|Origin||Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States|
Guitarist Dean Wareham, drummer Damon Krukowski and bassist Naomi Yang had met at the Dalton School in New York City in 1981, but began playing together during their time as students at Harvard University. Wareham and Krukowski had formed a series of punk-influenced student bands, before Wareham returned to New York. When he returned in 1987 he and Krukowski formed a new band, with Yang joining the group on bass guitar, the new group deciding on the name Galaxie 500, after a friend's car, a Ford Galaxie 500. In their early years, Krukowski didn't own a drum kit, so he borrowed one from his Harvard classmate Conan O'Brien, who'd bought a kit but had recently given up playing it. This drum kit can be heard on many of Galaxie 500's early recordings.
The band began playing gigs in Boston and New York City, and recorded a demo which they sent to Shimmy Disc label boss and producer Mark Kramer, who agreed to produce the band. With Kramer at the controls, the band recorded the "Tugboat" single in February 1988, and the "Oblivious" flexi-disc, and moved on to record their debut album, Today, which was released on the small Aurora label. The band toured the United Kingdom in late 1988 and in 1989, they signed to Rough Trade, and released their second album, On Fire, which has been described as "lo-fi psychedelia reminiscent of Jonathan Richman being backed by The Velvet Underground", and is considered the band's defining moment. On Fire reached number 7 in the UK Indie Chart, and met with much critical acclaim in the United Kingdom, but was less well received by the US music press, who cited Wareham's 'vocal limitations' as a weakness.
Galaxie 500 recorded two sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 programme, these later released on the Peel Sessions album. Their cover of Jonathan Richman's "Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste" was also voted into number 41 in 1989's Festive 50 by listeners to the show.
Galaxie 500's records were released in the US and UK on the independent Rough Trade label. When Rough Trade went bankrupt in 1991, Krukowski and Yang purchased the masters at auction, reissuing them on Rykodisc in 1996 as a box set containing all three albums and another disc of rarities.
Musical style and influences
Galaxie 500 used fairly simple instrumental techniques enhanced with an atmospheric production style. The Velvet Underground and Jonathan Richman have been identified as key influences. In interviews on the Galaxie 500 DVD Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste, Wareham cites Spacemen 3 as another key inspiration.
Post-Galaxie 500 activities
After leaving Galaxie 500, Wareham tried his hand at production, working with Mercury Rev. He released a solo single, "Anesthesia," in February 1992, and formed a new band, Luna. Krukowski and Yang continued to record under the moniker Pierre Etoile (French for "Rock Star"), and then Damon and Naomi (whose first two releases were also produced by Kramer), and as members of Magic Hour. They also began the avant-garde press Exact Change.
In June 2010 Dean Wareham announced on his website that he would be going on an autumn tour under the moniker "Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500," where he would, as the moniker suggests, only play Galaxie 500 songs.
Galaxie 500's music had an influence on many later indie music groups, including Low. It has been covered and referenced by several well known artists. In Liz Phair's song "Stratford-on-Guy", she sings, "And I was pretending that I was in a Galaxie 500 video." In Xiu Xiu's song "Dr. Troll", Jamie Stewart sings, "Listen to On Fire and pretend someone could love you." On Neutral Milk Hotel's debut album, On Avery Island, the song "Naomi" is believed to be about Naomi Yang, and includes the line "There is no Naomi in view/She walks through Cambridge stocks and strolls"; in 2011, Yang created a music video for the song. The Brian Jonestown Massacre's And This Is Our Music was titled in reference to the group's album This Is Our Music (which itself was titled after Ornette Coleman's album This Is Our Music). Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore has cited Galaxie 500's album Today as "the guitar record of 1988".
"Tugboat" has been covered by many artists, including The Submarines, who recorded it with famed indie rock producer Adam Lasus for their iTunes Live Session EP, British Sea Power, on Rough Trade compilation Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before..., Welsh lo-fi band Joanna Gruesome, and Portastatic. In 2010 the bands Cloudland Canyon and Citay, appeared on a 7" EP together wherein they both covered Galaxie 500, the former taking on "Temperature's Rising" and the latter doing a version of "Tugboat". English artist World Of Fox covered "Flowers" in his 2011 release on Where It's At Is Where You Are Records.
- Galaxie 500 (box set) (1996) Rykodisc
- The Portable Galaxie 500 (best-of) (1998) Rykodisc
- Uncollected (rarities) (2004)
- "Tugboat"/"King of Spain" (1988) Aurora
- "Oblivious" included on a hard-vinyl compilation 7" free with Chemical Imbalance magazine
- "Blue Thunder"/"Hail" (split w/ Straitjacket Fits) (1989)
- "Blue Thunder EP" (1990) Rough Trade
- "Rain"/"Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste" (1990) Caff
- "Fourth of July"/"Here She Comes Now" (1990) Rough Trade
- "Snowstorm" (live)/"Pictures" (live) (2004)
- "Tugboat" (1988)
- "Blue Thunder" (1989)
- "When Will You Come Home" (1989)
- "Fourth of July" (1990)
- Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste (2004)
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