United Kingdom
Music group
The biggest Welsh band of their generation, Stereophonics have battled their way to the top through a mixture of hard work and a thirst for mainstream acceptance. Formed in 1992, schoolmates Kelly Jones, Richard Jones and Stuart Cable practised their art in performances at the working men's clubs of South Wales, as covers band Tragic Love Company.

Frontman Kelly Jones had aspirations beyond karaoke, though. A budding scriptwriter, his muse was his hometown, sleepy Cwmaman - and it was the village's dark underbelly that inspired the songs that would make up the band's earliest recordings: poignant narratives about the despair and celebration of small-town life.

In November 1996 V2 Records released the band's debut single, Looks Like Chaplin/More Life In A Tramp's Vest. Early comparisons likened the band to late-period Manic Street Preachers, but there was a quality to Jones' raw, soulful vocals that suggested far more than bandwagon jumping.

Over the next 12 months, a flurry of singles heralded Stereophonics' debut album Word Gets Around. It was an impressive work: Local Boy In The Photograph poignantly dealt with young suicide, while Traffic found Kelly Jones' sharp observational eye roving over the minutiae of day-to-day life.

It was the band's intense work ethic that truly broke them: 1997 saw the band play over 100 live dates, rocketing the album into the Top 10. The year was capped with a Brit award for Best New Band.

If the humble tales of Word Gets Around made Stereophonics the toast of Wales, 1999's Performance And Cocktails would make them household names. The album's first single, the rollicking The Bartender And The Thief charted impressively, hitting number three in the UK chart. And while the album itself was an inferior follow-up to Word Gets Around, it was a greater commercial success.

The first of Stereophonics' genuinely huge dates - a 50,000 capacity show at Morfa stadium in Swansea - sold out before any support bands had been added to the bill. The show itself was blighted by an ugly war of words. In a show of enthusiastic patriotism, the band played a song written for the rugby international entitled As Long As We Beat The English. But a sackload of letters sent to NME by English fans accused the band's flag-waving show of bordering on fascism.

Amid the furore, the band remained tight-lipped, but the exchange soured the relationship between Stereophonics and the music press.

Exhausted, the band took a much-deserved hiatus throughout 2000, although Mama Told Me Not To Come - which found Kelly manfully trying to outbellow Tom Jones on the Welsh renaissance man's cover of the Randy Newman original - hit number four in March. The band's return proved that their runctions with the rock press had clearly hit a raw nerve, however.

The first single to be taken from Stereophonics' third studio album was Mr Writer - a spiteful retort to music journalists. Dour and plodding, it stalled at a disappointing number five. Thankfully, the album itself - Just Enough Education To Perform - was an artistic return to form. Tellingly, Kelly Jones debuted many of the songs in an intimate solo acoustic tour in late 2000: stripped-down songs like Step On My Old Size Nines found Stereophonics losing some of their bombastic edge and embracing a subtle brand of songwriting that evoked old rockers like Neil Young.

Sure enough, a cover of Handbags And Gladrags - written by former Manfred Mann songwriter Mike D'Abo, and popularised by Rod Stewart in the 1970s - that rocketed Stereophonics back up the charts in the December of 2001, prompting V2 to re-release the album with the cover as a bonus track.

In January 2002, Stuart Cable dropped out of a Japanese tour citing family reasons, prompting rumours of a split. But they pulled back, and the Kelly Jones-produced fourth album, You Gotta Go There To Come Back, was released in June 2003. It was a hard-rocking, whiskey-swilling return to form for the band.

However, on 25 September it was announced that Stuart Cable had been sacked from the band due to commitment issues. Apparently Cable only heard of the news once it became public. According to BBC News, the drummer was informed by journalists contacting him.

He later placed the matter in the hands of his lawyers, adding: "I'm a founder member of the Stereophonics and I would like to stress that I did not leave nor ever had any intention of leaving the band. I am, and have always been, a fully committed member of the Stereophonics and am very upset that Kelly seems to be saying I was not committed to the band."

Kelly Jones' statement, on the band's website, said: "Me and Stuart started a band when I was 12. Emotionally to me this is heartbreaking. I love him like a brother, but commitment wise there have been issues since Just Enough Education To Perform.

"We've tried resolving them but things stayed the same. Myself and Richard miss Stuart already, a band is like a gang and a lot of time he simply wasn't there, although it was our fault to allow this situation to develop in the first place.

"No one will be replacing Stuart as a band member, Stuart is irreplaceable, but Steve Gorman will continue to sit in on drums for the upcoming shows. No one member of the band is bigger than our songs. It's a rock and roll band and the upcoming shows will be rocking."

True to his word, Kelly came back in style. The band recruited new drummer Javier Weyler to the fold, and scored their first UK number one single in March 2005 with the release of Dakota. It was followed by the band's fourth album, Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, widely heralded as a musical return to form.
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