You Say It's Your Birthday: Geoff Barrow of Portishead

Portishead mix-master Geoff Barrow is celebrating his 26th birthday today.

Portishead almost single-handedly brought the trip-hop genre to the mainstream

with the release of 1994's Dummy and that album's hit single, "Sour Times

(Nobody Loves Me)." Barrow and his mother first moved to Portishead, England,

after his parents divorced when he was 13, but Barrow soon moved to Bristol so

that he could play drums on the weekend with what he has called "a dodgy rock

band." In the mid-1980s, he stopped drumming and began experimenting behind the

wheels of steel after being inspired by American hip-hop. He got his first real

job at 16 as a tape operator at Coach House Studios, where Portishead now record. It was at Coach House Studios that he first was asked to write some demos for Neneh Cherry's 1992 Homebrew album, and where he remixed singles by Depeche Mode, Primal Scream, Paul Weller and Gabrielle. Barrow first met singer Beth Gibbons in 1991, and the duo soon formed Portishead, a trip-hop outfit that continues to

concentrate on making songs that sound as though they come from spy-movie

soundtracks.

The band's first exposure to the general public came in June 1994, when they

released a short film called To Kill A Dead Man, a film that wore its

'60s spy-movies influence on its sleeve. Over the next two months, the group

released "Numb" and "Sour Times (Nobody Loves Me)" and then released their

groundbreaking Dummy in August. Combining looping hip-hop beats, ambient

sounds, distorted Hammond organs and guitars, Dummy was an instant cult

classic that paved the way for such artists as Tricky, Goldie and the

electronica invasion of 1997. The album topped numerous 1994 polls, and in

August 1995 it won the coveted U.K. Mercury Music Prize for album of the year.

Earlier this year, the group released a self-titled follow-up and began a world

tour in which they use instruments to re-create the studio-made samples that

dominate their sound.

Other birthdays: Sam Strain (Little Anthony and the Imperials/O'Jays), 56;

Walter "Clyde" Orange (the Commodores), 51; Rick Danko (the Band), 54; Kenny

Vance (Jay and the Americans), 54; Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper), 49; Joan

Armatrading, 47; Donny Osmond, 40; Nick Seymour (Crowded House), 39; Kat

Bjelland (Babes in Toyland), 34; Sammy B (Jungle Brothers), 30; and Brian Bell

(Weezer), 28.