D e a d M i l k m e n B i o g r a p h y Dead Milkmen Biography D e a d M i l k m e n B i o g r a p h y
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After eleven years of relentless touring and prodigious output, the Dead Milkmen have recorded their last studio album: Stoney Extra Stout (Pig). Deciding in the Spring of 1994 that the perils of their existance as a band were not worth the rewards, the Dead Milkmen wrote an ending to their story. They toured once more and then set upon writing their swan song. The resulting album, perhaps their best, is for lack of a better description distilled Dead Milkmen. Relying primarily on a line-up of guitars, bass, and drums, the album features some classic Rodney vocals on eight songs. The lead track "Peter Bazooka" finds our favorite narrarator on a conspiracy chase to find the headquarters for the special secret project "The Cheese Stands Alone." Rodney creates the role of "Two Shoes" the blues singer, who's called "Two Shoes" because he always wears wears two shoes in "The Blues Song." Rodney also tries to find his sensitive side in "Don't Deny Your Inner Child." Joe adds five great pop songs to the mix with titles like "I'm Flying Away," "Like To Be Alone" and "The Man Who Rides The Bus." The album also contains Dean's first vocal on a little funk number called "Crystalline." Recording on an indie budget, the Dead Milkmen completed the basic tracts and over dubs in the historic Sigma Sound Studios and Third Story Recording in Philedelphia. Eli Janney mixed the album at Oz Studios in Baltimore. Adam Bernstein, longtime video collaborator, came in to do a video for the song "Peter Bazooka."
The Dead Milkmen began, as a concept, in a fanzine parody written by Joe Jack Talcum: called the DM Newzletter (Issue No. 11, January 1981). In the Newzletter, the band was Joe Jack Talcum, lead vocals; Peter Puke, drums; Jake Jiles, bass/ guitar; Johnny Keys O'Niel, keyboards; and Pope Garth O'Neil, manager/producer. The band played a kind of music called "neo-punk-folk," were largely hated by the critics, had a large cult following, seemed to be releasing records every few months, and were endlessly in court suing each other or their record label. One by one, the fictional characters were replaced by actual members. And by Issue Number 23 in October 1983, the Dead Milkmen played their first actual gig, which was described in the Newzletter with head lines: "Punks Invade Harleysville: 'I Feared for my life' - Local Farmer." The Newzletters are currently being prepared for posting on the World Wide Web.
The Dead Milkmen began playing wherever and whenever possible (antique fairs, barn dances, steak joints, night clubs, community centers, frat parties, shopping malls, etc.). The band's activities were noticed by two local college DJ's Lee Paris and Mike Morrison, who played their homemade tapes and invited them to play live on WXPN. Mike later brought the band to the attention of Colin Camerer, a Wharton economics professor who happend to own the indie label Fever Records. The band recorded their first record, Big Lizard In My Back Yard, for $900.
In the summer of 1985, college radio fell in love with the band and the now-classic "Bitchin' Camero." For six months the song remained in the top 20 tracks in CMJ. By the spring of 1986, the Dead Milkmen pursued their non-fictional roles full-time. They recorded three more records for Fever: Eat Your Paisley, Bucky Fellini and Beelzebubba. Evolving their absurd, satirical sensibilities, songs like "The Thing That Only Eats Hippies," "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance To Anything)," and "Big Time Operator" built a solid following for the band, filling clubs in an endless string of dates circling North America.
In November of 1988, Beelzebubba was released. The song "Punk Rock Girl" took the band and record company by suprise, taking the band from the exclusive ranks of college radio to the newly developing network of "modern rock" commercial stations. The song's video, directed by Adam Bernstein, was added to MTV and quickly climbed the top 20 countdown.
In 1990, The Dead Milkmen signed a lucrative deal with Enigma. The label that had distributed and marketed every Fever record and had just completed a much-ballyhooed partnership deal with Capitol. The band's next album Metaphysical Graffiti recieved the band's now familiar attention from college radio but its first single "Methodist Coloring Book" did not achieve the sucess at MTV or Modern Rock Radio that Enigma had hoped. During the marketing of the single the cracks in Enigma's partnership with Capitol began appearing in the music industry trades, and by the end of the bands tour in support of the record, Enigma was no more.
Scrambling to break clear of the fall out, the Milkmen followed former Enigma president Wes Hein to Hollywood Records. One of eight new major labels opening up at the time, the brand new Disney-owned label seemed perfect. The band set upon to write a very pop album dominated by songs with Joe on lead vocals, and Rodney on keyboards. The change in direction met with resistance from the direction of the new "alternative rock" sound which was dominated by "grunge." The Milkmen would release the ten song LP, Not Richard But Dick, before leaving Hollywood as a result of a change in management.
The uncertainty of the Enigma/Hollywood days left its toll on the band. Reassessment led them back to Restless Records, where the Fever Records catalog was being distributed. A loose deal was set up for the band, the results being Chaos Rules -- Live At The Trocadaro (a compilation of two performances in the Philadelphia club) and the last studio album Stoney Extra Stout (Pig). Rodney has gone on to form a new band called Burn Witch Burn, which plays an origional form of Irish folk music. Joe is currently working on a collection of songs and musicians which he hopes to turn into a stable band, most likely going under the name Touch Me Zoo. Dave has pursued his interest in the former Yugoslavia and is working on a master degree at Indiana University. Dean is working in the suburbs of Philadelphia and hopes to return to the wold of commercial art (Dean is responsible for all the Dead Milkmen's artwork).