Riding Curly’s Train with The Connells

the connells

Raleigh, North Carolinas The Connells were formed in 1984 by brothers Mike (guitar) and David (bass) Connell, vocalist Doug McMillan and drummer John Schultz, who was soon replaced by former Johnny Quest percussionist Peele Wimberley. Later that year the group added George Huntley (guitar/keyboards/vocals) just as they began recording a four song demo.

Influenced by both 60’s rock icons like The Beatles and The Byrds, and contemporary English acts, The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen and with both Connell and Huntley playing 12 string Rickenbacker guitars the group’s sound

“a jangly, folk-rock sound reminiscent of The Byrds” and North Carolina bands the dB’s and Let’s Active

often led to the group to being dismissed as mere R.E.M. imitators; with

“the melancholy lyrics of early songs such as “Darker Days” drawing inevitable comparisons to The Smiths.”

“Darker Days,” recorded by the initial four-piece lineup appeared on the North Carolina indie compilation More Mondo in 1984, but in March of 1985 the group would re-record it, making it the center piece of a four song demo they co-produced with Don Dixon. Through a friend, Ed Morgan, the demo made it’s way to the UK offices of Elvis Costello’s Demon Records. With slightly different track listings the ep was released by both Demon Records in the UK, and in the U.S. on Ed Morgan’s Black Park Records. The band toured heavily in support of Darker Days andvideos for the tracks “Seven” and “Hats Off” appeared on MTV’s 120 Minutes program helping to bring the group’s music to a national audience.

1986 found the group, along with Don Dixon, in R.E.M., producer Mitch Easter’s Drive-In Studios, again leading to inevitable comparisons between the two groups. The brooding, more assured Boylan Heights , “which featured the superb single “Scotty’s Lament”,was released in 1987 and would provide most of the foundation for the band’s live shows. Shopped to the major labels, the album would eventually be released on mid-major TVT (“Tee Vee Toons”) Records. Over the next decade the group engaged in a series of disputes with the label, suing at least once, unsuccessfully, to break their contract.

Boylan Heights proved to be a college radio hit and the band toured relentlessly in support of it. This period also saw Connell and Huntley trading in their twelve-string Rickenbackers for six-string Fender and Gibson guitars, a change that lead to a heavier, less folky sound, thought

“the band’s patented jangle were still audible on “Hey Wow,” the lead single from Fun and Games , the 1989 follow-up album.”

While the majority of the group’s music and lyrics still continued to be penned by Mike Connell on Fun and Games George Huntley wrote or co-wrote four tracks, including the anthemic “Sal,” which quickly became one of the most popular songs in the band’s live repertoire.

Recorded in Wales with U.K. producer Hugh Jones One Simple Word was released in 1990. The album would go on to produce two singles that charted, “Stone Cold Yesterday” would reach #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, while “Get a Gun” would peak at #24.

Between legal wranglings with TVT, and touring, it would be three years before the band would record and release 1993’s Ring. “Slackjawed,” the album’s lead single, was a college hit in the States, but it was the Celtic-influenced ballad, “’74-’75,” that proved to be the real hit. It would became a Top Twenty Hit in Europe, leading the group to tour extensively in Europe, and opening stadium shows for groups like Def Leppard. The winner of many European music awards in the mid 1990s the success of “’74-’75,” lead to greater financial and radio success than the band had known,” and helped to make Ring a platinum record outside of the States.

Released in 1996 Weird Food and Devastation,

“the title of the album reportedly alluded to the band’s impressions of Europe during their seemingly endless tours there in support of “’74-’75,”

failed to maintain the momentum established by Ring. With Mike Connells songwriting taking a quirkier turn the album proved to be darker than the more melodic Ring, although the

“lead single “Maybe” showed that Connell hadn’t lost his ability to compose anthemic pop songs,”

while the song“Friendly Time” was a thinly disguised skewering of rock critics such as Robert Christgau and J.D. Considine.

As they had done in the past

“the band recorded music videos for “Maybe” (a parody of the Burt Reynolds film Deliverance) and “Fifth Fret” (which was a parody of Psycho).”

They would also perform “Maybe” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

1998’s Still Life was their final record for TVT. With it’s softer sound it proved a marked departure from Weird Food and Devastations harder, edgier sound. It includes a re-worked version of one of their old songs, “Brown” re-titled “Dull, Brown and Gray,” and also features two original compositions from Peele Wimberly, “Bruised” and “Gonna Take a Lie.”

With a new line-up that saw Chris Stevenson replacing Peele Wimberly on drums, and Mike Ayers assuming George Huntley’s place on lead guitar, the band recorded and released Old School Dropouts on the revived Black Park Records label in 2000. Promoted sparingly in the American South the single “Washington” received limited airplay on alternative radio.

Because of family and career commitments the band only plays a handful of show each year, chiefly in the American south; and they are also currently negotiating for the re-release of their out-of-print albums.

For those who want more music by the Connells you should check out:

‘Not So Bad At All’ – a b-side/non-album track compilation. 2cd downloadable via lewisslade.com



Over There (TVT) 1988
Something To Say (TVT) 1989
One Simple Word 1990
’74-’75 (Intercord Tonträger GmbH, TVT) 1994
Slackjawed (TVT) 1995
Fifth Fret (TVT) 1996
Maybe (TVT) 1996
Crown (TVT) 1998
Soul Reactor (TVT) 1998

Full-length and EPs

Darker Days (Black Park Records, TVT) 1985
Boylan Heights (TVT) 1987
Fun & Games (TVT) 1989
One Simple Word (TVT) 1990
Ring (TVT) 1993
New Boy [EP] (TVT) 1994
Weird Food & Devastation (TVT) 1996
Still Life (TVT) 1998
Old-School Dropouts (Black Park) 2001

Tracks Appear On:

“Too Gone” TVT Sampler Summer 1991 (TVT Records) 1991
“I Got You” Freedom Of Choice (City Slang) 1992
“Slackjawed” A Matter Of Taste – Intercord PopKomm Compilation 1994 (Intercord Record Service) 1994
“Living In The Past” Fresh Meat (16 Mouth Watering Cold Cuts) (TVT Records) 1994
“Slackjawed” Grooves – Volume Two (Time Life Music) 1994
’74-’75 High Volume Hits Volume One: Music You Wanna Have (Pilo, Sony Music Special Products) 1994
’74-’75 RockVideo Monthly – March 1994 – Alternative Edition (Warner Music) 1994
“New Boy” 18 Top Hits International 4/95 (Top 13 Music-Club) 1995
’74 – ’75 2 Meter Sessies – Volume 6 (Radio Records) 1995
’74 – ’75 Absolute Music 14 (EVA Records ANS (Norway) 1995
’74 – ’75 Absolute Music 8 (EVA Records (Denmark) 1995
’74-’75 (Album Version) Bravo Hits 9 (EMI Electrola) 1995
“New Boy (Radio Edit)” Bravo Hits 10 (Warner Special Marketing GmbH) 1995
’74-’75 Bravo Hits Best Of ’95 (EMI Electrola) 1995
’74-’75 De Grootste Hits Uit De Mega Top 50 1995 (Magnum) 1995
’74-’75 Die Mega-Hits Des Jahres ’95 (ZYX Music) 1995
’74-’75 (Album Version) Giga Hits ’95 (Polystar Records) 1995
’74-’75 Hit Man 3 (EMI, Oy EMI Finland Ab) 1995
’74-’75 Hitbox Vol. 7 (Polydor) 1995
’74 – ’75 Internationale Hits 95 (Ariola) 1995
’74-’75 Just The Best Vol. 4 (Polystar Records) 1995
’74 – ’75 Kuschelrock 9 (Columbia, Sony Music Entertainment (Germany) 1995
’74-’75 Mr Music Hits 2/95 (Mr Music (Germany) 1995
New Boy (Radio Edit) Mr. Radio’s Hits On Air Vol. 1 (Columbia, Sony Music Entertainment (Germany) 1995
’74-’75 (Album Version) Otto – Die Song-Collection Herbst/Winter 1995/96 (Polystar Records) 1995
’74-’75 Rockgarden Vol. 3 (EVA Belgium) 1995
’74 ’75 The Greatest Hits ’95 – Volume 2 (Magnum) 1995
’74-’75 The Greatest Hits Of 95 (Telstar) 1995
’74-’75 The Love Song Collection 4 (The Record Collection) 1995
’74-’75 (Album Version) Top Of The Pops 2 (Columbia) 1995
Heavy Soundtrack (TVT) 1996
“Fifth Fret” CMJ Presents Certain Damage! – Volume 75 (College Music Journal) 1996
’74-’75 Now That’s What I Call Music! 33 (EMI Records, Virgin, PolyGram) 1996
“Bitter Pill” Scream (Music From The Dimension Motion Picture) (TVT Soundtrax) 1996
“Pretty Rough”
Got TVT? (TVT) 1997
’74 – ’75 Het Beste Uit 10 Jaar 2 Meter Sessies (Sony Music Media) 1997
’74 – ’75 La Légende Des Tubes Volume 16 (PolyGram – Kiosks) 1997
’74-’75 Platinum Collection : The Greatest Hits Of The 90’s (Reader’s Digest) 1998
’74-’75 Millennium Hits 1990 – 1999 (Disky) 1999
’74-’75 The Absolute Best Of The 90’s (EVA Records ANS (Norway) 1999
’74-’75 1000 Original Hits 1995 (EMI Plus (Europe) B.V.) 2001
’74-’75 De Beste 2 Meter Sessies Allertijden (Force Records, Universal TV) 2001
’74-’75 De Pre Historie – De Jaren 90 (EVA Belgium) 2001
’74-’75 De Pre Historie 1995 (EVA Belgium) 2001
’74-’75 Pure Voices 2 (EVA Belgium) 2001
“Insane in the Brain”
When Pigs Fly (Xemu) 2002
Radio Late Night Show (Delta Music Ltd.) 2003
’74-’75 Drivetime (Warner Strategic Marketing (UK) 2005

Unofficial Releases:

’74-’75 Legion-21 (Cass) 1996
’74-’75 Pool Mix 1990’s (DVDr, DVD) (Pool Records) 2007

New Boy [EP] (1994)

Playing Time: 22 minutes 10 seconds

the connells-new boy

1. New Boy (4:39)
2. Logan Street (3:40)
3. Wonder Why (3:14)
4. Living in the Past (2:45)
5. Fun & Games [live] (3:08)
6. New Boy [live] (4:44)

Buy New Boy from Amazon.com

Weird Food & Devastation (1996)

the connells-weird food and devestation

Playing Time: 48 minutes 2 seconds

1. Maybe (2:30)
2. Start (4:06)
3. Fifth Fret (3:40)
4. Just Like That (3:35)
5. Adjective Song (2:28)
6. Any (3:27)
7. Hang On (3:24)
8. Back To Blue (3:09)
9. Smoke (4:25)
10. Pretty Rough (3:52)
11. Let It Go (3:55)
12. Friendly Time (2:44)
13. Too High (3:14)
14. On Your Honor (3:33)

Still Life (1998)

Playing Time: 43 minutes 45 seconds

the connells-still life

1. Dull, Brown and Gray (3:11)
2. The Leper (3:07)
3. Bruised (3:05)
4. Curly’s Train (3:46)
5. Gauntlet (3:31)
6. Glade (3:30)
7. Soul Reactor (3:09)
8. Still Life (3:09)
9. Crown (3:58)
10. Circlin’ (2:45)
11. Gonna Take a Lie (3:37)
12. Queen of Charades (3:32)
13. Pedro Says (3:25)


2 responses to “Riding Curly’s Train with The Connells

  1. Did you entering the password as BITEMEFANBOY? Sometimes I screw up like a T5 in an NCO meeting and hit the Caps Lock key by mistake (who designed the placement of these keys anyway?)

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