After going to the Bahamas and blowing a fortune of their record company's money on drugs, the Happy Mondays released the disappointing 'Yes Please' in 1992 and split the following year. A new start was in order, and with that Shaun Ryder and Bez formed Black Grape with rappers Paul "Kermit" Leveridge and Carl "Psycho" McCarthy, drummer Jed Lynch (like Leveridge, a former member of Ruthless Rap Assassins), and guitarist Paul "Wags" Wagstaff. Their 1995 debut 'It's Great When You're Straight Yeah' reached number 1 in the UK album charts and was hailed as a triumphant return to form for Ryder and Bez.
The infectious first single 'Reverend Black Grape' even outsold the biggest Happy Mondays single 'Step On', and gave the band the first of three Top 20 hits. Things that stick in my mind regarding this song include my Auntie Julie telling me that it reminded her of one of the counting songs from Sesame Street, and a radio DJ saying that Ryder's vocal soun,.cc
13ded like Grandpa from The Simpsons. And of course there are those ridiculously sublime lyrics which include the opening line "there's nothing more sinister than ministers in dresses"...
The band's second album 'Stupid Stupid Stupid' wasn't so well received, and in 1998 Shaun Ryder gradually sacked the whole group one by one. However in 2010, they reformed for a one-off gig, with a slimmed down line-up consisting of Ryder, Kermit and producer Danny Saber. With the classic line-up of the Happy Mondays busy touring and Ryder recently finishing his second solo album, I didn't expect to hear that Black Grape would be reforming. However the news has been confirmed, and the band will be playing an 800-capacity homeless and anti-fracking benefit gig at Old Granada Studios in Manchester on April 11. Festival appearances and a full tour are soon to be announced, and new material is even a possibility. Ryder said "We went into rehearsals and we’ve got a great band together: Dan (Saber), Mikey (Shine), and some great sessions guys. I went in with Kermit and they’d got six songs down; me and Kermit did our bit and it was like we’d be practicing for 20 years. It was like putting an old pair of comfy shoes on. It’s like that with the Mondays; it’s just a pleasure now. Age, maturity, we can enjoy what we’re doing. No treadmill bullshit." Ryder puts his newfound flurry of activity down to "the Superman jab", a testosterone replacement therapy injection. He said: "It's a mixture of enjoying life and also I have testosterone injections that make me feel like a 21-year-old... I'm a dad, and I get to do that right this time around. Last time around, you're making your career and you're a kid yourself."