Portishead (band)

Last updated

Portishead live in 2013
Background information
Origin Bristol, England
Years active1991–1999
Associated acts
Website www.portishead.co.uk
Members Beth Gibbons
Geoff Barrow
Adrian Utley
Dave McDonald

Portishead is an English band formed in 1991 in Bristol. They are often considered one of the pioneers of trip hop music. The band is named after the nearby town of the same name, eight miles west of Bristol, along the coast. [7] Portishead consists of Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley, while sometimes citing a fourth member, Dave McDonald, an engineer on their first records. [8] [9]


Their debut album, Dummy , was met with critical acclaim in 1994, quickly becoming a landmark album in the trip hop genre. Two other studio albums have been issued: Portishead in 1997 and Third in 2008, both of which received similar acclaim. In 1998, the band released a concert album, Roseland NYC Live .


Dummy (1994)

Geoff Barrow and Beth Gibbons met during a coffee break at an Enterprise Allowance course in February 1991. That year they recorded their first song for the album, "It Could Be Sweet". [10] They then met Adrian Utley while they were recording at the Coach House Studios in Bristol, and Utley heard the first song Barrow and Gibbons had recorded, and began to exchange ideas on music. [11] The resulting first album by Portishead, Dummy , was released in 1994. The cover features a still from the band's own short film To Kill a Dead Man . The credits indicate that at this juncture, Portishead was a duo of Geoff Barrow and Beth Gibbons. Adrian Utley, who co-produced the album with them (and who played on nine of the tracks and co-wrote eight), became an official band member shortly after its release.

Despite the band's aversion to press coverage, the album was successful in both Europe and the United States (where it sold more than 150,000 copies even before the band toured there). [12] Dummy was positively described by the Melody Maker as "musique noire for a movie not yet made". [13] Rolling Stone praised its music as "Gothic hip-hop". [14] Dummy spawned three singles: "Numb", "Sour Times" and "Glory Box", and won the Mercury Music Prize in 1995. [15] The success of the album saw the band nominated for Best British Newcomer at the 1995 Brit Awards. [16] In 2003, the album was ranked number 419 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. [17] The album is often considered one of the greatest trip hop albums to date and is a milestone in the definition of the genre.

Portishead (1997)

After their initial success, Portishead withdrew from the spotlight for three years until their second album, Portishead , was released in 1997. The album's sound differed from Dummy, characterised as "grainy and harsher." [18] Three singles, "All Mine", "Over" and "Only You" were released, the first one achieving a Top 10 placing in the UK. [19]

In 1997, the band performed a one-off show with strings at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. A live album primarily featuring these new orchestral arrangements of the group's songs was released in 1998. There was also a long-form VHS video of the performance, and a DVD followed in 2002, with substantial extra material including many early music videos.

Hiatus (1999–2005)

In 1999, Portishead recorded the song "Motherless Child" with Tom Jones for his album Reload . For the next few years, the band members concentrated on solo and other pursuits. In February 2005, the band appeared live for the first time in seven years at the Tsunami Benefit Concert in Bristol. [20] Around that time, Barrow revealed that the band was in the process of writing its third album. In August 2006, the band posted two new tracks on its MySpace page (called "Key Bored 299 03" and "Greek Jam"), described by Barrow as "doodles". [21] Around the same time, Portishead covered Serge Gainsbourg's "Un Jour Comme un Autre (Requiem for Anna)" on the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited .

Third (2008)

On 2 October 2007, Portishead stated that the new album Third had been mixed and was nearly complete, and was due for release in early April 2008. The release was later pushed to 28 April. On 8 and 9 December 2007, the band curated the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England. The festival featured their first full live sets in nearly 10 years. [22] They premiered five tracks from the new album: "Silence", "Hunter", "The Rip", "We Carry On", and "Machine Gun". On 21 January 2008, a European tour to support the album was announced, [23] together with a headline spot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on 26 April 2008, [24] their only U.S. date on the tour.

Third was made available on Last.fm the week before release, attracting 327,000 listeners in just under 24 hours. [25] It was the first time Last.fm had made an album available before its official release date. The album was released on 29 April 2008 to coincide with the band's appearance at Coachella. [26] Portishead's Geoff Barrow realised a "boyhood fantasy" when Chuck D of Public Enemy joined the band onstage at the "ATP I'll Be Your Mirror" festival curated by Portishead in Asbury Park, NJ in October 2011. He contributed his verse from the Public Enemy song "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" over Portishead's single "Machine Gun". [27]

Post-Third (2008–present)

Beth Gibbons in 2008 Beth Gibbons - Portishead.jpg
Beth Gibbons in 2008

On 18 May 2008, Barrow expressed Portishead's enthusiasm for recording new material on their website's blog, stating that he "can't wait to write some new tunes". [28] On 28 September 2009, Barrow announced "big plans" for a new project with a new angle, hinting that an album could arrive as soon as late 2010. [29] Whilst the album had yet to materialise, on 9 December 2009, the band released the song "Chase the Tear" for Human Rights Day to raise money for Amnesty International UK. [30] Additionally, on 3 December 2008, Universal Music Japan reissued the albums Dummy and Portishead in limited edition on SHM-CD.

Adrian Utley in 2008 Adrian Utley - Portishead - 2.jpg
Adrian Utley in 2008

During Summer 2011, Portishead performed at a number of festivals in Europe, including, Pohoda Festival, Exit Festival, Benicàssim Festival in Spain, [31] Rock Werchter, Paleo Festival, Roskilde Festival, the Hurricane/Southside Festivals in Germany, and the Super Bock Super Rock music festival. [32] The band also headlined and curated the line-up for two All Tomorrow's Parties music festivals entitled I'll Be Your Mirror, in London at Alexandra Palace on 23 and 24 July. [33] The second took place in Asbury Park, New Jersey, from 30 September – 2 October. [34] Portishead then visited several cities in North America, including New York, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Seattle, Vancouver, and Denver during October. The Chicago Tribune hailed the concert and noted: "horror-movie accents—Gothic organ, guitar lines thick with menacing reverb, spooky theremin—ensured a certain darkness". [35] They finished their tour with a jaunt to Australia and New Zealand. [36] Barrow stated in a Rolling Stone interview that he would begin work on his portion of the album in January 2012, jokingly pointing out that it could be another decade before a new album is released. [37]

Geoff Barrow in 2011 Geoff Barrow - Portishead - Roskilde Festival 2011.jpg
Geoff Barrow in 2011

In 2013 the band headlined the Other Stage at the Glastonbury Music festival and embarked on a European tour. [38] In summer 2014, they played several concerts around Europe. [39] 2015 saw Portishead continue to perform live, playing festivals such as fib (Benicassim, Spain), Latitude (Southwold, Suffolk, UK), and the Montreux Jazz Festival (Montreux, Switzerland). [40] [41] [42] Additionally, Portishead produced a cover of ABBA's song "SOS" for the soundtrack to the movie High-Rise which had a Gala screening at the London Film Festival on 9 October 2015. [43] In 2016, the band won an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. [44] On 22 June 2016, Portishead released a video for "SOS" that recontextualized the song in the wake of the then-recent murder of MP Jo Cox and the Brexit vote.

Style and influences

Portishead's music was influenced by a wide range of singers and composers. Gibbons's voice has been compared to singer Billie Holiday. [45] Utley mentioned the spaghetti western guitar composed by Ennio Morricone; he said that "[Morricone's] The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the sort of soundtracks that I love". [46]


Awards and nominations

1995 Mercury Prize Dummy Album of the YearWon
NME Awards ThemselvesBest Dance ActNominated [47]
MTV Europe Music Awards Best New ActNominated [48]
Edison Awards Best International Dance/RapWon
Brit Awards British Breakthrough Act Nominated [49]
1997 GAFFA Awards (Denmark) Beth Gibbons Best Foreign Female ActNominated [50]
1998Žebřík Music AwardsBest International FemaleNominated [51]
1999 Online Music Awards ThemselvesBest Alternative FansiteNominated [52]
2016 Ivor Novello Awards Outstanding Contribution to British MusicWon [53]
Music Week Sync Awards "SOS"Film SoundtrackWon
Rober Awards Music PollBest Cover VersionWon [54]

See also

Related Research Articles

Trip hop is a musical genre that originated in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, especially Bristol. It has been described as "a fusion of hip hop and electronica until neither genre is recognizable", and may incorporate a range of styles, including funk, dub, soul, psychedelia, R&B, and house, as well as other forms of electronic music. Trip hop can be highly experimental.

Massive Attack British electronic music band

Massive Attack are an English electronic band formed in 1988 in Bristol by Robert "3D" Del Naja, Adrian "Tricky" Thaws, Andrew "Mushroom" Vowles and Grant "Daddy G" Marshall. The band currently consists of Del Naja, Thaws and Marshall, with Shara Nelson and Horace Andy as guest vocalists.

<i>Dummy</i> (album) 1994 studio album by Portishead

Dummy is the debut studio album by English electronic band Portishead, released on 22 August 1994 by Go! Beat Records.

Beth Gibbons Musical artist

Beth Gibbons is an English singer and songwriter. She is the singer and lyricist for the band Portishead.

<i>Portishead</i> (album) 1997 studio album by Portishead

Portishead is the second studio album by English electronic band Portishead, released on 16 September 1997 by Go! Discs.

Somerset is a county in the south-west of England. It is home to many types of music.

<i>The Invisible Invasion</i> 2005 studio album by the Coral

The Invisible Invasion is the third studio album by English rock band the Coral. It was released on 23 May 2005, through Deltasonic. Following on from the stop-gap release of the mini album Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker (2004), the band began recording their next album with Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley of Portishead as producers. Sessions were mainly held at Monnow Valley Studio, with additional recording being done at Elevator Studios. Described as a psychedelia album, it had more of a stripped-down sound compared to their past releases.

<i>Roseland NYC Live</i> 1998 live album by Portishead

Roseland NYC Live is a live album by English electronic music band Portishead. It was released on 2 November 1998 by Go! Beat. A PAL format VHS video was released the same year, with a DVD version following four years later. Although the New York Philharmonic is credited as appearing in the video, none of the musicians are members of the Philharmonic, nor is the Philharmonic credited in the audio album.

Geoff Barrow English musician

Geoffrey Paul Barrow is an English music producer, composer, disc jockey, and is the instrumentalist for the band Portishead. Barrow is also a member of the band Beak and hip-hop supergroup Quakers, in addition to his work as a film score composer.

Adrian Utley British guitarist

Adrian Francis Utley is an English musician and producer, and a member of the band Portishead.

Earthling is an English trip hop band from Bristol, England. It is composed of rapper Mau and producer Tim Saul, with multi-instrumentalist Andy Keep often contributing.

Sour Times 1994 single by Portishead

"Sour Times" is a song by English trip hop group Portishead, from their debut album Dummy. It was written by all three members of the band. It was released by Go! Beat Records in 1994 as a CD single, accompanied by three bonus tracks: "It's a Fire", "Pedestal", and "Theme from 'To Kill a Dead Man'". NME magazine ranked it at number 32 in their list of the 50 best songs of 1994. Slant Magazine placed it at number 77 in their ranking of "The 100 Best Singles of the 1990s" in 2011.

All Mine (Portishead song) 1997 single by Portishead

"All Mine" is the second track and first single from English band Portishead's self-titled second album. It was released as a single, along with "Cowboys", "Only You" and "Over". The music video—based on a 1968 Italian music show and The Outer Limits—featured a little girl singing in front of an orchestra. The single reached No. 8 in the United Kingdom and is so far the band's only Top 10 hit there. The song was also covered on Tom Jones's album Reload.

The discography of British trip hop group Portishead consists of three studio albums, one live album, one compilation, ten singles and one video album. The Bristol-based band consists of Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons and Adrian Utley.

<i>Third</i> (Portishead album) 2008 studio album by Portishead

Third is the third studio album by English electronic music band Portishead. It was released on 28 April 2008 in the United Kingdom by Island Records and a day later in the United States by Mercury Records. Portishead's first studio album in eleven years, it moved away from the trip hop style they had popularised, incorporating influences such as krautrock, surf rock, doo wop, and the film soundtracks of John Carpenter.

Machine Gun (Portishead song) 2008 single by Portishead

"Machine Gun" is a song by English band Portishead. The song made its radio and download debut on 24 March 2008, acting as the lead single from their third studio album, Third (2008). It premiered on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show and was made available for download on the band's official website. A UK one-sided 12 inch vinyl was released on 14 April 2008.

Stephanie McKay is an American soul singer and songwriter from the Bronx in New York, whose music includes elements of soul, funk, rock and hip hop. McKay's career has spanned over 20 years, during which time she has collaborated with artists including Anthony Hamilton, DJ Spinna Toshi Reagon and Big lovely, Roy Hargrove, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Katalyst, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Tricky, Carl Hancock Rux and Amp Fiddler and numerous others. She has released two solo albums, McKay (2003) and Tell it Like it Is (2008), a self-titled EP Stephanie McKay (2006) and has toured internationally as a solo artist. She formerly played guitar in Kelis' band and recorded with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials.

Beak is an English experimental electronic rock music band, consisting of Geoff Barrow with Billy Fuller and Will Young, who replaced Matt Williams in 2016.

Joe Volk Musical artist

Joe Volk is an English musician and songwriter from Bristol now based in Bern, Switzerland. He was lyricist and singer with the bands Gonga and Crippled Black Phoenix, and is a solo recording artist.

Airbus is an English rock band from Portishead, England. A group of friends who attended Gordano School formed the band in 1987 under the name of Carrion, soon changing the name to Airbus.


  1. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Biography". AllMusic . Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  2. Staff. "Bristol Time: The return of a trip-hop legacy". The Independent . Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  3. Miriello, Ralph A. "Casting for Gravity: Donny McCaslin's Adventure into Electronica". Huffington Post . Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  4. Taylor, Steve (27 September 2006). The A to X of Alternative Music. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN   0826482171 . Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  5. Brandle, Lars (1 March 2008). "Coming (Back) Together". Billboard . 120 (9): 29. ISSN   0006-2510 . Retrieved 26 November 2012. The trend will continue this year when two of Britain's most important '90s alternative bands-The Verve and Portishead-make their respective U.S. returns for the first time in nearly a decade.
  6. Wheaton, RJ (December 2011). Portishead's Dummy. A&C Black, 33 1/3. p. 179.
  7. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  8. "The Rock Hard Times: Dave McDonald". Trht.net. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  9. "A Portishead Fansite: Dave McDonald". Kotinetti.suomi.net. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  10. The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion. Canongate Books. 2007. p. 610. ISBN   978-1841959733.
  11. Rogers, Jude (24 August 2019). "'Dummy wasn't a chillout album. Portishead had more in common with Nirvana'". The Guardian.
  12. Biography AllMusic. Retrieved 28 December 2007
  13. O'Connell, Sharon (3 September 1994). "Portishead Dummy - Review". Melody Maker : 45.
  14. Evans, Paul (5 March 1995). "Dummy review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  15. Mercury Music Prize Winners BBC. Retrieved 28 December 2007
  16. Portishead BRITs Profile Archived 4 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine BRIT Awards Ltd. Retrieved 21 November 2012
  17. "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 18 November 2003. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  18. "Portishead "Portishead"". Quality Records. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  19. "everyHit.com search results". Everyhit.com. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  20. Tsunami benefit concert review BBC Music. Retrieved 5 January 2008
  21. Quote from Geoff Barrow The Guardian 29 August 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2007
  22. Review of December 2007 ATP shows Archived 14 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine StrangeGlue.com. Retrieved 27 December 2007
  23. Portishead announce 2008 tour NME. Retrieved 27 January 2008
  24. "Coachella lineup". Coachella.com. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 22 January 2008.
  25. "Portishead fans flock together for early album stream". Side-line.com. 1 May 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  26. Broadley, Erin (5 May 2008). "> Interviews > Portishead". SuicideGirls.com. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  27. Portishead on Public Enemy Archived 13 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine TheQuietus.com. Retrieved 11 June 2008
  28. "back home". Portishead.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  29. Davies, Rodrigo (27 September 2009). "Geoff Barrow Interview For BBC". BBC News. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  30. "Portishead to release 'Chase the tear' as limited edition vinyl for Amnesty". Amnesty international. Archived from the original on 3 December 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  31. "The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Portishead, Primal Scream Confirmed For FIB 2011". PlugInMusic.com. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  32. Fullsix Portugal. "SBSR, Super Bock". Superbock.pt. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  33. "I'll Be Your Mirror London curated by Portishead & ATP". ATPfestival.com. All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  34. "I'll Be Your Mirror Asbury Park". ATPfestival.com. All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  35. Kot, Greg (13 October 2011). "Portishead at the Aragon: The wait was worth it". Chicago Tribune . Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  36. "Concert review: Portishead, Vector Arena". The New Zealand Herald. 15 November 2011.
  37. Baltin, Steve (20 September 2011). "Portishead to Start Work on New Album in January | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  38. Smith, Caspar Llewellyn (28 June 2013). "Portishead at Glastonbury 2013 - review". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  39. "Portishead Summer 2014". Portishead.co.uk.
  40. "fib 2015 Lineup". Archived from the original on 1 February 2016.
  41. "Latitude Festival 2015". Latitudefestival.com.
  42. "Portishead at Montreux Jazz Festival". Montreuxjazz.com.
  43. "Portishead News". Portishead.co.uk. 8 October 2015.
  44. "The Ivors 2016". The Ivors. Archived from the original on 23 May 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  45. Walters, Barry (November 1997). "Portishead: Portishead". Spin . 13 (8): 142. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  46. Miller, Jonathan (June 1995), Adrian Utley: Portishead Sound Shaper, Sound on Sound, retrieved 5 May 2016
  47. "Rocklist.net...NME Lists readers Pop Poll Results..." Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  48. Inc, Nielsen Business Media (28 October 1995). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
  49. "History". Brits.co.uk. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  50. "GAFFA-prisen 1991-2006 – se vinderne". Gaffa.dk. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  51. https://www.anketazebrik.cz/historie/2003-1997/
  52. "Google Groups". Groups.google.com. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  53. "Archive | The Ivors | The Ivors Academy | Champions of Music Creators". Ivorsacademy.com. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  54. "The Rober Awards 2016 Music Poll - Rober Awards". Roberawards.com. Retrieved 17 April 2019.