Gin Blossoms in 2018
|Origin||Tempe, Arizona, United States|
|Genres||Alternative rock, jangle pop|
|Labels||A&M, Hybrid, 429|
|Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, The Refreshments, Gas Giants, The Longshadows, The Chimeras, The Pistoleros|
Scott "Scotty" Johnson
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 removal 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 second 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. With the other members hesitant to fire Hopkins, A&M forcefully removed him from the band and withheld $15,000 owed to Hopkins until he agreed to sign over half of his publishing royalties and relinquish his mechanical royalties. Hopkins reluctantly agreed to these demands because of his dire financial situation. Scott Johnson was chosen by the band as Hopkins' stand in on tour, and became a permanent member in 1994.
The first single released from it was Hopkins' song "Hey Jealousy". It reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on Billboards 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 Billboards 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" peaked at 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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Robin Wilson (People, 1994)
The Gin Blossoms broke up in early 1997. Wilson and Rhodes launched the Gas Giants while 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. 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 since the week of July 13, 1996, with 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.
On April 1, 2017, at a concert in Niagara Falls, Ontario, singer Robin Wilson confirmed a new album has been completed but no date for release is announced as of yet. Wilson did say at some of the final shows of the recently completed New Miserable Experience 25th Anniversary Tour that the new album will be released on May 11, 2018. Mixed Reality was released on Cleopatra Records on June 15, 2018.