When they first formed, in 1994, Muse didn’t think their music was good enough to win a high-school battle of the bands, much less set the charts on fire. But they were mere teenagers at the time and, like any other aspiring rockers, their ambition strayed little further than merely hoping they would be good enough one day. So instead they entered the competition with the intention of making a statement. Billed as Rocket Baby Dolls, Muse took to the stage dressed in full goth/glam attire and trashed their gear as a finale. As the title of their debut album, Showbiz, suggests, the group already had one eye on the kind of bombastic theatrics that could gain them notice.
Listen to ‘Showbiz’ here.
“We always knew they could do it, right from the first show”
The move marked the band out as clear winners of the competition. But in making such a dramatic impression, Muse set themselves up for disappointment. As frontman Matt Bellamy described to Uncut in 2000, “From then on it was pretty much downhill. I think even now that was the peak in the band’s career. That show was magical and it kept us going for years and years, just remembering what that felt like. It’s taken us years to get even close to what that felt like.”
It was a bold statement. Because in the five years since that fledgling show, Bellamy, along with his bandmates, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenholme, played their first shows proper supporting Skunk Anansie; had the Dangerous record label formed around them for the release their first two EPs; had the EPs garner significant interest from the UK’s independent music press; were on the bill of the massive Woodstock ’99 festival in New York state; played a US showcase gig for Columbia’s Senior Vice President of A&R Tim Devine and American Recordings’ Rick Rubin; signed a deal with Maverick Records in the US; and then had the label Taste Media formed to release Showbiz.