Artist: Massive Attack

Teardrop ~ Massive Attack

Massive Attack is an English musical group from Bristol, England consisting of Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall. Working with co-producers, as well as various musicians and guest vocalists, they make records and tour live. The duo are considered to be progenitors of the trip hop genre. Their debut album, Blue Lines was released in 1991, with the single “Unfinished Sympathy” reaching the charts and later being voted the 10th greatest song of all time in a poll by The Guardian. 1998’s Mezzanine, containing “Teardrop”, and 2003’s 100th Window charted in the UK at number 1. Both Blue Lines and Mezzanine feature in Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

DJs Daddy G and Andrew Vowles and graffiti artist-turned-rapper Robert Del Naja met as members of partying collective The Wild Bunch. One of the first homegrown sound systems in the UK, The Wild Bunch became dominant on the Bristol club scene in the mid-1980s.

Massive Attack started as a spin-off production trio in 1988, with the independently released song, “Any Love”, sung by falsetto-voiced singer-songwriter Carlton McCarthy, and then, with considerable backing from Neneh Cherry, they signed to Circa Records in 1990 — committing to deliver six studio albums and a “best of” compilation. Circa became a subsidiary of, and was later subsumed into, Virgin Records, which in turn was acquired by EMI. Blue Lines (1991), was co-produced by Jonny Dollar and Cameron McVey, who also became their first manager. Geoff Barrow, who went on to form Portishead, was an intern and trainee tape operator at Bristol’s Coach House studio when the album was recorded. McVey (credited at the time as ‘Booga Bear’) and his wife, Neneh Cherry provided crucial financial support and in-kind assistance to the early careers of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky during this period, even paying regular wages to them through their Cherry Bear Organisation. Massive Attack used guest vocalists, interspersed with Del Naja and Marshall’s (initially Tricky’s) own sprechgesang stylings, on top of what became regarded as an essentially British creative sampling production; a trademark sound that fused down-tempo hip hop, soul, reggae and other eclectic references, musical and lyrical.

In the nineties, the trio became known for often not being able to easily get along with one another and working increasingly separately. Andy Vowles (Mushroom), who had once thought of himself as the trio’s musical director, acrimoniously left Massive Attack in late 1999, after an ultimatum from the other two members to end the group immediately if he did not. Despite having taken Del Naja’s side in the effective firing of Vowles and then participating in a show-of-unity webcast as a duo the following year, Grant Marshall (G) had also effectively left by 2001 in that he abandoned the studio altogether. Marshall returned to a studio role in 2005, having joined the touring line-up in 2003/4. The two later worked together again in the 2008 Damon Albarn sessions for the fifth proper studio album.

Over the decades, the group have collaborated with Neneh Cherry, Madonna, David Bowie, Mos Def, Elizabeth Fraser and Sinéad O’Connor and others. Roots reggae veteran Horace Andy has featured on all of their regular studio albums. The most recent studio album is Heligoland.

Teardrop

Teardrop” is a song by Massive Attack, which was first released on their 1998 album Mezzanine. It was released as a single on 27 April 1998. The song became another UK hit for the group, peaking at number 10 on the UK Singles Chart. The song features vocals by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.

The song is also known for its use in numerous TV programs and movies, notably as the theme song, on American TV, of the medical television series House. The instrumental portions of the song at the beginning and the end which feature a bass drum beat reminiscent of a heartbeat are used in the opening theme.

“Teardrop” was first developed from a simple harpsichord riff picked out in the studio in April 1997. Vowles sent the demo to Madonna as he wanted her to record the vocals for the song (the band had previously worked with her on their 1995 reworking of the song “I Want You”). The two other band members Robert Del Naja and Grantley Marshall wanted Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins to record the vocals, feeling her ethereal style suited the mournful melody and feel of the piece. Madonna was very keen to record the vocals, and was disappointed when the two-to-one vote went in Fraser’s favor.

Fraser wrote the song’s lyrics and was recording the song when she got the news of the death by drowning on 29 May 1997 of her once-close friend, Jeff Buckley. “That was so weird … I’d got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song’s kind of about him — that’s how it feels to me anyway.”

Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath
Gentle impulsion
Shakes me, makes me lighter
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Night, night of matter
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my…

Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Of a confession
Fearless on my breath
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

It’s tumbling down (as in love falling apart)
It’s tumbling down (as in love falling apart)

  • Audio from the 1998 album, Mezzanine:
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