Bird & Animal Names In Rock 'n' Roll History - Part 15
Fishbone, The Eels
Author: Robert Benson
Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
In our continuing series about "bird" and "animal" groups in rock and roll, let's explore a couple bands that have made a name for themselves in modern rock.
Formed in 1979, while most of the band members were in junior high, the L.A.-based band Fishbone has effectively mixed humor, ska-metal and sheer funk-rock to create their own distinctive sound while building up a legion of hardcore fans. Albums such as "In Your Face" (1986) and "Truth And Soul" (1988) and the LP "The Reality Of My Surroundings" (1991 - the band added second guitarist John Bigham for this release) captured the band at it's best, skillfully blending social commentary, high energy punk with frantic ska and electric funk; even adding an acoustic number and a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" on "Truth and Soul."
However "The Reality Of My Surroundings" didn't establish the group as a mainstream success and the follow up 1993's "Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe" and their appearance at the third Lollapalooza failed to garner much attention for the band either. Their 1996 record "Chim Chim's Bad Ass Revenge" which was their first album for Arista Records, was largely ignored, as was their double-disc compilation "Fishbone 101: Nuttasaurusmeg Fossil Fuelin."
But despite the group's poor sales, they remained a very popular concert attraction and in 2000, the band was signed to a major record deal and given the chance to record a new album with several special guests, such as Gwen Stefani, George Clinton, Rick James, H.R. of Bad Brains, Donny Osmond, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. The result, Fishbone and the Familyhood Nextperience Present: The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx, was a critical success, but again saw poor sales.
In 2002, on their own independent record label, they released Live at the Temple Bar and More (2002) which contained all brand new original material recorded throughout 2001 and 2002. Throughout many personnel changes, the band retained their cult status and the new Fishbone continued to widen their musical horizons, releasing their first studio recording in 6 years titled Still Stuck In Your Throat in April of 2007.
In 2008 and 2009, the prospect of a reunion of the original members grew closer, when on different occasions, Walter Kibby, Christopher Dowd and Kendall Jones joining Fishbone on stage, most notably for the shoot of the Pepsi "Pass" commercial which aired in January 2009 and with the original members all on friendly speaking terms with each other.
The Eels, were named because band leader E (Mark Oliver Everett) wanted the group's records to be next to his solo efforts in alphabetical order-they later realized that the Eagles would fall in between. After achieving minor success as a solo artist (as A Man Called E, Mr. E or simply E), Everett teamed up with Jonathan "Butch" Norton and Tommy Walter to form the Eels and they became one of the first groups to sign a record deal with Dreamworks.
The Eels debut album, "Beautiful Freak" featured an unsettling album cover (a bug-eyed prepubescent girl), melancholy pop, eccentric musical composition and quirky production and yielded the Top 40 hit "Novocaine For The Soul" (which also was the number one Modern Rock hit for two weeks). The group toured extensively to support the release and built up their name in both the U.S. and Europe. The song "My Beloved Monster" was featured on the soundtrack for the blockbuster movie "Shrek" and two other cuts could be heard in the fifth season of the Television show "Homicide: Life On The Street" - "Not Ready Yet" and "Guest List." Additionally, the song "Lucky Day In Hell" could be heard on the soundtrack for the movie "Scream."
After some very difficult personal experiences (friends dying, his sister's suicide and his mother being diagnosed with cancer), E wrote a collection of dark, somber songs for the next album called "Electro-Shock Blues." Not nearly as commercially successful as their debut, the Eels had some success with the single "Last Stop: This Town" and a second single called "Cancer For The Cure," which was used on the soundtrack for the film "American Beauty."
The next releases "Daisies Of The Galaxy" (2000) and "Souljacker" (2001) saw the band return to prominence with more of an upbeat and accessible sound. They included the songs "It's A Motherxxxxxx" and "Selective Memory" and the single "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" (co-written by Michael Simpson of the Dust Brothers)-from "Daisies Of The Galaxy" and the single "That's Not Really Funny," which was used as the theme for the BBC comedy series "Monkey Dust," the song "Souljacker Part I" is included in the movie "Hot Fuzz," while the cut "Fresh Feeling" appears in the American sitcom "Scrubs."
In 2003, the Eels released "Shootenanny!," an album that was recorded "live" in the studio over a ten-day period and the song "Saturday Morning" was released as a single. But, band member "Butch" Norton left the group over "monetary concerns" and would go on to work with Rufus Wainwright. In 2005, the thirty-three track album "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" was released and was the band's first album for their new record label Vagrant Records. Contributions to the LP were made by Tom Waits, Peter Buck and John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful). A tour followed and as a result a live album called Eels With Strings: Live at Town Hall was released.
In early 2008, Eels released their first greatest hits package as well as a compilation of b-sides, rarities, soundtrack singles and unreleased tracks. Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I spans the first decade of the Eels with singles from all their albums. Useless Trinkets contains 50 B-sides and rarities as well as a DVD of their 2006 Lollapalooza performances.
The band is probably one that may not have a huge following here in the States, but you have probably heard some of the songs and not know exactly who the band is. The Eels are probably more well-known in the UK and other parts of Europe, but since signing on with Vagrant Records, they will tour the United States with more frequency.
Stay tuned to DigitalDreamDoor as we explore more recent bands that fit our bird and animal theme.
The band made headlines in April of 1993 when band member John "Norwood" Fisher was arrested (along with four others) for trying to kidnap former band-mate Kendall Jones in California. Jones had left the group the previous month and reportedly was obsessed with the apocalypse and denouncing the band as "demonic." Fisher claimed he was just trying to take Jones to see psychiatric experts, while Jones said he had left the band over philosophical difference. Fisher ultimately was acquitted of the kidnapping charges and the band continued on.
Fishbone was led by vocalist/saxophonist Angelo Moore, and the band formed in 1979 while the members were still in junior high; the original lineup comprised Moore, Chris Dowd, Kendall Jones, Walter Kibby II, and John Norwood Fisher. They honed their skills performing in local clubs during the early '80s and then the group signed with Columbia Records in the mid-'80s, releasing a self-titled EP in 1985.
In 1987, in support of their first full-length album, "In Your Face," the band performed "Jamaica Ska" (the classic Jamaican ska single specifically written as a breakthrough U.S. pop charts hit) in the Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon reunion movie Back to the Beach.
"Hombre Lobo," is the title of the seventh Eels studio album and is scheduled to be released on June 2, 2009. "Hombre Lobo" is Spanish for "wolf man" or "werewolf" and may be a reference to E's unusually long beard which he originally grew when writing the song "Dog Faced Boy.
There have been several collaborations between the band and their fans. For example, in 2001, Eels held a contest that encouraged fans to submit song titles by e-mail, reporting that one would be picked, written around the title, and published as a b-side. Instead, they recorded a song called Hidden Track that used the submitted song titles pieced together as lyrics, as sung by Butch.
The soundtrack of the 2008 Jim Carrey comedy film "Yes Man" featured nine songs by the Eels, including "Man Up," a brand new song.