard player in Beady Eye. He also wrote the music for the film Thespian X.

Vanessa Best and Andy Peace formed The Sunshine Valley Dance Band with former Spiritualized/Slipstream guitarist Mark Refoy. Best also formed The Soulwinners with Matthew Priest and Andy Miller (both ex-Dodgy), with whom she continues to play. Alongside these projects Best qualified with a PGCE and spent time as the Assistant Director of Music at a comprehensive school in East London. She has now moved into music education management.

Reunion[edit]

In early 2010, Ultrasound were invited to reform for a benefit concert raising money for one of their key influences, Tim Smith of Cardiacs (who had suffered a debilitating heart attack and stroke in 2008). In March 2010, the five members of the band reunited at Vanessa Best's home in Shoreditch, London, ending a decade of estrangement. They subsequently agreed not only to play the concert but to reunite and write material for a new album.[2] Ultrasound played a reunion concert at The Lexington in Kings Cross, London on 9 September 2010, playing mostly old material with two new tracks. A second concert took place the following night at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Further concerts were planned for London in late September, followed by one on 8 October in Bradford.

December 2010 saw the first appearance of new Ultrasound recordings - a cover version of the Cardiacs song "Big Ship" which was included on Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, Songbook 1, a fundraising compilation album to further benefit the hospitalised Tim Smith. In the same month, Matt Jones left the band for a second time (this time amicably), opting to continue as a touring keyboard player for Beady Eye as well as concentrate on other projects. He was replaced as Ultrasound's keyboard player by Bob Birch. Comeback single 'Welfare State/Sovereign' was released in August 2011, followed by the album Play for Today a year later in September 2012.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Everything Picture (1999)
    • "Cross My Heart"/"Same Band"/"Stay Young"/"Suckle"/"Fame Thing"/"Happy Times (Are Coming)"//"Aire & Calder"/"Sentimental Song"/"Floodlit World"/"My Impossible Dream"/"Everything Picture"/"Best Wishes" [piano version - hidden track][7]
  • Play for Today (2012)
    • "Welfare State"/"Beautiful Sadness"/"Twins"/"Nonsense"/"Between Two Rivers"/"Goodbye Baby,Amen"/"Deus Ex Natura"/"Long Way Home"/"Glitter Box"/"Sovereign"[8]

Singles[edit]

  • "Same Band" (1997)
    • "Same Band"/"Floodlit World"/"Over There"
  • "Best Wishes" (1998)
    • "Best Wishes"/"Kurt Russell"/"Black Hole"
  • "Stay Young" (1998)
  • "I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours" (1998)
    • "I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours"/"One Plus One"/"Final Solution"/"Lovesick"
  • "Floodlit World" (1999)
    • CD1: "Floodlit World"/"Getting Better"/"Death of a Drag Racer" CD2: "Floodlit World"/"We Will Find Love" [demo]/"I'll Show You Mine" [video]
  • "Aire & Calder" (1999, unreleased)
    • "Aire & Calder"/"Goodbye 25"/"Valencia"[7]

EPs[edit]

  • "Mayflower" (US, 1999)
    • "Stay Young"/"Best Wishes"/"Kurt Russell"/"Underwater Love Story"/"Can't Say No"[7]

[This EP was also released in Europe as "Ultrasound Sing Five Songs for Europe"]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wegottickets.com
  2. ^ a b c Ultrasound reunion concert posting @ rockfeedback.com
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "They're in the same band" - Ultrasound biography on Floodlit world fansite, retrieved 19 January 2008
  4. ^ All Music Guide biography of Ultrasound, by Dean Carlson - retrieved 19 January 2009
  5. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 575. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ http://www.nme.com/list/150-best-tracks-of-the-past-15-years/248648/page/5
  7. ^ a b c Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 1016. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  8. ^ Released on September 24th, 2012, according to the Band's website

External links[edit]