Arguably Switzerland's leading rock band of the 1990s and 2000s, Züri West established themselves in the mid-'80s as an exciting live band and, beginning with their mainstream breakthrough in the late '80s, regularly topped the Swiss albums chart. The Bern-based band's alternative hard rock sound is dual-guitar driven, often daring, and sung in dialect -- far from typical for a regularly chart-topping Swiss act. The band broke into the mainstream with its full-length debut album, Sport und Musik (1987), and topped the Swiss album chart for the first of many times with its second album, Bümpliz-Casablanca (1989). Subsequent albums were also popular, as were the band's frequent tours, but Züri West's peak popularity came in 1994 with their self-titled album and its smash hit single "I Schänke Dr Mis Herz," which charted for nearly a year. Züri West's output slowed a bit in successive years, when their tours grew longer and they took time off before reentering the studio, yet they continued to record fresh-sounding music that proved as popular as ever in their Swiss homeland: Radio zum Glück (2001), Retour (2003), Aloha from Züri West (2004), Haubi Songs (2008) -- each of these albums was a number one hit, four straight in a row. For all of Züri West's success in Switzerland, however, they never did enjoy much crossover success in other European countries except as a live act.
Züri West were founded in 1984 in Bern, Switzerland. The band's name, a play on "Zurich West," is a reference to Bern's second-city status relative to the neighboring capital to the east. Züri West were originally comprised of Kuno Lauener (vocals), Markus Fehlmann (guitar), Peter von Siebenthal (guitar), Peter Schmid (bass), and Sam Mumenthaler (drums). This initial lineup made its recording debut in 1985 on the four-track Splendid EP, recorded live at the Bern venue Cinéma Splendid. Another four-track EP followed in 1986, the studio-recorded Kirchberg, featuring the song "Hanspeter," which would be reworked years later. The EP features a new rhythm section -- Tinu Gerber (bass) and Silvio Silfverberg (drums) -- and was later appended to the CD edition of Sport und Musik. Meanwhile, Züri West was garnering a reputation throughout Switzerland as an exciting live band, touring across the country and performing on radio and television.
Sport und Musik (1987), the debut full-length album of Züri West, was their first release to chart, peaking at number 24 on the Swiss albums chart in early 1988. Good things were happening for the band: the piano ballad "7 : 7" got some radio airplay, there was more touring, and critics were catching on quickly. In the wake of Sport und Musik, the stage was set for Züri West's mainstream breakthrough in 1989 with Bümpliz-Casablanca. The album opened impressively at number five on the albums chart, then rose to number one in its third week of sales, charting for 19 weeks overall -- and without the promotion of a major hit single. Züri West more or less maintained their popularity over the next few years: Elvis (1990) charted number two, Arturo Bandini (1991) charted number four, and even the live album Wintertour (1992) charted fairly well, reaching number ten. In 1993, after a lot of touring, drummer Silvio Silfverberg left the band and was replaced by Gert Stäuble.
Following three straight Top Five studio albums (Sport und Musik, Elvis, Arturo Bandini), a Top Ten live album (Wintertour), and years of relentless touring, Züri West reached their zenith of popularity in 1994, the year in which they released their chart-topping self-titled album. Züri West held the number one spot on the albums chart for an amazing 14 weeks, charting for 45 weeks overall. The success of the album was bolstered by the band's first national chart hit single, "I Schänke Dr Mis Herz," which charted for nearly a year (i.e., 49 weeks), eventually peaking at number four in its 23rd week on the charts. A Top Ten remix of "I Schänke Dr Mis Herz" also became hit. All of this success earned the band a Prix Walo in the Rock category in 1994.
Züri West's next album, Hoover Jam (1996), was recorded in Philadelphia, PA, for a change of pace. Produced by Stiff Johnson, the album was another big hit for the band, peaking at number two on the albums chart. As usual, a long tour accompanied the album's release. After a break, Züri West released Super 8 in 1999. A self-produced effort recorded in Bern, the album was yet another hit, peaking at number two and charting for 26 weeks. Radio zum Glück (2001), their next album, returned them to the top of the albums chart. Prior to the album's release, longtime guitarist Peter von Siebenthal and bassist Tinu Gerber left the band and were replaced by guitarist Tom Etter and bassist Jürg Schmidhauser; keyboardist Oli Kuster also joined the band at this point. During the Radio zum Glück tour, the band participated in the filming of the documentary Züri West am Blues Vorus, released in theaters (and later on DVD) in 2002.
Züri West subsequently released a series of chart-topping albums, starting with the 2003 best-of collection Retour. Aloha from Züri West (2004) not only charted number one, but it also spawned the band's second-biggest hit to date, "Fingt ds Glück Eim?" (number 14). Haubi Songs (2008) performed similarly, charting number one -- making it Züri West's fourth straight chart-topping album -- and spawning the Top Five hit single "Fische Versänke." Follow-up single "Johnny & Mary" also became a hit. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi