Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bin of Rock: Mary's Danish

Bin of Rock: Mary’s Danish

If ever there was a band that was cursed with bad luck, it would’ve been Mary’s Danish. Formed in L.A. in 1987, the six piece rock band with two female vocalists immediately started grabbing attention for their genre-bending sound. Managing to mix in funk, soul, rock, blues and punk together in a tasty little dish, the band began attracting major label attention. Having a guitarist, Louis Gutierrez from The Three O’Clock and friends in the Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t hurt either. Soon the band had signed a deal with Chameleon Records, a subsidiary of Elektra Records.

They soon entered the studio and began working on their debut album; There Goes the Wondertruck was released in the fall of 1989 and the band immediately exploded on alternative radio with “Don’t Crash the Car Tonight.” The band were enjoying the fruits of their labor and everything seemed to be paying off for them. But they were soon stuck in a quandary that also struck Dramarama; they were on a label that was not being supported as well as it should’ve been. Shortly after “Don’t Crash the Car Tonight” became a hit, the label’s funding was cut off, leaving the band high and dry.

Searching around for another label, vocalists Gretchen Seager and Julie Ritter contributed backing vocals to the amalgam of musicians known as RHCP’s breakthrough Mother’s Milk record. Then in 1990, the band signed with the upstart Morgan Creek label, a branch of a movie company looking to get into the music business. Little did the band know at the time, but this would be the beginning of the end for them.

The label rushed them into the studio with then hot producer Dave Jerden and the result was Circa, released in 1991. If there has ever been a schizophrenic heard on record, then this was it. The record is all over the place musically and artistically. But that’s not a bad thing but as the years have passed, time has not been too kind to the record. While tracks like the classic “7 Deadly Sins,” “Yellow Creep Around,” “Beat Me Up” and “Hellflower” have stood the test, others like “Hoof,” “Axl Rose is Love,” “Mr. Floosack” and “Venus Loves Leonard” do not go anywhere and makes the record seem less great each time one listens to it. The band managed to score another hit with “Julie’s Blanket (Pigsheadsnakeface)” the record failed to click with the record buying public, leaving the already struggling Morgan Creek to come up with a new plan.

The band were quickly sent back into the studio, this time with their manager, former pop star Peter Asher as their manager. Having already produced other clients like Linda Rondstadt, it seemed like a good thing. When American Standard was rush-released in the spring of 1992, it sported one of the worst album covers of all time, a large American hat with a hamburger on the top dripping ketchup. What the significance was has been lost to the ages but the horrific cover does not give an inkling as to what’s inside. The record was the band’s best and while critics for some reason trashed it, allmusicguide giving it one and a half stars, the music still stands up more than Circa. The record is more focused and straightforward than its predecessors and is more radio-friendly, so to speak. Songs like the single “Leave It Alone” and “Porcupine” groove around and were some of the catchiest songs of the year. Others like “The Living End” and “Gotcha Covered” were more intricate and soulful. The drumming of James Bradley Jr. (JBJ) is absolutely phenomenal and one of the band’s trademarks. Bassist Chris ‘Wag’ Wagner, more restrained than on Circa, still lets his influences show and together the rhythm section holds the band in check. The record closes with an unlisted cover of Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law” with guest Chad Smith on drums, originally done for the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie soundtrack.

Once again, the record failed to connect with the buying public through no fault of the band’s. The label was incapable of promoting their way out of a paper bag and they knew but they kept pressing each of their artists for more product. By the middle of 1993, the band realized they were stuck; Morgan Creek wanted them to re-sign but in the meantime, side projects of various members were getting major-label attention and the band was at a crossroads, not knowing what to do or where to go. Finally, by the end of the year, they made the painful decision to call it quits and go their separate ways.

Rhythm guitarist Dave King and JBJ formed a new band, Rob Rule and signed a deal with Mercury Records, releasing their self-titled debut in 1994. Besides scoring a minor hit single with “She Gets Too High,” the record failed and the band split. Lead guitarist Louis Gutierrez, bassist Chris Wagner and vocalist Gretchen Seager formed a new band, Battery Acid and soon inked a deal with Geffen Records. But they never even got off the ground as they were kept down by contractual quagmire and ultimately split without releasing a record. Vocalist Julie Ritter started a solo career on an indie label. The band reunited for a one-night only show in 1999 that was a huge success; the same year, JBJ reemerged as the drummer for Crazy Town, the rap-rock hybrid that brought the world “Butterfly.” JBJ luckily quit the band as they were drowning in drug addiction and moved to Sweden where he now has a bustling family. The rest of the band are still playing around; Julie has released several solo albums and Gretchen and Louis, who got married have formed a new band that plays occasionally.

The band may have disbanded over fifteen years ago but the music is still out there in MP3 format and several records have actually been re-released and are available on sites like Amazon. Listen to the music and you’ll realize how good it all was and how neglectful it was for such a shitty record label to not be able to get this band across to listeners. (Leave it Alone)

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