Do you remember these Birmingham bands of the 1990s?

Here’s a look at the great Birmingham bands from the ‘naughty ‘90s’ that you might have forgotten.

After the glitz of the ‘80s, the following decade saw Black Country hitmakers The Wonder Stuff top the charts with Dizzy, Pop Will Eat Itself crack the Top 30, and Ocean Colour Scene record the seminal Moseley Shoals. But they were just the tip of the iceberg, as venues like The Jug Of Ale and The Flapper and Firkin welcomed an explosion of guitar-based bands, while clubland welcomed a revolution in dance music, and crowds packed out The Que Club.

Wave your hands in the air if you remember any of these West Midlands artists?

Electribe 101

Infusing electronic dance music with a distinct pop sensibility, tracks like You’re Walking and Tell Me When The Fever Ended pushed Electribe 101 into the mainstream, with Talking With Myself cracking the Top 40 twice (firstly in 1990, then in 1998). Formed by Birmingham-based musicians Brian Nordhoff, Joe Stevens, Les Fleming and Roberto Cimarosti, and German vocalist Billie Ray Martin, in 1988, E101 played alongside Depeche Mode and Erasure and were managed by Tom Watkins (Pet Shop Boys, Bros and East 17).

Despite their promise, the band split after just one album - 1990’s Electribal Memories - leaving Billie to forge a solo career while the others continues as The Groove Corporation (aka GCorp). However, their unreleased second LP, Electribal Soul, finally saw the light of day in 2022, 30 years after it was originally recorded.

Electribe 101

Birdland

As the ’80s stumbled into the ’90s, Birdland were briefly very much a big deal. With their distinctive peroxide blond mop tops, the quartet clocked up a run of independent chart hits, beginning with 1989’s giddy Hollow Heart (on Lazy, also home to Coventry’s The Primitives). Fully backed by music papers Melody Maker and NME, Sleep With Me cracked the UK Top 40, while their 10-track eponymous debut hit 44, but sandwiched between grunge and Britpop, Birdland fell from favour and disappeared just as quickly as they appeared. There was a brief reunion a decade ago, but since then ... silence.

The Higher Intelligence Agency

Formed in 1992 by Bobby Bird, the HIA were part of the same scene as ground-breaking experimental club night, Oscillate. Pioneering an instrumental sound that became known as ‘ambient techno’, The HIA released their debut album, Colourform, in 1993, while other releases included Birmingham Frequencies - a collaboration with Biosphere that featured background sounds from the city, and was recorded at a live performance on the 12th floor of The Rotunda.

Bobby’s still very much active today, touring, producing installation-based work and releasing new music with the HIA’s Song Of The Machine album released in January 2022.

Higher Intelligence Agency at the Que Club in Birmingham

The Sandkings

Hailing from the Black Country, The Sandkings looked set to follow the likes of The Wonder Stuff, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and PWEI, and opened for such acts as The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Jesus Jones. After a good run of indie singles they signed to London Records, releasing Shake Your Head (which had US entertainer Sammy Davis Jr on the cover) and LP Welcome To England, but split in ’92. Guitarist/vocalist Jas Mann went on to score a number one with Spaceman as Babylon Zoo four years later. The remaining members recently reunited, and there’s talk of more from The Sandkings later this year!

Find out more: The Sandkings

Delicious Monster

Opening for such acts as The Boo Radleys, The Cranberries, Suede and the West Mids’ own Dodgy, Delicious Monster released a solid run of EPs and a fine album, Joie De Vivre, in 1993. DJs John Peel and Mark Radcliffe were fans, and NME hailed Rachel as the ‘Goddess of indie rock.’ However, chart success eluded them, and the band called it a day in ’95, although Rachel continues to record and perform today, with several releases on Brum’s Iron Man Records.

Rockers Hi-Fi

More proof of Brum’s clubbing pedigree, Richard Whittingham and Glyn Bush changed their moniker from Original Rockers to Rockers Hi-Fi, combining reggae dub and dance/rave music. Their Rockers To Rockers album was released on their own Different Drummer label in 1993 before being re-released on 4th & Broadway a year later. What A Life! and Push Push were minor hits a year on.

The duo left a lasting legacy. Glyn has released music as BiggaBush (including 2020’s BiggaBush Freevisited) and as The Black Albumen, with Finnish musician Hanna Ylitepsa (10in mini-LP due April 2022). Richard, meanwhile, co-founded Brum club institution Leftfoot.

Rockers Hi-Fi

Sweet Jesus

Glammed up indie that had venues like The Jug of Ale and Dudley’s JBs heaving, Sweet Jesus displayed a Suede-like swagger. Their 1991 limited edition debut, Honey Loving Honey, was a Rough Trade Singles Club release, and the band signed to the famed label for a salvo of singles, such as the well-received Phonefreak Honey – a Melody Maker Single Of The Week. But there was never an album and the band dissolved as Rough Trade faced issues, with two acts – Groupie and Venus – emerging from the ashes.

Rachel’s Basement

Formed in the mid-90s, Rachel’s Basement would regularly pack Moseley’s Jug, and their fans included Ocean Colour Scene. Despite well-received releases, they called it a day as the new millennium loomed and frontman Daniel Rachel went solo, with The Times, Q and Mojo all impressed, while Word magazine mentioned him in the same breadth as George Harrison and Bob Dylan! Today, Daniel’s an award-winning author and music writer, penning books on Oasis (Oasis Knebworth), Cool Britannia (Don’t look Back In Anger), The Beat (I Just Can’t Stop It – Rankin Roger’s autobiography), The Beatles (Like Some Forgotten Dream) and David Bowie (When Ziggy Played The Marquee, with Terry O’Neill). Find out more: danielrachel.com

Rachel Mayfield

Want to find out more about Birmingham’s great music heritage?

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