David Gray was born in Manchester sometime around 1970 (which would make him only about 28). He soon moved to Wales with his family by the time he was nine years old, and was raised there until leaving to be schooled at the University of Liverpool. He began by playing in punk bands where he lived, and also joined a few groups while studying at the university. It seems that Gray probably got bored with the limitations lyrically of “normal” punk music, and his style began to change to a more poetic form.
By this time David was determined to live his dream, so he decided to move to London where he could be closer to the action and heart of the business. Sometime later he was signed to Hut Records in the UK and Caroline in the US. His first release was a single, Birds Without Wings in late 1992, whose A-side would appear on his first LP. Even more interesting on the single was a b-side titled “The Light” which would later be fixed up and become an amazing track on his second LP, Flesh.
Finally, in the first half of 1993, A Century Ends was released to much acclaim. Although it never got “hot”, it was picked up well in certain areas, and got legitimate airplay in the UK. The ten tracks were a consistant compilation of anger, love, passion, and any other special emotion you could think of. This record will always be a classic in my opinion, but like his other two records, is now cut from production. It is still easily available, and I will be posting many places on the internet where you can find it.
Gray would release two more singles from his first album. The second single was entitled Shine, an amazing song that was radio-friendly, but never became the hit that it could have been. This can be attributed to many things: Caroline’s size limited the amount of promotion it should have been given, American radio stations were oblivious to his presence at the time, and many other things. But excuses cannot be made, because many amazing performers have had to struggle with great material and no recognition. The third and final single was Wisdom, which became his most popular song in most areas. A very catchy tune, but not a stupid radio-friendly pop song. It is a crowd favorite at most shows, and is usually played as an encore.
Very notable in these early singles were the great b-sides. Just as good as the album tracks, they have received alot of play on my stereo. They could have been excluded from the LP because of length or because they were actually recorded after A Century Ends was released. Nonetheless, they give serious fans more tracks to drool over. They were only released by Hut in the UK, so are very hard to come by now. These tracks are available as MP3s on this site, and I also have them to trade as CD-Rs or tapes for anyone that asks.
David would bring one musician along that assisted on the A Century Ends LP. Neil Maccoll, who contributed his guitar work and backing vocals on the first record would come along with David on a few tours until the end of 1994. Gray also found a very talented bassist in David Nolte, who began by working on Flesh, and played live with Gray until early 1997.
After playing around Europe, David went back into the studio to record his second album, Flesh. In between records he had been married, and his new found love seemed to be evident throughout the second release. Gray had also signed under a major company, Virgin, by production of Vernon Yard Recordings. This would prove to be nothing but trouble for him. Although he was still under Hut in Europe, Virgin controlled his recording and production. They also were the ones with the contract. Soon after Gray signed a vague contract, the man working for Virgin who found David and worked hard to get him signed, left the company. Deserted by all of his supporters in the company, Gray found that he wouldn’t have the freedom that he had with Hut. All Virgin cared about was fulfilling the contract and disposing of this guy. Worse luck was that the contract included no required singles, just one LP.
Aside from all of the bad luck, there was no bad vibes when it came to recording Flesh. It is the album that most die-hard David Gray fans consider the best. You wouldn’t know that from David or Clune (the drummer), who when I spoke with them said that they were very dissapointed with the record, and wish they could change much of it. Despite what they say, I think it is one of the most amazing albums ever made, and it will always be at the top of my record shelf. Ten tracks covered less cynical subjects and beliefs than the first record. His lyrical talent grew in tremendous bounds, as evident by many of the songs, especially Flesh (in my opinion). Released in 1994, many people ask “why did this record not go ANYWHERE in success?” Success in the industry comes from one thing. Promotions! And the top promotions are SINGLES. If a company produces a single and promotes it enough by sending it everywhere, the performer has a great chance of being recognized. How else would shitty bands like Bush, Green Day, and many others become popular? Airplay requires a single that all stations can ick up on. Each DJ isn’t going to listen to an entire album just to find a song to keep playing by one performer. It ain;t gonna happen unless that DJ is a huge fan (which has been an exception for Gray at a few stations). You can make an amazing album with great tracks, but if one track is not singled out and recognized on its own, the whole record will go down the drain. Despite all this, Flesh will remain a must-have for all David Gray fans, and even others.
One of the most important acquisitions came from Gray’s work on Flesh. It was a drummer who goes by the name of Clune. Not only an excellent performer, he adds enthusiasm and fun to David’s performances. His impact on the music has been very large too. Now not only is he the drummer, but has taken over the bass guitar in the two-man band that is together presently. Clune’s great sense of humor gives another element to a great live show.
Things may have fallen apart when it came to recordings, but they were all coming together on the subject of touring. David’s talent has always been his live presence. He, Nolte, Clune and Maccoll toured around Europe and America. Their most successful tour may have been travelling the US with Radiohead. On two different tours they opened for Radiohead, and gained a good following from fans. I myself first heard David in 1995 when he opened for Radiohead in Washington, DC. I would still not know of him today if I hadn’t been blown away by his performance there. His shows were very important in picking up American fans who would have no where else to hear of him, considering almost all radio stations in the US are a little less than open-minded in picking what they play.
Numerous shows including opening for bands such as Dave Matthews, Shawn Colvin and Radiohead led to a new deal with (at that time) powerful EMI Records. David says that he entered the contract very naive in the workings of major record giants, and he rushed in at the first chance of a deal that he saw. His string of bad luck continued when soon after signing with EMI, the company went down the tubes and out of business. Capitol records picked up the pieces and held what was left of the company, including David Gray. EMI had given Gray a small tour of his own through America that yielded very small results. His third and latest release, Sell,Sell,Sell was released in 1996 and marked a slight change in style for him. At times harder, the music was evidently more professionally produced. David Nolte contributed to the production, as did others. 12 tracks covered a broad range of styles, but the indescribable trademark of Gray was still there, though it seemed very rushed. This is definetly not his best work, but there were some bright points. “Late Night Radio”, “Everytime”, “Magdelena”, and “Forever Is Tomorrow Is Today” come to mind as catchy, faster tunes. Most fans will not say this is a 10 on their scale, and some even think a few tracks were fillers, I believe what was happening at the time affected the outcome. Yet again they were screwed by their record company. This time with the dawn of EMI’s crumbling, all employees were worried about was saving their own asses. No one gave a damn about any unproven talent such as David Gray. A few promo one-track singles were released in a hurry after the record was made. They were barely spread anywhere, and their half-assed efforts of promoting the singles and the album resulted in minimal sales. Worst yet, EMI had not even released the LP in Europe, Gray’s most successful region. To no avail Gray attempted to convince them to produce it overseas. Right before EMI finally crumbled, Gray and his lawyers went in to buy out his contract. He asked for no more royalties, just “get me out of this damn mess!” He couldn’t be tied down to EMI with what was happening.
By 1997 things had settled down, but David found himself in a lonely position. He began writing numerous songs in anticipation of being able to release a new album under some label. He signed with Chrysalis Records to copyright his songs, but it was not a recording contract. His new songs are some of his most amazing work yet, I promise you. He has been using his time by playing various shows and festivals, and showing off his new material. I have a good number of his new songs in MP3 on this site, but the quality of the recordings don’t do them justice. Still, it is great to hear where he is going with his music. He has kept with many of the styles he exhibited in the first three albums, while expanding his work too. Only two members are left, David Gray and Clune, but these two guys work incredibly well together, and make a great team. It is a treat to see them live. When I asked David what happened to Nolte, he responded with “much water flows under the bridge.” It seems like alot has happened in the previous years and things needed a change. Along with this change David and Clune seem to be very optimistic. They know their new stuff is great, and are confident that they will be able to sign to a new label and put out something that will be HUGE! I know that I believe it, hearing only a little of what they have to offer. Interscope Records, a very big company, and others have been rumored to show interest in signing the pair, which could mean a big break for the two. We will have to see in the coming months, and continue supporting these amazing talents.