JAM Magazine Main Features

Living Colour - Rocklahoma 2008 - July 9-13

The Colours of the Collideøscope

The Grammy award winning group, Living Colour, grew out of a non-profit organization called the Black Rock Coalition. The New York City organization was co-founded by Vernon Reid specifically tailored toward black musicians interested in playing hard rock music. The British-born guitarist’s uncanny speed and technique made him a natural rock and roll performer, and from 1983-’86, he formed a number of bands under the Living Colour name. During this time, the hair and glam scene was dominating the rock world making it somewhat segregated and predictable. The emergence of Living Colour in 1988 would change all that.

The group (Reid, singer Corey Glover, bassist Muzz Skillings and drummer Will Calhoun) first formed in the mid-’80s. The group found an unlikely supporter in Mick Jagger, who took the band under his wing after seeing them perform at CBGB’s. The Stones’ front man produced a demo for the quartet and helped secure their deal with the Epic. (The band had to delay recording their debut until Glover finished filming his role for Oliver Stone’s Vietnam epic, Platoon.) When the album Vivid was issued in the summer of 1988, sales were weak. By winter, the band’s striking video for their anthem “Cult of Personality” was all over MTV, pushing Vivid to the upper reaches of the charts and to platinum certification. Living Colour would take home their first of two Grammy Awards, as “Cult” won Best Hard Rock Performance at the 1989 ceremony. Jagger insisted the band open a string of stadium dates for the Rolling Stones’ first U.S. tour in eight years that fall.

Starting with Vivid and continuing on future albums, the band showed that rock could still convey a message (as evidenced by such tracks as “Open Letter to a Landlord,” and “Funny Vibe” among others). The quartet regrouped to record their sophomore effort, Time’s Up, an album that performed respectfully on the charts but failed to live up to the expectations of their smash debut. The band would go on to win another Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance by a group for the title song. An appearance at the inaugural Lollapalooza tour in the summer of 1991 kept the group in the public’s eye, as did an EP of outtakes, Biscuits. Skillings left the group shortly thereafter and was replaced by studio veteran Doug Wimbish. Their darkest and most challenging release, Stain, was issued in 1993. Although it failed to sell as well as its predecessors, it retained the band’s large and dedicated following, as Living Colour appeared to be entering a groundbreaking new musical phase of their career. The band began writing what would be their fourth full-length, but an inability to settle on a single musical direction caused friction between the members, leading to Living Colour’s demise in early 1995.

Living Colour launched their first tour in six years during the summer of 2001. In 2003, the band returned on Sanctuary to record their most experimental album to date, Collideøscope. Two years later the rarities collection What’s Your Favorite Color? was released followed by Everything Is Possible: The Very Best of Living Colour in 2006.

Living Colour

Corey Glover - lead vocals

Vernon Reid - acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals, sampling, guitar synth

Doug Wimbish - bass, vocals, beats, sound design, ambience

Will Calhoun - percussion, drums, tabla, vocals, sampling, electronic percussion, water drums, loop

Record Label: Sanctuary/Sony