April 12, 2024

Key Tracks:

I Believe In A Thing Called Love

Love Is Only A Feeling

One Way Ticket

Rock And Roll Deserves To Die

It’s funny how a seemingly meaningless performance can change a career. Justin and Dan Hawkins were struggling guitarists from Suffolk who’d rolled through a number of bands, together and separately, with little measurable success. In ’97, Justin was a university student and Dan had moved to London. Various line-ups, including bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham, failed to connect. But it was New Year’s Eve ’99 (The Millennium) that things changed.

Justin entered a karaoke competition and delivered a highly theatrical performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After years of looking for a suitable lead singer Dan saw potential in his older brother’s performance. With the front man and lead guitarist set, Poullain and Graham were re-recruited and The Darkness came to life. The group released “Permission To Land” in ’03.

Following a major tour and tons of press, The Darkness returned to the studio. But not without problems. At one point the group disbanded. Justin underwent therapy. Eventually, Poullain was canned and replaced by the group’s guitar tech, Richie Edwards.

Under the guidance of producer Roy Thomas Baker, The Darkness unfurled their sophomore effort “One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back” in ’05.

When a band member announces he is going into rehab it often strikes fans as coming out of the blue. But for band members and those close-by, the action is probably a necessity. In October, ’06, Justin announced he was taking leave from the group to get treatment for his (reportedly $2,000 a week) drug problem.

At this point, there was more news than action. First, it was announced via the band’s website that Edwards would become the group’s new frontman, with Toby MacFarlaine taking over on bass. Then came word that the updated line-up wouldn’t be called The Darkness but Stone Gods.

Meanwhile, Justin started his own band, Hot Leg. This outfit actually released an album, “Red Light Fever,” but neither the album nor associated singles made an impression.

With everyone thinking The Darkness was gone for good, it was officially announced that they would reunite with all of the original members.

Featuring the single, “Every Inch Of You,” the album “Hot Cakes” dropped later that year.

It did well on both sides of the Atlantic. The set topped the U.K. Rock Chart while peaking at #4 on the Album survey.

In the U.S., the album only reached #42 on the Billboard 200, but it did land at #2 on the Billboard Hard Rock Albums Chart and #12 on the Rock Albums list.

Before recording started on their next album, The Darkness stated they had parted ways with Graham. “For various reasons, we have all decided to move on,” read a band statement.

Graham, who suffered from a blood disorder (osteonecrosis) and had undergone hip replacement surgery, played on the group’s first three albums.

As ‘14 came to a close, Emily Dolan Davies was named Graham’s replacement. “She’s got the chops and the attitude that you need to be The Darkness’ drummer,” said Justin.

The group issued their fourth album, “Last Of Our Kind,” on their own label, Canary Dwarf Records. “The new album is brutal,” Justin exclaimed.

The Darkness rolled out “Pinewood Smile” in ’17. Recorded in Cornwall, U.K. with producer Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse), it was the group’s first with drummer Rufus Taylor – son of Queen’s Roger Taylor, who joined the lineup following Davies’ departure.

Two years later, The Darkness unfurled “Easter Is Canceled,” with a controversial cover (Jesus/Hawkins on the cross).

“The song cycle defines human existence through a parable — the slow lingering death and eventual glorious re-birth of Rock and Roll,” stated Justin.

The album contained the ‘mini-Rock opera’ “Heart Explodes.” “It’s about the despair of change,” explained Hawkins. “Having to reappraise your life and what you’re holding on to.”

After keeping a relatively low profile through ‘21 The Darkness presented “Motorheart.” One critic (Kerrang!) called the band’s seventh studio effort “the silliest album The Darkness have ever made.”  The title track was about a devoted sex robot. 

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