Golden Smog Was a Different Kind of Rock Supergroup

'On Golden Smog'
Photo Credit
Rykodisc Records

The term “supergroup” is one that’s often used, but sometimes it’s thrown around without any reason consideration as to how super the group in question really is. In the case of Golden Smog, however, there’s little argument that the members of the band’s loose lineup all originated from very familiar locations.

It all started with an entity known as The Take It to the Limit Band, - Dan Murphy and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, future Son Volt member Jim Boquist, and Martin Zellar of Gear Daddies - performing a show consisting mostly of Eagles covers at the Uptown Bar in Minneapolis. That was in 1987; two years later the same foursome performed a Rolling Stones-centric set under the moniker Her Satanic Majesty’s Paycheck.

Later in 1989, Golden Smog was officially formed, playing shows in the Twin Cities area when the spirit moved them and with varying lineups. It wasn’t until 1992, however, that Golden Smog actually entered the studio and recorded an EP of covers, calling the effort On Golden Smog. When they did so, the lineup was Murphy and Pirner teamed with two members of the Jayhawks (Gary Louris and Marc Perlman), Chris Mars of the Replacements, and Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run.

The five-track EP featured a quintet of '60s and '70s covers, from classic rock (The Rolling Stones' "Back Street Girl," Bad Company's "Shooting Star," Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song") to rock musicals ("Easy to Be Hard," from the soundtrack to Hair) and even psych-rock obscurities like “Son (We’ve Kept the Room Just the Way You Left It),” originally by the band Michaelangelo.

To avoid any possible contractual issues with their respective labels, the various band members adopted pseudonyms in the credits, with Pirner listed as Anthony James, Murphy as David Spear-Way, Johnson as Jarret Decatur-Laine, Perlman as Raymond Virginia-Circle, Mars as Eddie Garfield-Avenue, and Louris as Michael Macklyn-Drive.

Of these five tracks, the one that ultimately earned the most airplay was “Shooting Star,” owing to its eventual inclusion on the soundtrack to the 1994 Kevin Smith film Clerks.

Golden Smog sporadically continues to be a going concern, although the band’s existence ebbs and flows based on the desire and availability of its members. The original version kinda sorta went on until 1998, during which time they released two albums, then a second version popped up in 2005 and lasted until about 2007 before dissolving again, leaving another two albums in their wake. In 2019, however, they were back to celebrate Murphy’s 57th birthday with a live performance, and while plans to perform again in 2020 were befouled by COVID concerns, they finally managed to reunite in April 2022 for two concerts.

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