The Proclaimers

Often times, one-hit wonders come from the soundtrack to a hit movie, whether they be a theme song or just a track off the original motion picture soundtrack. But rarely does a previously released song from an album that came out half a decade earlier shoot to the Top Ten.

Such is the unusual case of The Proclaimers--the slightly freaky looking Scottish twins duo Craig and Charlie Reid straight out of Auchtermuchty, Fife, Scotland. The brothers formed the band in 1983, getting a big break when they toured with The Housemartins (aka that UK band that Fatboy Slim played bass for). Their first album, 1987's This is the Story featured a successful single with "Letter to America," which reached #3 on the UK charts. The album went gold. Their follow up album, Sunshine on Leith, was another hit and featured three singles in the UK, including "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," which hit #11.

Now here's the interesting part. The band took a six-year break, and during that time became international stars. How?

A small, quirky movie called Benny & Joon starring Aidan Quinn and that guy from 21 Jump Street came along in 1993 and heavily featured "I'm Gonna Be" on its soundtrack, propelling the song to full-blown phenomenon status in the U.S., shooting it to #3 on the Billboards a full five years after its initial release.

The song was unusual, even for a surprise hit--a highly energetic, extremely catchy, post-punk/folk-rock song with the brothers aggressively highlighting their thick accents as they traded off lines and verses. As with so many one-hit wonders, the video--which featured clips from the film featuring Johnny Depp performing humorous, Chaplin-esque physical comedy routines--came in handy. The song soon gained massive airplay on the radio and the success followed in other countries, making the song an international hit and ultimately eclipsing the film it came from.

The Proclaimers were thrust into the spotlight, appearing on late night shows and MTV and getting spots on other movie soundtracks. Luckily for them, they had just finished their follow up to Sunshine, allowing them to capitalize on the success of the old single. Right? Well, not quite. The follow-up album, Hit the Highway didn't achieve the kind of recognition the brothers might have wanted, most likely overshadowed by the continued success of "Gonna Be." The single "Let's Get Married" offered a similar brand of pro-love (pro-marriage), energetic pop sung by heavy-accented Scotsmen, but it would seem America could only take so much of that sort of thing. The song was a nice, fun ditty, but lacked the simple and immediate rush of their hit. "Gonna Be" felt like a once in a lifetime/impossible to duplicate hit, and lo and behold, it was. The hit was a fluke in the first place, so to expect a long term career in the U.S. was probably barely an option for the duo. And it probably didn't help that Highway's album cover resembled a Wal-Mart family portrait of serial killer twins.

After the failure of the album in the U.S., the duo disappeared almost entirely except for in the UK where they continued to chart, though at a far less impressive level than they had in the '80s.

The brothers would wait another seven years before releasing their next album, Persevere, and soon after, began a prolific five years with some independent releases like Born Innocent (2003), Restless Soul (2005), and Life With You (2007).

The band continues to play and tour occasionally. "I'm Gonna Be" continues its ubiquitious nature, popping up in movies and TV shows like How I Met Your Mother. The song was re-released in 2007 as a single and reached #1 in the UK. Naturally, the song is still very popular in their native Scotland where it's played at soccer matches at Hampden Park anytime the home team scores. It's also been covered by at least 15 bands you've never heard of, so you know those guys are making some coin.

I leave you with a nice little blast from the past--an acoustic performance of the song on a show (I assume on the MTV show Alternative Nation) hosted by the one and only frizzy haired, horn-rim glasses wearing Republican VJ, Kennedy.


Download: The Proclaimers - "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
Download: The Proclaimers - "Let's Get Married"

And because I love my readers, here's an extra special bonus track from the band's first album that was used to great effect in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket:
EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS TRACK: The Proclaimers - "Over and Done With"

Buy Proclaimers Stuff!!
Proclaimers MySpace!!



Note: This week's installment will see the introduction of a new grading system. I know these posts can get a little long winded, so I thought it might be easier for people to go to the bottom and check out a grade. Both the first and second single will receive a letter grade: A, B, C, D, or F, minuses and pluses will be added where necessary.

I'd like to start this installment with a quick note about one-hit wonders. While many of these artists weren't really deserving of even that one hit, but rather were the product of intense marketing and payola on the part of the record label (or maybe just a novelty video that got into heavy rotation on MTV and VH1) some of these artists did in fact make a genuinely great song. It just might have been the only one good enough (or catchy enough or marketed enough or had a sexy enough video or any number of reasons) to connect with the US audience at that specific moment in time. Thousands of bands are started on a daily basis, and to even get far enough on your own talent and merit to connect with the US radio audience, even if it's only once, is a feat that should not be scoffed at--even if it only lasts the standard issued fifteen minutes. So for as many artists that don't really deserve much respect, there's a few that do.

One of these bands that I feel deserves this respect is Spacehog.

Spacehog came around in that post-grunge world when America was falling in love with everything British and poppy just like they had 30 years previous. All those crazy Brit movies like The Full Monty, Trainspotting, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Wings of the Dove were being released and winning Oscars, and America was falling in love with the likes of Ewan McGregor, Hugh Grant, and Gwyneth Paltrow--who was and is American, but enjoyed pretending she was British, and it delighted American audiences so that we collectively accepted her as such.

The music that became popular during this Angophilic time was mostly part of the Britpop invasion (the electronic/techno scene was just beginning to bubble over stateside). Bands like Oasis and Blur were gods in the UK--their chart battles, not to mention the verbal barbs traded by Oasis's Noel Gallagher and Blur's Damon Albarn are the stuff of legend-- and that was bound to bleed over to the states, albeit in a less intense form. The UK's brand of hooky throwback pop was a welcome diversion for US audiences after years of listening to rockers moan about the adverse effects of the crispy Seattle weather.

But while Oasis, Blur, and second tier bands like Supergrass, and Travis would make their own respective splashes that would continue to ripple throughout the decade in the US, Spacehog made one big splash before being forgotten by the mainstream almost immediately thereafter.

Spacehog was formed in 1993 when two British ex-pats--Anthony Langdon, a guitarist and drummer Jonny Cragg--met in a coffee shop in New York City. Langdon's brother Royston soon joined along with second guitarist Richard Steel. The group soon garnered the attention of Sire Records who released their debut album, Resident Alien, in 1996.

Their first single, "In the Meantime" became an instant hit on alt. rock radio. After a short intro of spacey keyboards and a prominent bass solo, the song takes off with a killer hook that melds a searing guitar lick with howling vocals (and you have to love any song that opens with its hook) it delves straight into spacey glam rock, '70s era Bowie to be exact, eschewing the likes of The Beatles and post-punk artists that influenced Oasis and Blur respectively. It was also decidedly less Brit-centric than those artists offered up; Langdon's voice owed a lot to David Bowie and Ian Hunter (of Mott the Hoople), but was far removed from the more foreign sounding Lennon-if-he-were-from-Manchester-whine Liam Gallagher offered or the Kinks-inspired vocals of Damon Albarn. In that sense, Spacehog was probably easier for Americans to swallow than the other UK bands, but may not have appealed as strongly to their Anglophile side. This point is underlined by the fact that Spacehog did not achieve much success in their homeland, and actually turned out to be more popular in the US.

The song also spawned an appallingly boring video. For guys weaned on glam-rock and knowing both their band name and album title, you'd think there'd be a bit of a sci-fi theme...maybe some kitschy '50s B-movie theme or a cool remake of Dune or 2001? No. It's just a performance video where a lot of people stand around listening to the band looking bored.

"In the Meantime" was a huge hit on rock and pop radio formats--hitting #1 on Mainstream Rock charts, #37 on the Top 40 and #32 on the Hot 100. A follow-up single was released soon after and, as you might have guessed, didn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor.

"Cruel to Be Kind" (not a cover of the Nick Lowe classic of the same name) was the follow-up, and frankly, it's a pretty good one. Where "Meantime" is all space-rock production and took advantage of alt. rock's loud/soft dynamic, "Cruel" is just a straight forward pop song. Under all the walls of distorted guitars and more Bowie vocal inflections is a catchy, bouncy bubblegum pop song that seems to tip its hat to '70s power-poppers wrapped in glam packaging, Sweet (who released singles like "Fox on the Run," "Ballroom Blitz," "Action"). For all the talk of Bowie, Spacehog were really just an updated version of Sweet--taking the popular sound of the day, adding a little Bowie to it and throwing the sound on some fun pop dittys.

They at least had a little crazier video this time.

But perhaps it was too much of a throwback tune. Despite its timeless feel, the song failed to adhere to any of the current trends of 1996. If Spacehog had waited a decade or so, they probably would have made it a little further, because they were essentially doing a variation on what The Darkness would do only a few years later, only with less camp value and a tad (maybe just a smidge?) more originality. Although looking at that band's success maybe proves that there's only a limited market for this brand of classic rock aping.

"Cruel to Be Kind" hit #29 on the Mainstream Rock charts but didn't chart on the Hot 100 or Top 40.

Spacehog released another album in 1998, The Chinese Album (1998) and were dropped from Sire/Elektra soon after. In 2001, they signed with Artemis Records and released their last album to date, the WTF titled Hogyssey (2001).

Things were relatively quiet for a long while. It seemed that Royston Langdon was content with being a kept man, being married to the elvin princess, Liv Tyler.

In 2004, Langdon joined a short-lived band called "The Tender Trio" that featured two members of the band Blind Melon. After an aborted attempt at touring, the Trio called it quits in 2006 and Langon joined his brother Anthony and his other brother Christian along with Spacehog drummer Cragg in a new project called "Ackrid." Since then, Anthony has left to form a solo project and collaborate on an album with Joaquin Phoenix (yes you read that right. Should probably note that Phoenix is also Liv Tyler's ex-boyfriend). Ackrid has yet to officially release any material.

In the summer of 2008, Spacehog played two shows at the Viper Room and a sold-out show at the Troubador in LA. Soon after, an interesting and brand new rumor mill started. The rumor was not that Spacehog would go on a full-fledged comeback tour or record a new album, but rather that Royston Langdon's name was being bandied about as a possible replacement for the um...unreliable Scott Weiland in Velvet Revolver. Those rumors seemed to have died out by the end of the summer, and few announcements have been made about the future of Spacehog, although the band has created a MySpace page offering up "exclusive tracks."

Will the Hog bring the fans more of their special brand of post-grunge glam-rock or will we be left hungry and stuck with these three albums? Only time will tell...in the meantime (chuckle!) enjoy this crappy video of Slash and Royston Langdon rocking out to David Bowie's "Suffragette City" this past July.


Download: Spacehog - In the Meantime
Download: Spacehog - Cruel to Be Kind

Official Site


Update next week...I feeeeeeeel

Had some bad computer problems this week so I was unable to update...will be back next week with a new entry.

Until then, here's one of the best directed one-hit wonder videos ever by the amazing Michele Gondry. It was nominated for a Grammy and MTV Video Award (!!!)

Lucas - Lucas with the Lid Off (1994)


Canadian Wonder #4: Tal Bachman - If You Sleep

This week we go back to the Great White North to find yet another artist who didn't stick around in the states for more than one hit song. In Tal Bachman's case, it may have just been laziness as he no doubt had a large trust fund courtesy of his dad Randy Bachman.

Knowing Randy Bachman--former guitarist/songwriter for The Guess Who--one might automatically assume the younger Bachman would be awesome. But one would be forgetting that Randy Bachman also headed up the less-than-stellar '70s arena rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive who released hits like "Let it Ride," "Takin' Care of Business," and "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet." Not a bad band by any means, but one that usually appeals to rednecks, old guys and people who unironically like bad '70s music (like yours truly). Oh, and Canadians (who gave them the "Best Group" Juno Award three non-consecutive years) and Stephen King (who took his pen name "Richard Bachman" from the group). Interesting fanbase, to say the least.

So would Tal be awesome like The Guess Who or fun but decidedly lame like BTO (note there is no in between here)?

The answer is--somewhat predictably--the latter, although, to be fair, it's a far cry from anything daddy ever did.

But first, some background on Bachman.

Growing up in a musical family (his uncles were also in BTO), Bachman became interested in music at an early age, but ended up giving it up to go to college in Utah (he was a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints), where he studied philosophy and and political science and reportedly "grew to accept his destiny as a performer." Returning to his hometown of Vancouver, Bachman began writing songs. In the late-90s Bachman got a record deal when some EMI executives heard his demo tape (wonder how they got a hold of that?) and got him a deal with Columbia Records. Metallica producer Bob Rock signed on to co-produce Bachman's eponymous debut.

The ingredients--son of a classic rock star makes an album with Metallica's longtime producer--seem to suggest Tal Bachman would be something far different than what it is: a pleasant collection of mainstream singer-songwriter pop-rock. Mostly absent are riffing, distorted guitars and punishing drums in favor of slick, radio-ready production and a lot of schmaltzy songs about love.

Bachman's first single, "She's So High" is so radio-ready and overproduced it's a wonder Bachman himself actually wrote it and not some professional songwriter like Max Martin or Diane Warren. The song is a mildly diverting piece of radio pop, complete with quiet verses and a loud burst of a chorus that shows off Bachman's falsetto. It became a huge hit in both Canada and the US, hitting #1 on the US Adult Contemporary Charts and #14 in the Top 100, also hitting the top ten of the Top 40 chart.

In Canada, Bachman won multiple Juno awards (damn nepotism) and a BMI songwriting award. The song was also played at least 500 times a day on Nashville's Top 40 station WRVW, 107.5 The River in 1999. I know this only because I took my morning shower with a shower radio that happened to be stuck on that station. Let's just say the song helped to add to my B.O. content in 8th grade (TMI?).

Bachman became something of a sensation for at least a minute. He was featured on The Tonight Show, MTV, E! and in Rolling Stone, LA Times, Q Magazine, Interview and USA Today. He even toured with fellow Canadians Bryan Adams and Barenaked Ladies. How's that for a lineup? I'm guessing Loverboy was busy.

The second single, "If You Sleep," well...not so impressive. More of the same really, only more. More saccharine lyrics, more heavy, layered overproduction, and a tad bit more rock. The track starts out slow and atmospheric, with Bachman's vocals accompanied by a synth, only to have it give way to an admittedly killer slide guitar riff and ringing guitars. That slide guitar riff is actually too good for the song--like the cleaner, more straitlaced cousin of the Flaming Lips slide riff on "She Don't Use Jelly." Maybe Bob Rock should have saved it for someone else.

The song was D.O.A. in the U.S.--on the pop charts at least--but reached #35 on the AC charts. Bachman took a five year hiatus before returning with Staring Down the Sun, which failed to yield any charting singles in the U.S., though the single "Aeroplane" reached #20 in Canada.

Nowadays, Bachman has turned his interests to being a talking head, appearing in documentaries like Bill Maher's Religulous and the PBS documentary The Mormons, where he discusses the LDS church his reasons for leaving the Mormon faith and speaking on politics for Canadian TV.

I'd like to end this with a lovely picture of two Second Single artists come together, possibly to discuss fusing their bodies in order to create a two-headed, two hit wonder, but more likely to pick up some award in 1999 that gave them false hope for the future of their careers.

Shawn Mullins (L), Tal Bachman (R)

Note: To my loyal readers (all 3 of you), if you have any suggestions for future entries please leave them in the comment section. Thanks!

Download: Tal Bachman - She's So High
Download: Tal Bachman - If You Sleep

Tal Bachman MySpace

Buy Tal's Music


Jamie Walters/The Heights - How Do You Talk to an Angel?

The year was 1992.

Producer Aaron Spelling was riding high on his latest comeback. The producer of such '70s classics as The Mod Squad and Charlie's Angels, Spelling returned in the early '90s, creating new prime-time soap operas for the still newish Fox network based on the lives of young people in the ultra-swank areas of Los Angeles, starting with the mega-successful Beverly Hills 90210 and later with its spin-off Melrose Place.

But lost somewhere in the annals of '90s pop culture history, sitting deep in the dusty vaults along with yellowed copies of Sassy magazine, episodes of Roundhouse and Stüssy clothing, is an Aaron Spelling soap that has been long forgotten.

The Heights
was a short-lived series that told the story of a group of 20-somethings trying to make their way out of their blue-collar existence with the power of rock--well, soft rock, really, but who's counting?

I take it back. I just noticed the Hüsker Dü t-shirt. There was nothing soft about these guys. They were punk as fuck. Bob Mould probably reverted to a child-like state listening to them, shitting his pants and weeping openly.

The show starred a bunch of nobodies (unless you count the black guy from Swingers). Also cast was singer/songwriter Jamie Walters who, naturally, played the earnest and tortured lead singer/songwriter, Alex, who, in the show worked in a grocery store. (Jeez, no wonder this show failed--it's an Aaron Spelling show about poor people.)

Born in Boston, Walters began his career, appropriately enough, in a jeans commercial for Levi's 501s. Later came appearances in the movie Shout and a guest spot on the awesome '80s show Quantam Leap. It wasn't until The Heights that he was able to meld his love for music and acting into one tasty molten chocolate cake of hackneyed songwriting and Tiger Beat-ready good looks.

Below is the clip from the show that features the song "How Do You Talk to an Angel?" coming together as the outsider, Alex, busts out the power ballad to end all power ballads. This clip has it all: the stutter stop while Alex gets the chords just right, a 40 year-old lead guitar player who looks like Yngwie Malmsteen and dresses like Peter Buck in the "Losing My Religion" video, a keyboardist who looks like Balki from Perfect Strangers, a sexy chick saxophone player (?), the token black bass player with dreads, sweet 90s fashion (note the girl's hat with the flower...I wonder if she bought that at Benetton or The Limited?), quick cuts to faux-8mm footage of the band just kickin' it, and of course, everyone looking at each other with shock and awe as they mold an unrehearsed song no one has heard before into a polished power ballad.

Fucking sweetness all around.

The series only lasted 13 episodes before being canceled in November 1992. But the show's cancellation was met with a heavy dose of irony when "How Do You Talk to an Angel?" played by the show's fictional band (read: probably just Jamie Walters with some studio musicians) hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 only a week before the cancellation.

But while America said goodbye to everyone else on the show, Monsieur Spelling saw something special in the eyes of young Walters: a terrible actor who could shake up season 5 of his increasingly stale high school turned college turned young professionals series. Walters soon joined the cast of 90210 as Ray Pruit (one 'T', his mama couldn't afford the other), a wannabe singer-songwriter from the wrong side of the tracks who doesn't fit into the mold of Beverly Hills and strikes the fancy of Donna (played by Spelling's daughter, Tori).

As the season progressed, Ray began showing signs of abusive and unfaithful behavior towards Donna buoyed by his alcoholism and the fact that Valarie Malone (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) was way hotter than his girlfriend. Walter's character was written out of the episode when Ray, three sheets to the wind, pushes Donna down the stairs, then after apologizing, leaves to get help for his condition and continue with his musical career, never to be seen again. There was something about a lawsuit in there too, I think. At the time, the rumor was that Tori Spelling had been going after Walters to date her, but Walters had shot her down and this was the reason for his character's quick exit from the show. What baby wants, baby gets, I guess. That story probably has no merit whatsoever, but I like it just the same.

In 1999, someone found Walters living under a bridge and interviewed him about his departure from the show and he had this to say (note the overuse of the word "like," fella was made for that show!):
At first he was like this sort of like the underdog he was this guy from the wrong side of the town, who didn't fit in with the Beverly Hills kids but he had his music and he was honest and all this stuff. And then they started twisting him into being like this abusive evil boyfriend. I was like you either have to change the character or you have to let me off the show, because I'm going out and I'm like trying to sell tickets on our tour, and there's like teenage girls out there who think, like they really think I'm an abusive guy, you know, and they'd hold up signs saying like 'leave Donna alone' and that's like so not what I wanted.
Still, Walters managed to squeeze one more hit as a solo artist with 1994's "Hold On," a song from his eponymous solo debut that sounds so much like "How Do You Talk to an Angel?" it's practically a sequel. Listen to the song and tell me "Hold On" isn't to "Angel" what The Bourne Ultimatum is to The Bourne Supremacy--overlaps and all (note: I mean this analogy only in reference to the similarity of the content, not the quality). Both songs are basically just '80s monster ballads with early-mid '90s production, and are easily as fun as any of Poison or Extreme's softer stuff. But it's the immense power of both ballads that would make one Mr. Big ashamed to leave the house. Warning: playing both at the same time could be lethal. I don't want to say on what scale, but the words "nuclear holocaust" spring to mind almost immediately.

The video for "Hold On" is best viewed through the eyes of Beavis and Butthead, who grow so tired of the song, they decide to play a new card game, "Bunghole Surprise."

Sidenote: It should also be noted that my first exposure to "Hold On" was on a free Tommy Hilfiger promotional CD entitled The Tip, which also featured Inner Circle, Screaming Cheetah Wheelies and All-4-One, among others. I probably got it after buying a pair of sweet Tommy brand jorts.

So after "Hold On" reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and Ray's run on 90210 ended, Walters faded into the obscurity from whenst he came, acting in a few direct-to-video and TV movies and releasing two more albums in 1997 and 2002 that didn't even come within a thousand miles of charting.

But the story of Walters has a happy ending. Contrary to popular belief (well, what I stated earlier) Walters is not currently living under a bridge, or even in a trash can. Bucking the Hollywood trend once again (maverick?), Walters was not content to rest on his laurels and attempt to make it with his music on the road or in crappy TV and movies (or maybe he just couldn't). Instead, Walters learned a trade--he became a paramedic and firefighter for the Los Angeles County and later city fire departments.

Good on ya, Mr. Walters. (Is it bad that I hope you make a comeback and tour all the casinos under the name "James Walters"?)

Download: The Heights - How Do You Talk to An Angel?
Download: Jamie Walters - Hold On

Buy his latest album


When Indie Goes Top 40, #2: The Flaming Lips

After the release and subsequent success of Nevermind in 1991, the major record labels cherry picked bands from labels like Sub Pop, Twin/Tone, SST, and the like, and so-called indie bands already signed to these labels got a major push. This happened especially to those bands who'd been name checked by Kurt Cobain in one of his various interviews. Some of these bands even managed to squeeze out a major hit or two on the radio.

This is their story.

The Flaming Lips

Long before they were singing about battling pink robots and waiting for Superman, these acid heads from Oklahoma City were delivering their Butthole Surfers-inspired live shows (often featuring various kinds of pyrotechnics) and experimental neo-psychedelic rock to rock clubs around the Southwest. By the time they released their Warner Brothers debut in 1992, the Lips had already been around for nearly a decade, crafting their sound. While their WB debut, Hit to Death in the Future Head was a leap forward, their next album, 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart was when the band hit their stride, and one that would be a harbinger of the new sound they were crafting. Their sound had progressed from psych freak-out noise-rock to a more pop-based sound without the band having to pull any punches as far as weirdness goes (there's a song called "Oh, My Pregnant Head (Labia in the Sunlight)" for chrissakes). They jsut made themselves a bit more listener friendly.

In fact, it was so listener friendly that they garnered a hit from it--the insanely catchy "She Don't Use Jelly," a song about people's individual bizarre quirks (the title comes from a a verse about a girl who prefers Vaseline to jelly on her toast), with a memorable chorus break led by a catchy pedal steel, with periodic bursts of distorted guitars. File this unlikely hit under "novelty". Its appealing in the same way Loudon Wainwright III's "Dead Skunk" or Frank Zappa's "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" were in the '70s--it's weird and a bit gross, but more in a Nickelodeon way than a Farrelly Brothers way, and its simply fun to sing along to. The lyrics almost sound like the sort of nonsensical song little kids might sing while playing patty cake. It was destined to be a left-field hit.

The Lips made the most of their short success, appearing on late night shows like The Jon Stewart Show, and even making a soon-to-be forgotten appearance at the Peach Pit After Dark on Beverly Hills 90210 (er, the original), in a performance so good it led one Steve Sanders to exclaim "These guys rocked the house!"

"Is that The Flaming Lips?"
"Well it's not Michael Bolton"

The follow-up, "Turn It On," was the lead off track on Transmissions and a brilliantly simple and catchy alternative rock song; a slightly harder-edged version of the sound the Lips would follow on subsequent albums, but proved that "Jelly" was clearly the fluke on the album. That isn't to say that the rest of the album isn't good (it's great, actually), but the hit single (like so many other '90s hits) was far from being indicative of the rest of the album, which is far more sonically expansive and ambitious than the singalong "Jelly" might suggest. "Turn It On" was a fine follow up and the second most radio-ready track on the album, but alas, lacked the same novelty of "Jelly" (thank god). Somewhat inevitably, the second single tanked.

No worries. The Lips may have have been pushed out of the pop radio game, but they would go on to release a string of classic albums like Clouds Taste Metallic, The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots that make Transmissions--as good as it is--look pedestrian.

And unlike some of their contemporaries, they actually didn't get dropped by their label after their follow up album failed to gain the same amount of attention as their hit. Warner Brothers must be smarter than they look.

Chart Positions:
1st single: "She Don't Use Jelly" US Billboard Hot 100 #55, US Modern Rock #9
2nd single: "Turn It On" did not chart

The Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly
The Flaming Lips - Turn It On

Official Store


When Indie Goes Top 40, #1

This week will introduce a new feature, "When Indie Goes Top 40." This feature will talk about some indie bands who, piggybacking on the success of indie darlings turned biggest band in the world, Nirvana, somehow managed to squeeze out one hit that made it to pop radio.

After the release (and subsequent in explicable success) of Nevermind in 1991, the big record labels (Geffen, Atlantic, Capitol, A&M, London, etc) cheery picked bands from labels like Sub Pop, Twin/Tone, SST, and the like, and so-called indie bands already signed to these labels got a major push. This happened especially to those bands who'd been name checked by Kurt Cobain in one of his various interviews. When a band called the Butthole Surfers get signed to Frank Sinatra's label, Capitol Records, you know a serious change in music has happened.

To the majority of folks, these bands might be remembered as a mere blip on the pop culture radar (some might even use that horrible "one-hit wonder" moniker), but to many others, these bands are indie favorites; long-running, classic bands who just happened to hit the pop culture zeitgeist at the right time. It's all perspective.

NOTE: Not all of these went Top 40, but they at least hit the top 100 and were hits on the Mainstream Rock charts. So if I fudge a little, don't sue me. Please.

The Breeders - Cannonball
The Breeders - Divine Hammer

A surprise hit from the band's 1993 album Last Splash, "Cannonball"--led by an infectious bass line and hypnotic chorus--took the MTV nation by storm, giving even the kids who didn't know Frank Black from Karen Black a taste at the ethereal, one-of-a-kind style of Kim Deal (and her sister Kelley). Didn't hurt that it had a cool Spike Jonze-directed video promoting it. In these days of High School Musical and Beyonce, it must seem odd to the young folks out there that such an idiosyncratic tune could do so well in the mainstream despite its strong pop sense, but such was the case in the post-Nirvana music world. Almost anything went. Not surprisingly, the rest of the Breeders' Last Splash album, despite its high quality, didn't catch on with DJs or radio listeners.

The follow-up, "Divine Hammer," didn't offer the same novelty--it made the mistake of being just plain good. The album (which can now be found in tons of cut-out bins and used CD stores worldwide) was still a massive success, hitting #33 on the Billboard Album Charts. The Breeders went on hiatus--for about a decade--while Deal spent her time at home in Dayton, Ohio making music with The Amps, her Guided by Voices-esque garage band and getting drunk. The Breeders' proper follow up, Title TK, didn't come until 2001, and though it was considered a success in the indie world, it unsurprisingly failed to live up to any its predecessor commercially. And Deal--who's been touring with her old band the Pixies for the past few years and recently released an album of new Breeders' material--is probably just as happy to have it that way.

Chart Positions:
1st single: "Cannonball," Modern Rock #2, Top 40 #39, Billboard Hot 100 #44, Mainstream Rock #32
2nd Single: "Divine Hammer," Modern Rock #28

The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms
The Lemonheads - Great Big No
Bonus! Love Positions - Into Your Arms (original)
The Lemonheads had been around for five years before they saw an album of theirs hit the Billboard charts in 1992, and six years before they had a single hit the Billboard Hot 100. Hailing out of Boston, the group formed in 1986. Originally led by songwriter Ben Deily's punk rock songs, Deily eventually dropped out, leading pretty boy guitarist Evan Dando to take the reins with a more pop, power-pop influenced sound. Dando got the band signed to Atlantic in 1990, a year before the Big Indie Boom Nirvana caused. They released one album, Lovey, followed by It's a Shame About Ray, which gave them a bit of radio play with the title track, as well as a Simon & Garfunkel cover recorded for The Graduate's anniversary and later tacked on to the album's subsequent pressings, much to the band's chagrin. But they wouldn't reach the Hot 100 until their sixth album, Come on Feel the Lemonheads.

"Into Your Arms," one of a series of cover songs by Australian bands and songwriters that Dando would include on this and subsequent albums, in this case remaking an acoustic love song by Sydney guy/girl lo-fi duo Love Positions. The song--like so many of Dando's recordings--is shimmering, simple and incredibly memorable. The tune brings to mind similar jangly pop songs by '60s groups like The Archies. The song is rare for its time and for Dando's catalog in that it's a genuine love song, free of irony or snark.

After two unsuccessful follow up singles from the album ("It's About Time" and "Big Gay Heart"--both filled with racy lyrics, which couldn't have helped their chances at Billboard dominance), the fourth single, "The Great Big No," managed to chart on the Modern Rock charts. The song revealed the best of Dando's songwriting--a hooky, jangly pop song that still managed to thrill like a rocker. Dando's voice has the enviable quality of being at once honeyed enough for crooning a ballad, but ragged enough to keep up with the rock songs. Still, the mainstream had had their fill of Dando, who, after releasing almost an album a year for six years, went on a three year hiatus (read: crack cocaine binge) before recording his follow up, Car Button Cloth. Unfortunately, "Great Big No" would be the last charting song for Dando and co.

After another six years of nothing from Dando followed, save for the occasional stories of hard drug use and odd public performances that usually ended in the singer exiting the stage prematurely. But around 2001, the Lemonheads and Dando in particular regained a small cult following in the music community, particularly from singer-songwriters Ben Kweller and Ben Lee and in 2003, Dando teamed up with Lee and various producers to release a critically acclaimed solo album, Baby I'm Bored. While the album failed commercially, it proved Dando, despite his personal problems, still had the chops to keep him in the game. In 2006, using members of the pop-punk band the Descendents and Dinosaur Jr as a backing band, Dando released a new, critically acclaimed eponymous Lemonheads album and toured the US. With two more releases in the pipeline, including an album of covers, one hopes Dando's checkered past is behind him and his talent hasn't been impaired in the least.

Chart Positions:
1st single: "Into Your Arms" US Billboard Hot 100 #67, US Modern Rock #1
2nd single: "Great Big No" US Modern Rock #15

Hippie dippy homoerotic "Into Your Arms" MTV 120 Minutes video below

Incredibly '90s video for "Great Big No"

Visit the Breeders' site and buy stuff!
Visit the Lemonheads' site and buy stuff!


Shawn Mullins "Shimmer"

"Shawn Mullins."

In a completely unscientific survey I conducted, I found that for some reason people remember this guy's name and his one-hit, "Lullaby" (they usually follow this with a long yawn). This is a bit unusual as most one-hit wonder artists are faceless, unmemorable folks and sometimes they're even confused with other artists (see the Tom Cochrane entry). And even though Shawn Mullins looks pretty much like any hippie in a Phish t-shirt working at the seafood counter at your local grocery co-op, he gets remembered. Was his song, "Lullaby" that great? Was it that memorable? Or was it just that a lot of people impulse-bought this guy's album and still remember wishing they'd spent that $12.99 on a case of Schaefer Light?

Mullins was your average, run-of-the-mill songwriter. Well, we'll say slightly above average. He's better than a lot of the dudes you'll see at coffee shop open mike. His songs are enjoyable, and a bit more memorable than this kind of thing usually is. It's nothing that wasn't covered at some point in the '70s--that's not necessarily a bad thing, and one can't be too pissed off when a legitimate songwriter comes out of nowhere to find a place on the Top 40. Mullins was clearly indebted to the likes of James Taylor and Kris Kristofferson, even including a cover of Kristofferson's classic "Sunday Morning Coming Down" on one of his albums.

Mullins' first release was a cassette he self-issued in 1989, when he was in the US Army Airborne Infantry Division. In 1991, after having reached the rank of 1st lieutenant, Mullins left the military to pursue music on a full-time basis. Having spent three years searching for a record deal without any luck, he established his own label which released the albums Better Days and Big Blue Sky in 1992 and 1994, respectively. He returned in 1996 with Eggshells, the album which secured him a deal with Columbia Records.

Released in 1998, Soul's Core was layered with a contemporary, trendy (some might say over) production that belied the rootsy, throwback qualities of his work. The album hit #54, and went platinum buoyed by the monster hit that "Lullaby" became.

"Lullaby" is a typical Mullins track, telling the story of a girl who has become depressed about her existence, wishing for a life away from her movie-star filled Hollywood upbringing and harsh LA nights. The narrator--whose concern seems more paternal than romantic--wishes to save her, singing to her "everything's gonna be alright." (A quick aside: as a native Nashvillian, I wish to respond to Mr. Mullins' assumption contained in the song that Nashvillians don't have tans--Kenny Chesney is living proof that this statement is false. Please don't take this to mean that Nashvillians are also bald, short and of ambiguous sexuality.)

The song was unusual in that the verses weren't sung as much as they were spoken. While many hit songs have included spoken sections, few have included this much "talk-singing" (as a friend of mine calls it) outside of maybe Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (incidentally Reed's one mainstream hit). Mullins voice is soothing enough to pull-it-off, sounding like a guy at a bar telling you a story after he's six drinks and a couple of joints into a night of excess. It's also nearly six-minutes, breaking the cardinal rule that a hit song has to be under four minutes. As alluded to earlier, the production is a bit over-the-top...the acoustic guitar base is layered with a hip-hop-style beat, brightly rambling pianos, rock drums and by-the-numbers guitar solos.

Like the biggest and best one-hit wonders (e.g. "Walking in Memphis"), "Lullaby" transcended charts and genres, becoming a crossover hit: peaking at on the #9 Modern Rock Tracks, #7 on the Hot 100, #1 on the Adult Top 40 and #1 on Top 40. It didn't hurt that the song had a video starring Girl of the Hour (and what a short hour it was), late-'90s hottie Dominique Swain.

The follow up single, "Shimmer," was a big-budget remake of a song that had been included on Eggshells. The production is similar, the guitar riff and drum beat are similar, the song structure is similar, the story is similar...Jesus, it's practically the same damn song.

That's not to say it's bad, in fact, it might be better than "Lullaby," but the radio-ready, kitchen sink production makes the two songs almost indistinguishable. It's even a minute and a half shorter than the hit single. All of this could lead one to the conclusion that it was engineered in a lab to be the perfect follow up to "Lullaby," even getting a boost by appearing on Dawson's Creek (desperately trying not to make any Katie Holmes references.) Except it peaked at #27 on the Top 40 chart--not a bad showing for a second single, but not enough to keep the public interested for the long-term either. So why didn't it hit bigger? My theory is that people were simply sick of "Lullaby." If the charts don't prove it to you, then ask anyone who was around in '98 and '99--that song was ubiquitous. And "Shimmer," regardless of quality, is really just more of the same. Add to that, anyone who still liked "Lullaby" could just listen to "Lullaby." And after that, people probably thought "Lullaby" and "Lullaby Pt. II, III & IV" were all Mullins was capable was. Take note, budding musical artists, this is an easy way to become a one-hit wonder.

So what ever happened to Shawn Mullins? Soul's Core paved the way for a compilation of his earlier work, The First Ten Years, and in 2000 he released his follow-up, Beneath the Velvet Sun, which failed to have the impact of his major label debut. He's still around, actually. He might even be playing a club at a town near you.

In 2002, Mullins joined power-popper Matthew Sweet and roots-rocker Pete Droge to create the self-described "supergroup," The Thorns--sort of like Crosby, Stills & Nash if those guys had all been one-hit wonders. While the album was a sweet throwback to '70s soft-rock, and included a nice cover of The Jayhawks' "Blue," it too was brought down by the slick production courtesy of Mr. Slick Production himself, the always generic Brendan O'Brien (Train, Incubus, Papa Roach).

After being dropped by Columbia following Velvet Sun's relative failure, Mullins kept on trucking, moving onto Vanguard Records where he released 2006's tribute to pre-Katrina New Orleans, 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor and 2008's tribute to his home state of Georgia, honeydew. While reviews have been favorable, suggesting Mullins has gotten better with age, sales have not come close to what they were a decade ago.

Having spent ten years without any success before "Lullaby," I have no doubt Mullins is fine with being back to playing smaller venues and releasing albums independently. It's hard to be snarky when someone shows a true passion and dedication to their craft. I may not love the guy's music, but I respect the hell out of him. Sony/Columbia Records must have some respect for the man too; in 2003 they included him as part of their "Essential" series, putting him in the company of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen (cept, you know, not as good).

Wait a tick, look at that picture. I take it back, Sony didn't respect the guy at all to include such a douchey picture of him for the cover art. Seriously, he just went from looking like the hippie guy weighing tilapia for me at the co-op to looking like the date-rapist guy asking me for coke at the sketchy house party thrown by friend I don't know that well--soul patch and all. Granted, the picture was probably taken at the turn of the century when that look was cool. Oh wait, that look was never cool. Way to break the douche-o-meter, Shawn. And just when I was starting to like you too. Nice glasses though.

Download: Shawn Mullins - Lullaby
Download: Shawn Mullins - Shimmer

Official Website
Buy Shawn's records at Amazon


The Flys - "She's So Huge"

This is a painful post for me, as it makes me confront the past--specifically my past with one Katie Holmes.

You see, the Orange County, CA-based band The Flys (not to be confused with a '70s New Wave band of the same name) got their start on the soundtrack to Disturbing Behavior, a terrible Stepford Wives rip-off co-starring Holmes and James Marsden released during the post-Scream teen-horror resurgence. On a list of awful teen horror movies of the late-'90s, it would probably be somewhere below The Faculty and slightly above Idle Hands. (The film's tagline: "Perfection is every teenage student's co-pilot." What the hell? I fail to remember planes being involved in any way.)

"Got You Where I Want You" appeared on the soundtrack album released sometime in mid-summer 1998. But this may not be the song you associate with that film; another one-hit wonder, Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta," was used in the ad campaign.

The song was coupled with a tie-in video for the movie featuring Holmes and Marsden running away from the brainwashed teens chasing them, only to come to a cliff where the couple stops, and watch as their peers jump like lemmings, falling to their watery deaths--while the band plays smack dab in the middle of all of this. I recall the first time I watched this video, it was included on a CD-Rom on The Flys album, which a friend had. This friend and I had bonded over our mutual love for Ms. Holmes during an after-school intramural soccer game. We watched the video on his computer in a cramped corner of his dorm room, enraptured for all four minutes.

(BEGIN TANGENT -- warning: this part is barely related to the rest of the post, feel free to skip): Now here's where I reveal something to you, dear readers. I feel we have become close over the past few months and I can share this with you: From about 1998 to 2002, I was obsessed with Katie Holmes. These are also the years I happened to attend an all boys boarding school, but that is no excuse. I won't lie, it was creepy. From the moment I'd seen her in a Fall TV preview issue of Entertainment Weekly promoting Dawson's Creek, I had fallen head over heels. That hair, the eyes, those lips always curling into that sideways smile and her weird, shaky eye problem. I had a lame poster of her wearing a hat that I'd found at Media Play tacked on my dorm room door. I bought every issue of YM or Seventeen that featured her on the cover. I made a teacher take me and my roommate to see Go (far superior to Behavior, btw). I had my mom record most episodes of Dawson's, as my dorm only had one TV that was usually commandeered come Wednesday night. I had The Ice Storm on tape, simply for the several scenes she appears in (and maybe somewhat for Christina Ricci). It was getting uncomfortably weird.

So when I saw the video for "Got You Where I Want You" with Katie looking ravishing, all touseled hair and questionable eye makeup, what should have just been an enjoyable Nirvana rip-off became my new favorite song. (END TANGENT)

The band, led by brothers Adam (vocals) and Joshua Paskowitz (rapper), had an interesting sound--grunge was an obvious influence, but The Flys weren't wallowing in the Northeast rain, they were riding convertibles, and, as their album cover attests, jumping out of planes under the California sun. They had too much fun to be miserable--they glammed it up and weren't afraid to reveal their melody. My favorite part--the bridge's rap--was cut out of the radio version for reasons I'm still not sure of. It still holds up today, albeit in a nostalgic sort of way. The often copied Pixies/Nirvana loud/soft dynamic is put to good use here. After the single reached #5 on the Modern Rock Charts, the band's album, Holiday Man, only went to #109 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.

They released a second single called "She's So Huge" that wasn't given any sort of video treatment, and definitely not one with Ms. Katie Holmes. Again, we have another possible example of a label giving up on a band they'd already deemed a one-hit wonder. The song is a piece of bouncy, distorted pop-rock. The sound isn't very original maybe, but it's no more generic than a ton of other So. Cal bands that came out in the late '90s, and their influences are probably better--there's a lot of Faith No More going on here. And of course, it's catchy--though we've seen thus far that a catchy sound isn't grounds for a hit song.

One thing I am not going to sit here and defend is the lyrics, which are laughably bad. Sample lyric: "I'm your food/am i cake?/I'll have another plate of attitude." Jesus H.

I can't hit you with anymore or you'll just be saddened that this sort of thing could pass on a major label. Okay, one more: "she's so huge/she's so cool/so damn sweet/her perfume's cheaper than her eyes are blue." What? This may eclipse Limp Bizkit's "Nookie" as the worst lyrics in a '90s single--luckily, the vocals are all distorted and you can't understand a damn thing Paskowitz is saying.

The Flys issued another album two years later, 2000's Outta My Way. The album wasn't a disaster--reviews were fairly positive, saying that the songs revealed even more disparate influences and a knack for melding pop hooks with hard rock riffs.

In 2002, they went on indefinite hiatus, but six years later, The Flys announced on their MySpace page saying simply, "The Flys Are Back." To celebrate their comeback, the group released a new iTunes single--a cover of "Hey Jude" as well as a cover of their own song, "Got You Where I Want You 2008," clearly a nod to Alannah Myles. As of yet, no new material has surfaced nor has there been mention of a new album, but the single (available on their MySpace) is surprisingly good. The new version of 'Got You" holds up to the original, and in some ways improves on it--pianos and acoustic guitars buoy an overall mellower sound and shows that the band has become more comfortable with letting melody take center stage and not drowning it in compression and distortion that was so popular over the last decade. And the "Hey Jude" cover isn't embarrassing--which is all an unnecessary Beatles cover really needs to be. These guys may be living proof that just because you're a one-hit wonder doesn't mean you're a complete joke.

Oh, and about me and Katie Holmes. Yeah, well. We all know what happened there. After movies like Abandoned, Wonder Boys, The Gift (her best, ahem, acting to date) and Batman Begins, I realized she just wasn't very good and it began to bug me. Batman and Katie Holmes together should have been a perfect storm of awesomeness for me, and it just wasn't. She came perilously close to ruining the movie. I also thought she was kind of lame for dating the appallingly uncharismatic Chris Klein for five years. So my interest started to wane. Eventually I just stopped following her altogether.

What's she up to these days anyways? Anyone?

Oh, right.

Download: The Flys - Got You Where I Want You
Download: The Flys - She's So Huge


One Album Wonders: New Radicals

The New Radicals could very well be the ultimate one-hit wonders. I will probably say that 73 more times before I ride my beaten up Dell laptop into the digital sunset, but this time I really mean it. Swear.

The band was the brainchild and more or less solo project of Gregg Alexander a.k.a. the bald guy in The Hat, who wrote and produced all the group's songs. Alexander was a former rocker from Michigan who, as a teenager, made two unsuccessful solo albums in the early '90s--Michigan Rain and um, Intoxifornication (click here to see one of his hilariously awful music videos that looks like it was filmed in the Lost Boys' lair). He then briefly turned to professional songwriting for artists like Belinda Carlisle and The Bangles. When Alexander came to MCA with his new band in 1998, he was given a $600,000 advance for one album and soon delivered a hit song with the subversive "You Only Get What You Give," (#36 Hot 100) the first single from their debut album Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too (#10 Billboard Albums).

While the band indeed had a second single, for once there was a legitimate reason why you didn't hear it. By the time it was being prepped for release Alexander was nowhere to be found. Why? We'll get to that. For now, we'll just go ahead and say that if you're going to the Sam Goody to find the latest New Radicals' album, keep holding your breath cause this is it. That's right, the New Radicals are part of the exclusive club known as "one-album wonders."

But first, the songs.

"You Only Get What You Give" is an excellent song. From the Mick Jagger aping vocals to the ringing piano intro, this type of masterfully constructed and well-produced pop was rare in the late '90s--something more akin to Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates than any of the Radicals' peers. Since the New Radicals weren't really a band in the true sense (Alexander being the only consistent member), the best of the best of studio musicians were used to build a precise, layered sound.

Drawing as much attention as the song's catchy melodies were the lyrics. Bowing to the pop-culture reference gods that seemed to be the fashion in the late '90s, Alexander name checks several bands in the line: "Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson/Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson/ You're all fakes run to your mansions/Come around we'll kick your ass in." The line gained infamy with the targets themselves, particularly Manson, who said he was upset only that he was mentioned in the same breath as Courtney Love. He claimed he would "crack his skull open" if he ever saw Alexander. But c'mon, didn't we all see that episode of The Wonder Years where Paul got his ass kicked? Manson's not gonna do anything but run to Fred Savage crying--plus, Alexander's got The Hat. The Hat clearly holds some sort of magical anti-anti-Christ powers, otherwise he wouldn't wear it every time we see him, right? It's like the Green Lantern ring or Venom's alien suit. Without it, he's just a normal bald guy--but when he puts it on, he's a superhuman songwriting machine; producing and singing songs as sociopolitical as they are catchy. Seriously, it's not just cause he's bald. I hope.

Alexander later claimed that the entire song was an attack on consumerism (the video is set in a shopping mall) and that the line was merely an experiment to see if the media would take notice of his social critiques or his ridiculing of celebs. Dude, I totally picked up on that.

Alexander's social critiques didn't stop there. In interviews he would often go on rants about the government, organized religion, and lack of funding for education and other social programs. Supposedly the other songs on the album also include some incendiary critiques. That's right, the New Radicals (the name suddenly makes sense!) would have totally taken down "the man" had America not been skipping them to get to the hit.

In fact, Alexander became so fed up with "the man" and consumerism that he basically quit his own successful band (though I'm kind of doubting he gave back the 600 grand). To explain: the band had a planned tour of the UK, but had a warm up date at a festival in Atlanta. When Alexander failed to show, the band's people released a statement saying that someone in the band had taken ill, conveniently not naming names. Then, after filming a video for the second single "Someday We'll Know," Alexander issued a press release two weeks before the release date saying that the band was kaput.

Some choice quotes from said press release:
  • "I view myself much the same as a just getting started Babyface or Matthew Wilder (No Doubt producer), who dabbled in performing, but whose real calling was being a producer." (Whoa, whoa, whoa, Babyface and Matthew Wilder? Someone's getting a little too big for their britches. Let's scale it down a notch. You're like a young Mutt Lange at best)
  • "I'm more interested in being the next Mutt Lange than a performer." (Now we're talkin! And with Shania Twain newly single, this is now all the more possible)
  • "I'm going to be turning thirty next year, and realise that the fatigue of travelling & getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring 'hanging and schmoozing' with radio and retail people, is definitely not for me ... now I can do what I do best." (Wear magical hats?)
  • "Over the last several months...I was wearing a hat while performing so that people wouldn't see my lack of enthusiasm." (Nice try explaining away the hat, I almost fell for it. Oh yeah, and can you be)
  • "I'd lost interest in fronting a 'One Hit Wonder'" (GASP! An admission that the band might not have the longevity of The Rolling Stones??)
Given Alexander's bitch fit the band's break up, "Someday We'll Know" got almost no promotion and as a result, didn't chart on the Hot 100, only barely breaking into the Adult Top 40. Like, "YOGWYG," "Someday" is a very good song--maybe even better than the hit. It's a ridiculously catchy, mid-tempo love ballad and one that proves Alexander had the chops to write a killer hook. The tune has subsequently been covered by several artists that Alexander went onto produce (spoiler alert!) such as Mandy Moore and Hall & Oates, proving that it had staying power beyond your average second single. Here's the Radicals' final video (WARNING: the all-powerful Hat makes a cameo)

Alexander has, in recent years, made his dream of becoming an in-demand pop producer and songwriter a reality, working with Rod Stewart, two Spice Girls and writing Michelle Branch & Santana's Grammy-winning "The Game of Love" (I've never heard it either). He's also done work under aliases such as Alex Ander (NICE!) and The Party People. So mysterious! Always keeping that...huge...audience...on their toes! He also released an uncredited one-off track in 2003 called "A Love Like That"--believed to be a Brainwashed outtake. In 2007, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo included an early demo of an Alexander song he recorded circa 1992 titled "The World We Love So Much" on his collection Alone.

Who knows what the Radicals could have done had they stuck together? They're one of the few bands who had the smarts and talent to become something more than one-hit wonders. Maybe. Fans around the world still hold out hope that Alexander and/or the Radicals will someday release new music, though it seems that the man is now using The Hat only to help others, and perhaps that's for the best.

More power to you, Gregg, and never lose the power of The Hat.

Download: New Radicals - Someday We'll Know
Download: New Radicals - You Only Get What You Give

New Radicals MCA Website

Danielle Briseboise


Canadian Wonder # 3 - Alannah Myles

EDITOR'S NOTE: I've had a few requests to shoot this blog up with a little estrogen before things get weird, but I didn't want to do an entry JUST cause someone is female, cause I feel that's some sort of political affirmative action I'm not ready to deal with, and it's unfair to the other artists. However, I am more than willing to write about someone just cause they're Canadian so here goes.

What comes to one's mind when the name Alannah Myles is uttered? Raven-haired? Beautiful? Sexy? Sensual? Smoky? Bewitching? Actually a witch? Canadian? All of the above?

Or maybe you have no idea who I'm talking about.

Born in Tornonto and reared on a ranch in Buckhorn, Ontario, Alannah Myles spent her early years riding horses and learning guitar, and at age 18 began performing covers and originals at music clubs in Southern Ontario, where she met future songwriting partner Christopher Ward.

According to Wikipedia, sometime in 1984, she appeared on the classic Canadian teen melodrama Kids of Degrassi in an episode entitled "Catherine Finds Her Balance." Myles was typecast as an aspiring singer.

After years of digging deep in the music clubs and A&R Great White North and coming up empty handed, Myles tried her hand at breaking into the US. Quite ingeniously, Myles came up with the idea of recording a video to go along with the demo of her song "Just One Kiss" that she was shopping around to various labels. Recognizing the quality of her songwriting and possibly being turned on/frightened by the fear that Myles might cast a spell on them with her sexy witch powers (these were men who had dealt with Stevie Nicks after all) , she was eventually signed to Atlantic Records.

Released in 1989, Myles self-titled debut landed big in Canada, led by the first single "Love Is" going to #5 on the Canadian charts. The album spawned another three singles, including the mega-hit "Black Velvet," propelling it to DIAMOND status in Canada, (like the US Platinum)--selling 1,000,000 copies, which means that a sizable chunk of the Canadian population was rocking out this album while ice fishing, curling, making a disproportionate amount of kids shows and movies for Nickelodeon, watching Kids in the Hall, chopping down trees, speaking French, being cold, or doing at least half a dozen other Canadian activities.

The album also sold a million copies in the US, though it had less reason to. The only song that was a bonafide hit in the US was "Black Velvet"--but lord a mercy, what a hit it was, hitting #1 on the Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock Tracks in March of 1990--unofficially making Myles the first one-hit wonder of the decade. Yet another glass ceiling broken, ladies.

Like another ultimate one-hit wonder before it ("American Pie") "Black Velvet" is a tribute to a dead rock star--in this case, a ballad tracing the tragic life of one Elvis Aaron Presley--the title referring to the the brand of product Presley used to dye his hair and give it that trademark black sheen. The track's production is all rootsy with a noirish vibe to it and a huge hook in the chorus. Myles' strong, husky vocals are quite gorgeous, even if they are hard to differentiate from other husky voices songstresses (Bonnie Tyler, Kim Carnes). The song is legitimately great and deserving of its success. It's well-written, memorable, nicely played and nicely sung.

The video was of course another reason for the song's huge success. All black tendrils, black studded leather jackets, black leather belts and big (black) eyebrows, Myles is all about some early '90s hotness. The look is country and rock n' roll all at once--basically she looks like a B-movie biker chick. Hot. But in all honesty, I'm not even sure this is really Alannah Myles. I'm thinking this might be Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio playing Alannah Myles as a biker chick for the video.

And of course, her band looks like they just got kicked out of the hair-metal group Extreme, save for the lead guitarist who clearly thinks he's in a Def Leppard cover band.

The song was so huge, it got covered the very same year by country artist Robin Lee. Unlike the great Marc Cohn, Myles song wasn't able to break into the country charts, the reason seeming to be that Myles version was a) not quite bland enough and b) lacking pedal steel guitar. Other than that though, there's no real reason for this remake, except maybe they thought country fans would be scared of Myles. I can see that. Looking at Robin Lee, it's obvious why she appealed to mainstream country fans at the time--she's sort of like the home version of Myles--cute, but about as sexy as a mannequin at A Pea in the Pod. But damn, check out the Glamor Shot!

Substitute the black leather for a pink sweater--perfect. Safe, bland--just the way we like it.

The cover peaked at #12 on the country charts, becoming Lee's biggest hit.

"Black Velvet" had been Myles debut single in the US, so the record company went back and released her first Canadian single, "Love Is" as her second US single. Gone is the smoky, acoustic based blues-country sound of "Velvet" in favor of a more classic rock sound. It's a fine, catchy rock song and it's not hard to see why it was a hit elsewhere. Why didn't it hit here? Who knows? It almost sounds like a female version of Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway" which would come out a couple of years later, and it's not dissimilar from the slick blues rock Bonnie Raitt would achieve success with in 1991. Not to mention that she looked like a hotter version of ER's Julianna Margulies in the video. Maybe Myles was just ahead of her time.

Like the other Canadian Wonders, Myles went on to become a big star in Canada, winning all kinds of Juno awards and continued charting until 1997, including a number one hit "Song Instead of a Kiss" released in 1992--impressive considering "Black Velvet" had only reached #2 in Myles' home country. The hit came off of her second album, Rockinghorse, which sold 200,000+ copies in Canada, and I think I can see why.

Alannah Myles = horse porn pioneer?

Again, way ahead of her time. It would take Harry Potter at least fifteen years before he had the balls to get naked with a horse on camera. Amateur.

Alannah left Atlantic Records in 1997, and released one album on the ARK 21 record label, A-lan-nah.

After the release of the album, 11 years of silence followed.

The ensuing decade was brutal.
My dog died. War broke out. Natural disasters ravaged the US. Crash won an Oscar."Black Velvet" started to be dropped from "mix" stations. Mr. Rogers died. Britney Spears went batshit crazy. Ashton Kutcher shot to stardom. Katie Holmes married Tom Cruise. Arrested Development got canceled. I'm not saying these events were connected, but I'm not saying they're not either.

So thank god Alannah Myles returned in 2008 with a new album entitled, you guessed it, Black Velvet, which includes a re-recording of the title track. It's become popular for one-hit wonders
to re-record their big hit, probably under conditions that would enable them to receive more money than they get from the original recording. Naming her new album Black Velvet, most likely realizing that the uninformed consumer won't know the difference is a dubious practice at best, but whatever, it's also kind of genius. The version available on iTunes entitled "Black Velvet 2007" is a terrible techno remix, an approximation of Tatu or some other terrible, vaguely electronic group. Myles clearly hasn't lost her voice (unless they just used the original vocal track, which is possible), but the song's choice of direction is a weak attempt at injecting new life into a song that doesn't really need it in the first place.

While the album does offer up ten new tracks, the intent is clear: "if we use my one hit as the album title, suckers will buy the new, shitty version and I'll make some dolla billz, ya'll" (direct quote).

Now Myles she sits and waits for her big comeback, her hair now with a skunkish white streak, making her look even more sexy witchlike--or Lily Munster-like, really.

Download: Alannah Myles - Black Velvet
Download: Alannah Myles - Love Is
Download: Alannah Myles - Black Velvet (2007)
Download: Robin Lee - Black Velvet (cover)

Buy Alannah's stuff here
Visit her MySpace here