Signed, Sealed and Misdelivered

The Rise and Fall of Bay Area Bands

It's the brass ring on the musical merry-go-round: The ever-elusive major-label contract. You read it in the local “musician wanted” ads all the time: “We have gigs, studio and major-label interest” (which usually means that the band is interested in signing to a major, not the other way around). With SF02 upon us, the thirst for the dotted line is bound to reach a fever pitch, visions of contract-carrying industry suits dancing through the dreams of the local music constituency. Remember, though, that getting signed is rarely the paper panacea it's cracked up to be; even the smallest slip-up can bring the house of cards crashing down. For every Green Day catching the platinum express out of town, there are 10 Fungo Mungos left choking in their dust on the side of the road, trying to thumb a ride back in. The following chart is a partial overview of Bay Area hopefuls who have been signed, sealed and misdelivered. God bless them, each and every one.

Sister Double Happiness
Sincere, Buddhism-inspired blues-rock for the masses
Played BMI New Music Night during Gavin convention of 1990 and killed 'em, baby

Release of Heart and Mind in 1991
Sincerity suddenly supplanted by irony as barometer of hipness among targeted demographic

Release of Heart and Mind in 1991
Singer Gary Floyd performs solo at a venue near you; Lynn Perko drums with local “all-stars” of Imperial Teen

Huey Lewis & the News
Square, yet oddly hip, corporate '80s bar rock
With hooks like these, who needs hype?
Chrysalis/EMI, later Elektra

1983's Sports goes multiplatinum; band sells 18 million records overall; in 1990, Weekly editor Sia Michel spies teen-age Czechoslovakian Huey Lewis cover band playing in Prague

Weezer aside, it's really not that “hip to be square”
1991's Hard at Play moves a relatively paltry 750,000 units stateside, peaks at No. 43; 1994's Four Chords and Several Years Ago relies on R&B covers, hinting at “creative decline”

They're “happy to be stuck with you” and we're stuck with them; the band just recently performed two sold-out shows at Slim's

Chili Peppered thrash-funk
Remember that thrash-funk bandwagon (Smokin' Rhythm Prawns, Fungo Mungo, et al.), when even Joel Selvin wrote in 1990 “the future is funk”? — Primus couldn't be everywhere at once Atlantic

Release of Psychefunkapus in 1990; Skin in 1991
The world really only needs one Primus
Fast fade to oblivion; play final gig at Kennel Club in 1993

Bassist Atom plays for Dieselhed; don't ask him about his Psychefunkapus past

Anglophiliac pop with disturbingly Queen-like tendencies toward the grandiose

Preserving the tradition of classic pop songsmithery; kitschy enough to ride then-popular '60s nostalgia wave

Release of Bellybutton in 1990; Spilt Milk in 1993 J
Start believing their own press: The single “Ghost at Number One” reaches new level of quasi-operatic goofiness; remain '60s holdouts despite the ” '70s revival”

Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer sing backup on dismal Ringo Starr album in 1993; band opens for the Black Crowes (see “Fatal Faux Pas”), then splits in 1994 over “creative differences”

Eric Dover sings with Slash's Snakepit; Manning rumored to be pursuing collaboration with former-Hermit Peter Noone

Noisy anti-rock with angst to spare and Pan-like lead singer
Apocalyptic early-'90s sound perfect for the newly “discovered” Generation X demographic Warner Bros.

Possible deficiency in networking skills: President of Warner reportedly had never heard of them during their entire tenure at the label

1992 debut Hate Fed Love delights hundreds; The Bomb gets dropped!
If you find out, keep it to yourself

Sample-heavy hip hop lite — u can't touch this!
See Huey Lewis (Note: Hooks not actually Hammer's own)

1990's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em stays at No. 1 for two months; Hammer gets his own Saturday morning cartoon

Hammer drops the “MC” prefix; endorses a Republican congressional candidate; gets an ill-advised “gangsta” makeover in '94; rumored staff mismanagement leads to a flurry of lawsuits.

1991's “Too Legit to Quit” tour plays to half-empty houses throughout the nation; Hammer draws boos at 1992 KMEL

Summer Jam concert in his hometown area
Looking into this new hip hop/jazz thing

4 Non Blondes
Phranc meets Robert Plant with twice the fashion sense and half the talent
Vocalist Linda Perry wore really weird hats

1993 debut Bigger, Better, Faster, More! goes platinum; single “What's Up?” eventually annoys everyone

Perry starts acting like a prima donna rock star, alienating original fan base by firing manager and guitarist Shauna Hall

Band breaks up in 1994 in the midst of recording a “much-anticipated” second album

Drummer Dawn Richardson runs Slot Records; Linda Perry recording solo album

Counting Crows
Jangly roots rock bridging the gap between MTV and VH1
See Sister Double Happiness; nine labels contact manager the day after their 1992 BMI showcase Geffen

1994 debut August & Everything After goes triple-platinum
“Too much, too soon” envy invokes ire of millions; lose respect in hometown
Jim Greer refers to them as “Counting Sheep” in sarcastic Spin profile
Still flying high at an arena near you

Digital Underground
Freaky Funkadelic-inspired hip hop to shake yer rump to
Flamboyant collective of artists rediscover the power of “Dr. Funkenstein” before Parliament samples become rap cliche

TNT/Tommy Boy
1990 debut Sex Packets goes platinum-plus; from the dance floors to the boardrooms, everyone's “doing the Humpty-Hump”

Release wacky “safe-sex concept album” during the height of the gangsta era
1994's The Body Hat Syndrome disappears without a trace; D.U. goes on “hiatus”

Tupac sits in the slammer while his new solo album shoots up the charts; D.U. spinoffs Raw Fusion released record last year

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