Friday, March 30, 2007

The Lemonheads

Evan Dando

this blog has had over 255 000 visitors now, that's a ridiculous number, especially considering the fact i don't post albums (apart from one or two which are unreleased) and many of the songs which are posted here are removed after a week or two. welcome everyone, i hope you find some thing interesting and hear something new. don't forget to check out the links (i admit i have been less than thorough with these since my resolution to spend less time blogging and more time on my own music, when i have the time)

work has been hell for weeks now, but what a week I have ahead, which will hopefully make up for it

tomorrow night sees the return of Evan Dando. Evan is a regular visitor to Australia and this time it’s in his latest Lemonheads guise, touring his/their new self-titled album.

the touring band doesn’t include the guys who actually recorded the new album, but I guess it’s hard to get drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez (of early '80 punk legends Descendents), The Band's organist Garth Hudson and Dinosaur Jr guitar maestro J Mascis to tag along as your touring band

i have always had good memories of the Lemonheads, from the friend who introduced me to them when we first met with the birthday gift of a compilation tape which contained tracks from Creator and Hate Your Friends. Dirk also gave me a copy of Lovey when it was released; to the time i was driving around Ireland with my sister loudly singing along to Lemonheads tunes for hours at a time amongst the beautiful Irish countryside and villages, to my wedding day when we played the joyous My Drug Buddy as our bridal waltz, and a year later my beautiful and talented wife and i were living in Sydney being startled by the cars flying up King Street

The Lemonheads were one of my favourite bands of the early 1990s and I’m yet to see a bad show from Evan Dando (apart from one show at Perth’s Herdsman Hotel in 1993, when I was out drinking in a smoky pub when I was sick and should have been in bed recuperating and had to leave halfway through the set, but that's a different story)

I’ve seen quite a few other Dando/Lemonhead performances including an in-store appearance at the Oxford St / Tottenham Court road Virgin Mega Store in London in 2002, followed by an impossibly long queue of punters, two floors worth, queued in the Mega Store stairway, people clutching CDs (and some vinyl) wanting photos, autographs, body hair … their little bit of Evan

and the same tour when the media frenzy that was 1993's Lemonheads tripped through Perth

a few years later it was during the smacked out period in Fremantle where many of the audience hadn’t even realized that the person (possibly assumed to be the roadie?) on stage tuning the guitar was in fact the Evan Dando they had paid to see, the same Evan who had been spat out at the other end of the media madness that his life became

and most recently a couple of years ago on the Evan is back in Australia and quickly falling off the wagon "rehab" tour, and the Brisbane show was great fun with Evan in fine form

The Lemonheads' evolution from post-Hüsker Dü hardcore punk rockers to teenage heartthrobs is one of the strangest sagas in alternative music. Initially, the group was a punk-pop trio formed by three teenage Boston suburbanites, but over the years, the band became a vehicle for Evan Dando. Blessed with good looks and a warm, sweet voice, Dando became a teen idol in the early '90s, when Nirvana's success made alternative bands commercially viable. While his simple, catchy songs were instantly accessible, they tended to hide the more subversive nature of his lyrics, as well as his gift for offbeat covers and his devotion to country-rock father Gram Parsons.

After developing his signature blend of pop, punk, and country-rock on several independent records in the late '80s, Dando moved the Lemonheads to Atlantic Records in 1990. Two years later, It's a Shame About Ray made the group into media sensations, as Dando's face appeared on music and teen magazines across America and Britain. Though the Lemonheads were poised to become superstars, the band never quite found the right breakthrough single, and their popularity peaked in the early '90s. Around the same time, Dando descended into severe drug abuse that he curbed by the 1996 release of Car Button Cloth. However, he had missed his chance at stardom -- though the group retained their cult, much of their audience had already slipped away.

The son of a Boston attorney and a fashion model, Evan Dando (vocals, guitar, drums) formed the Lemonheads with his high-school classmates Ben Deily (vocals, guitar, drums) and Jesse Peretz (bass). Initially, the group was called the Whelps, but by the time the band made their debut EP, Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners, they had changed their name to the Lemonheads. Recorded the day after their high-school graduation, Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners was released on the group's own label Huh-Bag. The EP gained the attention of the Boston-based indie label Taang!, who signed the band later that same year. By the beginning of 1987, Doug Trachten had become the band's full-time drummer, leaving Dando and Peretz to share guitar and vocal duties. Hate Your Friends, a speedy hardcore LP that fell halfway between Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, was released in 1987. Trachten left after the record's release, and the band made 1988's Creator with Blake Babies drummer John Strohm.

Released in 1989, Lick expanded the Lemonheads' cult, thanks to a loud power pop cover of Suzanne Vega's "Luka." Following the release of Lick, Dando and Diely had a vicious dispute over the leadership of the Lemonheads, resulting in a temporary breakup. Dando briefly played with the Blake Babies before forming a new version of the Lemonheads with drummer David Ryan. The Lemonheads signed with Atlantic Records in 1990, releasing Lovey, their most accomplished, melodic, and eclectic record to date, later that year. Dando's interest in the band began to wander the following year, as he recorded the solo EP Favorite Spanish Dishes. In 1992, he recorded It's a Shame About Ray, which featured Blake Baby Juliana Hatfield on bass and harmony vocals.

It's a Shame About Ray would prove to be the Lemonheads' breakthrough album, but it didn't become a hit until a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" was added to the album several months after its initial release. By the end of 1992, the record had gained momentum, and Dando was being touted as the next alternative star.

By the fall release of 1993's Come On Feel the Lemonheads, Dando had become a minor celebrity, appearing in gossip columns frequently and hanging out with fellow Gen-X icons, including actors like Johnny Depp and musicians like Hole's Courtney Love. His fame was large enough to spark the creation of an anti-Dando fanzine, I Hate Evan Dando. Recorded with the band's new bassist Nic Dalton, Come On Feel was hyped as the album that would make the band superstars, but Dando's antics received more press than the record received airplay, even though "Into Your Arms" nearly scraped the pop charts. During the press junket to promote the album, he confessed to heavy use of hard drugs, including an escapade where he smoked enough crack to ruin his voice for several weeks. His addiction deepened throughout 1994, and he was frequently seen in a drug-induced haze on Oasis' fall tour of Britain. Early in 1995, he launched a solo tour of the U.S. with Epic Soundtracks, after which he played the Glastonbury Festival, where he was booed for appearing several hours late.

Dando sobered up during the remaining months of 1995, though he hadn't completely stopped drinking by the time he recorded Car Button Cloth with a new lineup of the Lemonheads featuring former Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph, guitarist John Strohm, and bassist Bill Gibson. The album was greeted with mixed reviews upon its fall 1996 release and failed to generate a hit single; furthermore, Dando launched a full-scale tour to support the album.

After a year promoting the record, Dando announced at the 1997 Reading Festival that he was disbanding The Lemonheads and wasn’t seen too often. The Lemonheads and Atlantic Records parted ways, with a final release of a greatest-hits album released in mid-1998.

“I just decided to duck out for a while”, explains Dando of this self-imposed exile from the scene. “I didn't have it in me. It took until I met my wife in 1998 until I got back into making music.” That would be Elizabeth Moses, Newcastle-born English supermodel and musician. Once married in 2000, Dando started to come alive again like Frampton, first with a 2001 live album Live at the Brattle Theater/Griffith Sunset, and then in 2003 with a well-received solo LP, Baby I’m Bored.

In 2004 Evan Dando found himself fronting the MC5, the most incendiary rock band of 1960s America, as lead vocalist in a 41-show tour. And it was hard to miss Dando during 2005 and early 2006, as he toured widely in North America and Europe with various bass players (Juliana Hatfield and Josh Lattanzi) and drummers (Bill Stevenson, Chris Brokaw from Come, George Berz of Dinosaur Jr), and occasionally as a one man electrical wrecking crew.

Memorably, in September 2005, Dando, Stevenson, and Lattanzi played two instantly sold-out shows in London as part of the Don’t Look Back series, where they rocked through It's a Shame About Ray from start to finish, something which was a bit of a trend following Brian Wilson’s very successful Pet Sounds tour (and later Smile).

Late last year saw the release of their latest band/album The Lemonheads, the group’s 2006 release on Vagrant.

I am really looking forward to another fun show tomorrow night.

To celebrate, here is a selection of cover versions by Evan - solo, duo and in various other guises. I'll let you know the most popular cover version in part two

this is only a fraction of the covers Evan has released. wanna hear more? do you know who originally performed these tracks? are you interested in knowing? one of these songs is written by Charles Manson and another was written by a monkee! any cats out there?


Evan Dando - $1000 Wedding (with Juliana Hatfield)

Evan Dando - The Ballad Of El Goodo

Evan Dando - Thirteen

The Lemonheads - Brass Buttons

The Lemonheads - Different Drum

The Lemonheads - Luka

The Lemonheads - Your Home Is Where Your Happy

The Lemonheads - The Outdoor Type

The Lemonheads - Strange


Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists (and my blogging habit) by buying some music. Check out the links above or for some good compilation albums check out these links:-

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed my first Lemonheads gig at Fortitude Valley's The Zoo .. hope you did too -- I thought the 1st support act (The Little Lovers) were pretty good -- wasnt too fussed on the other one though

Thanks for the Lemonheads stuff - great to get a copy of Evan singing Thirtenn .. excellent !!!

Fri. Apr. 13, 10:58:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

back in the day evan used to hang out with one of my best girlfriends here in Virginia, he is the sweetest of sweets, now someone please tell me how to get my hands on Shaky Ground1

Tue. Dec. 18, 03:51:00 am  
Blogger yokine said...

Hey I was at that '93 Lemonheads gig at the Herdsman. 3xDando that day, DaDa's instore, him serenading some girls in the carpark and the gig itself. Memorable for his parting words "Sorry about the bad vibes, but they are real!".

So anyways, to my reason for visiting here. I'm slowly updating lastFM with old gigs that I attended, basically as they pop into my mind and I can verify the dates. I assume that we were probably at a lot of the same Perth gigs in the '90s and you might have a record of them :-)

My LastFM page is:
http://www.last.fm/user/yokine/

Cheers
Greg

Wed. Feb. 27, 09:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey greg

i remember that Lemonheads gig at the Herdsman-----I think Smudge opened for them---I remember smudge and the Lemonheads (well evan Dando) being big mates at the time. I still have my poster that Evan signed at Da Das---it still hangs in my old room at my mum's---lol. I was 17 and got my mum to drop and pick me up from the gig---she was cool with stuff like that when I was in high school---just as long as she picked me up----plus it was cheaper than getting taxis.

Anyway---thanks man, you have brought back some great memories.

If Im not mistaken i saw the Lemonheads with Tumbleweed at the Fremantle boat passenger terminal in 94.

Tue. Jul. 06, 02:03:00 am  

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