Del Amitri is a Scottish pop-rock guitar band, formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1980. The band grew out of Justin Currie's Jordanhill College School band and came together after teenager Currie placed an advert in the window of a music store asking for people who could play to contact him. The band was formed with the original line-up of Currie (bass and vocals), Iain Harvie (lead guitar), Bryan Tolland (guitar) and Paul Tyagi (drums). Currie and Harvie are the only members of the band to remain present throughout its history ? they are also the main songwriters of the group.
There have been many suggestions as to what the band's name really means. The band has repeatedly stated a story corroborated on their official website that Del Amitri "Started at school in 1980, originally called Del Amitri Rialzo in order to confuse the public (name was invented for its meaninglessness; all other stories are fabrications) in west Glasgow, Scotland."
The liner notes of one album state: "...if you ask us what the name means - expect violence", strongly suggesting that the band have long since tired of this question.
Speculation about the name's origins have included the Greek for "from the womb", and a handbag brandname. At the very end of the band's 1996 tour diary video release, titled Let's Go Home, he reads an entry from a children's encyclopaedia, which supposedly refers to a false god from Greek mythology called Delama Tree, largest of all false gods, 458 feet (140 m) tall and made entirely of gold. It was built on sand, and collapsed, killing the entire population of the town that built it. He ends the reading saying, "There you have it: false gods built on stupidity."
Despite having had several top ten albums in the United Kingdom, the group has never managed a top ten single on the UK singles chart, although they did achieve one top ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
After becoming popular on the local music scene in Glasgow and having demo material played on popular DJ John Peel's show on BBC Radio 1, the band broke through in 1984 when they were signed by Chrysalis Records, who released their eponymous d?but album in 1985. The band also appeared on the front cover of influential weekly music magazine Melody Maker and supported The Smiths on tour, but despite this exposure neither the album nor its singles were a success.
The band was dropped by Chrysalis but continued to work and play together, touring the USA in 1986 on a tour that was financed partly by themselves and partly by their small but enthusiastic fan base. The time they spent working on new material proved worthwhile, as they were eventually signed up again in 1987, this time by A&M Records. However, that same year they underwent their first change of personnel as Tolland was asked by the others to leave the band and was replaced by newcomer Mick Slaven.
During the recording of the new album, which eventually came to be released as Waking Hours in 1989, the band's line-up was further augmented by the arrival of keyboard player Andy Alston, who outside of Currie and Harvie has proven to be the longest-serving member of the band's line-up. Slaven, on the other hand, proved to be one of the shortest-serving members, as he left the band before the album had even been released. His place was taken by David Cummings, whose photo appears on the record sleeve. Tyagi also bowed during the recording of the record, the drums on the album being played by The Commotions' Steven Irvine and on the subsequent tour his place was taken by Brian McDermott.
Despite these fluctuations in their line-up, Waking Hours proved to be Del Amitri's breakthrough, reaching No. 6 in the UK album charts and also providing them with their biggest ever single chart hit at home when the song "Nothing Ever Happens", an iconic lament on the pointlessness of modern life, rose to No. 11. They also gained some mainstream exposure abroad for the first time, as Waking Hours was a success in several territories with the single "Kiss This Thing Goodbye" flirting with the lower reaches of the US Billboard Chart's Top 40. In between Waking Hours and their next album, the band released the single "Spit In the Rain" which, although it did not chart in the U.S., reached No. 21 in the UK.
The Currie / Harvie / Alston / Cummings / McDermott line-up proved to be a stable and successful one for the group, as they stayed together for the recording of the follow-up album Change Everything, which was released in 1992 and became the band's biggest ever chart success, reaching No. 2 in the UK, being held off top spot only by The Best of Lionel Richie. The single "Always the Last to Know" was another Top 20 UK hit, peaking at No. 13, and again provided them with an entry into the Billboard Chart Top 40 in the US. Their increasing success in that country led to an appearance on the popular David Letterman show there, and their tours across the world saw them playing to increasingly larger and more loyal audiences.
The popularity in the USA saw them being invited to play at the Woodstock '94 anniversary festival, although they were forced to do so without McDermott who had decided to leave the band, necessitating their first line-up change since the beginning of the decade. At Woodstock they played with Ashley Soan on drums, but he was not hired until the band had finished recording their fourth album which featured Chris Sharrock on drums who had previously played with The Icicle Works, The Las and World Party.
The resulting album, Twisted, was released in 1995 and peaked at No. 3 in the UK. From the resulting tour onwards, Soan joined the band as a permanent member, in time to see the single "Roll to Me", only a moderate hit in the UK where it reached No. 22, reach the top ten in the US charts, a noteworthy achievement during an era when British acts were finding success in America notoriously difficult. There was less good news however when Cummings decided, at the conclusion of their American tour, to leave the group, wanting to move more into scriptwriting where he subsequently enjoyed success as a member of the team behind popular BBC sketch show The Fast Show. Cummings had attended the University of East Anglia with Fast Show mainstays Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson in the early 1980s, and in 1995 Del Amitri had appeared in a Fast Show sketch.
Cummings was replaced by Jon McLoughlin, who toured with the band and played on their next album, Some Other Sucker's Parade (1997), which was another top ten hit in the UK, reaching No. 6. The band found it harder to consolidate on their previous successes in the US, however, and lost out on more airplay at home when their record company took the decision to withdraw the album's planned third single Medicine in September 1997, putting out an entirely false press story that the lyrics could be interpreted as a critique of the then recently deceased Diana, Princess of Wales. Following the recording of the album, both McLoughlin and Soan had left the band, causing yet further disruption, and they were replaced on tour and on subsequent recordings by Kris Dollimore (guitars) and Mark Price (drums). McLoughlin died in March 2005, aged 42, due to complications arising from diabetes.
Justin Currie and Andy Alston, 2002
It was to be five years before Del Amitri released another album, although they were busy in 1998, recording the official anthem for the Scottish World Cup squad, "Don't Come Home Too Soon" which, at No. 15 in the charts, gave them their third biggest UK hit and their last Top 20 entry to date. They also released their best of album, Hatful of Rain, which was a No. 5 hit in the UK album charts and was accompanied by a new track, "Cry to Be Found", which reached No. 40.
The best of album had been released by Mercury, who took over the band's contract after A&M had gone out of business. It was Mercury who released what is to date the band's final album, Can You Do Me Good?, in the spring of 2002, which the band backed up with a successful UK tour. Despite their time away from the public eye, both album and single reached the top forty, sales were not as high as Mercury had wanted and later in the year the group were dropped from the label.
The current status of the band is something of a mystery. Although there had been no official word of them splitting up, it is believed that Dollimore and Price have left the band. Rumours that the remaining members are working with or under the name of "The Uncle Devil Show" have been strenuously denied on the band's official website. However, the tone of the denial is very much in keeping with the humorous spirit of the whole Uncle Devil Show project and even non-fans will be able to recognize the songs and voice of Justin Currie on their first album, A Terrible Beauty, which was released in 2004 and contains six songs sung by one Jason Barr whose voice is strangely redolent of Currie's.
In March 2005 Justin Currie announced on their US website that he was finishing up his solo album and was also 'more than halfway through' a record he had been writing together with Del Amitri's guitarist Iain Harvie for the last eighteen months. At the end of August of the same year Currie added that his solo album was now finished, had a title (Rebound) and that he was talking to two labels in New York interested in releasing this record.
In April 2007, Justin Currie announced that he had signed with RYKODisc to release his solo album "Rebound".
In May 2007, Canadian country group Doc Walker had a number five hit single on the Canadian Country Music Charts with the Justin Currie-penned "Driving With The Brakes On".
Australian country singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers has also covered "Driving With The Brakes On". The song appears on her CD single for "Pony".
Justin Currie released his first solo album, What is Love For, in autumn 2007.