The Soup Dragons were a Scottish alternative rock band of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Named after a character in the 1970s children’s television show Clangers, the group is best known for its cover of the Rolling Stones’ song “I’m Free.”
The Soup Dragons formed in Bellshill, a town near Glasgow, in 1985. The line up was Sean Dickson (vocals, lead guitar), Jim McCulloch (guitar, second voice) who replaced Ian Whitehall and Sushil K. Dade (bass). The original drummer, Ross A. Sinclair, left the group after the first proper album, This Is Our Art, to pursue a career in art, and was replaced by Paul Quinn. Most of their songs were written by Dickson, while some were co-written with McCulloch.
The band recorded their first demo tape, You Have Some Too, after playing a few local gigs, and this was followed by a flexi disc single “If You Were the Only Girl in the World”. Originally inspired by Buzzcocks and lumped in with the C86 movement, along with fellow members of the Bellshill Sound, such as the BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub, they went through a number of stylistic changes in their career.
The band signed to The Subway Organization in early 1986 and their first proper single (The Sun in the Sky EP) was Buzzcocks-inspired pop punk. The band’s big breakthrough came with their second single for Subway, “Whole Wide World”, which reached No. 2 on the UK Independent Chart in 1986. Dickson and McCulloch also moonlighted in BMX Bandits at this time.
The band were signed by former Wham! co-manager Jaz Summers’ label Raw TV with further indie hits (and minor UK Singles Chart hits) following during 1987 and 1988. Over the course of six singles (the first three collected in 1986 on a U.S. only compilation, Hang Ten), they gradually developed a more complex rock guitar sound, which culminated in their first album proper This Is Our Art, now signed to major label Sire Records. After one single from the album “Kingdom Chairs” failed to chart, the band were dropped by Sire and returned to Raw TV.
In the year following This Is Our Art their sound underwent a change from an indie rock sound, to the rock-dance crossover baggy sound, popular at the time with the release of the album Lovegod. This change mirrored that of fellow Scottish band Primal Scream, and can be attributed to the rise of the ecstasy-fueled acid house rave scene in the UK. In 1990, they released their most successful hit single in the UK, “I’m Free”, an up-tempo cover of a Rolling Stones song with an added toasting overdub by reggae star Junior Reid, which reached number five. This single featured on the Happy Daze compilation and in 2013 it appeared on the soundtrack to British science fiction comedy film The World’s End.
Subsequent albums continued the rock-dance crossover sound. In 1992 they enjoyed their biggest U.S. hit with “Divine Thing” which reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit number three on the Modern Rock chart and its video was nominated by MTV as one of the year’s best, though beaten by Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The Soup Dragons disbanded in 1995. Paul Quinn joined Teenage Fanclub and Sushil K. Dade formed the experimental post rock group Future Pilot A.K.A.. Sean Dickson formed The High Fidelity and currently deejays as HiFi Sean. Jim McCulloch joined Superstar, wrote and recorded music with Isobel Campbell, and formed the folk group Snowgoose.
I’ve a bundle of Soup Dragons 12″ singles in the collection, mostly picked up very cheaply in second hand stores. The lead track from this 1986 release is a particular favourite:-
mp3 : Soup Dragons – Hang Ten
mp3 : Soup Dragons – Just Mind Your Step Girl
mp3 : Soup Dragons – Slow Things Down
mp3 : Soup Dragons – Man About Town With Chairs