With Guitars has took a long hard look at Geffen Records and we have picked out (in no particular order) the labels ten best artists. So take a look at our list and see what you think. For us these are some of the times Geffen truly roared.
Geffen records have been around for over 30 years now and in that time has had some of the world’s greatest bands on its books. The record label was founded in 1980 by David Geffen and was a small three man operation but this did not hold the modest label back. According to a 1996 Forbes interview with David Geffen, “Geffen Records lost money in every quarter for its first six years. Then in 1989 it was worth $500 million”. The makes it obvious that the label worked really hard in the early 80s to establish itself and the label grew to quickly became a major player in the music industry.
Geffen made its name as a rock label and gained an excellent reputation as a label that is not afraid of new music and change. The label has proved that this reputation is well founded by often allowing bands to sign with them and use the label as a platform to change their music, and move away from what they have done in the past. The label was a lead player when it came to the heavily alternative-oriented music of the 1990s. The label played a huge part in breaking bands like, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and Weezer.
In 1990 the label was bought by MCA music entertainment (later named Universal Music Group) and became one of their independently managed labels. Geffen Records carried on working this way until 1999, when what was now and still is today Universal Music Group, was acquired by PolyGram, and Interscope Records was born. Geffen Records was no longer an independently managed label and took a submissive role behind Interscope. However the label still continued to do good business and to this day stands behind Interscope bringing us music we all know and love.
Guns and Roses
The hard rock band from LA are a major success story for Geffen and have more than repaid the faith the label had shown them when many other labels considered the band to risky to take on. The band released their debut album ‘Appetite For Destruction’ on July 21, 1987, the album is the highest selling debut album of all time and shot the band to worldwide fame with songs like, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Welcome to the Jungle, and Paradise City, all doing well in the charts.
After touring to promote their debut album, the band went back into the studio to record the album ‘Use Your Illusion’. During the recording of the album drummer Steven Adler was fired from the band because of his excessive drug use and was replaced by Matt Sorum. On September 17, 1991, Use your Illusion I and II were released together. In their first week the two albums sold 1,455,000 copies and occupied the top two positions on the US billboard chart. The band followed the album up with a world tour that lasted 28 months and broke attendance records all over the world. During the tour Izzy Stradlin quit the band citing a combination of Rose’s personal behaviour and his mismanagement of the band, coupled with the bands continuing alcohol and substance addictions. The band replaced Stradlin with Gilby Clark and finished the tour.
After the tour the band seemed a shadow of what it was to began to come apart. In 1993, they released a collection of punk and glam rock covers entitled ‘The Spaghetti Incident’. In the years after, the band struggled to come up with original material and by 1997 lead singer Axl Rose was the only original band member playing in Guns and Roses. The band is still touring and making music today but are wildly considered more of an Axl Rose project that is being propped up by what once was one of the greatest bands in rock.
The alternative rockers from New York came out of the 1980s underground scene and were an unlikely success story. The band was formed in 1981 and they were a band that worked tirelessly to get their band and music recognized at a time when major labels were not taking notice of alternative music. That did not stop the band and they continued to make a name for themselves in the underground scene. After almost a decade of working hard and struggling to break into the mainstream, the band was signed by Geffen Records in 1990. The record label was one of the first to sign alternative bands and gave the band complete creative control. The band signing for the major label was a breakthrough for alternative music, and paved way for the popularity of the genre in the 90s.
In 1990 the band released their first album for Geffen which was titled ‘Goo’; the band had some success with the album and managed to crack the top 100 on the US billboard chart. The band continued to work hard and expanding their fan base and toured with Neil Young for a time, this helped them gain some recognition with more mainstream music fans.
In 1992 the band released their album ‘Dirty’, the album was produced by Butch Vig who a year early had produced Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album. The album in large was a success with songs like, 100%, Youth Against Fascism, and Sugar Kane becoming rock hits. The kind of music the band was making was now the most popular music in America and Sonic Youth were growing in popularity. The band was successful throughout the 90s with the band going from strength to strength with albums like, ‘Experimental Jet Set, Trash and no Star’ and ‘A Thousand Leaves’. Sonic Youth may have never reached the heights of some similar bands like, Nirvana and Weezer, but the bands that have had bigger hits or fame owe a lot to Sonic Youth for working so tirelessly to take alternative music out the underground and into the mainstream.
The grunge rockers who are often referred to as “the spokesmen of a generation” were formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in 1987. The two of them went though a number of guitars until Dave Grohl joined the band in 1990. Between 87 and 90 the band established itself as part of the grunge rock scene in Seattle. The band enjoyed a small amount of success in the scene.
In 1990, after numerous recommendations from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, the band was signed onto Geffen Records and started work on their first Geffen album. The band were offered a number of producers and choose to go with Butch Vig. They decided to move to California to record the album at Sound City Studios. In 1991 the band released the album Nevermind and single Smells Like Teen Spirit. The single grew in popularity and made the band a force all over the world. The album sales followed and by Christmas 1991 Nevermind was selling 400,000 copies a week in the US and is now classed as one of the greatest albums in music. In 1993 the band released the album In Utero, the album was a less mainstream sound than Nevermind but still enjoyed a good level of success.
The bands success was cut short in 1994 when Kurt Cobain took his own life. Despite only being a band for seven years, Nirvana was a band that changed music and even culture all over the world. To date they have sold over 50 million albums worldwide.
The hard rockers who are nicknamed, “the bad boys from Boston” are classed by many as America’s greatest rock and roll band. The band was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1971 and quickly became huge in the city. The band secured a record deal in 1972 and enjoyed fame and success with a string of albums such as, ‘Get Your Wings’, and ‘Toys In The Attic’. The band enjoyed success until drug addiction and conflict proved too much for the band, with Joe Perry and Brad Whitford leaving the band in 1979 and 1981 respectively. Between 1980 and 84 the band did not succeed as well and their popularity dropped compared to previous years.
In 1984 Perry and Whitford returned to the band and Aerosmith signed with Geffen Records. However, they didn’t record any new material until they were sober from drink and drugs. In 1987 they released ‘Permanent Vacation’; this album shot the band back to the success they had enjoyed during the 1970s. The band followed up with the even more successful album ‘Pump’ in 1989. The album produced three top ten singles with, ‘What It Takes’, ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’, and ‘Love In An Elevator’. The album put the band back on top of the rock mantel and they stayed at the top for much of the 1990s with albums like, ‘Get a Grip’, and ‘Nine Lives’. Aerosmith are the best selling American rock band of all time and have sold more than 150 million albums worldwide. Many consider the come back they made in the 1980s with Geffen Records, one of the most remarkable and spectacular in music history.
The band was formed in 1978 by lead singer David Coverdale and over the years has gone through more members than almost any band in music. So much so that Coverdale is the only original member still with the band. Between 1978 and 83 the band enjoyed success in the UK with the albums, ‘Live…in the Heart Of The City‘, and ‘Saints & Sinners’. Both album broke into the top 10 of the UK album chart and made the band huge in the UK. However the band was struggling to make an impact in other parts of the world, particularly the US.
In 1983 the band signed onto Geffen Records and in the same year released the album ‘Slide It In’, the album received mixed reviews in the UK and the label insisted it be remixed by producer Keith Olsen for its US release. The remix gave the album a crisper and more dynamic sound and it hit the US in April 1984, it got into the top 50 of the billboard chart and introduced the band to a whole new set of fans.
The band did not release any new material until 1987 when they gave the world the album ‘Whitesnake’. This was the album that really broke the band into the US and gave them some major coverage on MTV. The album sold so well that it reached number 2 on the Billboard chart and eventually sold over eight million copies in the US alone. The band now had world wide success and they never let it go. Whitesnake are a band that has gone though many changes and have always adapted there, look, sound, and even members over the years, but perhaps the most important change was with that first Geffen album. The bands did not shy away from change; they changed their sound and because of that became one of the best known rock bands in the world.
The band came together in 1981 when members of the bands, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, and The Buggles were brought together by Geffen Records A&R man John Kalodner.
From the outset it was obvious the band that consisted of, bassist/vocalist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and guitarist Steve Howe had excellent chemistry and musical talent. The latter being obvious considering each member had seen chart-topping success in their previous bands.
The bands self titled first album was produced by Mike Stone who had previously worked with bands such as Journey and Queen, it was released in 1982 and was an instant hit. As soon as the album was finished Geffen knew they had a hit on their hands and set about promoting it, the band were all over MTV and quickly grew in popularity. In the same year as its release the album reached number one on Billboard album chart and became the best selling album of 1982 in the US and gave the band hits with songs like, ‘Heat Of The Moment’, ‘Only Time Will Tell’, and ‘Sole Survivor’. The band had achieved huge success with the album but that would show to be their downfall.
In 1983 the band released their second album ‘Alpha’ and although the album was successful it was a small success in comparison to the bands first album. Whilst the band toured to support the album, Wetton shocked the music world and parted ways with the band. They tried to replace him but the bad would never be the same. Wetton did go back to the band later but Howe decided to leave and form the band GTR. Asia was a band that for a short time stood at the top of the rock world. The bands debut album gave the world something special and made them household name. Recently the original four members of the band reunited and sold out venues all over the world, proving that the band short time at the top was something special.
The alternative rockers from LA were formed in 1992 and quickly became well know in the LA rock scene of the time. The band signed onto Geffen in 1993 and immediately started to work on their first album with producer Ric Ocasek. In 1994 the self titled album (also know as The Blue Album) was released and quickly gave the band mainstream success. The songs, undone – The Sweater Song, Buddy Holly and Say It Aint So, all became hits supported by music videos directed by Spike Jonze. The album has sold over 3 million copies so far and was the defining album for the band.
The bands second album ‘Pinkerton’ drew attention from the media even before its release. The albums title sparked a legal battle with Pinkerton Securities, the company filed a temporary injunction against the band and Geffen for trademark infringement but judge ruled in favour of the band and label, and on the 24th September 1996 the album was released. The album was not received well and was even voted one of the worst albums of 1996 in a Rolling Stone reader’s poll. However since then the album has achieved somewhat of cult status. After touring to promote the album the band decided to take a break and went on hiatus.
In 2000 the band returned with a tour and did dates on the popular Vans Warped Tour. The band performed 14 new tracks on the tour and fans labelled them “summer songs of 2000”. After the tour the band went back into the studio to record their third album. In 2001 the band released the album ‘Weezer (2001)’, the album became known as “The Green Album” because of its bright green cover and found a whole new generation of fans for the band with songs like, Hash Pipe, and Island In The Sun, becoming fan favourites.
After the third album the band went in a different direction and whilst still enjoying success has been unable to generate the kind of success they had with the albums, Weezer, and Weezer (2001). The band was one of the best bands to come from the alternative rock scene in the 90s and is a band that almost all rock fans enjoy. The band is still touring today and are classed as one of the best bands to see live.
The man started his music career when he founded the band White Zombie. The band was a noise band from New York and achieved some commercial success and with two double platinum albums. The bad parted ways in 1998 shortly after the release of Rob Zombies first solo album.
Zombies first album was recorded in 1998 after he put together his own solo band. The album was titled ‘Hellbilly Delux’ and was a success for the hard rocker. Songs like, ‘Dragula’, ‘Living Dead Girl’, and ‘Superbeast’ helped the album get to number five on the Billboard chart. Zombie worked hard and toured extensively to promote the album, in 1999 he released a remixed version of the album titled ‘American Made Music To Strip By’.
Zombies next album which was titled ‘The Sinister Urge’ took him in a different direction whilst still staying true to the sound he achieved on his first album. The singer introduced brass and turntables into his sound. The album was not considered as heavy as his previous work but was still a success and reached number 8 on the Billboard chart. As well as experimenting with his music the man was getting a reputation for having one of the best live acts around at the time. The singer would use many props and put on a real special effects show for his fans.
The man continued to experiment on his third album which was released in 2006 and was titled ‘Educated Horses’. This is classes as Zombies most experimental album but was still well received with the singer again breaking the top ten on the billboard chart. The album sold 140,000 copies in its first week and kept the man on top. Zombie left Geffen soon after the album and is now with Road Runner Records. Since his first album Zombie has been a success and is still one of the top rock musicians in the business. He released his fourth album to date in 2010 which is titled ‘Hellbilly Deluxe 2’.
The pop punk rockers from California had been around for some time and enjoyed international success before signing on with Geffen. The band started out as Scott Raynor, Mark Hoppus, and Tom DeLonge, they formed in 1992 and enjoyed a small amount of success locally and they signed with a small label called Cargo Music. Back then the band was just called Blink but in 1994 when they released their debut album ‘Cheshire Cat’ they were threatened with legal action from an Irish band that had the same name. The band added the 182 to avoid legal action. Their debut album failed to chart but still managed to get the band noticed outside their local scene.
In 1997 the band released their second album that was titled ‘Dude Ranch’ and in the same year drummer Scott Raynor was replaced by Travis Barker. The album was recorded with Cargo Music and on its release received positive reviews, the band signed with MCA Records in 1998 to handle increased distribution for the album. The band enjoyed some commercial success with the album and it peaked at number 67 on the billboard chart.
In 1999 the band had major commercial success with the album ‘Enema Of The State’, the album was released though MCA records and was well received, it gave the band international fame and reached number 9 on the Billboard chart. The band released the song, ‘What’s My Age Again’, ‘All The Small Things’ and ‘Adams Song’, as singles and they all did well all over the world. The band followed the album up in 2001 with ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’, the album was huge and got the band the number one spot on the billboard chart, the sold over 350.000 copies in its first week.
In 2003 the band released their fifth album, this time through Geffen Records, the album was self titled and continued to the bands success. The band moved slightly away from their pop punk style of music with the album and created a more mature sound. The album was received well and was a success all over the world. The band had all become fathers and felt it was time to grow up; this was shown with the music on the album and as always with Geffen the band was given the creative freedom to do what they felt was true to them. The band had reinvented themselves and there music. After the release of the album the band completed a world tour to show fans the new Blink 183. Soon after the tour the band decided to take a break and each member worked on individual project. In 2009 the band decided to come back together and tour but to date have not made any new music. In April this year the band announced that they would be cancelling their planned tour to work on new material.
The rocker from California started out as a band in 1993 whilst they were in high school. The band worked hard in their young days and took any gig they could get, they quickly built up an fan base and made a name for themselves. The band even made their own album titled ‘Old Friends from Young Years’, it helped the band expand their fan base and their hard work was starting to get them noticed.
In 1999 the band signed with DreamWorks Records and started work on their first mainstream album ‘Infest’, the album was released on April 25, 2000, and sold 30,000 copies in its first week of release. The bands work ethic did not diminish and they worked hard to promote the album. They toured with many bands and joined the Vans Warped Tour for a time. The bands popularity quickly grew, so much so that they toured the UK towards the end of 2000. The bad kept on touring until 2002 when they hit the studio to record their third album ‘Lovehatetragedy’. The album did not sell more than Infest but managed to chart higher in both the US and UK. The band kept on touring and working hard to reach new fans.
In 2003 the Orange State band finally took an extended break from touring to record the album ‘Getting Away With Murder’, the album was released through Geffen Records on August 31, 2004. The album saw the band try to change their style to a more mainstream “alternative rock” sound, the kind that bands like, Hinder, and Buckcherry were making. The album received mixed reviews as many critics thought the band had not quite found the sound they were looking for. However the album still sold well and reach number 17 on the billboard chart, the single ‘Scars’ was a stand out song from the album and was released as a single, the song sold over 500.000 copies and peaked at 15 in the US chart. The album may have not been as successful as previous albums but it helped the band cross over into a new fan base and put them back into a mainstream category of bands. Yet again Geffen had helped a band re-invent their music and cross over into areas they had previously untouched. The band made another two albums with Geffen that both sold well and took them further towards the kind of music they want to make, They are sill touring today and continue to draw large crowds wherever they play.