Clinton had just been elected. Edgy ‘alt rock’ ruled the radio. The Twin Towers stood proudly. And an intrepid and inebriated foursome from the tony suburbs of NYC were at the peak of their live powers. Don’t believe us? Then download this recently unearthed, cassette-only audience recording of Too Much Joy live from the now-defunct A.L. Gators, somewhere in Maryland. No, it ain’t in dolby sound, and should probably be labeled “for fans only,” but that’s pretty much the only folks reading this post right now. The recording comes courtesy of Portland, OR radio kingping/Arena Rock records founder Greg Glover, and was lovingly mastered by TMJ studio collaborator Roy Matthews. Thanks to both of them.
The other weekend, at an annual gathering called the Pop Conference, I gave a presentation called Budweiser Bought My Baby, which used my own experiences licensing music to sponsors to investigate the way indie bands’ and fans’ attitudes toward commercials have transformed over the last 30 years.
By popular demand (where “popular” = “2 people asked me”), I’m posting that presentation here. What follows is my own personal take — the other band members probably have their own opinions.
Tim and Jay will be appearing at a Dear New Orleans benefit concert at the Black Cat in Washington, DC on Monday, October 4th. They’ll be performing a few songs, backed by Bonerama, the NOLA R&B band they’ve been working with on several songs for the next Wonderlick record.
If you’re in town, you should come by the show, as the bill’s pretty stellar: it also includes Damian from OKGo, an even rarer live appearance by Jenny Toomey, Jonny 5 from Flobots, Rebecca Gates and some surprise guests we’re not allowed to pre-announce. More details, including how to buy special VIP passes that get you into soundcheck to hobnob with the artistes, can be found here.
Today’s the official release date of Dear New Orleans, and you can hear the entire, epic benefit album right here.
OK Go, Mike Mills from R.E.M., My Morning Jacket, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Jill Sobule, Flobots, the Wrens…do I really need to go on?
Spread it around.
Oh, if you just want to jump straight to “The American Way,” the latest salvo from Tim and Jay’s Wonderlick project (complete with three trombones), you can play/share this little widget:
I spent a good part of the summer helping my friends from Air Traffic Control pull together the Sandinista of benefit albums: Dear New Orleans features over 30 tracks from a wide array of indie, country, hip-hop, jazz and r&b artists, all doing songs dedicated to (and in some cases specifically about) one of our country’s most precious and musical cities.
The album’s being released to mark the 5th anniversary of the flooding caused by the breaking of the levees after Katrina hit, and proceeds will go to the community organizations still helping to rebuild the city and preserve the wider Gulf area.
I’m biased, of course, but I think the album rocks pretty hard. The full line-up will be announced next week, but for now I can tell you that A) it includes several of my personal heroes, B) all the participating artists are alumni of the artist-activism retreats ATC and the Future of Music Coalition have been hosting in New Orleans for the last few years and which I blogged about last March, C) it comes with a booklet featuring artwork by the Mekons’ Jon Langford and some liner notes by yours truly, and D) Wonderlick has a new track on the album.
That track is a new version of “The American Way,” complete with a brass band — multiple trombone parts were arranged by Mark Mullins from NOLA’s own Bonerama, and the Bonerama horns recorded their parts in New Orleans just a couple weeks ago.
More details will be coming over the next week, including news about how to snag the triple album for the price of a 7″ single (really) the day before it comes out.
Too Much Joy were saddened by the news this week that the Hartsdale Cheesery has gone out of business. To pay tribute to this hometown institution (technically, it was an institution of the town next to TMJ’s hometown, or, if you were Tommy, who grew up in Eastchester, the town next to the town next to your hometown), we are naming “Pride of Frankenstein” our song of the week, as it is the only commercially released song we’re aware of ever to name check the Cheesery.
Sadly, that may be the most notable fact about the tune. It’s not my proudest moment as a lyricist, and the arrangement is charitably described as busy, which may be why it was played live all of twice before being retired from the set. Some fans seemed to like it, though — one sent me a letter with an essay he’d written for a high school English class about the song.
The dude the song’s about really existed, and really did used to wander around Scarsdale and Hartsdale writing down the license plate numbers of all the parked cars in a little notebook he carried around just for that purpose. The bit about throwing rocks at him is dramatic license — not that I never did anything cruel to sad figures when I was a kid; I just don’t remember throwing rocks at him, specifically.
In a semi-related bit of trivia, one of the rare arguments I’ve had with my wife happened one night during a Scrabble game, when I scored a bingo playing “cheesery” using a Y that was already on the board. She challenged me. Turns out it’s not in the dictionary.
We tried to have this ready for Chanukah. But art takes time. So we are compensating for our tardiness by offering not one free download, but four – one from Too Much Joy, and one from each of the three side-projects that have sprouted like mutant limbs from TMJ’s trunk. Just click the button below to snag your tunes (you can also push the play button in the widget beneath to hear all four songs in their entirety — feel free to share with friends).
The TMJ tune is called “Mystery Limousine.” It was written in the early-‘90s, but never got recorded. Until now. In keeping with our holiday theme of family, love and forgiveness, the song features both original member Sandy Smallens (on bass and vocals) AND producer/replacement bassist William Wittman (on too many guitars), and was mixed by old friend and Son of Sam I Am producer Michael James (who may have added some guitars, too, but you can still hear Jay cutting through them all). The lyric, if you care, was written when the band was riding around in limos, and trying to process the disappointed faces of onlookers who were expecting someone more famous to emerge from said limos when they pulled up at hotels.
The Wonderlick tune is called “Easy,” and should be self-explanatory. It is one of several songs Wonderlick recorded recently with a live band – it’s a rough mix, which will evolve over time, and the first salvo in their third LP, which they hope to have finished by springtime. Besides Tim and Jay, the band features Ken Flagg on keyboards, Chris Brague on drums, Daniel Fabricant on bass, and the awe-inspiring Jean Cook on violin. Ken and Jean and a guy named Justin from the studio all shout along at the end there. More free rough mixes will be forthcoming before Christmas Eve are now available on www.wonderlick.com.
The Surface Wound song is a selection from their brand-spanking-new LP, The Kids Are All Gone (Acquired Taste). It’s called “Pretty French,” and features Sandy and Tommy from TMJ plus guitarist Steve Hamilton. The horns come courtesy of ska band Edna’s Goldfish brass section (Gary Henderson on trumpet and Thomas Comerford on trombone). NYC-area gigs are being slated for the new year. You can stream and buy the album (for only $6!) and learn more about the band at www.surfacewound.com.
The Its song is called “You Are All That I Need.” That one’s basically Bill, Jay and Tommy from TMJ singing a lyric by Tim. It was originally written as a stalker anthem, but in this more festive context perhaps we should hear it as a cry of love from each Joyboy to the other. (12/19 update: turns out we had a mis-named file in the original package, so if you downloaded before 5pm on Friday, 12/18, the Its song you got was actually “Don’t Say a Word.” The problem is fixed, so just hit download again if you want a free copy of “You Are All That I Need.”)
(The songs are yours for the taking, but if you have any desire to throw some digital coins in our metaphorical hat, you are welcome to do so — just click the button below):
I got something in the mail last week I’d been wanting for years: a Too Much Joy royalty statement from Warner Brothers that finally included our digital earnings. Though our catalog has been out of print physically since the late-1990s, the three albums we released on Giant/WB have been available digitally for about five years. Yet the royalty statements I received every six months kept insisting we had zero income, and our unrecouped balance ($395,277.18!)* stubbornly remained the same.
Now, I don’t ever expect that unrecouped balance to turn into a positive number, but since the band had been seeing thousands of dollars in digital royalties each year from IODA for the four indie albums we control ourselves, I figured five years’ worth of digital income from our far more popular major label albums would at least make a small dent in the figure. Our IODA royalties during that time had totaled about $12,000 – not a princely sum, but enough to suggest that the total haul over the same period from our major label material should be at least that much, if not two to five times more. Even with the band receiving only a percentage of the major label take, getting our unrecouped balance below $375,000 seemed reasonable, and knocking it closer to -$350,000 wasn’t out of the question.
So I was naively excited when I opened the envelope. And my answer was right there on the first page. In five years, our three albums earned us a grand total of…
What the fuck?
I mean, we all know that major labels are supposed to be venal masters of hiding money from artists, but they’re also supposed to be good at it, right? This figure wasn’t insulting because it was so small, it was insulting because it was so stupid.
Spinner.com just published a feature on bands with their own theme songs. They include TMJ at the end, so you have to scroll all the way down. Includes a gratuitous knock on the band. Sigh. Anyway, you can read it here: http://www.spinner.com/2009/11/18/band-theme-songs/
Also, NPR has been doing some end-of-decade coverage on their Monitor Mix blog. They surveyed a bunch of musicians and other industry-type folks. Today’s question is “What does “indie” mean to you. I answered that, and several others on earlier days, and theoretically some more to come, if you want to check it out.
“Coverville” has set the standard for great music podcasts. Imagine, a downloadable show where you can hear a vast array of covers by all sorts of bands. They’ve featured TMJ in the past a few times, and now they’re going to be debuting Surface Wound’s brand new cover of that synth pop classic by Yazoo, “Nobody’s Diary.”
You may notice that the vocals are even more growly than usual at the end of the song — that’s because the very sexy and gravel-throated George Fullan (from LI hardcore band Three Years Older) sings along on the last chorus.
“Nobody’s Diary” and 11 other (original) tunes all co-habitate on Surface Wound’s upcoming full-length debut, “The Kids Are All Gone” (Acquired Taste Music). More fun premieres and stuff to come…