Ween's "Mutilated Lips" CD single
Ween was formed in 1984 in New Hope, Pennsylvania when Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) and Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) met in an eighth grade typing class. Finding that they were kindred musical spirits, the two began recording together. Ween’s public debut was a “Purple Haze” cover closing a 1987 talent show. They gained recognition playing bars in New Hope such as John & Peter’s on Main Street. The duo was signed to Twin/Tone Records and released their debut album. “GodWeenSatan: The Oneness”, in 1990. Their second album, “The Pod” (1991), was recorded at an apartment the duo shared in Solebury Township (also dubbed “The Pod”). This led to Ween signing with a major label – Elektra Records – who released their third album, “Pure Guava” (1992). Their next album, “Chocolate and Cheese” (1994), was their first album to use professional-grade recording equipment (the duo eschewed the four-track equipment used on their previous recordings). On the heels of the success of this album, Ween recorded “12 Golden Country Greats” (1996), a country music album which represented the first time the band limited itself to a specific music genre. Their next album, “The Mollusk” (1997), a partial concept album with nearly each song having a dark, nautical theme, had its genesis in sessions dating back to 1995, but was not recorded until 1996. The first single from the album was “Mutilated Lips” b/w “Ocean Man”. This is today’s featured single.:
“Mutilated Lips” starts off with the sound of a drum cymbal, and then we get lyrics written from the perspective of someone high on L.S.D.: “I lick my brain in silence/Rather squeeze my head instead/Midget man provoking violence/Listen not to what I said”. The “mutilated lips” of the song’s title are the lips of an ugly girl, which appear to the protagonist (under the influence of drugs) to be mutilated. It’s a singularly original idea for a song, and at the same time is an extremely funny send-up of progressive rock. Throughout their career, Ween has been able to inject humor into their music without becoming a novelty band, and nowhere is this more evident than on this track.
The B-side of this single, “Ocean Man”, is another sea-related song in keeping with the theme of the album. Although it matches “Mutilated Lips” in sheer weirdness, it is more upbeat and childlike, especially the lyrical content: “Ocean man, take me by the hand, lead me to the land that you understand/Ocean man, the voyage to the corner of the globe is a real trip/Ocean man, the crust of a tan man imbibed by the sand/Soaking up the thirst of the land.” The keyboards on this track contribute to the light, airy feel, and the song proceeds at a brisk clip, clocking in at a mere 2 minutes and 7 seconds. Overall, this is one of the better songs from “Mollusk”.
The single (catalog # is unknown) was released on Elektra Records. “Ocean Man” was eventually released as a separate single. The duo’s next release was the live retrospective “Paintin’ the Town Brown: Ween Live 1990-1998” (1999). They released “Craters of the Sac” (1999), a semi-official MP3 album, later that year. Their seventh album, “White Pepper” (2000), would also be their last on Elektra. Ween signed with Sanctuary Records, which released their next studio album, “Quebec” (2003). “Shinola” (2005), a collection of previously-unreleased songs, was released on Ween’s Chocodog imprint, as was “The Friends” EP (2007). Their next full-length studio album, “La Cucaracha” (2007), was released on Rounder Records.
Insert for Fountains of Wayne's "Denise" CD single
Fountains of Wayne was formed by songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, who met as freshman at Williams College. The two began playing in bands together in the 1980s until they went their separate ways, with Schlesinger forming Ivy in New York City and Collingwood forming Mercy Buckets in Boston. The two met up once again in the mid-1990s and formed a band together. Schlesinger sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar, and Collingwood played bass. They also recruited Joey Porter (lead guitar) and Brian Young (drums). They eventually settled on the name Fountains of Wayne, the name of a lawn ornament store at the intersection of Routes 46 and 23 in Wayne, New Jersey. The band signed with Atlantic Records and released their self-titled debut album in October 1996. Two of the songs from the album, “Radiation Vibe” and “Sink to the Bottom”, received airplay. The band toured extensively in support of the album; in the meantime, Schlesinger had written the title song for the movie “The Thing You Do!”, for which he received an Oscar nomination. The band’s second album, “Utopia Parkway”, was released in April 1999; it was well-received, but the band was dropped by Atlantic Records when sales failed to meet expectations. In May 1999, the band released the first single from “Utopia Parkway”: “Denise”/”I Know You Well”/”I’ll Do the Driving”. This is today’s featured single.
“Denise” opens with a catchy guitar riff, and soon we are in the middle of what is perhaps the prototypical Fountains of Wayne song: a song with an infectious melody, an over-the-top “sha-la-la-la” chorus, and rather silly lyrics (although there are other power pop bands that match or exceed the technical proficiency of Fountains of Wayne, I dare say that few could rhyme “Lexus” and “Texas” with equal aplomb), and a mini-guitar solo that is as compelling as anything you’ll find in similar power pop songs. While some critics will find that the band’s sense of detachment prevents them from achieving greatness, I find it one of the band’s great strengths, and while their lyrical content may not be ponderous at all, they have absorbed the clichés of the genre and have achieved and unusually adept synthesis of it. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Denise” (although they did come close to reaching this level with “Stacy’s Mom” a few years later).
“I Know You Well” is a non-album track, a pleasant piece of jangle pop which Schlesinger’s lead vocals complements well. Per usual, the band’s lyrics have an unusual fluidness, so that whether or not there is any real depth to them is incidental to your enjoyment of the track. Is Schlesinger singing about an actual relationship when he sings about “New York 1991” or not? Does it really matter? It doesn’t for this aficionado of power pop. This song also boasts some rather good backing vocals. While this probably won’t be of interest to casual fans, this is a solid song. It can be found on the “Out of State Plates” double CD compilation released in 2005.
“I’ll Do the Driving”, on the other hand, is a song that I found to be one of the band’s most humorous tracks, so it’s a shame they did not include this on a full-length CD. Starting off with Young’s drums, soon accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the song tells the tale of an airhead girl (my personal favorite is: “We’re out, the jukebox plays “Jumping Jack Flash”/She says, “I love Johnny Cash, the man in red”/I turn my head and pretend not to hear what she said”). Most people have encountered people like this (at least I have), which makes this song all the funnier. Like “I Know You Well”, this song can be found on “Out of State Plates”.
This single was issued on Atlantic Records in May 1999. The CD insert is shown in the picture above. After the release of “Utopia Parkway”, Fountains of Wayne went on hiatus, with the band members pursuing other projects. In 2001, they reunited, recording a cover version of “Better Things” for a Kinks tribute album and recording the theme song for the Comedy Central series “Crank Yankers”. The band signed with S-Curve Records (with Virgin Records handling distribution in the U.K.). In 2003, the band released its third album, “Welcome Interstate Managers”, which contained the surprise hit “Stacy’s Mom”. The band recorded an appearance on “Austin City Limits” in December 2003. In June 2005, the band released “Out of State Plates”, a compilation of B-sides and previously unreleased tracks. “Traffic and Weather”, their fourth studio album, followed in April 2007. The band’s fifth studio album, “Sky Full of Holes”, will be released in on Yep Roc Records in North America on August 2, 2011.
Atomic Rooster's "Devil's Answer" single.
Atomic Rooster was formed in the summer of 1969, when The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had to cease touring in the middle of their second U.S. tour because of keyboardist Vincent Crane’s mental illness. When he recovered, he and drummer Carl Palmer left the band and returned to England, the return date being June 13, 1969, the year of the Rooster in the Chinese calendar. He met with ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones to discuss a collaboration. When Jones died, they recruited Nick Graham on bass and vocals. This trio of Crane, Palmer and Graham formed the first Atomic Rooster lineup. The band began playing live dates around London; their first headlining gig was opening for Deep Purple. Atomic Rooster signed with B & C Records; their first album, “Atomic Rooster”, was released in February 1970. In March 1970, they added a guitarist, John Du Cann, but just as Du Cann joined, Graham left. Du Cann took over vocal duties while Crane overdubbed bass lines with his Hammond organ. This lineup lasted until June 1970, when Palmer left to join Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He was replaced by Ric Parnell on a temporary basis and then by Paul Hammond, who joined in August 1970. This lineup recorded their second album, “Death Walks Behind You”, released in September 1970, which was also their first album to receive a U.S. release. The single “Tomorrow Night” (from “Death Walks Behind You”), reached #11 on the U.K. Singles Chart in February 1971. In June 1971, the non-album single, “Devil’s Answer” b/w “The Rock”, reached #4 in the U.K. This is today’s featured single.
“Devil’s Answer” begins with a simple melody played on Crane’s Hammond organ, soon accompanied by a crunching guitar sound achieved by Cann sliding a pick down the A string. Soon Du Cann’s guitar dominates the sound, with some horns added for musical texture. Soon we hear Du Cann’s rather abstract-sounding lyrics: “People are looking but they don’t know what to do/It’s the time of the season for the people like you/Come back tomorrow, show the scars on your face/It’s a clue to the answer we all chase”. Crane’s keyboards are never lost in the mix, and help provide the backbone of Atomic Rooster’s sound here, along with Hammond’s drums. While “Devil’s Answer” may not be the most impressive song I’ve ever heard, it’s a prime example of the salad days of progressive rock, before the genre started to devolve into a parody of itself.
Picture sleeve issued by Philips for the German release of "Devil's Answer".
The B-side, “The Rock”, begins with a drum beat from Hammond, followed by a bass line (presumably provided by Crane), soon joined by Du Cann on guitar. The song is a four and a half minute instrumental, one which provides ample opportunity for both Du Cann and Crane to shine, with relatively lengthy passages featuring Du Cann’s guitar-playing and Crane’s organ-playing respectively. Although this track is not essential listening for any but the most die-hard Atomic Rooster fan, it’s a solid track, and one which allows the band to indulge some of their jazzier inclinations. “The Rock” was included on the band’s next studio album, “In Hearing of Atomic Rooster” (though “Devil’s Answer” was not).
This single (catalog #: CB 157) was released in the United Kingdom and United States (as well as Spain and Greece) on B & C Records. There was no picture sleeve issued with this single. In France and Germany, the single was issued on Philips (with a picture sleeve, shown above). By mid-1971, Atomic Rooster added vocalist Pete French to the lineup. The new musical direction of the band did not please Du Cann and Hammond, and they left shortly after recording of the band’s third album, “In Hearing of Atomic Rooster” (1971), was complete. This album did well in the wake of “Devil’s Answer”, peaking at #18 in the U.K. The band recruited Steve Bolton to replace Du Cann on guitar, and once again Ric Parnell became the band’s drummer. Pete French left the band at the end of the year, and Crane recruited Chris Farlowe. The band switched to Dawn Records for their next album, “Made in England” (1972). The album was not as successful as its predecessor, and by the end of 1972, Bolton left the band, and was replaced by John Goodsall (a.k.a. Jonny Mandala). Their fifth album, “Nice and Greasy” (1973), was released with this lineup, and met with little success. After two years without a hit, Dawn Records dropped Atomic Rooster from its roster in 1974. At this point, Parnall, Farlowe and Mandala left the band. After one final single on Decca Records in March 1974 and a benefit concert for the RSPCA in February 1975 (in which Crane was backed by the blues band Sam Apple Pie), Crane disbanded Atomic Rooster. In 1980, Crane and Du Cann reunited, recruiting session drummer Preston Heyman to record an album called “Atomic Rooster” (1980). The album release was followed by a tour; however in October 1980 Heyman left and was replaced by Paul Hammond. This lineup lasted until 1982, when Du Cann left the band. John McCoy stepped in on bass. On the subsequent album, “Headline News” (1983), Crane played keyboards and bass and sang, Hammond played drums, and several guest musicians played guitar, including David Gilmour and Bernie Tormé. Crane once again disbanded Atomic Rooster at the end of 1983, and eventually joined Dexy’s Midnight Runners in 1985. After Dexy’s Midnight Runners disbanded in 1987, Crane and Du Cann intended to reform Atomic Rooster once again. However, Crane’s mental illness intervened and he died of an overdose of painkillers on February 14, 1989. Paul Hammond died in 1993. With Du Cann the only band member still living from the “Death Walks Behind You” lineup, another reunion seems unlikely.