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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Music is the Doctor #28 Natalie Merchant & 10,000 Maniacs

The 28th Edition of Music is the Doctor celebrates the music of Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.

A Brief Telling of the History of 10,000 Maniacs 1981-1993 and the Solo Career of Natalie Merchant.
1. 10,000 Maniacs
In 1981 Natalie Merchant joined a band called Still Life in her hometown of Jamestown, New York.  The band consisted of Dennis Drew (keyboards), Steven Gustafson (bass), Chet Cardinale (drums), Robert Buck (guitar), and Teri Newhouse (vocalist and Buck's ex-wife). Gustafson invited Natalie Merchant, who was 17 at the time, to do some vocals. John Lombardo, who was in a band called The Mills (along with brother guitarist/vocalists Mark Liuzzo and Paul Liuzzo and drummer Mike Young) and used to play occasionally with Still Life, was invited to join permanently on guitar and vocals.  Cardindale and Newhouse left the band in July 1981 and thus opened the door to Natalie to become the lead vocalist. The band changed its name to Burn Victims and then to 10,000 Maniacs after the low-budget horror movie Two Thousand Maniacs!

The band played its first show as 10,000 Maniacs on 7th September 1981. Fed up with playing cover versions they began writing their own material, Natalie providing the lyrics and often Steve Gustafson the music. By 1982 the band had moved to Athens, Georgia and in March released their Debut EP Human Conflict Number Five on their own label Christian Burial Music. The stay in Athens didn't last long as promised gigs dried up and by November they were back in their hometown of Jamestown, New York.

In 1983 Jerry Augustyniak became the new drummer for the band, he had met the group on Buffalo where he had been playing in a Punk band called The Stains. Between March and July of that year the Maniacs began recording their Debut album. Secrets of The I Ching was well received by critics and even caught the attention of John Peel (he gets everywhere does our John!). My Mother the War became a minor Indie Chart hit and even got them a TV spot on Channel 4 music show The Tube (video of My Mother The War is included on the Playlist).

In November 1984 the band signed to Elektra Records and in the spring of 1985 recorded their second album and their major label Debut The Wishing Chair. Robert Buck had begun to contribute a lot more musically to the band on this album. Whilst not a chartbuster it did receive a lot of praise from critics.

Lombardo left the band in 1986 and the remaining members carried on and between March-April of 1987 with Peter Asher producing they recorded what would become their first breakout album - In My Tribe - that peaked at #37 in the Billboard Chart. Buck, Drew and Augustynaik all made big contributions to the album. The album was released on 7th July and stayed on the chart for 77 weeks.

Blind Man's Zoo followed in 1989 and became their first album to chart in the UK, reaching #18. In the States it stalled at #13. Lombardo was back helping the band in 1990 when he was involved in the remastering of their Debut EP and Album that was relased as Hope Chest (the full title being Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983). John Lombardo was now playing alongside Mary Ramsey as John and Mary and on the Hope Chest Tour of 1990 they supported 10,000 Maniacs.

After a breakaway from the band in 1990 to the summer of 1991(Natalie had been working as a volunteer , as recording for a new album, their fifth, got under way Natalie dropped the bomb on them saying that she would be leaving the band in two year's time. This knowledge the band managed to keep secret until it was announced on MTV in 1993! In the mean time Our Time in Eden would be recorded and released in September 1992, it did okay on the charts I guess but not as well as Blind Man's Zoo. In the UK it peaked at #33 and in the US at #28. The last album that Natalie would appear on with 10,000 Maniacs would MTV Unplugged which gave the band their biggest Chart Single in the USA - a cover of Because the Night (#11).

After Natalie's departure John and Mary were invited to join the band, and despite a few line up changes down through the years and the death of Robert Buck in 2000 the band have continued playing live and releasing new music (since 1997 they have released four albums, an EP, a live album and a few singles).

2. Natalie Merchant
Since leaving 10,000 Maniacs Natalie has released a total of 9 albums between 1995-2015, had a few hit singles, has toured and been active in social concerns, in particular alongside Shelter (for whom she directed a short documentary entitled Shelter: A Concert Film To Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence) and One Billion Rising - a global campaign calling for end to violence against Women. She was also one of many artists involved in Give Us Your Poor, a national Public Education Campaign addressing Homelessness, her song on the album was There is No Reason. She has also collaborated with Billy Bragg on Mermaid Avenue - songs of Woody Guthrie and also with R.E.M.

Apologies for writing so much, I hadn't intended to when I began! Briefly let me run through her albums: Tigerlily (1995), Ophelia (1998), Live in Concert (1999), Motherland (2001), The House Carpenter's Daughter (2003)*, Retrospective:1995-2005 (2005), Leave Your Sleep (2010)*, Natalie Merchant (2013) and Paradise is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings (2015)*.

10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant
The Music is the Doctor Playlist

On the Playlist
10,000 Maniacs
These Are The Days.
Don't Talk.
What's The Matter Here?
Like The Weather.
My Mother The War (Live on The Tube).
Candy Everybody Wants.
Stockton Gala Days (MTV Unplugged).
Dust Bowl.
City of Angels (Live).
Few and Far Between (US TV).
Headstrong (Live).
Hey Jack Kerouac/Eat For Two (UK TV).

Natalie Merchant
Verdi Cries (UK TV).
Motherland (Celtic Connections UK TV).
Beloved Wife (Live).
Jealousy (Letterman).
Break Your Heart (VH1 Storytellers).
Because the Night (Letterman).
Build A Levee (Letterman).
Sally Ann (Letterman).

Red Rain - with Peter Gabriel and R.E.M.
Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key - with Billy Bragg and Wilco.
Party of God - with Billy Bragg.
To Sir With Love - with Michael Stipe.
Photograph - with R.E.M.
To Love Is To Bury - with Cowboy Junkies.

Natalie Merchant
Cowboy Romance.
Tell Yourself.
Giving Up Everything.
Ladybird (Live).
Life is Sweet (VH1 Storytellers).
San Andreas Fault (Live).
Kind and Generous (Live at TED 2010).
Wonder (VH1 Storytellers). 

For More Information on Natalie Merchant and Tour Dates for 2016 check out her WEBSITE.

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