While the idea of a supergroup might look appealing on paper, they rarely work out in the long run. Even though a robust resume might pique the interest of record labels, press and fans, circumstance tends to get in the way of success more often than not.
Sometimes the members become inundated with responsibilities stemming from their main bands, forcing them to ditch the side project and focus on the money-maker. In other cases, big personalities and resentments over lost glory send a decent project to an early grave. Often it’s more simple than that; with fans simply not catching on.
One of these flash-in-the-pan supergroups was Union. A project combining the talents of ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and ex-Motley Crue frontman John Corabi, their 1998 self-titled debut album received positive reviews and seemed to click with a live audience. However, their stylistic marriage of heavy grunge and beatles-inspired pop failed to connect on a large scale.
Although hailing from major bands, the pair had already experienced their fair share of disappointments. After a 12-year run with Kiss, Kulick was unceremoniously dismissed as the original lineup headed out on a massive reunion tour. At the same time, Corabi was kicked to the Motley Crue curb after their self-titled 1994 album failed to perform and the band regrouped with original frontman Vince Neil.
In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Corabi recalled: “Oddly enough, Nikki [Sixx] called Bruce and said, ‘Hey dude, we’re getting Vince back. But I think if you and Corabi got together, it would be really cool because you guys are into the same type of music – [Led] Zeppelin, Cream, Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, all that stuff. Same wheelhouse.’ And then Nikki called me and said, ‘Hey, I talked to Bruce. I think you guys should write together.'”
As the two musicians were both experiencing personal and professional downturns, they found immediate common ground in and outside of music. Kulick reflected: “We had that bond of like, ‘Oh, woe is me. Let’s bond together here musically,'” Kulick tells UCR. “We both feel like we got left behind by our personal lives and our professional careers. So let’s make some music.”
Kulick and Corabi rounded out the lineup with drummer Brent Fitz and bassist Jamie Hunting. Dubbing the project Union, the new group teamed up with producer Curt Cuomo at Rumbo Recorders in Los Angeles to make their recorded debut. Equally highlighting Corabi’s blues-inflicted voice and Kulick’s stunning guitar dexterity, the songs ranged stylistically from heavy rock to ‘60s pop psychedelia.
Although the album was met with a positive reception, working with independent label Mayhem Records proved to be a well-intentioned nightmare. As Kulick recalled: “Their passion and hearts were in the right place, but they definitely didn’t have the money or finesse to do it well.
“There were some really funny mistakes,” he continued. “The first CDs pressed, our first song from the record is ‘Old Man Wise.’ The first batch they printed, it doesn’t even list the song. So whoever approved the artwork was way too high on something.
“Then, there’s a poster that went along with it, and John was also in this very good band on Hollywood Records called the Scream. They spelled it ‘Sceam’ and left the ‘r’ out on the poster – and then they spelled Motley Crue completely wrong.”
As Corabi lamented, Union were pigeonholed in the new era because of their involvement with Kiss and Motley Crue. “A lot of newer bands liked what we were doing, bands like Sevendust,” he said. “They would go, ‘Oh man, you guys should come and open for us.’ But then the promoters would hear it and they would go, ‘Wait, those guys are like an ’80s band.’ So we couldn’t go out with any newer artists.”
They couldn’t win. While the younger circuit associated Union with the old guard, they wound up becoming alienated from their hard rock peers because of their fresh sound. “Poison was going out every summer, doing a big summer extravaganza — and I don’t know if it was Ratt or Cinderella, but it was gonna be like Poison, Cinderella, and they wanted us to be the first band on the bill,” said Corabi. “But then the promoters heard us and they went, ‘No, no, no, they’re a new band.'”
While things were rough for Union in the States, the European touring circuit proved to be a more positive experience. “We did the Sweden Rock Festival, and we were on the main stage, and there were 40,000 people there when we played,” reflected Corabi. “It was great. But in America, we couldn’t get arrested.”
Even though it wasn’t catching on, Union continued to fight the good fight for a few years. They released Live at the Galaxy in 1999 as well as a second studio album, The Blue Room, in 2000. As the sophomore LP received even less attention than the debut, individual band members began taking higher-paying jobs where they could.
Grand Funk Railroad hired Kulick while Corabi signed up as Ratt’s rhythm guitarist. Amazingly, both Fitz and Hunting joined Vince Neil’s solo backing band.
In recent years, Union has become an object of cult interest as a vinyl reissue of both their studio albums quickly sold out in 2022. Kulick and Corabi have been known to get together for semi-regular acoustic gigs, and the prospect of a Union reunion is not out of the question.