Belly was the band that saw Tanya Donelly finally step out of the shadows and emerge as a songwriting talent and a huge commercial success in her own right. Belly were a short-lived outfit, releasing just two albums - Star in 1993 and King in 1995 - but their joyous pop-rock shone brightly, by turns seductive, poetically adventurous and full-on rocking. The quartet's breakout hit was â€˜Feed The Treeâ€™, propelling Tanya to Gap ad icon, Star to gold status, and Belly to double Grammy nominations.
Belly was named after Tanya's favorite word â€“ chosen because, as she said back then, "it's both pretty and ugly" (a paradox that her songs often explored) â€“ but it was a band in the truest sense: the secret to their chemistry lay in the mix of personalities. First there was Tanya herself, a shy, pretty, self-confessed "art chick" with hotshot credentials â€“ she'd already co-founded the legendary Throwing Muses with her step-sister Kristin Hersh, then helped Kim Deal launch The Breeders. Next up were the Gorman brothers, childhood "skate-punk" friends of Tanya's who'd both spent time in Newport hardcore bands. Lead guitarist Tom brought his brooding intensity and power-pop licks to the table, while younger sibling Chris was the surfer boy drummer with an art degree, contributing endlessly inventive rhythms and also serving as the band's graphics director. The final addition was bassist Gail Greenwood, another Newport native, who came onboard after the departure of ex-Throwing Muse Fred Abong, who played on Star.
As so often, what made the band so great also made them volatile. "The force that pulled this group together and made it good - the differences in our personalities - was ultimately a centrifugal force, and we flew apart", recalls Tanya. After an 18-month world tour in support of the criminally under-appreciated King, the foursome quietly called it quits, Tanya evolving into the solo artist she is today. But Belly's legacy lives on. When, in 2002, 4AD gathered a selection of Belly classics into a "best of" titled Sweet Ride, music journalist Brantley Bardin wrote:
"Though for many their most familiar song will be â€˜Feed The Treeâ€™, for my money the group's finest hour was the whirling, shamelessly hook-happy â€˜Seal My Fateâ€™. I'll always remember wandering an hour late into one of the band's New York Roseland shows while that number served as my glorious entrance music. And there they were, a wondrously user-friendly pop-band-with-brains, faithfully united in art and rock 'n' roll: Chris, shirtless and pounding away; Tom on the sidelines, as always, laying down one deliriously, echo-laden riff after another; Gail, swinging her red, white and blue hair and straddling her guitar like a latter-day Lita Ford; and in the middle of the hurricane, Tanya gazing soulfully skyward as she crooned, yelped and wailed in that astonishingly human voice, effortlessly pulling all the threads of the crazy package together. It was a beautiful thing, folks. And I'm proud as a papa to say I was there."