The Forgotten Sex Pistols, Guns N’ Roses, Duran Duran Supergroup
In September 1996, a supergroup featuring Steve Jones of Sex Pistols, John Taylor of Duran Duran and Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum released its debut album. But despite the powerhouse pedigree of its members, Neurotic Outsiders were quickly forgotten.
The group’s origin can be traced back to a benefit gig at famed Hollywood club the Viper Room in June 1995.
It was Sorum who recruited the other musicians for what was meant to be a one-off performance to raise funds for a friend with cancer.
For McKagan, the concert had deeper meaning. The bassist had emerged from rehab earlier that year, working to become sober following a lifetime of alcohol abuse that had brought him close to death.
“Up to this point I had not played a live show sober. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I had never played sober in my entire life,” McKagan admitted in his autobiography It’s So Easy: And Other Lies. Still, the chance to perform with Jones - whom he called a “personal hero” - was too tough to ignore. When the initial show went well, it “rekindled an incredibly strong urge” in McKagan to get back to performing.
“It was one of them things again when the four of us was playing, we’re like, ‘Oh, this is cool. Let’s do this again,’” Jones recalled of the first Neurotic Outsiders show to Yahoo! “And we started rehearsing. And started playing down there every Monday. And it became this scene.”
Indeed, Neurotic Outsiders became regulars at the Hollywood club, with a cavalcade of celebrity friends making guest appearances. Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, the Cult’s Ian Astbury and even Spice Girl Mel C were among the famous stars who jumped onstage with the band.
Watch Iggy Pop Perform With Neurotic Outsiders in 1995
As buzz surrounding these Neurotic Outsiders shows spread throughout Los Angeles, music executives started checking out the shows. One of them was Guy Oseary, the successful music manager who was working alongside Madonna at Maverick Records at the time.
“He wanted to give us a million dollars to do a record,” Jones later recalled. “That’s when people had money in the music business. I mean, to think of that now, a million bucks to a bunch of jerk offs like us who are kinda putting a band together. It’s crazy!”
“This was four times what Guns got,” McKagan confessed. “From our perspective, the deal had an element of a heist to it, and the whole thing - especially with Steve Jones a part of it - reminded me of The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.”
Suddenly Neurotic Outsiders had a record deal and were making headlines on MTV.
Watch an MTV Interview With Neurotic Outsiders
The band began playing shows across the country, still routinely joined by surprise guests.
“I was dumbfounded. We were just having a laugh, after all,” McKagan admitted. “It was funny to hear it described as a group at all, much less a supergroup. The whole thing was totally casual - our live shows were nothing more than punk-rock parties, a couple of dudes playing loads of cover songs - Clash, Pistols, Damned, Stooges - with lots of our friends joining us onstage for a song or two.”
Though their set lists had been heavy on covers, the band’s debut album would largely be made up of originals. Jones handled the bulk of the songwriting, with Taylor and McKagan chipping in as well. The lone cover song on the album would be a rendition of the Clash’s “Janie Jones.”
Listen to Neurotic Outsiders' Version of 'Janie Jones'
Released Sept. 10, 1996, Neurotic Outsiders was met with surprisingly little fanfare.
Some of this can be attributed to the album’s era. By this point, the initial wave of grunge had subsided. Nirvana had broken up following Kurt Cobain’s death, while Pearl Jam and Soundgarden had already released their most commercially successful LPs. Rock was splintered among post-grunge (Bush, Collective Soul), alternative (Rage Against the Machine, No Doubt) and Britpop (Oasis, Blur).
There was also a powerful rise in strong female artists such as Alanis Morissette. Compared to such feminist views, Neurotic Outsiders’ material - like the songs “Nasty Ho” and “Angelina,” the latter inspired by Billboard icon Angeline - seemed overtly macho. In a review, The New York Times called the supergroup “pure Hollywood, honestly and comfortably vulgar.”
Still, in Jones’ opinion, the band’s members were simply too busy to give Neurotic Outsiders the attention it deserved. “It was at a period in 1996 where for the first time in 20-odd years the Sex Pistols was doing their first reunion,” he noted. Likewise, activity within Guns N’ Roses briefly started up again, stealing Sorum and McKagan away.
Watch the Music Video for Neurotic Outsiders' 'Jerk'
"I think Neurotic Outsiders is single-handedly responsible for Guns N' Roses being reunited," Sorum told Toronto Sun. "It seems like every time something good starts happening, I get a phone call from Axl: `We're going to start rehearsing tomorrow.' But seriously, when Axl heard that me and Duff had gone out and gotten this multimillion-dollar record deal, and we're going to go out on the road, he started getting a little nervous."
Following the album’s release, Neurotic Outsiders played a handful of U.S. dates, before heading to Europe for a string of performances. The members’ focus would then turn back to their other respective projects, with a 1997 EP (released only in Japan) representing their only other output. The group reunited for three shows back at the Viper Room in April 1999 but have not performed together since.
“It was a fun time,” Jones admitted, looking back at the supergroup’s brief run. “It’s a shame that [album] kinda fell on its ass, because I think that could have done a lot better than it did.”
Listen to Neurotic Outsiders' Self-Titled Album in Its Entirety