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Elbow are an British alternative rock band. Members of the band first played together in 1990 at The Corner Pin pub in Ramsbottommarker, Burymarker, a borough of Greater Manchestermarker. The band currently retain their original line-up of lead vocalist and lyricist Guy Garvey, guitarist Mark Potter, keyboardist Craig Potter, bassist Pete Turner and drummer Richard Jupp. Over the band's 12-year career they have released four studio albums, four EPs and ten top fifty singles in the UKmarker. The band is named after a line in the BBC TV mini-series The Singing Detective; a character (Philip Marlow) says that the word "elbow" is the most sensuous word in the English language, not for its definition, but for how it feels to say it.

Acclaimed for their innovative sound and front-man Guy Garvey's evocative candid lyrics, Elbow have received vast critical acclaim and been endorsed by major artists Radiohead, Coldplay, Blur, R.E.M. and U2 despite minor commercial success during much of their career (The Velvet Underground's co-founder John Cale selected Elbow's "Switching Off" as one of his eight chosen records on the BBC's Desert Island Discs radio programme). Since winning the 2008 Mercury Music Prize for their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid, commercial success is finally beginning to match Elbow's critical acclaim and status among fans.


Lead singer Guy Garvey met guitarist Mark Potter at Stand College in 1990 at the age of 16. Potter asked Garvey to sing in a band he was in with drummer Richard Jupp and bassist Pete Turner. Together, the four men formed the band Mr Soft. (The name was later changed to Soft.) Mark Potter's brother Craig Potter joined the band soon after on keyboards. By 1997, they had changed their name a third time to Elbow, signed a deal with Island Records, and recorded their début album with producer Steve Osborne. However, when Island was bought out by major label Universal, the band was dropped in a mass cull and the album never released. They continued to record on the iconic independent label Ugly Man, and released The Newborn EP, and The Any Day Now EP, which were given extensive airplay by BBC Radio 1.

Their debut album, Asleep in the Back, released on V2 in 2001, was hailed as a seminal album of the new millennium, gaining them a Mercury Music Prize nomination and a BRIT Award nomination. Their second album, Cast of Thousands sealed their reputation as innovators in UK music. The title is a reference to their performance at Glastonburymarker in 2002, when they recorded thousands of people singing, "We still believe in love, so fuck you". That recording was featured on the song Grace Under Pressure.

In 2004, Elbow went on an unofficial tour of Cubamarker, playing songs from Asleep in the Back and Cast of Thousands at venues in and around Havana. British documentary maker Irshad Ashraf was present on the tour and filmed a large portion of it. The resulting short film was shown at festivals in 2004, but remains commercially unavailable. Their acoustic cover of Destiny's Child's "Independent Women", recorded exclusively for a BBC Radio 1 session, was turned into a popular web animation by's Joel Veitch. The animation features a band of flat-capped northern kittens "performing" the song. In the same year, their song "Fallen Angel" appeared in the film 9 Songs.

Elbow's innovation in the studio has invited work with other bands, notably Editors and I Am Kloot, the latter whose début album was produced by Guy Garvey. Their third album, Leaders of the Free World, was entirely self-produced at Blueprint Studios in Salford, a space the band hired for the duration of their recording sessions. They teamed up with video artists The Soup Collective to produce an integrated music and video DVD. However, despite further critical acclaim, the album faltered commercially, and soon the band were dropped from V2 in 2006. They have since signed to Fiction Records. The band contributed the song "Snowball" to the 2005 War Child benefit album Help - a Day in the Life. In addition, an unreleased track titled "Beats For Two" was used in the closing titles of the 2004 film Inside I'm Dancing. Garvey also returned to I Am Kloot as co-producer for their single "Maybe I Should". He continues to work closely with Manchester indie label Skinny Dog.

The band completed their fourth studio album, The Seldom Seen Kid in late 2007, which was produced and mixed by keyboard player Craig Potter. The song "Grounds for Divorce" from this album is featured on the trailer for the Coen Brothers' film Burn After Reading starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and John Malkovich. The song is also featured in the 30 second TV Spot for Valve's zombie apocalypse game Left 4 Dead, as the trailer song for the twelfth series of Top Gear, on the promotional adverts for the sixth series of House and many other adverts on various TV channels. Since the June 2008 release of the song "One Day Like This" it has been used in sport coverage for both ITV and BBC including the Beijing Olympics 2008, as well as ads for the upcoming film "The Soloist." The song was also used during the final of Big Brother 9marker. The track moved from 113 to 35 in the UK singles chart.

On 9 September 2008, Elbow won the Mercury Music Prize for The Seldom Seen Kid. The award was presented to them by Jools Holland. The band plan to follow this success, by starting work on a fifth studio album, before their European tour in autumn 2008. They are also planning a side-project album of children's songs, to accompany an animated film.

In 2009, Elbow contributed to War Child's Heroes album, covering U2’s "Running to Stand Still". Garvey said: “When the band first met each other aged 17, Mark and Craig’s father Gareth would lend us his Volvo to get our gear around. It seemed that for a year and a half all that we listened to in that car was Rattle and Hum. I remember the excitement every time a U2 album was released, we just loved them. The first song we ever covered together before we had enough of our own songs to do a performance was 'Running To Stand Still'. For ‘Heroes’ we've changed the order of things but kept every musical theme in the song. We wrote it with the members of U2 in mind. War Child do exactly what it says on the tin. These kids shouldn't be in such circumstances in the first place, but they are, so thank god someone's doing something about it.”

In May 2009, the band won two prestigious Ivor Novello awards, the song 'One Day Like This' won the main award for best song and 'Grounds for Divorce' took best contemporary song.

Live appearances

In summer 2006, Elbow headlined the Ukula Bright Lights Festival in Toronto's Distillery District. Asked before the show about what he thought about his Manchester-influenced imagery in his songs, Guy Garvey said, "I think lyrics are one of the tools of the box in order to try to get the feeling across. I don’t think it matters if you use local imagery as long as it’s part of the bigger picture."

Elbow and Bournemouth-based band Air Traffic embarked on an extensive North American tour in May 2008, which was greatly received by the media including Blender and Spin magazine. Elbow performed at Delamere Forestmarker in Cheshire on 14 June 2008 as part of the Forestry Commission's 2008 music tours. They were supported by I Am Kloot. The band commented before the show, "We always love playing gigs in unusual places. We've never done a gig in a forest before so we're really looking forward to it."

Elbow appeared on the Other Stage at the Glastonbury Festivalmarker on 28 June 2008, joined on stage by many violinists and cellists. They performed in the Obelisk Arena at the Latitude Festival on 19 July 2008. In August, They played at the Electric Picnic festival. On 9 September, the performed at the National Movie Awards broadcast on ITV. On 23 September Elbow appeared on BBC2's "Later Live" show hosted by Jools Holland.

Elbow exclusively performed their album "The Seldom Seen Kid" for BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music with the BBC Concert Orchestra and London-based chamber choir Chantage at the Abbey Road Studiosmarker on 17 January 2009 (first broadcast on 31 January 2009).

They played Brighton Domemarker on 28th February 2009. Guy said "You need forgiveness when you've been in a band this long,". Elbow started with "Starlings" followed by "The Bones Of You" and after a scattering of songs from Leaders of the Free World, Asleep in the Back and Seldom Seen Kid, ended their encore with "Newborn" and "Scattered Black & Whites".

On 14th March 2009, they played Wembley Arenamarker their largest live concert so far. Elbow performed at the Meteor Awards in Dublin on 17th March 2009. At this awards ceremony they also won Best International Band. On July 3 2009, Elbow played to an audience of 80,000 at Rock Werchter and were widely regarded as one of the absolute top-acts of the four-day-festival. The next day, Elbow played a gig at Roskilde Festival, Denmark, to an audience of approximately 15,000. On stage, Garvey remarked that "last time we played in Denmark, 7 people came." The gig received extremely positive reviews and left the audience stunned.

As part of the Manchester International Festival, they performed with The Hallé Orchestra and Youth Choir at the Bridgewater Hallmarker on the 8th and 9th of July 2009. These concerts featured specially-commissioned orchestral and choral arrangements of material spanning all 4 albums, the band themselves playing with the Hallé musicians and Garvey singing positioned just to the right of the conductor onstage.

On July 11 2009, they played the Main Stage at Oxegen 2009 in Punchestown, Ireland. The band performed on the Main Stage at T in the Park on July 12th 2009 in Baladomarker, Kinrossmarker, Scotlandmarker. And on July 18, they played the "Escenario Verde" at FIB 2009 in Benicassim, Spain.

They opened for Coldplay at several stops on the Viva la Vida Tour's 2009 North American leg. They performed at All Points West Music & Arts Festival in Jersey Citymarker and the Osheaga Festival in Montrealmarker; Coldplay also played at both festivals. On August 4 2009, Elbow headlined their second show at the 9:30 Clubmarker in Washington, DCmarker and on On August 8 2009, they performed at the Center Stage Theatre in Atlantamarker. They opened for U2 on 14 August 2009 in Wembley Stadium, London, UK and at the Sheffield Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, UK.

On Sunday 13th September they closed the UK Festival season by headlining at Bestival on the Isle of Wight. The show was widely acclaimed as a highlight of the festival.

Band members


Studio albums

Year Album Charts
2001 Asleep in the Back
  • Released: 7 May 2001
2003 Cast of Thousands
  • Released: 18 August 2003
7 196 8
2005 Leaders of the Free World
  • Released: 12 September 2005
2008 The Seldom Seen Kid
  • Released: 17 March 2008
5 109 2

Singles & EPs

All positions are from the UK Singles Chart.

Year Day & Month Title Album Versions Label Position
1998 1 January The Noisebox EP Non-album release CD Ugly Man
2000 7 August The Newborn EP CD
2001 23 January The Any Day Now EP CD (4 tracks)
26 February CD (5 tracks) V2
23 April "Red" Asleep in the Back 2x CD, 7" 36
9 July "Powder Blue" 2x CD, 10" 41
8 October "Newborn" 2x CD, 12" 42
2002 4 February "Asleep in the Back" / "Coming Second" 2x CD, DVD, promo 12" 19
2003 26 May "Ribcage" Cast of Thousands Digital download, promo 12"
4 August "Fallen Angel" 2x CD, DVD 19
27 October "Fugitive Motel" 2x CD, DVD 44
2004 23 February "Not a Job" 2x CD, DVD, promo 12" 26
12 July "Grace Under Pressure" / "Switching Off" EP CD
2005 29 August "Forget Myself" Leaders of the Free World 2x CD, 7" 22
7 November "Leaders of the Free World" 2x CD, 7" 53
2008 10 March "Grounds for Divorce" The Seldom Seen Kid 2x 7", CD Fiction/Polydor 19
2 June "One Day Like This" 2x 7", CD 35
12 June iTunes Live from London EP Digital download (iTunes) 192
29 September "The Bones of You" Digital download

Other releases and covers

  • In 2002, Elbow has recorded a cover of "Something in the Air" (3.31) for the War Child compilation "1 Love".
  • Elbow contributed a song "Snowball" (5.00) to the War Child compilation "Help!: A Day in the Life", in September, 2005. Already recorded for the "Cast of Thousands" record, they didn't think it fit the album and left it off. The song and lyrics are highly political, suiting the compilation.
  • Another cover "Working Class Hero" (5.03) was recorded as part of a tribute album "Lennon: Covered Vol. 1" given away with Q Magazine, in 2005.
  • A The The cover of "August and September" (4.55) was recorded as part of a tribute album "Q Covered: Best of 86/06" in 2006.
  • The last recorded cover to date, 2009, is "Running to Stand Still" (5.16) and is originally by U2. Elbow's version is part of the War Child compilation "Heroes",

TV Appearances


Awards won by the band include the Brit Award, the Ivor Novello award, the Mercury Music Prize the South Bank Show Pop award, the NME award, and the Mojo Magazine Song of the Year 2009.


  1. )
  3. Left 4 Dead TV Spot 1 -
  4. BBC May 21, 2009
  5. Set list from March 14, 2009 concert at Wembley Arena
  7. Elbow at
  8. Billboard, Allmusic
  9. BRIT award
  10. Ivor Novello award
  11. Elbow win Mercury prize. BBC, 2008
  12. Southbank Pop Award
  13. NME award
  14. Mojo song of the year award

External links

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