Blind Man's Zoo

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Blind Man's Zoo
The cover is a montage of photos of elephants
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 16, 1989 (1989-05-16)
RecordedNovember 1988 – March 1989, Dreamland Recording Studio, West Hurley, New York
GenreAlternative rock, folk rock, soft rock
ProducerPeter Asher
10,000 Maniacs chronology
In My Tribe
Blind Man's Zoo
Hope Chest
Singles from Blind Man's Zoo
  1. "Trouble Me"
  2. "Eat for Two"
  3. "You Happy Puppet"

Blind Man's Zoo is 10,000 Maniacs' fourth studio album, released in 1989. The album contains songs addressing social issues and current events prior to and during the production of the album. The song "Trouble Me", the album's first single to be released, was written as dedication to the lead singer Natalie Merchant's father. The song charted in the United States and the United Kingdom and became a minor hit. "Eat for Two", a song about teenage pregnancy, also hit the music charts. The album has received mixed reception. It reached No. 13 in the Billboard Top 200 chart and number eighteen in the UK Albums Chart.

Production and songs[edit]

The title of the album Blind Man's Zoo was inspired by a fictional game from a children's book.[1] The album was recorded in Dreamland Recording Studio, converted from a rustic church in Woodstock, New York.[2]

A ballad "Trouble Me", the fourth track of the album, co-written by Dennis Drew and Natalie Merchant, was the first released single of the album. The song was written for Merchant's father who was hospitalized at the time.[1][3] Gospel singer Jevetta Steele provided the background vocals for the song.[2] Other songs were inspired by social issues and events before the album was produced, despite Merchant's limited knowledge on politics.[4] The first track, "Eat for Two", tackles teenage pregnancy and centers on a teenage girl who is five months pregnant. Merchant did not intend the song to be a "pro-life" message, and the song does not address abortion.[4] For the song, Rob Buck played the guitar; Jerome Augustyniak, percussion.[2] "Eat for Two"[5] and the fifth track, "You Happy Puppet",[6] were also commercially released as singles.

The second track, "Please Forgive Us", concerns the US intervention on Central America,[4] especially the Iran-Contra affair.[7] The third track, "The Big Parade", concerns a Vietnam War veteran[1] and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.[2] The seventh track, "Poison in the Well", concerns a neighborhood suffering from effects of hazardous waste[1] and refers to involvement of the Hooker Chemical Company from Buffalo, New York with the chemical waste site Love Canal, which resulted in multiple cases of cancer and infertilities.[4] The eighth track, "Dust Bowl", concerns the working class.[7] The tenth track, "Hateful Hate", concerns the European colonisation of Africa and racial tensions between the European descendants and native Africans.[4] The eleventh and final track, "Jubilee", tackling religious fanaticism,[3] concerns a racist who burns down a dance hall where he had witnessed an interracial relationship of a young black man and a white woman.[7]

Merchant said about most of the album:

The theme that I keep returning to with every song is betrayal[.] "Eat for Two" is self-betrayal. "The Big Parade" is a nation betraying its citizens. "Please Forgive Us" is a nation betraying another nation. "Hateful Hate" is a race betraying another race. "Jubilee" is, first, a man who's betrayed by nature or God[...] "Poison in the Well" is the question of corporate culpability when there's a toxic-waste dump that suddenly is seeping into the main water supply of a neighborhood. That corporation has betrayed those people.[1]

Music videos of "Eat for Two," "Trouble Me", "You Happy Puppet", "Dust Bowl", and "Hateful Hate" were featured in the VHS release, 10,000 Maniacs: Time Capsule, Filmed 1982–1990,[8] which was re-released on DVD as 10,000 Maniacs: Time Capsule, Filmed 1982–1993, featuring bonus music videos from the band's MTV Unplugged live concert, where the band performed "Eat for Two" and "Trouble Me".


Music critic Anthony DeCurtis said that the track "Trouble Me" was "the most uplifting" and "the antidote" to the remainder of the album, which DeCurtis considered "a starkly pessimistic statement."[1] Spin journalist Timothy White called the album the band's "best release".[2] Another Spin journalist Jonathan Van Meter considered the lyrics "concerned, self-righteous, [and] at times pretentious yet thoroughly engaging."[4] People magazine praised the music, including Rob Buck's guitar performance, but found it "monotonous". It also found the track "Jubilee" "a major downer."[7]

Allmusic reviewer Chris Woodstra rated the album three and a half out of five stars, considering it inferior to its predecessor In My Tribe and writing that despite "all of its earnestness and good-intentioned teachings, [the album] ultimately fails in its heavy-handed and generally uninteresting approach."[9] Chicago Tribune rated it three and a half out of four.[10] One Rolling Stone reviewer rated it four out of five.[11] Another Rolling Stone reviewer rated it three out of five and wrote that the album "isn't quite as cheerful, but despite its issue-oriented focus, Merchant and her bandmates [sic] never turn their songs into a bully pulpit."[12] Robert Christgau graded it "B−".[13]

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, the album reached number 13 in the Billboard Top 200 chart[14] on the week ending July 29, 1989.[15] In the United Kingdom, it debuted and peaked at number 18 in the UK Albums Chart[16] on the week ending May 27, 1989.[17]

In the Billboard charts, "Trouble Me" reached number 20 in the Mainstream Rock chart on the week ending July 8, 1989;[18] number three in the Modern Rock Tracks chart on the week ending June 10;[19] number 44 in the Hot 100 chart on the week ending August 12;[20] and number seven in the Adult Contemporary chart on the week ending August 19, 1989.[21] "Trouble Me" reached number 77 in the UK Singles Chart[16] on the week ending June 17, 1989.[22]

"Eat for Two" reached number 12 in the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart on the week ending August 12, 1989,[19] and number 93 in the UK Singles Chart[16] on the week ending November 11.[23]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Natalie Merchant except as noted.

Side one

  1. "Eat for Two" – 3:26
  2. "Please Forgive Us" (Robert Buck, Merchant) – 3:22
  3. "The Big Parade" (Jerome Augustyniak, Merchant) – 4:00
  4. "Trouble Me" (Dennis Drew, Merchant) – 3:08
  5. "You Happy Puppet" (Buck, Merchant) – 3:35
  6. "Headstrong" – 4:13

Side two

  1. "Poison in the Well" (Drew, Merchant) – 3:05
  2. "Dust Bowl" (Buck, Merchant) – 4:11
  3. "The Lion's Share" (Drew, Merchant) – 3:00
  4. "Hateful Hate" – 4:28
  5. "Jubilee" – 6:07


10,000 Maniacs

Additional musicians

  • Jevetta Steele – backing vocals
  • Jason Osborn – arrangement, orchestral direction
  • Krista Bennion Feeney – first violin
  • Mitsuru Tsubota – second violin
  • Louise Schulman – viola
  • Myron Lutzke – cello
  • Dennis Godburn – bassoon
  • Robert Wolinsky – harpsichord
  • Scott Kuney – classical guitar
  • Frank Luther – double bass

Other personnel



Year Chart Position
1989 Billboard 200 13
1989 UK Albums Chart 18[24]


Year Single Chart Position
1989 "Eat for Two" Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 12
1989 "Trouble Me" Billboard Adult Contemporary 7
1989 "Trouble Me" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 20
1989 "Trouble Me" Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 3
1989 "Trouble Me" The Billboard Hot 100 44


Organization Level Date
RIAA – US Gold July 11, 1989
RIAA – US Platinum December 12, 1997


  1. ^ a b c d e f DeCurtis, Anthony (1999). Rocking My Life Away: Writing About Music and Other Matters. pp. 162–164. ISBN 0-8223-2419-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e White, Timothy (July 1989). "Spins: '10,000 Maniacs, Blind Man's Zoo (Elektra)'". Spin. pp. 107, 109. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music, edited by Michael LaBlanc. Vol. 3.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Van Meter, Jonathan (September 1989). "She Sells Sanctuary". Spin. pp. 45–48. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  5. ^ Eat for Two (cassette). 10,000 Maniacs. Elektra. 1989. 4-69279.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ You Happy Puppet (CD). 10,000 Maniacs. Elektra. 1989. 9 66669-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ a b c d "Picks and Pans Review: Blind Man's Zoo". People. July 3, 1989.
  8. ^ "10,000 Maniacs: Time Capsule 1982–1990 (1990)". Video Source Book. Thomson Gale. 2007. p. 2900.
  9. ^ Woodstra, Chris. "10,000 Maniacs – Blind Man's Zoo". Allmusic. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  10. ^ "10,000 Maniacs- Blind Man's Zoo". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  11. ^ "10,000 Maniacs Recordings". Archived from the original on May 6, 2001. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  12. ^ J.D.C. (2004). "10,000 Maniacs". In Nathan Brackett; Christian David Hoard (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). p. 807. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  13. ^ "10,000 Maniacs". Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  14. ^ "10,000 Maniacs – Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  15. ^ "Billboard 200 (The Week of July 29, 1989)". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  16. ^ a b c "10,000 Maniacs". Official Charts. The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  17. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 75 (21 May 1989 – 27 May 1989)". Official Charts. The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  18. ^ "10,000 Maniacs – Chart History (Mainstream Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  19. ^ a b "10,000 Maniacs – Chart History (". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  20. ^ "10,000 Maniacs – Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  21. ^ "10,000 Maniacs – Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  22. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 (11 June 1989 - 17 June 1989)". Official Charts. The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 (05 November 1989 - 11 November 1989)". Official Charts. The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  24. ^ David Roberts, ed. (2006). British Hit Singles and Albums. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 553. ISBN 978-1904994107.

External links[edit]