Blue Murder (band)
|Associated acts||Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath|
Blue Murder were an English rock band led by guitarist-vocalist John Sykes. The group was formed in 1987 following Sykes' dismissal from Whitesnake. The initial line-up was rounded out by bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Carmine Appice. In its nascent stage, vocalist Ray Gillen and drummer Cozy Powell were attached to the project. In 1989, Blue Murder released their self-titled debut album, which cracked the Billboard 200 chart and spawned a minor hit with "Jelly Roll". By the early 1990s, however, Blue Murder's music had fallen out of fashion with the popularity of grunge. Franklin and Appice left the band, while Sykes put together a new line-up and released Nothin' But Trouble in 1993. After a live album the following year, Blue Murder were dropped by their record label and broke-up. Since then there have been numerous attempts to reunite the band to no avail.
Formation and debut album (1987–1990)
In 1986, guitarist John Sykes was fired from the English hard rock group Whitesnake by its vocalist David Coverdale. Sykes had just finished recording the band's eponymous album, which would go on to achieve multi-platinum status. He then returned to his home studio in Blackpool, England, and began writing new songs. In February 1987, he began putting together a band. Drummer Cozy Powell was the first to join, having previously played with Sykes in Whitesnake. Next came bassist Tony Franklin, formerly of The Firm, and lastly vocalist Ray Gillen, who had previously fronted Black Sabbath for a short time. After solidifying their initial line-up, the band recorded some demos and sent them to Geffen Records with whom Sykes had previously worked with as a member of Whitesnake. Prior to this, Sykes had sent Geffen his first demo recordings, which featured him on lead vocals. As it happened, Geffen's A&R executive John Kalodner preferred Sykes' vocals to Gillen's, who were having disagreements over the songs' musical and vocal approach. Eventually, Gillen left after only a few months in the band. In mid-1987, the group signed with Geffen Records, but as they began searching for a new lead singer, Cozy Powell abruptly left to join Black Sabbath, having grown frustrated with the band's lack of progress. They were then approached by drummer Carmine Appice, who had previously played with Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge and King Kobra, among others. In the running was also former Journey drummer (and an ex-bandmate of Sykes in Whitesnake) Aynsley Dunbar, but ultimately the job went to Appice. By early 1988, former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin had been chosen as the band's new lead singer, but as they were about leave for Vancouver to record their debut album, Martin pulled out. The rest of the group decided to soldier on, figuring they could always find a singer later.
In February 1988, the band began recording their debut album with producer Bob Rock. At the same time, they continued to audition singers, among them David Glen Eisley and Derek St. Holmes. Unable to find a singer that satisfied all parties, the band and John Kalodner persuaded Sykes to sing lead vocals. At Franklin's suggestion, the band were dubbed Blue Murder, after the British idiom "scream blue murder". Their debut album, eponymously titled Blue Murder, was released on 24 April 1989. It debuted at number 172 on the Billboard 200 chart, eventually peaking at number 69 in June 1989. On the UK Albums Chart, it reached number 45. The record received positive reviews, with Raw's Paul Suter giving it a ten out of ten rating and calling it one of "the finest records in an age". The single "Jelly Roll" also proved to be a minor hit, reaching number fifteen on the Album Rock Tracks chart. In support of their debut album, Blue Murder toured America supporting Bon Jovi and Billy Squier, with additional headline dates in America and Japan.
While their debut album would go on to sell an estimated 500,000 copies by Sykes' account, Blue Murder's success fell short of expectations. Carmine Appice stated that the decision to release "Valley of the Kings" as the band's first music video was a mistake, as it was deemed too long and not "commercial enough" for MTV. The song was also not available for purchase as a single, something Franklin felt hurt its success on MTV. Due to the failure of "Valley of the Kings", MTV refused to play the follow-up video "Jelly Roll", which Franklin felt prevented it from becoming a crossover hit. Sykes felt that Geffen did not properly promote the band, stating: "I think they were trying to get me and David [Coverdale] back together. They wanted me to get back with the 'winning formula'. But the wounds were too fresh. I stayed with the same label. In hindsight, I would have done better with a different label."
Decline and dissolution (1991–1994)
With the release of Nirvana's Nevermind in 1991, grunge had become popular in the mainstream, leaving groups such as Blue Murder "out of vogue". According to Appice and Franklin, Sykes was deeply affected by the failure of Blue Murder's debut album, which led to a long period of inactivity. Though Sykes did eventually start work on a new album, progress was still slow. This was partly due to Sykes producing the record himself, for which he built an entirely new home studio. Eventually, Appice and Franklin grew tired of waiting and left the band. Sykes then recruited bassist Marco Mendoza and drummer Tommy O'Steen to the band, while keyboardist Nik Green was promoted to a full-time member, having already played on the group's debut album. However, Franklin had already laid down tracks for Blue Murder's second album, while Carmine Appice was brought back briefly as a session drummer. Sykes also recruited former Baton Rouge vocalist-guitarist Kelly Keeling, but he reportedly left the band a day before shooting a new music video.
Blue Murder released Nothin' But Trouble on 31 August 1993. The record received positive reviews, though it was perceived by critics as a step-down from the band's debut. The single "We All Fall Down" reached number 35 on the Album Rock Tracks chart, but the record itself failed to chart. Sykes once again attributed this to Geffen, who he felt "didn't do anything" to promote the record. In 1994, the band released the live album Screaming Blue Murder: Dedicated to Phil Lynott, which was recorded in Tokyo. Having fulfilled their contractual obligations to their label, Blue Murder were dropped by Geffen. Sykes signed to Mercury Records in Japan, taking Mendoza and O'Steen with him to play in his solo band.
Proposed reunion (2000–present)
There have been numerous attempts to reunite Blue Murder over the years. According to Carmine Appice, he made several attempts to reunite the group between 2000 and 2012 to no avail. When asked in a 2001 interview if there will be another Blue Murder album, Sykes responded: "Maybe at some point there will be. I don't know." In 2019, Carmine Appice revealed that the group had rehearsed together, but Sykes wanted the band to tour under the moniker John Sykes & Blue Murder, something Appice was unwilling to do. In 2020, Appice stated that he and Sykes had once again talked about the possibility of a Blue Murder reunion, but nothing came of the conversation.
Musical style and legacy
Blue Murder have been described by music critics as hard rock, heavy metal, and glam metal. John Sykes characterized the band's sound in 1989 as a combination of Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and the blues. In a separate interview from the same year, he referred to the group's sound as "heavy funk". Sykes' intent with Blue Murder's first album was to create a heavier record than Whitesnake's eponymous album, while still retaining some of the same groove and vibe. Later he speculated that this heaviness might have contributed to the album's low sales.
Despite Blue Murder's short lifespan, the band and their first album in particular have gained a small cult following. Radio and television personality Eddie Trunk highlighted the group in his 2011 book Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, while White Wizzard's Jon Leon named Blue Murder one of his favourite obscure heavy metal records of the 1980s. Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic remarked in his retrospective review of the band's first album on how it has "endured far better than most similarly styled heavy metal albums of the era". He also touted the production as one of Bob Rock's best alongside his work with Metallica. Ultimate Classic Rock ranked Blue Murder as the sixth best album produced by Bob Rock, while MetalSucks included it on a list of essential hair metal albums not included on a similar list by Rolling Stone.
- John Sykes - lead vocals, guitar (1987–1994)
- Cozy Powell - drums (1987, died 1998)
- Tony Franklin - bass, backing vocals (1987–1991)
- Ray Gillen - lead vocals (1987, died 1993)
- Carmine Appice - drums, backing vocals (1987–1991)
- Tony Martin - lead vocals (1988)
- Marco Mendoza - bass, backing vocals (1991–1994)
- Tommy O'Steen - drums, backing vocals (1991–1994)
- Nik Green - keyboards (1991–1994; session and touring musician 1988–1990; died 2016)
- Kelly Keeling - lead vocals, backing vocals, guitar (1991–1993)
- Halberberg, Elianne (December 1988). "Murder, He Wrote". Kerrang!. No. 217. London, England: United Newspapers. p. 8.
- Levitan, Corey (31 August 1989). "Blue Murder's John Sykes: success on his own terms". Circus. New York: Circus Enterprises Corporation. p. 47.
- "RIAA Searchable Database: search for Whitesnake". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
- Suter, Paul (19 April 1989). "Fatal Attraction". Raw. No. 17. London, England: EMAP Publishing Limited. pp. 50–53.
- "Tony Franklin, Carmine Appice & Eric Blair talk John Sykes 2020". blairingoutshow. 26 January 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020 – via YouTube.
- Assenmacher, Peter (November 1987). "Ray Gillen & John Sykes". Hit Parader. Derby, Connecticut: Charlton Publications. pp. 52–53.
- "2001 Interview with Troy Wells of Ball Buster - The Official Underground Hard Music Report". The Official Website of Guitarist John Sykes. Archived from the original on 19 December 2009.
- Popoff 2015, p. 160.
- Appice & Gittins 2016, p. 194.
- Popoff 2015, p. 162.
- Heydt, Adam (8 October 2011). "Mike Portnoy & John Sykes". That Metal Show. Season 8. Episode 68. VH1.
- "Blue for you". Kerrang!. No. 229. London, England: United Newspapers. 11 March 1989. p. 3.
- "Billboard 200 - Week of May 13, 1989". Billboard. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Billboard 200 - Week of June 24, 1989". Billboard. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Blue Murder". Official Charts. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- Suter, Paul (19 April 1989). "Blue Murder – Blue Murder (Geffen WX245)". Raw. No. 17. London, England: EMAP Publishing Limited. p. 28.
- "Mainstream Rock Songs - Week of August 26, 1989". Billboard. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- Douglas, Nick (1993). "Blue Murder". Metal Hammer. Vol. 10 no. 9. Berlin, Germany: ZAG Zeitschriften-Verlag. pp. 128–129.
- "Carmine Appice - The full in bloom Interview - Guitar Zeus, Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy, Book, Blue Murder". full in bloom. 11 November 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2020 – via YouTube.
- "Blue Murder Bassist Talks John Sykes, the Breakup & Whitesnake". full in bloom. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020 – via YouTube.
- "Interview with John Sykes, July 1999". MelodicRock. Archived from the original on 19 April 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
- Popoff 2015, p. 163.
- "June 1999 Interview with Tony Nobles of Vintage Guitar Magazine". 27 March 2008. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
- Appice & Gittins 2016, p. 195.
- "Carmine Appice Talks Blue Murder Breakup, 1989 Album, Nothin' But Trouble, John Sykes, Budgets". full in bloom. 2 May 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020 – via YouTube.
- "Franklin Blue over Murder-ous split". Kerrang!. No. 353. London, England: United Newspapers. 10 August 1991. p. 6.
- Ito, Masanori (1993). Nothin' But Trouble (booklet). Blue Murder. Geffen Records. pp. 2–6. MVCG-125.
- Koolen, Martin. "Kelly Keeling Interview". RockUnited.com. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "Hardfax". Metal Hammer. Vol. 10 no. 12. Berlin, Germany: ZAG Zeitschriften-Verlag. 1993. p. 8.
- "Sykes: Er Lebt". Metal Hammer. Vol. 10 no. 7. Berlin, Germany: ZAG Zeitschriften-Verlag. 1993. p. 7.
- "Blue Murder - Nothin' But Trouble". Rock Hard (in German). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Carlson, Taylor (26 March 2015). "Nothin' But Trouble - The Forgotten, Underrated Sophomore Effort from John Sykes and Blue Murder!". ZRockR Magazine. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "Mainstream Rock Songs - Week of April 16, 1994". Billboard. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "Carmine Appice Explains Why Blue Murder Reunion Didn't Happen, Talks John Sykes Turning Down Mike Portnoy". Ultimate Guitar. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Carmine Appice Talks Aborted Blue Murder Reunion - "I Don't Need To Go Out And Play Under John Sykes As John Sykes & Blue Murder"". BraveWords. 30 November 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Carmine Appice on Why Blue Murder Reunion Hasn't Happened Yet: We Still Can't Get John Sykes Out of the House". Blabbermouth.net. 29 January 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Blue Murder – Blue Murder". Rock Hard (in German). Retrieved 28 July 2021.
- Eduardo Rivadavia. "Blue Murder - Blue Murder". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Friday 5: What 5 (More) Hair Metal Albums Are Essential?". MetalSucks. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
- Giannini, Massimo (July 1989). "Blue Murder". Metal Shock. No. 50. Milan, Italy: Bramori Music. pp. 10–14.
- Dome, Malcolm (2013). Blue Murder (booklet). Blue Murder. London, England: Rock Candy. pp. 1–9. CANDY181.
- Wallner, Will (29 April 2013). "Bent Out of Shape: Blue Murder Remastered and Reloaded". Guitar World. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
- Trunk 2011, p. 206.
- "White Wizzard's Top 5 Obscure '80s Metal Albums, Part II". Decibel. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
- "Top 10 Bob Rock-Produced Albums". Ultimate Classic Rock. 19 April 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
- Popoff, Martin (2015). Sail Away: Whitesnake's Fantastic Voyage. Soundcheck Books LLP. ISBN 0-9575-7008-2.
- Appice, Carmine; Gittins, Ian (2016). Stick It!: My Life of Sex, Drums, and Rock 'n' Roll. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1-6137-3552-9.
- Trunk, Eddie (2011). Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. New York: Abrams Image. ISBN 0-8109-9831-9.