The Lemonheads were one of those bands who seemed to garner more attention than their popularity warranted. In addition, they rose and fell with their frontman, Evan Dando, who accounted for the excessive coverage. It was a precarious existence contributing to the group's instability. Of course, Dando's well-documented drug abuse didn't help either.
The Lemonheads began in '86 when two high school students at Commonwealth School in Boston , Dando and drummer Ben Deily, formed the Whelps. A year later, they chose the Lemonheads moniker after the candy that was "sour on the outside and sweet on the inside," perhaps a reflection on the group's sound. Dando attempted college before deciding his future was in music. By '89 the Lemonheads had a couple local indie releases under their belt when Deily split. He was replaced by David Ryan for the group's '90 major label debut ""Lovey." With elements of Punk and Metal, the album stiffed selling only 30,000 copies. The folks at Atlantic/Warner were not pleased.
Dando took it in stride. He fled to Australia and wrote songs with bassist Nic Dalton and drummer Tom Morgan. These songs became the core of the group's "It's A Shame About Ray." But before that got rolling, the group recorded a cover of the Simon & Garfunkel chestnut, "Mrs Robinson" to promote the video release of The Graduate. As often happens, a one-off project that is peripheral to the band becomes popular. "Mrs. Robinson" was released as a single and soon became the group's best known song, much to their annoyance. The track was even added to "It's A Shame About Ray" reissues. The album enjoyed a fair amount of college radio play and even introduced the group to mainstream audiences. Music and other entertainment magazines, including the ever-popular People, plastered Dando's face on their covers and on countless pages. He was a golden blonde poster boy and the object of teen girls' desires.
Becoming The Lemonheads in '93, the group issued "Come On And Feel The Lemonheads," which contained another semi-hit, "Into Your Arms." Generating moderate sales, the album kept the Lemonheads in front of their audience. The following year was spent touring.
With two solid albums behind them and the attention of the press, it would seem a third album would make The Lemonheads huge. But that didn't happen. While it was probably a small thing, a reckless moment of candor precipitated the band's decline. Dando had lost his voice due to smoking crack. Not good. But to admit it to a reporter was self-destructive. Singing about drug use (as in "My Drug Buddy," with Juliana Hatfield, and "Style") was one thing but publicizing it was quite another. A short time later that edition of The Lemonheads ended.
In '96, Dando fronted a new line-up which produced "Car Button Cloth," an album with a handful of dark songs that telegraphed his troubles. The '97 tour ended in Reading, England, with Dando's famous announcement the band was breaking up. That brought a close to The Lemonheads story, at least in the '90s.
Dando took a shot at a solo career, kinda what he'd already been doing under The Lemonheads banner, but without much traction. A brief stint as the object of Courtney Love's affections did little to improve his well-being or career.
Eight years after the band's demise, Dando put together yet another edition of the group with Karl Alvarez (bass guitar) and Bill Stevenson (drums). '06 release "The Lemonheads" was the result.
1987 Hate Your Friends
1992 It's A Shame About Ray
1993 Come On Feel the Lemonheads
1996 Car Button Cloth
2006 The Lemonheads
2012 Hotel Sessions
Given Dando's mercurial nature, The Lemonheads are notoriously inconsistent. Even their best work, "It's A Shame About Ray" and "Come Feel The Lemonheads," have this tendency.
Surprisingly, their label does a good job of capturing the group's essence in a tight, cohesive manner with "The Best Of The Lemonheads: The Atlantic Years. This set includes "Into Your Arms," "Confetti," "It's A Shame About Ray," "The Great Big No" and the ever popular "Mrs. Robinson."
"The Lemonheads" is not on a par with "It's A Shame About Ray" but it isn't bad either. The main appeal, Dando's distracted slacker vocals and jangling guitar, remain intact ("Black Gown" and "Pittsburgh") though not to a dazzling level.