No Doubt’s debut album at 30: tragedy and triumph
Given their legacy as one of the most beloved alternative bands of the 90s, No Doubt’s initial lineup was relatively unspectacular. Formed in 1987 in Anaheim, the band was formed by three colleagues working together at the local Dairy Queen: Eric and Gwen Stefani, a ska-obsessed sibling duo, and John Spence, a black punk rocker who loved Bad Brains. John would lead the band, Eric would do the keys and, after being convinced by his big brother, Gwen would do the backing vocals.
“Eric was the really talented, overly hyperactive older brother who was always pounding on the piano, and I was the lazy girl who watched The Brady Group“, Gwen would later tell Interview Magazine. “I wasn’t doing anything, and he was like, ‘Come here and sing with me!’
Gathering a small army of local musicians packing guitars, bass, drums and brass, No Doubt began playing local gigs, with John’s lively and indebted performances quickly becoming a focal point. By the end of the year, the band, playing a dizzying mix of ska, punk and two-tone, was beginning to turn heads, and a scheduled show at Los Angeles’ famed Roxy Theater in December of that year was designated as a chance to win. on an industry heavyweight band and land a record deal.
Tragically, this line-up of the band will never make it to the show. A few days before the Roxy concert, Spence committed suicide. For a while, at least, the very idea of continuing No Doubt seemed impossible.
“[John] was the inspiration for the whole band,” said Eric People magazine in May 1997. “Guess I didn’t really know him,” Gwen noted. “He was in so much pain that he couldn’t talk to anyone about it.”
After a few weeks, No Doubt decided to regroup – initially with local singer Alan Meade but, eventually, with Gwen herself fronting the band. More gigs followed in and around Los Angeles, the Californians’ chaotic live shows and cartoonish ska-influenced racketeering setting them apart in a scene halfway between glam metal’s last hurrahs and the burgeoning grunge movement. .
In 1990, their big moment finally arrived – a deal with new label Interscope and a roadmap for the release of their first full album. By this point, the core of the band had solidified, consisting of the Stefanis, guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young. Their self-titled debut album would land on March 17, 1992 – a fun but messy collection of upbeat, ska, pop and funk jams.
Despite the hype surrounding No Doubt, the album underperformed, not helped by an industry still largely disinterested in ska music and a debut single, `Trapped in a box, who struggled to get the radio to play. The band even self-funded a spectacular low-budget video for the track, shot at the ‘Beacon Street House’, the house where Stefanis’ father grew up and where various band members ended up living.
“That video had absolutely no budget,” Gwen later said. stereogum. “We invited a group of fans to come and be in the video…they were fans, but at the time we were playing for our peers, so they were all our age.”
If not an utter failure, it was fair to say that No Doubt’s first stab at the big time was far from a success, and a group that once seemed ready for big things was once again facing off. to an uncertain future. Of course, we all know what happened next. Cali Crew Would Regroup, DIY To Record 1995 Track The Beacon Street Collection and go to more than 100,000 copies. While Eric would leave the group when The Beacon Street Collection was released, embarking on a new career as a host for The simpsons, their momentum only intensified. Soon, tragic kingdom would come along and make them one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.