Golden Smog Biography

A side project for members of Soul Asylum, the Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, Wilco and the Honeydogs, the real names of those involved in the ‘alt country supergroup’ Golden Smog were kept a closely guarded secret on the release of their debut album in 1996. However, the pseudonyms David Spear, Michael Macklyn, Raymond Virginia, Scott Summitt, Jarret Decatur-Lane and Leonardson Saratoga were deliberate clues - each including the actual middle name and part of the address of those involved. The songwriting credits, however, betrayed at least some of those involved - Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run), Gary Louris and Marc Perlman (the Jayhawks), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum).

The band first appeared on record in 1992 with the release of an EP, On Golden Smog, which featured Chris Mars of the Replacements on drums (he was subsequently replaced by Noah Levy of the Honeydogs). Golden Smog’s debut album was recorded in the autumn of 1994, the first occasion on which the band’s various other activities allowed it. Recorded in just five days, Down By The Old Mainstream captured the band ethic: ‘Once every six months we would learn a bunch of covers and play. It would be sloppy and fun. Then one day, we looked at what we had and said, “This is a really good band... Let’s do it”.’ Keen to dismiss accusations of Golden Smog being a ‘joke’ band, Rykodisc Records released a pre-emptive single, ‘Red Headed Stepchild’, prior to the album’s release in January 1996. It was followed by a tour in February and March. Former Big Star drummer Jody Stephens appeared on the follow-up, Weird Tales, which fleshed out the Golden Smog ethic. A fine collection of individual tracks by each of the members (barring Stephens with only one co-credit to his name), the album worked as a showcase for songwriting talents rather than as a cohesive group project.

By the time Golden Smog resurfaced in 2006 with Another Fine Day, the fortunes of the various members had changed. The Jayhawks broke up and Soul Asylum had spent most of the period on hiatus. Tweedy’s Wilco had enjoyed the most success, and his contributions to Another Fine Day were limited by the demands on his time. Strangely, the album came across as far more of group project than its predecessors. Richly produced, it also cast off the shackles of alt country and embraced the adventurous rock leanings of latter-day Wilco and Jayhawks records. Tweedy was absent altogether on the follow-up, Blood On The Slacks, which was recorded by Johnson, Louris, Murphy and Perlman.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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