Article by Ralph Heibutzki
from DISCoveries December 1994
Wig Out At Dando's
Ten Years In The Life Of The Lemonheads
Wig Out At Meltdown House: 1986-87
Like any band knows, the story starts with a hook, and a look, with pros and cons merging at a dizzying rate. In a matter of weeks, or months, a band must decide how it'll set the summer and the world on fire. Making a mark in a rainstorm is easy, but making a permanent contribution is another matter, and writing songs that will mean something a decade later is an even taller order.
Drawing the line between yesterday's heroes and tomorrow's might-have-beens is never easy, but Boston's alternative outcasts, The Lemonheads, have more than passed the "meaningful" test. Now closing on a decade of existence, off and on, The Lemonheads - and their charismatic frontman, singer/guitarist Evan Dando - have weathered numerous lineup changes, two nearbreakups, bitchy club scenes, a profound critical backlash and meager major label sales.
Simply put, they're alternative rock's answer to the Energizer bunny, an appropriate analogy for a band whose first major cover version was "I am a Rabbit." They're "still going," and not even the celebrated scorn of Nirvana's producer, Steve Albini, or the Die, Evan Dando, Die fanzine can slow their stride.
Like them, or dislike them, The Lemonheads, in general - and Dando, in particular - have struck a chord with a simple, yet starkly evocative brand of pop whose roots lie in such unlikely corners as Australian-era punk, Gram Parsons' country-rock crooning and the murderous Charles Manson.
However, at the same time, Dando's style disarms with simple honesty; what you see is what you get, as former guitarist Corey Loog Brennan, who's preparing a booklet for a boxed set on the band, is quick to note. "The key is writing these abbreviated, yet very simple songs where you say, 'God, I wished I'd thought of that.' That's the beauty of it. These are the songs you've been humming for years, and Evan brings them to fruition,"' he says.
Now a college professor in Princeton, NJ, Brennan (whose own Loog, has just released its Meltdown House album in Holland) recalls hearing about an English teacher who told a high school-age Dando, "Don't be afraid to state the obvious." "That's the secret of Evan's songwriting," he notes. "By not being afraid to be honest, that separates him from 99 percent of the unfocused bullshit out there."
Another person who understands this is Curtis Casella, head of Taang! Records, the Boston label that released three Lemonheads albums (Hate Your Friends, Creator and Lick) between 1987 and 1989. Now readying a four-CD boxed set for February or March, 1995, he still takes a wry pleasure in tracking his former clients' fortunes.
After all, who'd have thought a band named after a brand of candy would sell a dizzying 400 600,000 copies with a grunged-up remake of the Simon & Garfunkel chestnut "Mrs. Robinson"? Originally intended for the video reissue of "The Graduate", "Mrs. Robinson" wound up on It's A Shame About Ray (Atlantic 7 824604), and opened the floodgates for endless touring, and innumerable press and promo opportunities centering on Dando's shoulder-length locks and onstage penchant for wearing women's clothing.
"History repeated itself, because it worked. We'd put (Suzanne Vega's) 'Luka' out, and it sold 40-60,000 units; the band reformed, put out records," says Casella. "When 'Mrs. Robinson' hit, and the video came out, the shit just hit the fan."
The story since then has centered on Dando's high wire profile, and his attempts to control the damage done by inconsistent imagemaking: today, a pinup-in-training, tomorrow, a tortured soul dangling on the edge. But how many know The Lemonheads' origins as creative chameleons in Boston's mid-Eighties hardcore scene, or their artsier leanings which drew on Charles Manson and Emily Dickinson for inspiration?
BOX OF LEMONHEADS
Still fewer know the complete chronology, and lineup, which Brennan is chronicling for the boxed set, which also features photos from such former alumni as bassist Jesse Peretz, and innumerable odds and ends collected by guitarist Ben Deily. the other main songwriter in the band until his departure in 1989.
One CD will compile the three Taang! Records' brightest spots, while a second will collate Lemonheads-related songs, ranging from Proud Scum's "I am a Rabbit," to such Australian bands as Love Positions, the Hummingbirds and Godstar, whose members jump-started Dando's creativity in 1991. There will also be room for spinoff bands featuring former Lemonheads, such as Deily's outfit, The Pods; Godstar, the current priority for bassist Nic Dalton, who's left Dando's employ, and Fuzzy, fronted by drummer David Ryan, another recent departure.
The boxed set gives fans a different picture of the band, avers Casella, "because it also tells the story of where a lot of Lemonheads' songs came from. All the songs are sketched out; it's a matter of formatting everything graphically. Evan's overseeing what's going on, and that's about it."
Yet another CD will add rare live material which sheds new light on The Lemonheads' modus operandi, according to Casella, who's also considering a video compilation that may feature footage from the first Lemonheads gig, shot by Brennan in the summer of 1986, where the story begins.
THE HARVARD CONNECTION
A lifetime ago in indie-rock terms, the year 1986 found three camps in rabid pursuit of their goals. Casella, who was deciding on finishing college, or starting his label; Dando, Deily and Peretz, then exploring the joys of raw punk rock through home demos; and Brennan, trying to find a niche through a "metalcore" band, the aptly-named Meltdown.
They all shared one thing in common: a thirst for obscure punk rock that found an outlet through Harvard's campus station, WHRB, where Casella had been a DJ since 1976.
Besides Casella, the station's lineup included Brennan, who'd later start Bullet Lavolta with two other DJs, Clay Tarver, and Bill Whalen, and Patrick Amory, now
with Matador Records. Another WHRB resident was Jesse Peretz, who'd just formed the Whelps with Dando, and Deily. "They would always do things to an extreme," says Casella. "They would do an 'Only Ones Orgy,' or a 'Boston Orgy.' There was an eight-hour orgy of the Soft Boys. It was really out of control, and it was great to see that."
As Casella notes, WHRB's importance in jump-starting The Lemonheads, and even the emerging Boston scene, cannot be overemphasized. "WHRB was the biggest influence for The Lemonheads, and the shaping of their opinions about music," he declares. "It was a really exciting station - the stuff they were playing was really influential. Bands like Bullet Lavolta and The Lemonheads came from WHRB."
A good example of this influence can be heard on The Lemonheads' debut seven-inch EP, Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners (Armory Arms fr1/2}/HuhBag 1), which included "I Am A Rabbit," by New Zealand punkers Proud Scum. Put in regular rotation on Casella's show, the band covered the song, he notes.
At this time, Casella also had "a label that wasn't a label," which he had started on a $2,000 shoe string, releasing nine or ten singles that had gotten "a lot of indie attention," he remembers. But with graduation half a semester away, Casella wasn't sure if he wanted to plunge into a venture - which hadn't won more than ten hours of his time a week. All of a sudden, however, Casella found himself swamped by tapes from Moving Targets, Negative FX, and a reformed Gang Green, who wanted him to issue two out-of-print 12-inch records on his Taang! label.
But even though he liked the bands, Casella still pleaded his case. "I'm in school, you guys, I don't know if this'll continue." Once again, a bolt from the blue intervened, this time forever, when the pressing plant he'd used offered him $5,000 worth of credit. "That was more money than we'd ever had," he recalls. "I was a half year away from graduating college. I just said, 'F**k it,' and I did (continue)."
At that point, the embryonic Lemonheads - who were doing business as the Whelps - approached Casella with a five-song tape that included "Glad I Don't Know," the poppish "Mad," "I'd Like To," and Deily's own "So I Fucked Up," along with the Proud Scum cover. There was a funny sidelight to this, as Casella says: "I played the tape, and said, 'You guys sound like you're ripping off the Replacements. It sounds like the (Replacements') Stink record. It turned out they gave me this tape: the Replacements was on the other side, labeled (as) 'Lemonheads.'" The mixup aside, Casella liked the raw and raucous results. However, he suggested including them in a 500-strong promotional mailing for press and radio, because "the band did not play out; they did not have a show."
In between these maneuvers, the Whelps cast aside their monicker and became The Lemonheads, after a brand of sweets, edging out some 50 others. The mailing, which included Gang Green and Moving Targets, surpassed virtually everyone's expectations, says Casella. The Targets' album got into the college Top Ten, which was rapidly followed by a UK licensing deal and Gang Green selling all 5,000 copies of its Another Wasted Night LP's first pressing in just five days. It later reached the 30,000 mark. "30,000 (sales) was unbelievable," says Casella. "I mean, we'd expected to sell 5,000 records; 10,000 would have been a gold record. It was exciting, to say the least. At that point - we were a label, and we said, 'let's sign a band.' That was The Lemonheads."
Brennan also played his part in launching The Lemonheads when his band, Meltdown, support ed their first-ever gig at Meltdown House, located in the Boston suburb of Cambridge, in July, 1986. "It was where Meltdown used to practice. It was a place where you could make total noise," he remembers, "and they would have these insane parties with live music, all the time."
This gig was rapidly followed by a five-band blowout at The Rat, in Boston, whose owners had been convinced by Brennan and Peretz into hosting a record release party there. "The Lemonheads drew every single kid in their high school, basically," says Brennan. "They had 250 people there (for) their first club gig. I have the video - it's unbelievable, really, really good!"
The Cleaners seven-inch remains probably the single rarest item associated with The Lemonheads; its pressing was just 1,000 copies. If you'd buy one today, you'd do well to pay $160 for it, says Casella. "It was a real natural punk rock record for the guys," he says now. "The songs are influences from the records they were listening to. It was unique because it sounds nothing like The Lemonheads do now." By now, Casella was getting a much clearer picture of his future clients' personalities, which he describes as "just out of high school; very 'punk rock attitude' in all the members."
"It was like growing up with them at that point. It was pretty amazing. They were discovering '77 punk rock at that time," he adds. "They were just into really obscure punk rock records." Something was happening, and it wasn't half a world away anymore over in Britain. For the first time, it looked like the Americans had something to cheer in their own back yard.
Even as the boys prepared for their respective colleges in fall, 1986 - Deily, to Brandeis; Dando, to Skidmore; and Peretz, to Harvard - success and its rewards seemed to be falling right into their laps. Brennan figured that if they were packing The Channel, or The Rat, they must be doing something right, which led him to give Meltdown the heave-ho and form his next band, Bullet Lavolta, who wound up sharing plenty of gigs with The Lemonheads.
"Basically, I decided to take things in a completely different direction," says Brennan. "It was impossible ever to compete with The Lemonheads - they were at the next level of the game, they'd signed with Taang!, and stuff like that, but there was always this hope we could tag along. And indeed, we played a lot of shows with them."
By early 1987, The Lemonheads were beginning to get out-of-town mail, and had remained fairly active, playing in and around Boston. Their prospects sufficiently pleased Casella into letting them record their debut, Hate Your Friends (Taang! T15), which appeared that June. Casella rates the album as "a true punk rock record, one of the best punk records of all time." More than a half decade later, it's easy to see why; the band's full-throttle urgency now owed as much to the Buzzcocks, and Stiff Little Fingers, as it had to Minor Threat, or Black Flag.
The Dando-Deily team provided simple, but solid songs. "There's no such thing as a second chance, there's no such thing as another try," howled Dando on "Second Chance". The howls turned to snarls on "Hate Your Friends," whose jagged guitars, usually built on ascending or descending lines, hinted of a pure pop sensibility lying behind the punk. And Deily wasn't far behind in the sweepstakes, especially on "Uhhh" and "Ever," whose vocals won comparisons to Fingers vocalist Jake Burns.
"The songwriting between Ben and Evan was really unique. The Ben songs were incredible," says Casella. "His voice was really definable at that time; it didn't sound like the Evan songs. The Evan songs were abrasive as hell, real short, almost hardcore songs."
Recording Hate Your Friends was equally fast and furious, with Deily and Dando alternating on drums for its first half; Doug Trachten played on the rest. "They just did it, and it worked," says Casella. "That's how great punk records work. You never assume it's going to be great, and it was." Issued in numerous pressings, like other Lemonheads records, Hate Your Friends has sold 70,000 copies to date.
On a technical note, Casella intends to take seven extra Whelps tracks off the original CD, because "it's not The Lemonheads"; he'll also correct the leadoff song's title, "I Don't Wanna," which was to have been called "Eat It." The correction came about, he adds, when Dando paused seven years later to remind Casella of the oversight!
Like the mailing, Hate Your Friends surpassed all expectations, and made the college Top 20, while its accompanying Australian, English and German releases led to a growing international recognition which paved the way for future world touring. Most remarkably of all, The Lemonheads shot a video for "Second Chance" in Boston - featuring a woman hanging out with the band - that managed to get on MTV, as "120 Minutes" broke ground under a different name. "We got quite a bit of attention for it," understates Casella.
PRICE OF SUCCESS
However, as The Lemonheads quickly discovered, being successful often brings the crabs stampeding out of the barrel. Far from being welcomed, they found themselves on the receiving end of an ugly backlash: "Who are these spoiled rich kids? They don't play out, and they've had it too easy." Casella puts the jealousy down to the Boston scene, "The scene is 'slug it out,' play ten years to get somewhere. That's just the attitude bands have. You look at the bands who've been playing so long, and got nothing - and The Lemonheads got everything. They just didn't fit into the scene at all. They didn't go with the flow, they rode over it."
How little in common did The Lemonheads really have with their peers? In rapid succession, Casella ticks off the reasons. "Their single was the first local band to be reviewed in SPIN. In a short time, they became popular very fast, internationally," he notes. "Not many bands get their first albums released in five different countries. This was a record I really wanted to make happen, and a band I really wanted to make happen."
The Lemonheads were so popular internationally, they "could have gone to Europe in the first six months of their existence," he says. Such a notion was presumably hard to swallow in a town noted for its sheer concentration of bands, who record on some 15 different labels.
"Respectable magazines completely ignore Boston," says Casella, "and if they ever spent some time there, they'd realize they can go out seven nights a week and see three shows. It has more credibility through people in Europe than anywhere else. It's really sad, and really frustrating." In all fairness to their critics, The Lemonheads' uneven live shows added to their peers' perception of them as lightweights. The gigs were even more complicated by the lack of a permanent drummer, forcing Dando and Deily to switch off between guitar and drums in sets which usually had more songs than a crowd was willing to digest.
"I would look at the setlist, and there'd be 30 songs on it," says Brennan. "And it was like, 'Oh, God.' Basically, they had interminable sets. Sometimes, they were really good, and other times, they had really dodgy shows."
Nor did the band's often irreverent stance - Brennan recalls a fanzine interview in which Ben Deily tagged Slapshot's nondrinking "straight edge" members "Nazis" - endear them to the Boston scene, which didn't know what to make of them. "After that gig in Meltdown House, I think the backlash started the next day," laughs Brennan. "It's one of the most unhip bands ever to be into. Some people have made a cottage industry of the thing, how much The Lemonheads suck. There was this total perception that they were three rich kids."
Wig Out With Manson: 1987-89
After Hate Your Friends, the band sacked Trachten, because he came across as too mainstream, says Brennan. "They didn't think he was punk rock enough. They just thought he was from a more mainstream rock tradition, with a capital 'r'. He was a friend of Ben's, from Brandeis." Instead, the boys got Blake Babies drummer John Strohm, recruited after a successful show in the spring of 1987, at Harvard's Adams House.
By now, the only times Brennan really saw any of The Lemonheads came when Bullet Lavolta shared the same stage with, them. "After that initial summer they completely took off, on their own speed - they were the first band, personally, that I'd ever known that had toured any place," he says. "Historically, it's really hard to get out of Boston - but they did a cross-country tour, and played massive, massive places like The Channel, which has a 1,300 (seat) capacity."
Trachten's departure also kicked off another Lemonheads tradition, the ever-changing lineup, which would give Evan plenty of headaches in due time. With Strohm in tow, the band dashed off a cover of Big Star's "Mod Lang" for a compilation of Boston punk bands (Seventy-seven); 2,000 were made, only to disappear as quickly. Its high price tag ($36 US, according to Taang!'s Chris Conway) makes this album virtually impossible to find today.
At the same time, The Lemonheads were already wearying of the ringing wall of noise they'd established on their debut. With Dando and Deily growing as songwriters, it seemed inevitable for them to chart another artistic left turn on their next album, which Evan, Ben and Jesse began as a trio, along with their new drummer, Strohm.
For his part, Casella figures the band had decided another scrappy punk record would mean "no new stories to tell." "I really appreciated that, because it wasn't the same record as before, and it showed the versatility within the band. I was behind them 100 percent."
The end result of this rush to experiment was Creator (Taang! T 23) which mined a far darker, gloomier vein than its predecessor. It also warned that nobody could predict The Lemonheads, nor write them off as yet another hardcore band from Boston. Creator was significant in another sense; it gave the first glimpse of Dando's knowledge about mass murderer Charles Manson. His aphorism, "Everybody's sneaky in 'sneakyville'," has been cited as the inspiration behind the Hate Your Friends song of the same title.
The public, of course, remembers Manson as the twisted hippie guru who enticed scores of middle-class teenagers into killing for him. However, they don't recall his musical interests, for which Manson tried to find an outlet in his friendship with Beach Bovs drummer Dennis Wilson. While that friendship yielded no major results, other than an uncredited B-side with the Beach Boys, Manson did record the Lie album, whose "Look At Your Game, Girl" was exhumed by Guns n' Roses this year. All in all, a most unlikely musical influence for a popular alternative band. Strangely, nobody remembers them beating Guns 'n' Roses to the punch.
"That record was a trip, to say the least," laughs Casella, who wound up caught in a bizarre tan gent to the Creator sessions - a Manson demo tape, then making the indie rounds. "The call came to my house: 'We have a tape of Charles Manson we'd like you to consider.' I go, 'I don't have time for this, who is this?' The call came back five minutes later: 'We're serious about this, we understand you have a really good independent label, we've been negotiating with SST,'" he recalls. "At that point, I knew it was a serious thing, because SST got scared (from releasing the tape)."
What Casella got was a tape with Manson strumming his acoustic guitar and singing into a small cas sette recorder, with all the sounds of prison in the background. "You heard a lot of clanging (of cell doors)," he says. "It was submitted by a Boston-based attorney who had a short amount of time to get a deal. I have no idea why they came to us. The fact we were a Boston label had a lot to do with it."
Taang! had also released an album by Negative FX whose front cover had featured Manson's face, which may have also provoked the call. In any event, Casella passed on the tape, though parts did eventually grace the band's new album.
"I took it to Evan, and Jesse, and said, 'look at this f**kin' thing'-and they said, 'no way,'" says Casella. "If you listen between songs, you'll hear this weird voice, and people's feet stomping. That's the Manson tape." However, Manson's influence wasn't limited
between songs. Dando took a solo stroll through "Your Home Is Where You're Happy," which was a Manson original. "If you look at it," says Casella, "it's a very light-hearted song. It sounds like something Evan would write."
For those desiring more evidence, "Clang Bang Clang" (later reworked as "Left For Dead," on Lovey took its title from another Manson original ("Big Iron Door"). The jailed mass murderer can be heard chanting "time to die" beneath a guitar solo on "Die Right Now," which Casella and Brennan rank among the all-time best Lemonheads songs. "It's one of the best songs he's (Dando) ever written," says Casella. "It's a great Lemonheads song; it's also nothing like The Lemonheads sound like now."
Finally, the cover depicts a young Dando posing beside a photo of Manson in a cracked frame, and liner notes offer thanks to the entire Manson family. None of this implies that Dando identifies with the cult leader's murderous streak, says Casella. "I think he's really intrigued by Manson, because of the musical end of it. He wrote some interesting songs. He's (Manson) got to be listened to, is all I can say."
Nor was Deily far behind in the "out there" derby, especially on the track "Burying Ground," along with an increased penchant for literary name-checks, such as Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats, a development that didn't coincide with everyone's tastes. "Some of the Ben songs were really out there," laughs Casella. "It was a creative record; they had total free rein. Creator threw people off. It was a gloomy record, simple as that."
For his part, Brennan was off in Italy, playing with the Italian hardcore band Superfetazione, so he missed the Creator sessions. However, he does remember a May 1987 gig featuring the reformed Pagans, veterans of the '77 scene, Bullet Lavolta, and The Lemonheads, who took time for airing out their new material. "I have a videotape of that, as well - it's unbelievably great," Brennan says. "The rock establishment never warmed to them, but they already had this adolescent female following. That was from the start."
While the show went down reasonably well with the fans, the change in direction didn't meet with universal favor. "The early (Ben) Deily is some of the greatest music ever recorded," Brennan notes. "But then he started going for a more mellow, English literature-damaged style. You can see it splitting between Evan and Ben. The thing is, I really liked Creator." He also considers Creator more of a Deily record, than a Dando one, partly because of who'd written more songs. "Evan didn't write (all) that many songs on it, but some of the songs he wrote, like 'Die Right Now,' are some of the best he ever wrote. I really, really liked it, but I was expecting something else. But when I listened to it, it sort of grew on me."
Sales have been 50,000 to date. However, Creator flashed major distress signals from The Lemonheads' camp. The Dando-Deily partnership - never an easy one in the best of times - began misfiring with alarming rapidity, creeping into live gigs and led to the first Lemonheads breakup in fall 1988.
Brennan didn't witness many of these incidents. However, the indie rock scene is a small world, and reports flooded back to him upon his return from Italy later that year. "There were all these arguments about who to get to play drums - Ben insisted on getting his brother, Jono," says Brennan. "He was pretty young at that time, but was the worst drummer I'd ever heard. He was just starting, and he was hopeless!" After two pathetic gigs, the Dando-Deily split broke into open conflict onstage. "Evan would really start to sabotage the gigs," he adds. The most infamous example involved a fiasco at T.T. The Bear's, at which eyewitnesses reported Evan refused to sing, playing Guns n' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" for all his guitar solos' whether it was called for, or not.
The resulting embarrassment has gone down as the worst Lemonheads gig of all time, "which is saying a lot," acknowledges Brennan. He remembers attending rehearsals at this time where nearly two-and-a-half hours passed before any music got made.
Even the unflappable Casella remembers this period as tense and totally unproductive. "Evan wasn't getting along with Ben, and they weren't clicking as a band," he explained. "The Lemonheads had become one of the most popular alternative bands, but didn't really want to deal with it. Jesse was being a referee between Evan and Ben."
The final straw, recalls Casella, followed a meeting "where it was just out of control, and I said, 'Boys, you're not making any sense, you're arguing about nothing.' And then they threw in the towel. "The towel had indeed fallen with a depressing thud. Jesse and Ben went back to college - while Evan and John Strohm joined the Blake Babies train, with Dando on bass: With both camps divided for good, the odds for reuniting the band appeared slim, if not nonexistent.
The Lemonheads might have remained dead and buried, and history would have flowed slightly differently, until Casella hit on an unusual move to pull them back together: why not demolish a popular alternative song, and use it as a single? Ironically, the answer to that question came from two totally different sources: the "Luka"/"Strange"/"Mad" single (Taang! T31), which came out in April, 1989, and the promise of a European tour featuring Bullet Lavolta, and The Lemonheads, featuring Brennan as the missing link between both bands. Even more ironically, "Luka" (whose lyric centers on an abused child) had been recorded for Creator, but languished to make room for a cover of Kiss' "Plaster Caster," showing Evan's musical eclecticism ran in strange and boundless directions.
Though the band came to hate "Luka" - which sold 40-60,000 copies - they took great joy in demolishing it. "You've got to understand, the band absolutely hated it," says Casella. "They just did it as a joke - and I was really pissed off, because they had a great band, and were just copping out, for no reason."
Once more, The Lemonheads found themselves featured on MTV. The "Luka" video got nearly a dozen plays, but apparently failed to ignite the necessary enthusiasm for touring again. However, an offer from a Dutch booking agency did, with Brennan riding the rhythm guitar shotgun for Bullet Lavolta and The Lemonheads. With a tour confirmed for May, the band decided to begin recording new material for live playing. So began the nightmarish experiences behind Lick (Taang! T32), where the Dando-Deily title fight played itself out with the usual destructive results, for the last time.
"Evan, Ben and Jesse asked me to join, to put out another record, 'cause Curtis was 'threatening' to put out a whole bunch of odds and ends. What he wanted us to do was record new songs, combine them with those outtakes, and put it out as an album," recalls Brennan.
Digging into a variety of sources, The Lemonheads pulled together a new album against great odds. The first order of business called for completing a handful of new tracks, of which the best known is the shimmery "Mallo Cup". Like the band, it was named for a brand of candy, and Casella rates it as his all-time favorite Lemonheads track. "I heard the demo of it and said, 'that was it,' I was just set on doing this thing," he says. So set, in fact, that Casella simply plowed aside the band's agenda in favor of his own. "They just didn't want to do it anymore, so I said: 'All right, I'm gonna be an a**hole, I want you guys to make a third record and I want you guys to tour behind it.' This is where it started with Lick." The record originally sold 30,000 copies, and has since hit the 70,000 mark, according to Casella.
Unfortunately, the initial sessions stretched into two grueling months, and soon, the boys fell on reworking "I am a Rabbit" and "Glad I Don't Know," from their first EP, along with "Luka" and another cover, this one by country chanteuse Patsy Cline ("Strange"). For good measure, the band also tossed in three outtakes: "Mad," the first track they ever recorded, and two more from Hate Your Friends, "Ever," and "Sad Girl."
"The dynamic was so bad between Evan and Ben," recalls Brennan. "Well, it was odd, because Evan was living with Ben at the time. I think it was just too much. If I remember, he was sleeping in Ben's living room, and I think the combination of Ben and his girlfriend was driving Evan nuts."
Brennan doesn't put all the nightmarish experiences down to Deily. The studio where the band started their toils "was very, very uncooperative; the equipment wasn't working properly, (and) we couldn't hardly even get basic sounds," he adds. Frustrated by the delays, the band fell back to Tom Hamilton, who'd done the band's debut EP, and other two albums, for a remix. All the while the usual dynamics of musical warfare reigned in the background.
"Here's one typical thing," says Brennan. "I was down on 'Seven Powers,' hated everything about, and Ben knew we hated the song - and would not record the vocal with Evan and me in the studio. Unfortunately, it was two in the morning, and this place is in the middle of a warzone. He ordered us out of the studio. We said, 'No, we can't go outside,' so he locked us in the bathroom while he recorded his vocal."
Naturally, no European tour could have been completed without some kind of lineup change; in this case, the casualty was Deily, who didn't really want to go. According to Brennan, the reasons seemed to be trivial, centering on his girlfriend and a Yeats conference in Ireland which apparently conflicted with the upcoming month-long swing through Germany, Holland and Britain with a new drummer, Mark Newman. "Everyone thought The Lemonheads had broken up - that was announced pretty widely, and no one knew why they were getting back together," says Brennan. "Meanwhile, Ben was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with, and we'd get him to quit."
Sadder still, the resulting split - which effectively ended the first era of The Lemonheads - seems to have left its mark, with neither speaking to each other since then. Deily resurfaced last year with The Pods, who issued It's A Bummer For Bourbie (Stone Records; 1,000 only) last year. The odd interview aside, Deily has kept quiet about the split (Discoveries made several unsuccessful attempts to contact him).
For his part, Dando put the split to tangents he simply couldn't tolerate anymore. More significantly, it also firmly established The Lemonheads as a group centered around his writing. The absence of another songwriter meant Evan could follow whatever tangents he wished, without all the arguing that had torpedoed the first lineup. This would have a good side, and a bad one, as future events would bear out; for Dando, The Lemonheads' epitaph would read, "We were democratic - but we weren't very good."
That's not to say the tour was a grim experience, as the band discovered on their arrival in Amsterdam, accompanied by Casella. "We get picked up (in Amsterdam) by this guy who worked for the booking agency, and he said, "OK, guys, we're going to Nijmegen,'" Casella says. "We were going to sleep in a monastery; that's what we were told, and it was definitely a monastery." Much to the band's surprise, they found themselves treated like royalty in an enormous building containing all the necessary touring amenities, like a basketball court!
Nighttime held different surprises for Casella. "Evan sleepwalks. He started speaking in tongues, screaming at me, and everybody had to hold him back. At that point, I took out a couple rolls of film, and then I filmed the whole tour." The surprises didn't end at the monastery. In Hanover, Germany, Bullet Lavolta had a bigger name than The Lemonheads, "which was kind of bizarre," remembers Casella, especially since the distributor had gone under before the bands arrived, leaving them with no records.
Another German gig in Biefeld saw the band play a bombed-out building, which made them question the booking. "There was no ceiling," says Casella. "We expected nobody to show up, and then it was packed. The response was just amazing." Finally, in Berlin, The Lemonheads played Club Ecstasy, which didn't let them on until three a.m., while Gothic music fans had the first floor all to themselves. "It's like Vegas, where they don't watch the clock," says Casella. "Berlin was unlike most of Germany. Most bands don't have the same kind of experience that these bands had."
Suitably invigorated, the band returned to America, only to shed Brennan - who quit because it was time to finish his dissertation - and Newman, whose Gothic sensibilities apparently offended Dando once too often. "Mark was a great drummer, no two ways about it," says Brennan. "The perspective he came from was the Gothic perspective. He looked like a roadie for the Cult - long, dyed black hair, and he always dressed in black, and had this funeral air to him. But he, and Evan, ultimately did not get along at all. He basically got fired."
The Lemonheads only played one American show with this lineup, giving Newman a sin gular distinction; he's the only member never to actually record with the group! By spring, 1990, The Lemonheads had a new drummer, fellow Bostonian David Ryan; a new management arm, Gold Mountain Entertainment, who'd also take on Nirvana's affairs; and a new label, Atlantic Records. With others like Redd Kross and Soul Asylum following suit, the timing appeared ripe for The Lemonheads to stop snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and show how it should be done.
After all, (ran the established wisdom), couldn't major labels do more for alternative bands than underdogs like Taang!, with their smaller payrolls and tighter budgets, especially when The Lemonheads already had a niche? Dando and company were about to discover how wrong that wisdom can be.
Wig Out in Australia: 1990-1994
With a major deal, acquired, on yet another odd cover, this one of ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum" (which pops up at solo Dando gigs), came major league pressures, and neardeath for The Lemonheads.
Nobody believed the ride would be an easy one, but neither could anyone imagine the miseries that would plague The Lemonheads' iffiest period, the brief shelf life of Lovey (Atlantic 7567821372, 1990). As usual, the band found time for a few detours after touring the U.S., starting with the Favorite Spanish Dishes EP (Atlantic 786088 2), which features "Different Drum," along with suitably bizarre covers of the Misfits' "Skulls," and New Kids on the Block's "Step By Step."
Dando and company also managed to squeeze in another EP, this one for Goar, a German magazine (Goar 3). Worth seeking, it features a cover of "Hey Joe," a 45-second original ("Society") and takes of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," and the Manson cover, "Your Home is Where You're Happy." The latter recorded with the Speed Niggs.
The EP's cover was designed by Peretz, who was now firmly in charge of the band's visual side. It also buried a tantalizing clue to the new direction in the plaintive "Ride With Me," among the handful of Lovey numbers likely to surface in concert.
Lovey slid into history that summer, only to meet a thunderous non-response to sell 9-11,000 copies, depending on who did the figuring and how charitable they were. For Atlantic, the problem was seeing Casella's Taang! releases selling 30,000 a pop, while the indie label’s videos had always been done cheaply and efficiently, to earn modest airplay. By contrast, “Half The Time” – another live candidate, even now - got played once on MTV, to Brennan's recollection. The label's promotion of Lovey was mainly notable by its absence.
Lost in the major label shuffle, Evan nearly succumbed to depression in a system which suddenly didn't seem to understand his talents, nor give the public sufficient information about them. "After the experience of Lovey, I had my expectations for Evan selling records so down," says Brennan. "I thought it incomprehensible that (Taang!'s) Creator could sell more than a major label record."
Lovey was a patchy affair, with Dando recording many tracks single-handedly. One imagines the schizophrenic leap-frogging from style to style only confused the public. The opening thunder of "Ballarat," for example, might easily be called Led Dando, while the wah-wah-driven "L'il Seed" coexisted uneasily with a tight cover of the Gram Parsons country rock standard, "Brass Buttons." Not surprisingly Casella gives Lovey a low rating, because "it just didn't hit with me as much as the others. ‘Ride With Me's' one of the best songs that Evan's ever written, though."
But for those who wanted to listen, "Ride With Me", "Half The Time" and the bouding pop of "Stove" – dedicated to Evan’s troubles in the kitchen – showed a substantial talent at play, as did a reworked "Clang Bang Clang." And Evan's perverse musical humor showed up everywhere, whether in the opening snippets of nameless cheerleaders doing their thing, or the simply overwrought guitar histrionics of "(The) Door," co-written by Brennan. If nothing else, Lovey is ripe for reappraisal. Brennan rates it highly, while regretting its demise. "I thought being on a major label meant really good distribution, (that) they put a lot of muscle behind it. They did absolutely nothing for that album."
Understandably, Atlantic came close to pink-slipping The Lemonheads, until A & R man Tom Caroline's cool reasoning saved the day. According to Casella, "He said, 'Why don't we give The Lemonheads another shot? He's (Dando) a good songwriter, and the band's willing to tour."'
The reprieve arrived in early 1991, when The Lemonheads set off on an Australian tour which played a major role in reviving Dando's energies. It was in Sydney where he met the so-called "Australian contingent," whose members included future collaborator Tom Morgan, and roommate Nicole; Smudge drummer Alison Galloway; Hummingbirds' bassist Robyn St. Claire; and Nic Dalton, who'd been filling in for her when Robyn was pregnant. All these characters would star in the majestic It's A Shame About Ray (Atlantic 7 82460-4, 1992).
Another era closed for good in the summer of 1991, when Brennan came back to help promote Lovey overseas. "It was a completely different level, because we were in really good hotels," says Brennan. "We were playing with different opening bands; the shows were massive. I had never really seen that European outdoor festival scene."
The shows were also the last bow for Peretz, who'd stayed the course longer than anyone had expected; he left in August, 1991, after some gigs in Amsterdam. (Peretz declined the author's requests for an interview.) It also marked the end of Brennan's tenure as a Lemonhead, but not for the reasons you'd think. "I realized my presence was non-essential, because it really only needed one guitar," Brennan explained. "He was taking another turn, and there was no need for two guitars. I have no regrets about not being in the band. What would I do on those songs?"
With Dalton in tow, Dando returned to the US in the fall of 1991 for his initial work on the new album. While Dalton wasn't officially a full-fledged Lemonhead until May, 1992, he was present when many of Ray's key songs were created during Dando's extended Australian sabbatical. As far as Dalton understood, he didn't see The Lemonheads taking some 2 1/2 years from his Half A Cow label and shop. He simply figured helping in some vague capacity on the new album, after which he'd return to Sydney, making music with his friends. But it didn't work out that way; as he remembers, "in the back of his mind, he must have thought of me: 'if you joined, you'd get your own music known all around the world.' That's what got me in, I saw this as an opportunity to make that change. I helped Evan become a big pop star, and he helped my music get known."
Nobody, least of all Casella, was prepared for what happened next, "The next thing I know, Evan calls up: 'I'm coming back to Boston. Nic and I hit off, and we became really close friends. I was turned onto all these bands.' They started to record, and there was Nic, and Evan; next thing I know, Tom and Alison arrived at my house. I'm reading the lyrics (from the Ray album), and it was like these characters came to life!"
Indeed, they had. This time around, Dando had fashioned a rich, almost cinematic effort, particularly in the title track, an evocative description of some mysterious Everyman. Amid a bed of acoustic guitars, Dando assures, "I've never been too good with names, but I remember faces."
According to Dalton, the song actually had a more commonplace origin; Morgan took the line from a newspaper story of a naughty child at school, thinking it would be a good title. "It's not some obscure saying in Australia," says Dalton, "No one walks around going, 'It's a shame about Ray,' 'hey, Ray.' It's just a mysterious song. I don't know what it's about, actually!"
More consistent in sound and style than its predecessor, Dando drew on his recent Australian experiences for a stunning collection of pithy songs. Two things are notable; none break the four minute mark and all are built on acoustic rhythm guitars.
This time, Dando cut right to the chase; now seemed as good a time as any to celebrate the obvious. Ray's songs celebrate the road ahead ("The Turnpike Down"), joys of childhood ("Rockin' Stroll," inspired by St. Claire's baby, Milo), and the end of innocence ("Confetti," whose protagonists are about to divorce), among other subjects. Galloway is the centre of “Alison’s Starting To Happen,” among the most joyful love songs ever (“it was [about] an acid trip she was on,” notes Casella). Even if Dando had no romantic links to her, “She’s the puzzle piece behind the couch that makes my life complete!" But amid the roses lurks a thorn, "Rudderless" details Dando's dabblings with drugs ("Waiting for something to break/Left my heart out to bake") and "Buddy," which recounts when Nicole and Evan went "scoring speed in King Street, in Sydney" according to Dalton. Originally titled "My Drug Buddy," Atlantic cleared its almighty throat and made Dando change the title, something that infuriated him to no end. To Dalton's recollection, "He got really upset, because he thought; 'what a great name for a song.’ The irony was for the label to come and take the song title away."
It's a Shame About Ray closes in madcap style with its remake of "Mrs. Robinson," originally recorded in Berlin. The first Lemonheads tune to feature Dalton's thuggish bass playing. Dando originally expressed mixed emotions about it, until he realized its role in his success. "That was in August, '92," says Dalton. "We'd already done an American tour; we recorded that in Berlin. Everyone went, 'It's got to be released!' It's saying something for a record company that they know when they have a hit. It was bad for Evan, because he had a whole album of original songs, and no one had any faith in it."
Eventually, however, the singer came around. Dalton recalls, "He had to, he had no choice. None of us really liked the song, but we didn't make fun of it, we just did a post-punk version of it."
Presumably, rumors that original composer Paul Simon hated the band's grunged-out raveup did much to lighten Evan's mood! Whatever the contradictions, "Mrs. Robinson" put The Lemonheads into a score of worldwide living rooms. The band's miming to it for the UK's "Top of the Pops" chart show in November, 1992 could arguably have started the first burst of Dandomania there.
All this looked to make Dando into a teenage dream, while writers sought his opinions on matters ranging from sex to success and a newfound penchant for wearing skirts and dresses onstage. For any selfrespecting pop star, the situation seemed like a dream, in which The Lemonheads' ship was finally coming in. At this point, recounts Dalton, the initial hysteria led to pushing for a twisted teen pinup image, with decidedly mixed results. "They realized that Evan had a pretty face, and as his hair got longer, they just went for it, and didn’t realize there’d be any sort of backlash. They just went for the teen market, and didn’t try to expand on it.”
None of this seemed to faze European fans, who’ve taken their music as a life-and-death matter, and their pop stars with a grain of salt. However, Dando's newly-won status cut little ice with American fans, who'd almost certainly contributed to Ray's half-million sales, yet seemed surprisingly indifferent on launching him into the Top 50. This left Dando in a truly strange position; unable to turn anyone away overseas, he began suffering a lack of credibility in America, an unpleasant prospect for someone who'd done a good job of convincing everyone but his associates of an alleged lack of ambition.
"They (Atlantic) really should have thought about it rather than just continuing with this inane teenybopper market - which they had wrapped up - but they started losing that," says Dalton, "because they'd forced it down everyone's throats. Evan's partly to blame as well, 'cause he let it happen, and he wanted to be a big pop star. He's very ambitious, and he knows he is. He can't deny it. He wants to be a household name."
With endless touring fast becoming the norm, Dalton recalls a year pushing Ray, 11 months for Come on Feel The Lemonheads - it seems almost inevitable that Evan would crash-land back to reality when an October, 1993 deadline came knocking for that all-important follow-up album. Dando's troubles bubbled over in Los Angeles last year, as he struggled to unravel himself from a merry-goround of photo and press opportunities, all in the middle of trying to make another record. Hardly the recipe for a successful outcome, as Casella recalls. "Put yourself in his situation," he says. "He was cornered into doing all these interviews with no free time. He got into the music business to play his songs. He didn't want to be a teenybopper, he wanted to be a rock star. At the end of that nonstop hiatus, he had to go and make a record."
In one respect, the roadwork had benefited The Lemonheads, tightening and toughening a live sound which some had considered featherweight. Four of the forthcoming album's newer songs ("It's About Time," "Big Gay Heart," "The Great Big No," "Into Your Arms") had existed, in one form or another, since mid-1992, says Dalton. The problems didn't really develop, he adds, until Dando had to lay down his vocals, and odd guitar overdubs, because the band had had enough time for building the songs.
With basics tracks done in June, everyone went their own ways: Dalton, to Sydney, for a Godstar tour; Ryan, to Boston; and Dando, to Los Angeles, where "he was left alone in LA by himself, without the security of me and Dave there, with a lot of nonentities," the bassist remarks. "That's were he started getting into the famous 'crack episode.' The main thing it really did was, it just wrecked his voice, smoking aluminum foil. Plus, the label was organizing all these interviews while Evan's trying to make a record," says Dalton. "That's just on when you're making a very important record."
When Dando's chemical experiments backfired, he actually came clean about their consequences. Much to everyone's amazement, he wrote out his account of his miniature "Lost weekend" for reporters, who lost no time in blowing the story up to skyscraper status. "I was depressed and nervous about making the record," acknowledged Dando to Musician in late 1993, "and I thought I could escape it with drugs. And it didn't work."
The whole thing seemed like just another disjointed pop morality play; star falls astray, endures a hardship, and promises to "stay clean." While it all seems in keeping with Dando's disarming honesty, the resulting stories bewildered everyone else.
"I think Evan was caught unaware. In its own way, it hurt him, because he was so open with the press. That's the difference between talking with a fanzine that sells 500 copies, and Melody Maker," says Brennan, who also downplays the deadline issue. That's because "he (Dando) doesn't actually write that many songs," he adds. "It's not like he has 500 songs in the bag. That's why the songs are so good, because there's a lot of thought that goes into them
FEEL THE LEMONHEADS
Despite his troubles, Dando still rose to the occasion and made a killer record in Come on Feel The Lemonheads (Atlantic 82537-4), helped by a variety of unlikely guests rounding out the basic Dalton-Dando-Ryan troika.
Blake Babies singer Juliana Hatfield, who'd handled the bass chores on It's a Shame About Ray, found herself used on backup vocals. She also inspired the lilting pop of "It's About Time," which Dando confided his desire to have a sexual relationship with her. (Hatfield later slammed the song as "arrogant.") Another surprise guest, former Go Gos' vocalist Belinda Carlisle popped up on a sugary duet with Dando, the aptly-titled "I'll Do It Anyway."
Flying Burrito Brother "Sneaky Pete" Kleinow, presumably sought for his work with Dando's hero, Gram Parsons - added an evocative pedal steel on the gentle "Being Around." ("If I was a haircut, would you wear a hat?/If I was a maid, could I clean your flat?") It also added to "Big Gay Heart," which sketched a haunting, if vague plea for tolerance ("Why can't you look after yourself and not down on me?"). It ran into outrage from the proper British mindset; on its release there as a single, Dando was forced to change a key line ("I don't need you to suck my dick") to "stroke my brick."
The most unlikely appearance came from funk supremo Rick James, the possible inspiration for "Style" ("Don't wanna get stoned/But I don't wanna not get stoned"), and its laidback, funkier remake, "Rick James Style." The cameo seemed even more bizarre in light of James' troubles (he was sent to prison or an assault involving a woma), but Dalton cites it as a classic example of Dando's leftfield nature. "I like the slow 'Style' That was just a spontaneous thing we did. He'd (James) met Evan at the studio. It was just Evan's perverse sense of humor."
Other subjects explored territory closer to home. "Paid To Smile" sees Dando reassuring some promotional flack that "I can work the handle on any car, it's really not that hard," while "Down About It" and "The Great Big No" find the singer baring his own self-doubt without flinching.
Surprisingly, Dalton has little to say about his own contribution, "Dawn Can't Decide," a pummeling slice of power pop he co-wrote with Dando. "It's about my first months in America, about making the "Ray" video, meeting Curtis (Casella). It's like 'Incense & Peppermints,' a nonsense song." Overall, Come on Feel The Lemonheads proved that Dando could write hook-filled, snappy songs without sacrificing the eccentric twists of words and musical left turns that had always had been his trademarks, in a format that anyone could understand.
The Robb Brothers' production was superb, imposing a glossier sheen in place of Ray's warmer sound without overpowering the band, while Dando's newfound collaborators (he and Tom Morgan wrote seven of the 15 songs) imposed an awesome stylistic unity on the proceedings.
The "lost weekend" fiasco behind him, Dando and company proceeded to do what all pop stars must do...tour. Thanks to the momentum of It's a Shame About Ray - not to mention al I the magazine covers Dando had captured during his poster-boy period - the ensuing roadtrip did smashing business, selling out just about everywhere. Like him or not, Dando was arriving as a phenomenon, even if the first single, Robyn St. Claire's "Into Your Arms," had gotten off to a surprisingly sluggish start in America. by this point, Dando was apparently taking stock of his prior image, having shed his shoulder-length locks tor a severe buzz cut, apparently courtesy of Tom Morgan. However, the storm clouds still persisted under the surface, as Dalton remembers, "No one really knows what goes on in anyone's mind, but for the last year he hated being onstage and playing his songs, which I found the saddest thing of all. But he got overtaken by the machine." And while he rates Come on Feel highly, Dalton thinks Atlantic could have chosen a better first single than "Into Your Arms." "They should have gone for something heavier, because they'd already won that (teenage) crowd over." For himself, Dalton rates his tenure in The Lemonheads as "really good fun, a dream position for me. I just had to play bass. I didn't have to worry about anything. Dave and Evan have become really good friends of mine; we never had any fights."
The marathon roadwork of 1993 finally ended with a triumphant gig in August, at Britain's massive open-air Reading Festival, leaving Dando with the unaccustomed luxury of time on his hands, and the obvious need to kick back, take stock, and reflect. "He goes up and down, but he's in good shape - right now, he's writing the next album," says the singer's father, Boston real estate lawyer Jeff Dando.
For his part, Evan's not been completely idle. A guest gig in July with Hole singer Courtney Love - playing live for the first time since the death of her husband, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain - marked his latest turn in the spotlight. The cameo caused yet another stir, when photos of Dando and Love, in bed with an unidentified third man, surfaced in the media. The elder Dando dismisses this as a non-event, "I think the press is trying to make a story that's not there. He'd like to be known as her friend, and that's fine with him. But that's it."
Where Dando proceeds here depends on how he wants to fill the ranks. As of this writing, Dalton and Ryan are no longer Lemonheads, which the Australian calls "the best paying job I'd ever had. It came to a point where I had to leave, because I've got so much going here," says Dalton. "I started getting crazy being away from home so much." (As for Ryan, he will concentrate on his own band, Fuzzy, and his writing, confirms Dalton.)
So where do these events leave Dando, whose three-member committee has suddenly been reduced to a majority of one? In Dalton's view, it's high time for a solo career. While having Dando in the spotlight never caused any problems (no one realized me and Dave were glad we weren't pushed as much as Evan"), dropping The Lemonheads name is one way of avoiding future mishaps, he adds.
Dalton recalls having a conversation about that notion with Dando, who initially didn't want to continue being a "27-year-old Lemonhead." However, the singer apparently changed his mind in that "he needs the security of The Lemonheads (name) to play behind, which is surprising to me, because Evan wants to be a big rock star," says Dalton. However, a solo Dando could hire other musicians and not raise a fuss. "I really think he should think about it. That's why he was upset about us leaving, even though he knew it would happen," says Dalton, "because nobody wants to be in a band where you won't get a look-in."
Casella is less enamored of that idea, though devil's advocates might wonder, 'what's so bad about focusing on Evan Dando, if he writes and sings the songs? "It caused the other two members (Dalton, Ryan) to leave, that's what's so bad about that," he shoots back. And while declining to shoot any arrows toward Gold Mountain, he still remains critical about how the band was presented. "The Lemonheads are a better band than to cater to that teen idol image," he said. "They are not a million-selling band, because of that image. I just don't agree with having physical attributes to sell music."
Neither does Evan, as he made clear to "Vox's" Max Bell in August; of this year. "I guess I'm about ready to promote myself in a more human way," he said. I don't feel quite so insecure. It is hard, though, 'cus record labels love to boss you around. I won't let them do that any more. I want to call more shots."
But that doesn't mean Casella has lost faith in Dando's abilities, rating Come on Feel The Lemonheads as a great record. "I like the production better than on Ray, I think that the Robb Brothers did a great job," he says. "He's capable of making a better record than he has, but needs the time to do it."
Dalton is similarly confident about his friend's ability to bounce back. "Surprisingly, he still seems like the same guy I met three years ago. He does want to be famous, but he's really uncomfortable with the trappings of it." For that reason, Dando is apparently planning to write the next album without his vital partner for the Australian period - Tom Morgan.
"Tom's said maybe he'll write a couple of songs, but he's (Dando) got to do it himself," says Dalton. "He's got to chill out. If he comes back in five or six months with a new album, everybody will groan, 'it's him.' If anything, peopleare sick of seeing his name and his face. I've told him to take a year off. If he had, I'd have been happy to stay in the band."
To Brennan, those plans are "a good sign, in a way - because Evan has never hung onto one style for too long," he notes. "It's a big point for him to shed bands, and people. I think the Australian period has come to the end of its cycle." And perhaps that's how it should be. In many ways, The Lemonheads are the extended family of pop, having provided springboards for all its former members. While only Juliana Hatfield has crafted a comparable following to Dando's, nobody seems to be suffering for lack of activity.
As mentioned, Deily has resurfaced in The Pods, while Peretz has long immersed himself in film and video (in fact, his maiden effort for the song "Mallo Cup" also ended up on MTV!). Casella remains busy as ever, keeping a close watch on The Lemonheads' recorded legacy, while Brennan is teaching college and planning weekend gigs with his own band, Loog. And that's only some of those who've drifted in and out of Evan Dando's life!
The last time that Brennan saw his friend and former employer was in November, 1993, when Dando took time to hang out again at his alma mater, Commonwealth High. (Incidentally, Brennan's wife attended the same school, proving The Lemonheads' world is indeed a small one.)
Expecting some possible "major label damage," Brennan happily recalls nothing of the kind. "He has a very solid core. He went back and hung out with his teachers, and played a show," he says. "It was no different than in 1989, when I was in the band. They were touring with Redd Kross. I went back with him to find a beer, and there was this enormous bus. I asked Evan, 'is this for Redd Kross?' and he said, 'No, this is for The Lemonheads.' I haven't really noticed some major change."
The author wishes to extend his sincerest thanks to the following cast of characters: Corey Loog Brennan, Curtis Casella, and Nic Dalton, for time and patience in explaining these events; Taang!'s Mary Ellen and Cornelia, for their patience; Jeff Dando; Gold Mountain Entertainment; Silvio at Billboard, for chart listings; Rachel, at Atlantic Records, for graphic assistance; Lisa Quinlan, patience; and Stacy Fox, tireless inspiration. Take a bow, one and all.
What Is The Lemonheads’ Place In The Current Record Collecting Marketplace?
To find out, I called a few mail-order and over-the-counter dealers. Response was fairly similar down the line, but I'll allow them to tell you themselves: Brian at EQS Music in Auburn, NY doesn't even have any Lemonheads records in stock, and doesn't have any call for them, so until he does...
Down the way in Silver Spring, MD, Steven Lorber, head honcho of Metro Music, says The Lemonheads aren't a substantial part of his business. He doesn't sell enough of their records to have a strong opinion one way or another.
Even further south, in Tampa, FL, Ron Jackson heads up Rock Island Records, a mail-order business with a retail store-front operation. Ron keeps The Lemonheads in stock, but mostly because one of his employees met Evan Dando once, became a big Lemonheads fan, and buys one copy of each of their releases. When the tourist trade was healthier in Florida he would sell a few more of their records to Europeans than he does now.
"I haven't done too well with them," says Skip at Yesterday and Today Records back up the coast in Rockville, MD. "'Mrs. Robinson' when it was released as a 45 on a British label, sold very quickly because it got a lot of local airplay. Today it sells for $10. Before The Lemonheads were a big band, on a major label, I stocked their 45s, but they were hard to sell, so I haven't had them in stock lately. The Lemonheads seemed to be a northeastern college phenomena, we didn't sell any of their records until they were on a major label,." Skip continued.
Kip Brown at Ear Candy Records, in Sepulveda, CA, offers a West Coast opinion. "Honestly, they don't do well out here: I stock some of their stuff, it just doesn't sell that well."
In Los Angeles, Gary Johnson of Rockaway Records says that they sell a lot of Lemonheads records and CDs in the store, but the only real collectible one so far has been their first single, on the independent label. About a year ago he sold a copy for $100.
Back on the East Coast, in New Jersey, Relative Action's Chris Capece says "The Lemonheads are Past Their Prime! Too cute for their own good. Used to sell their press kits pretty well, interest is definitely down substantially."
Eddie Manley of International Record Collector, in Baltimore, MD, feels that "they're a good band, but don't sell great. Not collectible yet. Very little demand from my customers."
So there it is, a quick and dirty snapshot of where The Lemonheads fit into the collectible marketplace right now. Nobody had any dollar figures to throw around in regard to the vinyl or compact discs, with the exception of the one UK single. If you're a Lemonheads fan, now's the time to pick up the recordings missing from your collection, the prices are right!