With the demise of Factory Records in late 1992, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the musical world had seen the back of Shaun Ryder. In fact, you wouldn’t have got many folk disagreeing with the view that his time on planet earth itself was most likely coming to an end such was his drug addiction problem.

There were reports in the music press that he was forming a new band, along with his old sidekick Bez, as well as some other musicians from the Manchester scene, including members of Ruthless Rap Assassins and Paris Angels. But for months there was nothing coming out of the studio except rumours that Shaun, far from heading for an early grave, was in fact writing some of his best ever material.

I’m sure I first heard Black Grape on Radio 1 in mid 1995 when I was sitting in a car being driven to a midweek football match – which would probably mean it was on a show hosted by Steve Lamacq and/or Jo Whiley. I remember the other person in the car, who was about as far away from being a fan of the Happy Mondays as you could imagine, saying that he thought it was an amazing song, and I just knew from that sort of reaction that Shaun really was on to something pretty special.

The band were given a big lift with the endorsement of Radio 1 breakfast DJ and TV presenter Chris Evans, who was responsible for bringing a lot of the new Britpop bands to wider attention. But there was never any way that Black Grape could be linked into that genre..the fact they were in existence for a few short years at the height of Britpop was a mere coincidence…

For about 12 months from the summer of 1995, Black Grape released an incredible body of work, with five Top 20 singles (including an alternative football anthem to coincide with England hosting Euro 96) and an album, It’s Great When You’re Straight….Yeah, which hit the #1 spot. Sadly, the momentum wasn’t maintained, and by the time the follow-up album Stupid Stupid Stupid came out in 1997, the band were beginning to fall apart with drink, drugs and illness taking their toll individually and collectively. They split in early 1998….

Black Grape may not have been with us all that long, but it was great fun while it lasted. Just about all of their singles are belters with some of the best lyrics Shaun has ever written.

mp3 : Black Grape – Reverend Black Grape
mp3 : Black Grape – In The Name Of The Father
mp3 : Black Grape – Kelly’s Heroes
mp3 : Black Grape – Fat Neck
mp3 : Black Grape – England’s Irie
mp3 : Black Grape – Get Higher
mp3 : Black Grape – Marbles

A fairly magnificent 7 right enough (for the most part…Fat Neck isn’t that good).


  1. I’ll be honest, I never really got Happy Mondays – before or after E. But Black Grape – that’s a whole other story (My druggie band of choice will always be Shack). I surprised myself in really getting into what Shaun was attempting. There’s an air of freedom in that first album that seemed a bit strangled or trampled on in the Mondays. Without even trying, Kelly’s Heroes decimates much of Britpop in one 4 minute song. You could even interpret the lyrics as a reflection on the state of the new musical heroes of Britpop.

  2. I think the Mondays were so ‘of their time and place’ (UK, late 80s) that it’s no surprise Echorich didn’t get them. While grunge was happening, I’m not sure the likes of the Mondays and their peers could really have connected with America in the same way. Black Grape kind of opened doors for them. A lot more soulful and melodic. Reverend Black Grape blew me away – I for one thought Shaun was finished and was more than happy to be proved well and truly wrong.

  3. Nice to see “Marbles” in there. That second album gets maligned a lot but I think it’s alright. That and “Money Back Guaranteed” are excellent cuts.

  4. Not sure why ‘A Big Day In The North’ isn’t on the list, great single taken off the first album, much slower, more introspective than yer average Black Grape tune, so stands out for that reason.

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