Jim Ellison

Jim Ellison

"Are you ready?!! Are you ready?!! Are you ready?!!" Jim Ellison screams out into the crowd.

Jim Ellison was the purveyor of classic power-pop, fronting a group in the classic rock trio style. With his songwriting ability, ensuring that the music was never just 'run of the mill', coupled with his obvious love for both the music and the audience, Material Issue deserve to be considered as serious contenders in the music world and not just 'also rans'.

Born in 1964, Jim Ellison grew up not just with a love of music, but a love of music that was crafted, structured and got a response from the audience. While some would dismiss this as just 'pop' music with Ellison it went deeper, it was music to help you have a good time, to forget your troubles, to make you feel alive, in fact everything that conveyor-belt 'pop' wasn't. Working the classic role of singer, song writer and guitarist, all he needed was the rest of the group.

It was while he was at Columbia Art College, Chicago in the mid-80s that the other pieces of the group fell into place in the form of Ted Ansani (bass) and Mike Zelenko (drums). Naming themselves Material Issue the group concentrated on their aim of bringing quality power-pop to the masses. They played anywhere and everywhere with Ellison taking on the ultimate rock star persona it terms of attitude and style while never forgetting the reason they were playing the audience.

On top of everything else Ellison set up his own label "Big Block Records" and began promoting and setting up tours by himself. This eventually brought Ellison and Material Issue to the notice of major labels and on the back of their 'Material Issue' EP the group were signed by Mercury. Their subsequent Mercury debut ('International Pop Overthrow') moved the group rapidly to the front of the alternative rock scene, receiving both critical and commercial acclaim. Unbeknownst to the group this was to be the height of their commercial appeal, despite releasing further recordings ('Destination Universe'-1992 and the 'Freak City Soundtrack'- 1994) to critical acclaim the public didn't respond and the group were eventually dropped by Mercury.

Why the public didn't respond to the recordings is a mystery, Ellison's music was fun, full of hooks (lyrically and musically), sincere, tongue-in-cheek. In fact it was everything that makes for perfect recordings not for the first time the public didn't recognize a great thing when they saw it (or when it sang at them).

While there were some recordings after the group were dropped by Mercury, the impetus had been lost and the group were (unfairly) destined to become one of rock music's sidenotes.

  • The Material Issue track 'Very First Lie' featured in the 1992 film Poison Ivy starring Sara Gilbert and Drew Barrymore; 'What Girls Want' features in Hellraiser III.

  • Ever one for the ironic Ellison plays a one-note guitar solo during 'Help Me Land'.

  • Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen contributes guitar to two tracks on 'Freak City Soundtrack'.

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