Soul Asylum is an American alternative rock band that formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1983.
The band originally formed in 1981 under the name Loud Fast Rules, with the original line-up consisting of Dan Murphy, Dave Pirner, Karl Mueller and Pat Morley. The latter was replaced by Grant Young in 1984. The band recorded three albums with Twin/Tone Records and two with A&M Records to little commercial success. However, in 1992, they released the triple-platinum album Grave Dancers Union, featuring their Grammy Award-winning single "Runaway Train". The band played the Bill Clinton inauguration early the next year. They also scored a platinum record with the album Let Your Dim Light Shine three years later. In 1998 they recorded Candy from a Stranger. Mueller was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, causing the band to organize a benefit concert on his behalf. Mueller died a year later. In 2006 they released The Silver Lining. Their most recent effort is entitled Delayed Reaction, which was released on July 17, 2012.
The group was an outgrowth of a previous band, Loud Fast Rules, formed in 1981 by drummer Dave Pirner, guitarist and backing vocalist Dan Murphy, and bassist Karl Mueller. Pirner was moved to lead vocalist and guitarist Pat Morley took his place. As Loud Fast Rules, two of their songs were released on the 1982 Reflex Records cassette compilation Barefoot and Pregnant. On the following Reflex compilation, Kitten (recorded live at Goofy's Upper Deck) they were billed as Proud Crass Fools. Soul Asylum began performing around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (including First Avenue) and quickly developed a core following while becoming known for their powerful, dynamic stage shows.
Their 1984 debut album, Say What You Will... Everything Can Happen was originally released on LP and cassette by local record label Twin/Tone as a nine song EP. This is since out-of-print, but was re-released on CD as Say What You Will, Clarence...Karl Sold the Truck, which included five additional tracks that were cut from the original album. Between the release of Say What You Will and their second album, Grant Young joined the group, taking over the drums from Morley. In 1986, Soul Asylum released three albums, Made To Be Broken followed by the cassette only release of Time's Incinerator and While You Were Out.
The band toured relentlessly in its early years opening up for a variety of other American touring bands and, later, often as a headliner act after gaining exposure on fellow Minneapolis band Hüsker Dü's Flip Your Wig tour in early 1986. Contrasted with some of the popular underground and alternative styles at the time, new audiences were struck by the band's onstage swagger, scruffy Midwestern appearance and extremely loud, frenetic sound - mixing tuneful but unrestrained punk, hardcore, 1970s rock, country and self-effacing kitsch. One early review described their sound as [paraphrased] "an unholy mix of Kiss and Hank Williams tossed under a runaway train." All elements contributed to the band being credited with a 'grunge precursor' title, a claim often recited in comparisons between pre-Nirvana Minneapolis and Seattle bands. Despite critical acclaim locally and internationally, they remained unknown to a larger U.S. audience and radio market.
Late 1980s and early 1990s
The group signed with A&M Records in 1988. Their first offering there was Clam Dip & Other Delights (1989), a parody of A&M Records co-founder Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream & Other Delights. Hang Time was released in 1988, followed by And the Horse They Rode in On in 1990 (produced by X-pensive Winos drummer Steve Jordan). Due to poor sales and Pirner's hearing problems, the group considered disbanding.
After playing a series of acoustic shows in the early 1990s they were picked up by Columbia Records. In 1992 they released Grave Dancers Union, which became their most popular album. On January 20, 1993, the group performed at the first inauguration of United States President Bill Clinton. Additionally, in 1993, the band performed "Sexual Healing" for the AIDS-Benefit Album No Alternative produced by the Red Hot Organization. The band added keyboard player Joey Huffman in the summer of 1993. Huffman toured with the band until joining Matchbox Twenty in 1998. Huffman played on records Let Your Dim Light Shine, After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom, June 28, 1997 and The Silver Lining. In 1994, Soul Asylum received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song for "Runaway Train." The music video for "Runaway Train" featured photographs and names of missing children in a public service video style. At the end of the video, Pirner appeared and said "If you've seen one of these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number" before a missing children telephone helpline number appeared. For use outside the U.S., the video was edited to include photos and names of missing children from the area the video would be used. The video was instrumental in reuniting several children with their families.
Before their next studio album, drummer Grant Young was fired, and was replaced by Sterling Campbell. Campbell had been listed as providing "percussion" on Grave Dancers Union (although it turned out he had actually done at least half of the drumming on that album). The next release, Let Your Dim Light Shine saw the track "Misery" reach the Top 20, but the album was not as successful as the band's previous one. In 1997 Soul Asylum performed a benefit concert for North Dakota students whose proms were cancelled due to the Red River Flood of 1997. Some of the songs that were played during the prom were later released on After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom, June 28, 1997 in 2004. The group released Candy from a Stranger the following year. The album was unsuccessful and the band was dropped from Columbia Records' roster. Pirner said, "It's sort of sad to say, but you could see the whole grunge-rock-band thing getting totally over-saturated and people were looking for something new." The band took a step back; Pirner explained, "We needed to reassess how far we've gone and how much further we're going to go and which way we want to go and what we do right and what we do wrong. It was kind of time to take inventory."
Collaborations with Kevin Smith and Death of Mueller
Pirner became friends with the film director Kevin Smith, a longtime Soul Asylum fan. Soul Asylum have contributed music to three Kevin Smith films, Clerks, Clerks II, and 1997's Chasing Amy (in which Pirner provided the score). Smith directed the music video for the song "Can't Even Tell," which was featured on the Clerks soundtrack.
In May 2004, bassist Mueller was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent treatment. In October 2004, a benefit concert was held for him in Minneapolis at The Quest nightclub, and featured many popular local groups and musicians, including Soul Asylum, the Gear Daddies, Paul Westerberg, and former Hüsker Dü bandmates Bob Mould and Grant Hart, who reunited for their first performance together in sixteen years. The benefit raised over $50,000. At the time, Mueller's cancer was in remission, and he played with his bandmates during the show. Mueller recorded his last Soul Asylum album that year, 2006's The Silver Lining. However, the cancer later returned, and he died at his home on June 17, 2005. Soul Asylum released The Silver Lining on July 11, 2006, their first album of new material in eight years since Candy from a Stranger.
Tommy Stinson joins
In late 2005, ex-Replacements bassist (and current Guns N' Roses bassist) Tommy Stinson and former Prince drummer Michael Bland joined Soul Asylum. They completed their American tour in support of The Silver Lining in late 2006. In November and December 2006 they opened for Cheap Trick on their American tour. On March 10, 2007, Soul Asylum joined Cyndi Lauper, Mint Condition, and Lifehouse to hold a concert to benefit Wain McFarlane, the leader of the reggae band Ipso Facto, to help pay for the expenses of a kidney transplant.
Although Tommy Stinson is a permanent member, in 2006 and 2007 while on tour with Guns N' Roses his place was temporarily filled by George Scot McKelvey. For the 2010 Guns N' Roses world tour, his fill-in was Pete Donnelly. The new album titled Delayed Reaction was released on July 17, 2012.
On November 12th, 2012 via Facebook, it was announced that Winston Roye had replaced Tommy Stinson on bass and Justin Sharbono was Dan Murphy's replacement on guitar. Justin is a cousin of Dan's on his mother's side.
- Say What You Will, Clarence... Karl Sold the Truck (1984) (Twin/Tone)
- Made to Be Broken (1986) (Twin/Tone)
- While You Were Out (1986) (Twin/Tone)
- Hang Time (1988) (A&M)
- And the Horse They Rode In On (1990) (A&M)
- Grave Dancers Union (1992) [3x Platinum] (Columbia)
- Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995) [Platinum] (Columbia)
- Candy from a Stranger (1998) (Columbia)
- The Silver Lining (2006) (Legacy)
- Delayed Reaction (2012) (429 Records)
- Official Soul Asylum site
- Soul Asylum at AllMusic
- Soul Asylum's Official Myspace Page
- Soul Asylum Videos (Sony Records)
- Trouser Press entry
- Sound recordings, a video collection, and the band’s records are available for research use at the Minnesota Historical Society.
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