By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
Although they were much in demand on Mill Avenue, the Blossoms took a week off in 1989 to make an album for San Jacinto Records, the Tucson-based indie that's owned by Sidewinders (now Sand Rubies) guitarist Rich Hopkins. Recorded at Tucson's Westwood Studios in a blur of beer and cheap vodka, the sessions produced Dusted, which was released in May 1989.
Marred by overly fast tempos and the band's overall greenness, Dusted nevertheless contains four songs that later made it onto either the band's 1991 EP Up and Crumbling (Angel's Tonight) or onto the new album (Hey, Jealousy," "Lost Horizons" and "Found Out About You).
Dusted also gave the Blossoms a finished product to shop to record labels, which they did following successful showcases at Austin's South by Southwest and New York's College Music Journal conferences. At CMJ they were billed as "the best unsigned band in America." This exposure soon convinced three major labels--MCA, PolyGram and A&M--to fly to the Valley to see the band. PolyGram and A&M made the band solid offers. On May 26, 1990, drummer Phillip Rhodes' birthday, the Blossoms signed with A&M, after a show at Mudbuggs in Tucson.
To produce the band's first record, A&M chose Albhy Galuten, best known as the producer of the smash soundtrack Saturday Night Fever. From the beginning, in November 1990, there were problems. Galuten had very fixed ideas about the kind of record he wanted to make, and the Blossoms recall that he refused to listen to their ideas. After a month of work, none of the tapes was salvageable. Still, the band thinks the experience had some value. "I think Albhy taught us a lot," Wilson says. "To me, the Albhy Galuten sessions were like when you're a little kid and you go to Lou Brock baseball camp. Maybe it's not the only way to play baseball, but you still learn a lot."
Afraid this false start was going to poison its relationship with A&M, the band appealed to the label to allow it to record its own EP in Phoenix. The label agreed, going so far as to allow the band to produce itself. Up and Crumbling was recorded at AB Studios on 32nd Street and Broadway in April 1991. Released on October 8, 1991, with what has to rank as some of the world's worst cover art--a dark, nearly undistinguishable blue boat on a dry lake bed--Up and Crumbling was a local hit. By A&M estimates, the EP sold 19,000 copies. Although it didn't break any sales records, Up and Crumbling did make it into the right hands. Several cuts began receiving steady airplay in large markets like Chicago, Denver and Washington, D.C.
Encouraged by this radio response, A&M agreed to give the Blossoms half the money they needed for a tour. The ensuing tour, nicknamed by the band "the please-God-don't-let-us-see-our-ex-girlfriends" tour--they all did--began in November 1991. The most vivid memory from that tour occurred on Thanksgiving Day somewhere in the wilds of Nebraska. "It was a 24-hour drive from Denver to Minneapolis on Thanksgiving Day," Valenzuela says. "We ate our Thanksgiving dinner in a Denny's in Nebraska. Everybody's drunk, we're in the van and the conversation turns to religion. Doug and Bill think it's really important that we find out what everybody believes about their religion. I put my Walkman on. I'd come up for air every once in a while and hear things like 'Fuck Judaism' and 'You believe what?'"
While the band was on the road, A&M decided that John Hampton, the producer who mixed Up and Crumbling, would work on New Miserable Experience. Because Hampton's wife was pregnant and couldn't travel, the band journeyed to Memphis and Ardent Studios, where Hampton was a staff producer.
Before they left, however, the Blossoms decided (they say under pressure from the label to hire a big-time manager) to fire Laura Liewen, who had been handling the band's business affairs since the spring of 1988. Liewen also had taken over booking local and national dates and was instrumental in negotiating the band's record deal. Everyone in the band admits she was a key element in its success. "When Laura got fired, we called a meeting," Hopkins recalls. "We were all sitting in a room, Laura walked in, sat down and then there was a horrible, horrible, horrible silence for a couple of minutes where everybody just kind of looked at their shorts or whatever. Finally, Laura said, 'Well, what's this meeting about?' Then there was another horrible silence before Robin, to his credit, mustered the guts to say, 'Well, I guess what we're trying to say is you're fired.' Laura picked up her stuff and got out."
However, two weeks after they fired her, she says, the Blossoms rehired her to handle their local booking. Then, last week, this band on the verge of national recognition called from the road to rehire her as business manager.
"I don't want to be put in the same category as Doug," says Liewen. "There aren't hard feelings between me and the band, the publisher and the label."
@body:The band's dealings with Doug Hopkins are far from over. Hopkins claims that the band's lawyer, Gene Salomon, has informed him that the band is withholding $12,000 in songwriting royalties owed him until he agrees to sign a settlement that includes, among other things, a clause that he will receive less money from the sale of the album. Hopkins says he won't sign. He says the Blossoms are banking on the fact that he's too poor to sue them. Reached in his L.A. office last week, Salomon would not deny much of what Hopkins says. But Salomon says the band has done nothing improper in respect to any monies "allegedly owed Doug," adding, "We expect this matter to be settled shortly."