The Psychedelic Furs
If you were to dissect the alternative rock dominating today’s music, you’ll find that much of it pays homage to The Psychedelic Furs. Led by vocalist and songwriter Richard Butler, and his bass-wielding brother Tim, the Furs won over fans and critics alike by combining poetic lyrics, innovative rhythms and melodies driven by an aggressive, punk desperation. Through it all, the band scored major hits with “Love My Way,” “Pretty In Pink,” “Heaven,” “The Ghost In You,” and “Heartbreak Beat” in all releasing seven studio albums and spawning several compilations, a boxed set, and a live concert DVD.The Furs debut, a self-titled album from 1980 was produced by Steve Lillywhite. The LP quickly established the band at radio in Europe and was a top 20 hit in the UK. The album also found success in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. The Furs found success in the U.S. with their next release, 1981′s Talk Talk Talk, which saw the band making its debut on the US album charts. In New Zealand, meanwhile, the band grew immensely popular, as it reached the top of the charts, the first in a string of Furs’ albums to chart in the New
Zealand Top 10. In the UK, the album spun off two charting singles, “Dumb Waiters” and the original version of “Pretty in
Pink”. The latter song served as inspiration for the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name, and was rerecorded for the film’s platinum-selling soundtrack. In 1982, the Furs recorded Forever Now, with producer Todd Rundgren in Woodstock, New York. This
album included “Love My Way”, which became yet another UK and US chart hit. The Furs’ 1984 release Mirror Moves was produced by Keith Forsey, and featured the songs “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven”. Both charted in throughout the world, and “Heaven” became the band’s highest charting UK hit at the time. Also, “The Ghost In You” was a smash single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
By the mid-80s, the band had become a staple on both U.S. college and modern rock radio stations. Simultaneously, they were experiencing consistent mainstream success, placing several singles in the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1986, the band recorded a sax-infused version of “Pretty in Pink” for the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Released as a single, it became their biggest hit to that time in the U.S., and their biggest ever UK hit. On the heels of the successful soundtrack, the ban immediately recorded “ Midnight to Midnight”, their biggest Top 40 success to date, but also a more overtly commercial effort than the Furs had ever recorded before. The album featured the single “Heartbreak Beat”, which became the Psychedelic Furs biggest hit on the U.S. Top 40. The album also featured drummer Paul Garisto and sax player Mars Williams, both of whom continue to tour with the band. In the wake of Midnight To Midnight, the Furs found themselves ill at ease with their new commercial direction, and subsequently returned to a rawer sound with “All That Money Wants”, a 1988 track especially recorded for a best-of compilation album “All Of This And Nothing”. 1989′s Book of Days and 1991′s World Outside also saw a return to the earlier Furs’ style. The Furs’ steady chart success continued with three #1 hits on the newly-established U.S. Modern Rock chart between 1988 and 1991. “All That Money Wants” was a #1 hit in 1988, while “House” topped the chart in 1990, and “Until She Comes” was #1 in 1991. The band went on extended hiatus in the early 1990s, with the Butler brothers going on to create the band “Love Spit Love” along with current Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. Love Spit Love released two albums and enjoyed some chart success as well. After spending most of the decade apart, the Butlers reignited The Psychedelic Furs in 2000, and released a live album Beautiful Chaos: Greatest Hits Live, which also featured a new studio recording, “Alive (For Once In My Lifetime).” Since then, lead singer Richard Butler has released an eponymous solo album produced by Jon Carin, and has hinted at the possibility of a new Psychedelic Furs album. Currently, the band continues to tour around the world. The Psychedelic Furs touring lineup remains
Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass), Rich Good (guitar), Mars Williams (saxophone), Amanda Kramer (keyboards), and Paul Garisto (drums).
Evan Griffith Dando formed The Lemonheads with two high school buddies in late winter ’86, in their senior year at Boston’s tiny Commonwealth School. A few months later, they spawned what is now one of the most sought-after punk relics of the 80s, the indie EP Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners. Boston-based Taang! Records immediately picked up on The Lemonheads, with three college radio pleasers to follow: the LPs Hate Your Friends (1987), Creator (1988), and Lick (1989). In 1990 Atlantic Records took notice of the massively expanding Lemonheads fanbase in Europe (where they toured in 1989) and America by signing the band and releasing their well-received (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) fourth LP, Lovey.
Even by this time, The Lemonheads lineup had been volatile: more than a dozen different configurations over a period of just five years, all sorts of bit parts and reshuffles, with Dando as the only constant. At one point it got so confusing that an ex-drummer, just a week after getting kicked of the group, answered The Lemonheads’ ad to replace himself. By a conservative estimate, the band has had more than ten bass players and at least a dozen drummers over the years.
But out of this primordial chaos came a veritable Golden Age for The Lemonheads. A 1991 tour brought Evan to Australia, where by chance he met songwriter Tom Morgan and future Lemonheads bassist Nic Dalton. Their collaboration made all the difference for the next Atlantic release, It’s a Shame About Ray (1992), a concentrated blast of pure pop perfection that clocks in at just under 30 minutes. Thanks to songs such as “Confetti”, “My Drug Buddy”, “Rudderless”, and “Ceiling Fan in My Spoon”, Dando hit a whole new audience (“they’re getting younger,” he confessed to Kathie Lee Gifford at the time).
Mainstream media hype of The Lemonheads shifted into high gear, with lots of wild speculation as to the exact nature of the relationship between Dando and long-time friend Juliana Hatfield (who played bass and sang on Ray). It also didn’t hurt when a 1993 People magazine spread devoted a full page to Evan as one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world. That news came to Evan in New Zealand, on his 26th birthday. When a magazine rep called to tell him he was among the “fifty dishiest people”, Dando recalled, “I thought she said busiest”. And I thought, ‘kin right!” With all the traveling, I was busy!”
Atlantic released a smash follow-up, Come on Feel The Lemonheads, in October 1993. The album brought Dando a genuine charting single (“Into your Arms”) as well as instant classics such as “Great Big No”, “Down About It”, “Being Around”, and “You Can Take it with You.” In winter 1993/1994 Evan Dando was in your living room, thanks to live appearances on the Letterman and Leno late night network TV shows. Inevitably, in Warrington, Pennsylvania, a 20-something named Jeff Fox published the first issue of his backlash ‘zine Die Evan Dando, Die.
Two years of brutal touring for The Lemonheads followed, which Evan punctuated with some high-profile personal meltdowns on various continents that caught the imagination of a press ever eager for negative copy. Still The Lemonheads (now with Boston friends John Strohm on guitar and Murph on drums) managed to crank out a defiant 1996 release Car Button Cloth, with some of their best melodic pop/punk to date: “It”s All True”, “If I Could Talk I”d Tell You”, and “Tenderfoot”. After a year promoting the record, Dando announced at the 1997 Reading Festival that he was disbanding The Lemonheads. Atlantic released a Best of The Lemonheads album in 1998, and a lot of geezers surmised that that was that.
“I just decided to duck out for a while”, explains Dando of his self-imposed exile from the scene. “I didn’t have it in me. It took until I met my wife in 1998 until I got back into making music.” That would be Elizabeth Moses, Newcastle-born English supermodel and musician. Once married in 2000, Dando started to come alive again like Frampton, first with a 2001 live album Live at the Brattle Theater/Griffith Sunset, and then in 2003 with a well-received solo LP, Baby I”m Bored.
In 2004 Evan Dando found himself fronting the MC5, the most incendiary rock band of 1960s America, as lead vocalist in a 41-show tour. And it was hard to miss Dando during 2005 and early 2006, as he toured widely in North America and Europe with various bass players (Juliana Hatfield and Josh Lattanzi) and drummers (Bill Stevenson, Chris Brokaw from Come, George Berz of Dinosaur Jr), and occasionally as a one man electrical wrecking crew. Memorably, in September 2005, Dando, Stevenson, and Lattanzi played two instantly sold-out shows in London as part of the Don”t Look Back series, where they rocked through It”s a Shame About Ray from start to finish.
In 2006 came The Lemonheads, released on Vagrant records and recorded with Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez of The Descendents. Stevenson co-produced with Dando, and wrote or co-wrote three of its eleven songs, while long-time collaborator Tom Morgan added another two. There were cameos from bassist Josh Lattanzi (“Poughkeepsie”, “Rule of Three”, “In Passing”), Garth Hudson (of The Band, who plays keyboards on “Black Gown” and “December”), and some real foot-on-monitor guitar work by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis (“No Backbone”, “Steve’s Boy”).
“We started out in Jam and Buzzcocks territory,” explained Dando at the time, “We got some psyched-out country on there as well, but all of it is squarely in The Lemonheads tradition.”
Following a Rhino reissue of …Ray in 2008, complete with stripped-down demos, next up for The Lemonheads was a covers LP, Varshons. The idea for the band’s new covers record was inspired by Gibby Haynes, ringmaster of the Butthole Surfers, who for years has made mixes for Dando, a longtime friend. “Making a good mix is an art, and Gibby has it down,” says Dando. “I thought it would be fun to share these songs with other people like he shared them with me. So I picked the ‘greatest hits’ from his mixes and covered them, along with a few other songs I always wanted to play.”
Varshons was produced by Haynes and features Dando along with Vess Ruhtenburg (bass) and Devon Ashley (drums). The collection is filled with strange bedfellows – from G.G. Allin to Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt and garage rockers The Green Fuz. The Lemonheads make each track their own, with help from actress Liv Tyler, singing back up on Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” and Kate Moss, who sings over the dance groove of Arling & Cameron’s “Dirty Robot,” which also features lead guitar by John Perry on loan from The Only Ones.
Varshons unearths a pair of psychedelic treasures with “Yesterlove” – a song recorded in 1969 by the group Sam Gopal featuring future Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister – and “Dandelion Seeds” from July, record collector’s Registered Landmark Band. For “Layin’ Up With Linda,” the band filters Allin’s cold-blooded tale through the swaggering country-honk of The Stones’ “Dead Flowers.”
Filled with obscure nuggets, the tracks on Varshons cut a wide swath, jumping from early British psychedelic to Dutch electronica and like all good mix tapes, you never know what is coming next.
From panoramic vistas from the peaks of stately Yorkshire ridges to drug-°©-running ranches in the deserts of Texas, The Chevin are a band steeped in natural grandeur. They’re a band who grew up relishing the magnificent swathes of moorland stretching from York to Leeds visible from atop the hill overlooking their home town of Otley – the geological marvel after which they’re named – and instinctively destined to recreate the wonder of it in music. “Otley sits in a valley in Wharfdale and the hill on one side of the valley is The Chevin,” singer and songwriter Coyle Girelli explains. “I like the romance of naming ourselves after something so local and personal, and at the same time it creates an image of being stood on the edge of a ridge or a cliff looking out. If you go up into the hills, you can see all the way to York on one side and as far as the eye can see on the other. When you write without being contrived you’re directly influenced by your surroundings and growing up in a place with such a wide landscape we naturally go towards that sort of feeling.” As a teenager, roaming the tiny market town of Otley in The Chevin’s shadow with a head full of Nirvana, Oasis and The Beatles, Coyle had a soundtrack to his life spooling constantly through his head. “I was constantly singing music to myself when I was playing, everything always had a soundtrack attached. I guess it was a natural place I was heading, I was constantly writing melody and words for as long as I can remember, without realising. Nirvana was the first thing that made me want to be in a band. The first album I got was ‘In Utero’ and I remember listening to it all the way through, and Nirvana strike a chord with a lot of teenagers but it really spoke to me personally. I’d loved other music but that was the first time that something had hit deep. After that I bought ‘Nevermind’ and I was hooked. The idea of being in a band was something that was formed from really getting deep into the songs, really starting to analyse the songs and the words.” Surprisingly, Otley proved to be a hotbed for 90s-°©-inspired rock hopefuls, and Coyle and his guitarist schoolmate Mat Steele began writing and playing in a variety of musical incarnations from the age of 12, eventually graduating to the lively live scene of Leeds, playing in local bands. It wasn’t until the start of 2010, though, that Coyle, Mat and their regular bassist Jon Langford chanced upon fellow Otley drummer Mal Taylor and Coyle felt the band was right to record the album’s worth of songs he’d been hoarding for his big push. Enormous rock songs with the clout and sizzle of early U2, The Killers and the voice of Roy Orbison, but also with the cultish edge of Band Of Horses and Arcade Fire. Uplifting desert air punchers like ‘Champion’ and ‘Blue Eyes’, piano-°©-led paeans to nature’s wonders like ‘Beautiful World’, rousing rock wreckages like ‘Drive’ (in which a mourning Coyle fantasises about crashes, both physical and emotional), synth disco stomps like ‘Colours’ and tangled relationship elegies such as ‘Dirty Little Secret’ and ‘Love Is Just A Game’ that hinted at messy affairs and youthful promiscuity. Songs that retained their style and stature while swerving between the defiant and the devastated, a reflection of Coyle’s mindset at the time. “The last few years has been a time of break-°©-ups and I’ve had some close friends pass away as well as family,” says Coyle. “Throughout writing the album, it was a time of loss. ‘So Long Summer’ is a good closer because it sums it up more than any other. It’s an uplifting song but the lyrics are about losing someone close. That sums the album up lyrically – melodically it’s quite uplifting, but the undertone is constantly sad. These songs, personally for me, were very therapeutic, and I hope for other people they are too.” Demoing the entire album on Coyle’s home studio (recordings The Chevin were so pleased with that they kept many of the original keyboard tracks for the finished album) and using them to lure in a manager, the band concentrated on perfecting their songs in rehearsal rather than playing live and opted for the increasingly fashionable approach of self-°©-financing their debut album and approached LA producer Noah Shain early in 2011 to find them a studio as dramatic and dislocated as their music and origins required. “I wanted to find somewhere in a forest or somewhere where we’d be split off from any distraction or outside influence for three and a half weeks,” says Coyle. “He found this place out in the desert of El Paso in South Texas. The story of the ranch is pretty crazy, it’s right on the Mexican border and there’s a history of arms running and drug running but the ranch is now a pecan farm so he makes his money from that and puts it into buying insane vintage gear. It was this old ranch building they’d turned into a studio and anything you ever want is there, vintage guitars, mandolins, baby pianos, everything was there. We were able to go there and completely lose ourselves in the middle of the desert for almost a month. The experience was pretty mind-°©-altering in a lot of ways, it maybe even widened the sound a little more. You opened the door and all you could see was desert. It was completely insane. When we had a bit of time off the owner of the ranch came down and made us fire guns into the desert to make us feel Texan.” Between taking pot-°©-shots at cacti, The Chevin recorded thirteen songs, working relentlessly on getting the perfect Peter Gabriel drum sound for ‘Dirty Little Secret’ and luring in local members of the El Paso Philharmonic Orchestra to add strings to the ever-°©-expanding pop monster that was ‘Champion’, the song that would become the lead track on their debut EP that October. They emerged with a “very rich, ambitious album” that may well kick-°©-start a revival in properly produced rock. “It’s quite rich sonically,” Coyle explains, “and that’s something that’s coming back more and more over the last year, which is good. Maybe it’s a reaction to how easy it’s got to make music on a computer in your bedroom. It’s nice to hear so much music recently where you can tell it’s recorded in a studio and the takes are live and there’s some thought that’s gone into the sound, it’s not just a plug-°©-in.” The album certainly turned ears. Fierce Panda heard it and offered them a record contract, starting with the ravenously received ‘Champion EP’; US contacts heard it at Stateside showcase gigs and built an American team around them; The Airborne Toxic Event heard it and took them on the road around the UK for a month; The Pigeon Detectives heard it and offered them a 16-°©-date tour of Europe at the start of 2012, sharing their tourbus. And White Lies heard it, came down to catch them on their UK headline club tour towards the end of 2011 and invited The Chevin to support them on their winter arena tour, culminating at Wembley Arena: “an amazing experience. It was weird, once we were onstage and the place was pretty much full, it’s one of my favourite gigs ever. It’s great as a support band but as a headliner I’m sure it’s better. It’s something to tick off on the list.” So even before their show-°©-stopping performances at SXSW 2012, The Chevin were being given glimpses of the big time. All that remained was to put the finishing touches to their immense debut album – the shimmering, propulsive, organ-°©-drenched centrepiece and title track ‘Borderland’, an Arcade Fire-°©-esque epic recorded at Shain’s LA studio early in 2012 but inspired by the El Paso recording stint that brought out Coyle’s inner Springsteen/Morricone. “Where the studio is situated, it sits right on the Mexican/American border,” he says. “You can literally walk for five minutes and hit the big black fence that Cheney put up a few years ago. The song can be taken a couple of ways. When I wrote it it was a little bit about the border war, the almost moral war that goes on at that and many other borders around the world, but subconsciously it was about coming through a period and being re-°©-awoken.” And with next single ‘Drive’ hitting the gas on May 14 and ‘Borderland’ causing its deep impact in August, The Chevin are about to break another border; the one between local heroes and global superstars. The Chevin: mountainous.