Multi-instrumentalist/producer Geoff Barrow, who worked on trip-hop
pioneers Massive Attack's seminal Blue Lines, expanded that band's
vision of the genre when he started his own group Portishead in 1993.
Portishead crafted cabaret-inflected pop songs and flooded them with
trip-hop, helping to popularize the sound in the United States.
Geoff Barrow was born Dec. 9, 1971, in Walton-in-Gordano, Avon, England.
He learned to play drums as a youth and moved with his mother to the town
of Portishead as a teenager, after his parents separated.
Barrow loved the music of Giorgio Moroder, Isaac Hayes and A Tribe Called
Quest. He began breakdancing, studied graphic design and tried for a
career in music production. Barrow got a job as a builder of Coach House
Studio, home to the growing Bristol, Avon, music scene that included
Massive Attack. Barrow also worked with rapper Tricky on a charity album.
Barrow met singer Beth Gibbons when they both were involved in a government-run
job-creation program. They experimented on tracks at the home studio of
singer Neneh Cherry. Barrow and Gibbons then returned to Coach House to
record with veteran R&B/jazz guitarist Adrian Utley.
Satisfied with a track they created called "Sour Times," the three officially
formed Portishead. The fourth member of the band was sound engineer Dave
McDonald. Barrow also began remixing tracks by such acts as Primal Scream,
Paul Weller and Depeche Mode.
After an EP called Numb, Portishead issued their debut LP, Dummy,
in 1994. The album mixed retro cinematic musical themes with hip-hop,
soul, jazz and blues and was voted album of the year by many prestigious
music magazines, including Melody Maker. "Glory Box," from the LP,
went to #13 in the UK. The album went to #2 in the UK and #79 in the
In 1997 Portishead played their only U.S. date that year at New York's
Roseland Ballroom, where a 30-piece orchestra backed them. A few months
later came the band's eponymous sophomore album that brought trip-hop
almost into the top 20 of the Billboard 200 albums chart (It peaked
at #21). The LP included "All Mine" (RealAudio
excerpt), "Only You" and "Cowboys."
Last year, Portishead issued the live PNYC, mostly drawn from their
1997 Roseland gig.
"We've been on tour for almost a year, and we're really proud of it and
a lot of our fans wanted to get hold of it," Utley said of the LP.
Other birthdays on Thursday: Sam Strain (Little Anthony and the Imperials/O'Jays),
58; Rick Danko (the Band), 56; Kenny Vance (Jay and the Americans), 56;
Walter Orange (Commodores), 53; Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper), 51; Joan
Armatrading, 49; Jack Hues (Wang Chung), 45; Donny Osmond, 42; Nick Seymour
(Crowded House), 41; "Kat" Bjelland (Babes In Toyland), 36; Sammy B
(exJungle Brothers), 32; Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), 30; Tré
Cool (Green Day), 27; Canibus, 25; Eric Zamora (Save Ferris), 23; and
Junior Wells, 19341998.