In 1993 the biggest act in indie rock, by far, was Nirvana, but the Lemonheads weren’t all that far behind. Both acts had enjoyed a spectacularly successful 1992: Nirvana’s Nevermind had hit #1 on the album charts in January, and the Lemonheads followed suit by placing two songs off of the band’s fifth album It’s a Shame About Ray in the top 10, the title track and a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.”
The lead singer of the Lemonheads was a handsome young lad named Evan Dando, a polarizing figure whose beachy good looks didn’t exactly transmit the requisite values of integrity and struggle to the indie rock faithful. The Lemonheads had jumped to Atlantic for 1990’s Lovey, an act that carried far more symbolic meaning at that time than it would today. (Yes, Nirvana made a similar jump but then, Cobain wasn’t as dreamy-handsome as Dando.)
In early 1993, Steve Albini and Nirvana were holed up at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, to record what would become In Utero. At that moment Dando and his band were in Australia for a series of dates that, interestingly enough, would later be documented in a VHS called The Lemonheads: Two Weeks in Australia. While he was there, Dando called up Nirvana to shoot the shit for a while.
Now, indie rockers did not generally have access to email in 1993, and intercontinental telephone calls from hotel rooms were just about the most expensive form of communication imaginable, a fact that doesn’t seem to have fazed Dando a bit. At some point the speculative size of Dando’s hotel bill must have become a topic of conversation in Minnesota because after a while the game became to find a way to keep Dando on the line for as long as possible.
Someone, I’d imagine Kurt, thrusts the receiver in Albini’s face with the mandate to make something up. Forced to improvise, Albini passes himself off as a personal assistant to Madonna, who was just indescribably huge in the early 1990s, any connection with whom would represent a BIG rise in fortune for any former Taang! Records act such as the Lemonheads.
Would Mr. Dando mind waiting on the line while Madonna attends to other business?
And waiting…. and waiting…. and waiting?
Listen as Steve Albini himself tells the story below…
Thank you Tim Hinely!