Living Colour was formed in the mid 80's, after guitarist Vernon Reid had founded the Black Rock Coalition with Greg Tate of the Village Voice, and Artist Manager Konda Mason. The purpose of the BRC was to help network and coordinate the efforts of Black and minority musicians who sought to pursue music outside the limited scope that the industry was offering (Beyond R&B or Hip Hop). Eventually drummer Will Calhoun, bassist Muzz Skillings and vocalist Corey Glover rounded out the band and they began some hard gigging at New York's CBGB's. After receiving support from Mick Jagger (who agreed to produce a demo and two album tracks after Vernon had played guitar on his second solo album "Primitive Cool") the group was signed to Epic Records.
Of course it wasn't anywhere near as easy as that last paragraph sounds but they did manage to get signed and out into the public at a time when the only other band like them around was essentially Bad Brains who were still largely underground in the D.C. punk circuit. Still, a lot of people tend to think they were an "instant success" from there but that's not the way it actually went down. Epic was afraid to put a picture of the band on the album cover because they expected Rock Radio stations would automatically assume it was an R&B or Reggae record and wouldn't play it. They also didn't think Black Radio (which is exactly what it was called at the time) wouldn't play it either. I know - I still have one of the original copies on vinyl.
That eventually changed with the release of what is still considered their largest hit "Cult of Personality" which eventually reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart.
The following year they toured with Anthrax and eventually opened for the Rolling Stones on their Steel Wheels tour, but like many bands that have one single enormous hit - the novelty of being the "Lone Black Rock Band" in the nation eventually wore off.
Copies of a Rock magazine cover that featured by the members of LC and Anthrax were sent back with the pictures of LC burned out. Some Stones fans threw things at them and yelled racial slurs, just as they had done with Prince who had toured with the Stones almost a decade earlier. But winning the 1989 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance on "Cult" tended to soften the sting of rejection from *some* members of the audience.
They soldiered on, heading back into the studio for their second CD "Time's Up". This is where they began to mature and showed not only their chops but also considerable courage and humor with songs such as "Elvis is Dead" and Speed Metal/Funk of the title track "Time's Up".
Again they took home a Grammy for Best Hard Rock for their performance on the album "Time's Up" in 1990, and followed up with an appearance on the very first Lollapalooza tour along with Body Count. (I've already covered some of the N-Word discussion that we had with Vernon with the L.A. Chapter of the BRC which I had joined in '89)
On their third CD, now featuring former Tackhead Bassist Doug Wimbish, they actually managed to shift perspectives a bit, where they had previously written most of their songs from their own viewpoint on "Stain" many of the songs are actually written from the view of some fairly unsympathetic characters, particularly "Postman, "Leave It Alone" and Auslander about the rise of a new anti-Immigrant/Neo-Nazi movement in Germany.
After releasing a cover of Cream's Sunshine of your Love for the True Lies Soundtrack the group split and began to pursue solo projects. Vernon did a Jazz Project, but Corey released an album on R&B Label Laface records and still managed to squeeze Rock songs like Do You First, and Do Myself.
Eventually the band got back together and began to tour again, I saw them last in 2001 in Sacramento and still although it was a packed house and ton of my musician friends in town where highly jazzed to see them again, most seem to not really know much about the band beyond their first album "Vivid" and one big hit "Cult". Some actually complained about the long dub segments that they extended some of their live songs with, not realizing they'd been doing that kind of thing on their albums from the beginning and had really gone pretty far with it on both "Type" and "Stain".
In 2003 they released their fourth CD "Collideøscope" which features a cover of AC/DC's "Back In Black" as well as a collection of tracks that they had been working on over the previous couple years.
Their new Album "The Chair in the Door" is out in September and it's first single "Behind the Sun" is available now on their Myspace Page http://www.myspace.com/LivingColourMusic. Their New World Tour begins August 10th.