Named for the Alabama 2, a legal case in the American deep South during the 1930s, in which two black men were hanged for allegedly raping a white woman. The name is also a nod to other victims of injustice like the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4. In the United States, they are known as A3, after they were sued by the legendary country outfit Alabama.
They are perhaps best known in the United States for the remix of their song Woke Up This Morning, which appears as the theme song for the HBO hit series The Sopranos.
They have released six albums so far, with numerous bootlegs more than doubling their catalog. Alabama 3 rarely tour outside of their home country.
Recently, female singer Devlin Love has joined the group.
Alabama 3 are an English band mixing rock, dance, blues, country, gospel, and spoken word styles, founded in Brixton, London in 1995. In the United States, the band are known as A3, allegedly to avoid any possible legal conflict with the country music band Alabama. The group achieved international fame when the producers of hit TV series The Sopranos chose the track “Woke Up This Morning” for the show’s opening credits.
The band are particularly notable for their fusion of styles, lyrics full of ironic intent, their deliberately humorous personas and their outrageous live performances. Every member of the group has an alias by which he is known, the band’s founding members adopting the personas Larry Love (Rob Spragg) and The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love (Jake Black).
The band formed when Jake Black met Rob Spragg at an acid house party in Peckham and they decided that a fusion of country music with acid house was a musical possibility. Other members of the band were accumulated over a lengthy period, but it is known that Rob Spragg was at university with Piers Marsh, the harmonica player and synth programmer for the band whilst Orlando Harrison, the group’s current keyboardist, used to live with Jake Black. Prior to the formation of the Alabama 3, Jake had gone through his “wilderness years” period of which there is little or no recorded output. This creative gulch lasted years following the demise of The Jangletties.
Starting their act under the alias the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (UK), the group eventually switched names to Alabama 3 and, after having been dismissed by the mainstream media as a novelty act, the group finally signed with One Little Indian Records in 1997 for the release of debut album, Exile on Coldharbour Lane.
In August 2007, the group toured under the name of Alabama 3: Acoustic and Unplugged, with Harpo Strangelove and Devlin Love, to promote their new album M.O.R. (released 10 September 2007). Bassist John “Segs” Jennings apparently left the band, saying he was “busy elsewhere and [he doesn’t] have the time.” The band’s sixth studio album album M.O.R included a cover of Jerry Reed’s 1970s hit “Amos Moses” and features The Proclaimers on the track “Sweet Joy” plus piano parts on the country stomp version of the Gil Scott Heron song “The Klan”, written by Heron and Brian Jackson. In September and October 2007, the band toured the UK in support of M.O.R. with Irish band Republic Of Loose supporting.
On Friday 29 February 2008, Larry Love, Devlin Love and Mark Sams did an encore with Carbon/Silicon at the seventh and final Carbon Casino gig at the Inn on the Green, under the Westway. Mick Jones joined the group on-stage to add guitar and backing vocals to a version of “Woke Up This Morning.”
Having recorded and toured with the band in the early days, Aurora Dawn rejoined the band in 2009, and sometime between late 2010 and early 2011, programmer, harmonicist, and founding member Piers “Mountain of Love” Marsh left the band. Although no reason has yet been publicly given, his departure appears to be amicable, as he is still an active contributor to the band’s Facebook page. He and other Alabama 3 founder member, Sir Eddie Real, are now performing new material under the name of “Mountain of Love” with vocals from various guest vocalists.
The members of the band are:
Rob Spragg AKA Larry Love: vocals
Jake Black AKA The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love: vocals
Orlando Harrison AKA The Spirit: keyboards, keyboard bass, vocals
Mark Sams AKA Rock Freebase: guitar, bass guitar
Aurora Dawn: vocals
Steve Finnerty AKA LOVEPIPE: production, guitar and vocals
Nick Reynolds AKA Harpo Strangelove: harmonica, percussion, vocals (son of Bruce Reynolds, architect of the Great Train Robbery of 1963. Bruce appears on the band’s 2005 album, Outlaw).
John Jennings AKA Segs: backing vocals, guitar
Zoe Devlin AKA Devlin Love: vocals
Jonny Delafons AKA L. B. Dope: drums, percussion
Simon (The Dude) Edwards AKA Sir Eddie Real: percussion, vocals
Piers Marsh AKA The Mountain of Love: Synths
“Peace in the Valley” is featured in the film A Life Less Ordinary (1997).
“Too Sick to Pray” plays on the radio in the film Gone in 60 Seconds (2000).
A snippet of “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” features in the film Some Voices (2000).
“Mansion on the Hill” featured on the Kurt Russell/Kevin Costner film 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001).
A part of “M.I.A” by the band is played in the film The Football Factory (2004) as the Chelsea firm travel up to Liverpool for an away match.
The song “Sister Rosetta” from Exile on Coldharbour Lane can be heard in the film Barnyard (2006).
A snippet of “Bulletproof” appears in A Very British Gangster (2007), Donal MacIntyre’s documentary film about Manchester crime boss Dominic Noonan.
The song “Ain’t Goin’ to Goa” is featured in the motion picture Definitely, Maybe (2008).
The band is featured in the documentary We Dreamed America (2008). The film, which explores the influence of American country music on British artists, features three songs by the band.
“Mansion on the Hill” is used on the opening credits of mockumentory Good Arrows (2009), written by Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh.
Episode four of the BBC Three series Being Human features “Too Sick to Pray” at its opening and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlife” at its end. The songs were omitted from the DVD release of the episode due to copyright issues.
“Mansion on the Hill” features in the sixth episode of the ABC television series Carpoolers.
The closing scene to first season Criminal Minds episode titled “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (10/05/05) plays “The Night We Nearly Got Busted”.
A shortened alternate version of “Woke Up This Morning” can be heard for nearly 50 seconds in The Simpsons episode “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge”, while Fat Tony and his gang are on the ride to the Simpsons’ house. The sequence is a parody of the opening sequence of The Sopranos.
“Woke Up This Morning” is also in the later Simpsons episode “The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer”, which guest-starred Sopranos regulars Michael Imperioli and Joe Pantoliano.
A remixed version of “Woke Up This Morning” plays during the opening credits of the HBO television series The Sopranos.
On the Region 4 DVD release of season one of The Sopranos, the music video to “Woke Up This Morning” is included as a special feature; it is incorrectly credited as being performed by “Alabama 5”.
A snippet of “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlife” can be heard at the beginning of The Sopranos: “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood” (episode 3.1) as Tony Soprano walks down the driveway to get his morning newspaper.
“Woke Up This Morning” was also used in an episode of BBC series Top Gear, in which the team were driving through Alabama.
“Mao Tse Tung Said” features in the first episode of the second season of Torchwood Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.
Rob Spragg (as Rob Love) wrote and recorded the theme to Welsh TV series Y Pris. He and John Hardy won the Best Original Music Soundtrack award at BAFTA Cymru 2008