High On The Hogs: Artists On The Genius Of The Groundhogs

Artists including Brix Smith Start, Luke Haines, Underworld's Karl Hyde, reflect on the overlooked genius of Tony McPhee and The Groundhogs, and pick their favourite albums and tracks

Photo courtesy of Fire Records

When tQ first started approaching artists for this feature, asking them whether they were a fan of Tony McPhee’s searing, shapeshifting blues/acid-rock power trio The Groundhogs, it was striking just how enthusiastic their response was. There were overjoyed all-caps replies to our enquiries, musicians thrilled for the opportunity to evangelise about a group who, despite releasing some of the greatest rock albums of the last century, never quite got their due in the British rock canon.

Many spoke of The Groundhogs in reverential, superlative tones. "I’ll put this one out there: T.S McPhee has not been bettered as a guitarist," says Luke Haines, for example. What’s most striking, though, is that there’s a pretty strong case for a claim of such magnitude. Even those who had all but forgotten about the band until tQ came calling, like Brix Smith Start, were struck by the realisation of just how intensely the band had shaped their own creative practise.

Not that the band have flown entirely under the radar, of course. 1971’s Split peaked at number five during a 27 week run on the British albums charts, and lead single ‘Cherry Red’ became a minor hit. That year they also toured with The Rolling Stones at Mick Jagger’s request. Nevertheless, even that popular peak is rarely looked back upon with the kind of reverence afforded to their better known (often far less talented) contemporaries. Until a stroke in 2009 significantly damaged McPhee’s singing voice, eventually forcing his official retirement from the group in 2015, The Groundhogs were continuing to perform with as much fervour as ever.

The band’s true influence is yet to be properly quantified, then. The series of mini-essays you’re about to read on the band, from Haines, Smith Start, and six other of tQ’s favourite artists, are a start, perhaps. Similarly, Fire Records are currently rolling out a series of essential Groundhogs reissues. Following the Record Store Day deluxe edition released earlier this year, 1972’s masterpiece Who Will Save The World? The Might Groundhogs will have a new CD and vinyl repress released on October 15. A special unreleased live collection is also due later this year with more details coming soon.

To find out more about Fire’s reissues, click here. To begin reading some of tQ’s favourite artists on The Groundhogs, click the photo of the band below.

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