The music industry is changing, and with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, it’s hard to say who has more power now: artists or fans.
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Extreme’s music was difficult to categorize since it seldom stuck to heavy metal, hard rock, or pop. The Massachusetts-based band began in 1985, with guitarist Nuno Bettencourt previously having performed in a local band with bassist Pat Badger, and vocalist Gary Cherone already having his own band with drummer Paul Geary. After the two bands united, Cherone and Bettencourt established a creative collaboration that propelled Extreme to the top of the Billboard charts, although for a brief time.
The band released a self-titled first album in 1989, combining Bettencourt’s technical brilliance with a groovy rhythmic foundation. The song “Play with Me” was used to choreograph the chase sequence in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and it reached at number 80, a modest showing for a young, unseasoned band. Extreme had started to gain a following in the heavy metal community, but it wasn’t until the release of Pornograffitti (especially the Everly Brothers-style acoustic ballad “More Than Words”) that a wider public took notice of the band’s music. “More Than Words” went to number one, while the follow-up song, “Hole Hearted,” an acoustic-based pop/rocker, reached number four. Extreme had become one of the most popular bands in the pop-metal genre, but the impending advent of grunge music, as well as the band’s own changing preferences, conspired to shorten Extreme’s reign.
III Sides to Every Story, the band’s third album, was an ambitious attempt whose sales (although high at initially) couldn’t equal Pornograffitti’s. Soon after, Geary departed the lineup to pursue a career in the music industry, and a new version of the band (including Mike Mangini, previously of Annihilator on drums) resurfaced in 1995 with Waiting for the Punchline. It, too, struggled with low sales. As a result, the members of Extreme announced their split the following year. Bettencourt went on to start a solo career in 1997, releasing the Schizophonic CD, and then two more albums with his band Mourning Widows. Meanwhile, Cherone worked as a singer with Van Halen for a short time. Cherone’s only album with the band, Van Halen III, was panned by reviewers and fans alike, leading to low sales and his quick departure.
Extreme’s legacy was preserved in 2000 with the release of An Accidental Collision of Atoms, a 13-track best-of compilation, and the band discreetly reformed in 2004 for a short series of concerts. The reunion shows continued into 2008, when the group released Saudades de Rock, their first new album in 13 years. It was followed by a long tour, and the band continued to create new songs and play on occasion over the following several years, but with Bettencourt on tour with Rihanna and Cherone’s new project Hurtsmile, Extreme was pushed to the sidelines. Pornograffitti Live 25: Metal Meltdown, an audio/video presentation of the band’s 2015 performance at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, was published in 2016.
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