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Ride

Second only to inspirational “shoegazing” protagonists MY BLOODY VALENTINE, the discordant RIDE jounced the movement for several years until the lights flickered and their wick burnt out in January ’96; Britpop’s OASIS and BLUR had cornered another niche in the ever-evolving and fickle UK music scene. Four proper studio albums to their name, and several charting EPs (quite unique of the period), Messrs Gardener, Bell, Queralt and Colbert expanded their ethereal, neo-psychedelia wall-of-sound without becoming more than just John Peel Festive Fifty faves.
Formed in Oxford, in summer 1988, local art & design college students Mark Gardener (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Andy Bell (lead guitar/vocals) found they had common ground with drummer/percussionist Laurence “Loz” Colbert and bassist Stephan “Steve” Queralt. Settling on the name RIDE, the quartet drafted in journalist/future manager Dave Newton, who subsequently secured them some gigs in the London area. A demo was passed on from radio DJ Gary Crowley to The JESUS AND MARY CHAIN’s Jim Reid who, in turn, passed it on to head honcho Alan McGee at Creation Records. An A&R-type inspection as support to The SOUP DRAGONS, led to RIDE signing on the dotted line.
A fresh decade upon them and promising much from their eponymous debut EP (featuring `Chelsea Girl’ and the cathartic `Drive Blind’), the band further showcased their swirling and spiralling guitar-scapes with hot-to-trot Top 40 EPs, `Play’ and `Fall’. Somehow Sire Records in the US saw potential and issued their first two releases in full as SMILE {*7} that July, hoping to cash-in on the burgeoning shoegazing scene. From the aforementioned second EP came a Festive Fifty fave, `Like A Daydream’, and from their glorious third `Fall’ EP, `Dreams Burn Down’ and `Taste’, were high up the end-of-year lists.
Come October, with the “scene” in full flow, RIDE nearly secured a Top 10 place with their dynamic debut album, NOWHERE {*8}. Best-served up by the CD version, which added three other cues that made up the aforesaid `Fall’ EP (`Dreams Burn Down’ thankfully appeared on all formats), the set shifted seamlessly through the upbeat `Kaleidoscope’ to the rather sullen `In A Different Place’. As the melancholy `Vapour Trail’ was already resting among the “modern rock” tracks on American radio, the `Today Forever’ EP made up of its B-tracks led by `Unfamiliar’, took its place in the UK Top 20 (backed by `Sennen’, `Beneath’ and `Today’).
An exciting time for the band and their mop-maned fanbase, they headlined the Slough Music Festival in front of over 8,000 fans; and in front of even more one presumes at the 1991 Reading Festival.
The fruits of their labour were heard early the following year on their sublime signature-tune single, `Leave Them All Behind’. This slow-burning psychedelic epic – clocking in at 8 minutes! – gave RIDE their first Top 10 entry and was a prelude to their second, more TEENAGE FANCLUB-esque album, GOING BLANK AGAIN (1992) {*7}. The record went Top 5, despite being derided by certain music critics for its sunny-day power-pop aplomb; examples `Twisterella’ (a Top 40 hit), `Not Fazed’, `Chrome Waves’ and the anchor piece, `OX4’.
Fractions within the band began to appear, and it was thought a two-year sabbatical would solve the problem. In the meantime, Bell took time off to help out his Swedish wife and stablemate IDHA (Ovelius) on her debut album. The unearthing in 1993 of a what-might’ve-been re-vamp of BLONDIE’s `Union City Blue’ and `Atomic’ (1989 recordings with Alex of MOTORCYCLE BOY released as a single under the banner of Motorcycle Ride), was meant to embarrass.
Interceded by half-hearted hits, `Birdman’ and `How Does It Feel To Feel?’ (a cover of The CREATION track), RIDE shifted back a DeLorean gear to 60s-style BYRDS or BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD for the sandal-stomping – not necessarily shoe-gazing! – CARNIVAL OF LIGHT (1994) {*6}. Lukewarm reviews and what looked to be a split down the middle (rather than the usual interchange) between Gardener and Bell tracks were grating on their fans. The album was to have been produced by BLACK CROWES affiliate George Drakoulias, before indie man John Leckie took over the decks, but with cliched titles such as `Crown Of Creation’, `Rolling Thunder’ and minor sing-a-long hit `I Don’t Know Where It Comes From’ (all Bell’s incidentally), the cracks on their proverbial pavement were showing.
Early the following year, Gardener took off to the States, leaving an almost complete fourth album that was subsequently pieced together as swansong set, TARANTULA (1996) {*4}. Prior to the day of its release, Bell also bailed out, leaving Creation Records to pull the near-Top 20 album from retail after only one week. But for the opening minor hit cut of `Black Nite Crash’, the unfocused Bell and Colbert’s individual compositions (mainly Bell’s), were not up to scratch. The harsh reality was that it should’ve been released as an EP, with possibly, `Gonna Be Alright’ and Gardener’s `Deep Inside My Pocket’ as back-up B-tracks.
Further examples of RIDE’s re-hash prowess was in earlier B-side covers of `Eight Miles High’ (The BYRDS), `The Model’ (KRAFTWERK), `That Man’ (SMALL FACES), `Sight Of You’ (PALE SAINTS) and `Severance’ (DEAD CAN DANCE).
Their split came as no surprise, but with Britpop enterprise HURRICANE #1, Andy Bell was back in the driving seat by spring 1997 (after two sets he joined OASIS). On the other side of the spectrum, former sparring partner MARK GARDENER was feeling the indie pinch with his equally hook-line single, `Magdalen Sky’ (for Shifty Disco Records); Gardener and Colbert’s next supergroup exercise, The ANIMALHOUSE – alongside bassist Hari T, keyboardist Jason King and multi-instrumentalist from The MYSTICS: Sam Williams – were eventually underway post-millennium. Rumours of RIDE getting back together were proved justified in 2015 when they performed at festivals around the globe (Coachella et al).
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD // rev-up Aug2016

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