Alternative rock band, formed in London (UK) in 1994 by singer-guitarist Brian Molko and guitarist-bassist Stefan Olsdal. The band were soon joined by drummer Robert Schultzberg.
In 1996, Placebo signed with Caroline Records and released their self-titled debut album. After an argument in August 1996, Molko decided that it would be best for the band if Schultzberg left. The band came to an agreement that Schultzberg would leave once they had finished the promotion of the album. The most successful song on the debut album was ‘Nancy Boy’. The song had been written in 1994, being partially inspired by an infamous quote of Suede’s Brett Anderson: ‘I’m a bisexual man who’s never had a homosexual experience’. The song attracted the attention of David Bowie, who invited the band to open several of his concerts in early 1996. In the following January, Bowie invited them to play at his 50th birthday celebrations at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In 1998, Placebo switched to ‘major label’ Virgin Records and released ‘Without you I’m nothing’. The title track was re-recorded with David Bowie at his request. Molko would describe this moment in 2016 as an honour, adding that he realised its importance much later in his career.
The band’s third album, ‘Black Market Music’ (2000) further experimented with genres outside of regular rock sound. Placebo encountered resistance from the British music industry upon release of the single ‘Special K’ due to its reference of a ketamine high as a simile for love. Due to this metaphor, the song was censored in the UK. In spite of the controversy, ‘Black Market Music’ reached number 1 in France and number 6 in the UK.
Placebo released their fourth album ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’ in 2003. The album went to No. 11 in the UK and sold 1.4 million copies worldwide. Australian tour dates with Elbow and UK shows with Har Mar Superstar followed in 2004. At the end of 2003, the band released ‘Sleeping with Ghosts Special Edition’, which was a double-disc release, containing the ‘Sleeping with Ghosts’ album and a bonus disc with ten covers, including a cover of Running Up That Hill. The bonus disc was re-released in 2010 as a stand-alone under the name ‘Covers’.
On 25 October 2004, Placebo released a singles collection, ‘Once More with Feeling: Singles 1996–2004’, on both CD and as a DVD featuring the band’s videos. The compilation was meant to allow the listener to observe Placebo’s change of lyrics, music and attitude; Molko was highly critical of his early years, comparing in a 2005 interview the first singles with ‘bad teenage poetry you made at college’.
In 2006 Placebo released their fifth studio album ‘Meds’. The version released in the US had two bonus tracks, Running Up That Hill and ‘UNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU’, but did not include ‘In the Cold Light of Morning’ at Molko’s demand, who refused to have the song censored. Also in 2006, Placebo switched labels in the US to Astralwerks and re-released several revisions of their earlier works.
Drummer Steve Hewitt left the band in 2007 due to personal and musical differences. The relationship between Steve Hewitt and the rest of the band had become tense during the recording of ‘Meds’ and eventually, in October 2007, the band announced that Hewitt was no longer in Placebo. Hewitt claims that it was “very hurtful” and “disappointing” to have been ejected in this way after being in the band for over a decade. In August 2008, the band announced their new drummer, Steve Forrest of the band Evaline.t
In January 2009, Placebo announced that they signed with PIAS Entertainment, with Brian Molko commenting: “We were very lucky to have so many great labels interested in signing us, it means a lot, especially after 12 years of releasing records!” ‘Battle For The Sun’ was released in 2009. During the ensuing ‘Battle For The Sun Tour’, Molko and Olsdal both stated on various occasions that they were working on material for the next studio album. ‘Loud Like Love’ was eventually released in 2013.
On 2 February 2015, the band announced the departure of drummer Steve Forrest. The end of Forrest’s career with the band was “very amicable” and occurred due to the drummer’s intention to “pursue his own musical ambitions”. Placebo announced that for the planned 2015 gigs a new sideman, Matt Lunn, formerly of the band Colour of Fire, who supported Placebo on tour in 2004, would take the drummer’s seat.
Marking twenty years since the release of their debut album, Placebo announced in June 2015 the re-release of their first five albums on 12″ coloured vinyl. In March 2016, Placebo announced the anniversary tour ‘A Place for Us to Dream – 20 Years of Placebo’, with the first dates scheduled for December 2016 in the UK and Ireland.
- Placebo (band). Wikipedia, retrieved 4 September 2018.