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Gin Blossoms in 2009
|Origin||Tempe, Arizona, United States|
|Genres||Alternative rock, power pop, jangle pop|
|Years active||1987–1997, 2002–present|
|Labels||A&M, Hybrid, 429|
|Associated acts||Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, The Refreshments, Gas Giants, The Longshadows, The Chimeras, The Pistoleros|
Scott "Scotty" Johnson
|Past members||Doug Hopkins
Phillip "Phil" Rhodes
Gin Blossoms is an American rock band formed in 1987 in Tempe, Arizona. They first came to notice with the song "Hey Jealousy" from their first major label album, New Miserable Experience (1992), but this achievement was coupled with the forced firing and eventual suicide of the song's author and band co-founder Doug Hopkins, prompting the title of their follow-up album, Congratulations I'm Sorry (1996). After a series of charting singles, the band broke up in 1997. They reunited in 2002 and released a fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, in 2006, and a fifth, No Chocolate Cake, in 2010.
Members of the band's early years include lead guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, bass guitarist Bill Leen, Jesse Valenzuela (lead vocalist at first, later rhythm guitarist and backing vocals), rhythm guitarist Richard Taylor, Taylor's replacement Steven Severson, drummer Chris McCann, McCann's replacement Dan Henzerling, and Severson's replacement Robin Wilson (rhythm guitarist at first, later lead vocalist). The band's name comes from a photo of W.C. Fields in Kenneth Anger's infamously erroneous book, Hollywood Babylon, which bore the caption "W.C. Fields with gin blossoms", referring to the actor's telangiectasia-ravaged face and rhinophymic nose by the slang term for the skin condition known as rosacea.
In their early years, the Gin Blossoms became well-known around their hometown of Tempe, Arizona. The band's frequent touring resulted in an increase in popularity. They independently recorded their first full-length album, Dusted, which was released in 1989. The group is known for the "southwestern sound", or "Mill Avenue sound", similar to other bands from Arizona such as The Sidewinders, The Refreshments, The Meat Puppets, and Dead Hot Workshop.
By the early 1990s, Wilson and Valenzuela switched roles, with Wilson taking on lead vocal duties and Valenzuela concentrating on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Along with Leen on bass and Hopkins on lead guitar, Phillip Rhodes became the new drummer. After being signed to A&M Records, the band began to work on their first major label album. Initial attempts faltered and the band released an EP, Up and Crumbling, instead.
Gin Blossoms named their first full-length studio album New Miserable Experience. In February 1992, while still working to complete it, founding member and lead guitarist/songwriter Hopkins drank heavily and grew increasingly depressed during the process. Faced with the prospect of being dropped by A&M, the band was forced by A&M to fire Hopkins. Scott Johnson was brought aboard on lead guitar after the album was completed. The first single released from it was Hopkins' song "Hey Jealousy". It reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, largely fueling the success of New Miserable Experience. However, the achievement was overshadowed by Hopkins' suicide on December 4, 1993. The following year, another song by Hopkins, "Found Out About You", also reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks.
Between their first and second albums, the Gin Blossoms contributed the single "Til I Hear It from You" for the Empire Records soundtrack. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second major album, Congratulations I'm Sorry, was released in 1996. Yielding one top ten hit, "Follow You Down" - No. 9 Billboard Hot 100, the album met with mixed reviews.
With chart success came opportunities to appear as musical guests on late night television. Between 1993 and 1996, Gin Blossoms appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1993), Late Show With David Letterman (1994), and as featured musical act on Saturday Night Live (1996). Gin Blossoms appeared on the Late Show With David Letterman in solo appearances, and once performed "Christine Sixteen" with the members of KISS. Gin Blossoms became a favorite of Late Show musical director, Paul Shaffer, and their music was often featured as the show cut to and from commercials. The band was also a featured performer in the closing credits of the movie, Wayne's World 2 (1993), performing "Idiot Summer" on-screen as part of the fictional concert, "Waynestock",
Written by Hopkins before his dismissal from the band, "Hey Jealousy" was a huge success for the band. The song is a man's plea for his former girlfriend to let him in. It reached No. 25 on the US Billboard chart.
The second hit by Hopkins (and the second to reach No. 25 on the Billboard chart) the song is the band's only No. 1 hit, topping the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US. The song's theme focuses on rumors following a couple's breakup.
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Breakup and reunion
The Gin Blossoms broke up in spring 1997. Vocalist Wilson and drummer Rhodes launched the Gas Giants. Leen formed a local band called Rai and then retired from music to operate a rare book store. Valenzuela fronted a short-lived outfit called the Low Watts, released a solo album, and kept busy writing and producing. Johnson joined another Tempe-based band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Wilson ventured into producing as well, at his Mayberry Studios in Tempe, Arizona. (The studio is now called Uranus Studios.)
The Gas Giants announced an "indefinite hiatus" in June 2001. On December 4, 2001, it was announced that Scott was leaving Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers to rejoin the Gin Blossoms. The band regrouped and began playing together again in earnest in 2002, having done a couple of one-off shows in the interim. In the words of the front man Robin Wilson at the time, "We always said our breakup wasn't forever and right now we're all feeling like we want to be Gin Blossoms again. We make a noise together that we can't make otherwise. We respect and appreciate that we need each other to create that sound. This time we hope to avoid being swallowed by the chaos."
In preparation for the band's official reunion show, Rhodes suffered a breakdown due to his ongoing battle with alcohol. Shortly after entering rehab, he was formally dismissed from the band. Phil Leavitt of Dada originally took Rhodes' place in the line up, and then Gary Smith (of The Pistoleros, another Tempe band) stepped in. Scott Kusmirek took over drumming for the band from 2002 to 2004. In January 2005, it was announced that Rhodes, who had been sober for over two years, would rejoin the band. The re-entry of Rhodes was short-lived, however. Kusmirek returned to the band, taking Rhodes' place until September 30, 2008, when a press release issued by the band explained that he and the group had parted ways. John Richardson joined as the new drummer.
The band's fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, was originally recorded at Wilson's Mayberry Studios in Tempe. However, the album was re-recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, where the band had recorded all of their previous albums, along with other notable groups such as Big Star and The Replacements. Major Lodge Victory was released by Hybrid Recordings on August 8, 2006, and "Learning the Hard Way" was the first single. Major Lodge Victory entered the Billboard 200 album chart at number 159. This was the first time the Gin Blossoms had appeared on the Billboard 200 chart in more than 10 years, since the week of July 13, 1996, with their previous album, Congratulations… I'm Sorry.
Gin Blossoms released a live album, Live In Concert, on May 15, 2009. This album contains live recordings of the band's hits such as "Hey Jealousy" and "Follow You Down", as well as more recent singles such as "Learning the Hard Way" and "Long Time Gone", and a live cover version of Elton John's "Rocket Man". The band's fifth studio album, No Chocolate Cake, was released on September 28, 2010. The first single, "Miss Disarray" was released to radio stations on August 2, 2010. Over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday the band traveled to Iraq and played a series of shows for American troops stationed there.
The band announced on its website on March 4, 2012, that Richardson had left the band to pursue other recording and performing projects. The band stated in its news release, "John is a great drummer and all of us support his passion for recording. We all wish him the very best and thank him for all his hard work and dedication." The band also announced that Scott Hessel would be its road drummer. Hessel has been a member of another Tempe band, Let Go. The Gin Blossoms joined Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit and Marcy Playground on the Summerland Tour 2012, a 31-date nationwide tour that began on June 28, 2012, in Saratoga, California, and ended on August 11, 2012, in Laughlin, Nevada.
- Bill Leen – bass guitar (1987–1997, 2002–present)
- Jesse Valenzuela – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (1987–1997, 2002–present); lead vocals (1987–1988)
- Robin Wilson – lead vocals, percussion, harmonica, acoustic guitar (1988–1997, 2002–present); rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (1988)
- Scott "Scotty" Johnson – lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1992–1997, 2002–present)
- Scott Hessel – drums, percussion (2012–present)
- Dusted (1989)
- New Miserable Experience (August 4, 1992) US No. 30; 4x Platinum
- Congratulations I'm Sorry (February 13, 1996) US No. 10; Platinum
- Major Lodge Victory (August 8, 2006) US No. 159
- No Chocolate Cake (September 28, 2010) US No. 73
- Wood, James (January 8, 2013). "Interview: Gin Blossoms' Jesse Valenzuela Discusses the Band's Plans for 2013". Guitar World. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "429 Records". 429 Records. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Biography: Gin Blossoms". AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- Brody, Jane E. (March 16, 2004). "Sometimes Rosy Cheeks Are Just Rosy Cheeks". The New York Times.
- "Rock Music And Insanity". Illuminati-news.com. December 20, 2000. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- "The Gin Blossoms". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- Dougherty, Steve; Small, Michael (April 4, 1994). "Haunted by success". People. p. 53.
- "Gin Blossoms". Gin Blossoms. Archived from the original on September 4, 2004.
- 2002, personal interview, Phillip Rhodes
- "John Richardson". Gin Blossoms. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
- "John Moves Forward, Scott Hessel Moves in!". Gin Blossoms. March 4, 2012. Archived from the original on April 14, 2012.
- "Gin Blossoms are cutting their new album with the R.E.M. production team of Don Dixon and Mitch Easter". The Arizona Republic. June 16, 2016.
- Scott "Scotty" Kusmirek performed drums on all tracks of the 2006 album Major Lodge Victory except "California Sun", and was credited as a session musician, while session musician Dorian Crozier performed drums on "California Sun". Scott "Scotty" Kusmirek also performed drums on the track "Go Crybaby" from the 2010 album No Chocolate Cake, credited as an additional musician.
- John Richardson performed drums on all tracks of the 2010 album No Chocolate Cake except "I'm Ready" and "Go Crybaby", and was credited as a session musician, while session musician Chase Duddy performed drums on "I'm Ready", and session musician Scott "Scotty" Kusmirek performed drums on "Go Crybaby".
- Sun Herald[dead link]
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