Or, why music in the 90s sucked, part 817
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of artists like Let's Active and Matthew Sweet (both of whom were inches away from superstardom), Will Owsley formed a powerpop band in Nashville with songwriter Millard Powers.
The band, who called themselves the Semantics, got signed to Geffen Records and spent years recording their first album with legendary producer Peter Asher. The band initially featured Ben Folds on drums, but he left to form his own band and was replaced by Zak Starkey, son of one Ringo Starr.
Power Pop nirvana, right? What could possibly go wrong? (Link for Gmail subscribers)
Well, Nirvana could go wrong. And did.
And the groundswell of grunge reared its head and crushed all the pop it could find.
Flannel and noise were in. Harmonies and jangly guitars were out.
By the time the band turned in their first (and only) album Powerbill, Geffen had lost interest. They dithered and eventually passed on the album.
So the band broke up. Amy Grant heard the album and hired Owsley to play in her touring band. He'd release a terrific solo album a few years later (coproduced by Millard Powers) and record and tour for years with Amy Grant and Shania Twain.
The Semantics record finally came out in 1996 in Japan, where it sold 20,000 copies with no promotion whatsoever.
Grunge would soon be over too -- but by then it was too late for the Semantics. The band was over and done with.
But at least they left behind some amazing music -- and an album that should've been a huge hit if record companies weren't tripping over themselves to chase the next big thing up to Seattle.
In a sad postscript, Owsley died a few months ago at age 44, an apparent suicide.
Inaugural Make Music Philly Day coming 6/21
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