Black Grape are a rock band from England, featuring former members of Happy Mondays and Ruthless Rap Assassins. Their musical style fuses funk and electronic rock with electronic programming and samples.
The band was formed in 1993 by former Happy Mondays members Shaun Ryder and Bez. It was Ryder's first musical project after the disintegration of Happy Mondays due both to his multiple drug addictions and to disagreements about revenues with other bandmembers. The formation of the new band was intended to draw a line between his past life and his new one. Ryder and Bez recruited rappers Paul "Kermit" Leveridge and Carl "Psycho" McCarthy, drummer Ged Lynch (like Leveridge, a former member of Ruthless Rap Assassins), and guitarist Wags (formerly of the Manchester-based group the Paris Angels) and Oli "Dirtycash" Dillon on Ocarina. Recording of new material started that year, although the group was not under contract.
In 1995 Black Grape was signed by Radioactive Records (an imprint of major label BMG) and released its debut album It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah. It immediately charted at number one in the UK Albums Chart, and spawned three Top Twenty singles.
The first single "Reverend Black Grape" managed to outsell the Happy Mondays cover of John Kongos "(He's Gonna) Step On (You Again)".
The third single, "Kelly's Heroes" – a song lampooning society's obsession with celebrities and idols that had much to do with Ryder's own previous hero worship of people he now saw as wastrels – had its opening lyric changed before recording from "Don't talk to me about heroes – Most of these guys snort cocaine," to "Don't talk to me about heroes – most of these men sink like subs". Another song on the album, "Temazi Party", mocked the then-current craze for abusing Temazepam sleeping pills (a.k.a. 'jellies'), but was deliberately misspelt on the album sleeve as 'Tramazi' instead of 'Temazi' to forestall any legal injunction against the album's release.
It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah received critical acclaim in the UK, but the group made little impact in the US. However, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich listed it as his favourite album of 1996. The album cover featured a picture of then-recently imprisoned terrorist Carlos The Jackal.
The subsequent album Stupid Stupid Stupid was less favoured. The group split in 1998 after Ryder fired the rest of the band while touring, starting with Kermit (who was suffering from septicaemia) and ending with Bez (who was unsatisfied with his financial situation).
Lynch went on to play drums and percussion on many other musical works, becoming a noted session musician.
On 1 April 2010, Ryder briefly reformed Black Grape with producer Danny Saber and Kermit for a concert as part of the 'Get Loaded in the Dark' gig series at The Coronet in London.
In 2015, Black Grape signed to Creation Management run by Alan McGee and Simon Fletcher and announced a reunion tour to coincide with 20 years of the It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah album.
The Grape Tapes (1997)
Black Grape on Facebook
NME report on Black Grape Reforming
Black Grape Discography in Discogs