Sunday, January 4, 2009

Voices Carry 'Til Tuesday

New wave pop-rock quartet ‘Til Tuesday briefly shot to prominence during 1985 (possibly on a Thursday), with their hit single ‘Voices Carry’ playing a memorable cameo role during the end credits of the new wave movement. But they are better known as the band from which critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Aimee Mann hailed from.

Aimee Mann had a pretty eventful childhood. At age four she was abducted by her estranger mother and taken to Europe to live. Mann was back in the U.S. by her teen years, and based in Boston, where she attended the Berklee School of Music. She honed her professional craft playing with a local punk band called the Young Snakes (who released a single EP ‘Bark Along With The Young Snakes’, during 1982), and later had a brief stint with the future Al Jourgensen’s industrial-punk band, Ministry. By 1983 Mann felt it was time to front her own band. Mann had met drummer Michael Hausmann at Berklee, and had been living with him for some time, whilst English born guitarist Robert Holmes, and keyboardist Joe Pesce (that’s Pesce not Pesci) rounded out the quartet.

The newly dubbed ‘Til Tuesday won the Boston based WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble in 1983, and a demo version of the eventual album track ‘Love In A Vacuum’ became a favourite on local Boston radio, which led to them being signed to the Epic label. During the song-writing phase for the group’s first album, Mann and Hausmann’s relationship ended, which inspired Mann to pen many of the love lorn lyrics on ‘Til Tuesday’s debut set. The lead out single was the haunting and emotionally affecting title track, ‘Voices Carry’. The song was backed with a very effective promotional video, which portrayed singer/bassist Aimee Mann struggling to break free of an abusive and domineering partner, and garnered regular airplay on MTV and the like (also earning ‘Til Tuesday a MTV Award for ‘Best New Artist’). ‘Voices Carry’ carried all the way to #8 on the U.S. charts during mid ‘85, and shortly after echoed on the Australian charts at #15. The success and high profile of the debut single, pushed sales for the ‘Voices Carry’ album to #19 in the U.S. (OZ#81). The follow up single ‘Looking Over My Shoulder’ was another emotion charged song, but failed to do much charging on the charts (US#61).

During the period following ‘Til Tuesday’s first album, Aimee Mann became romantically involved with singer/song writer Jules Shear, which helped bring a smidgeon more publicity buzz to the band, who were struggling for a substantive profile in the media. ‘Til Tuesday’s 1986 sophomore album ‘Welcome Home’ (US#49) didn’t manage to do the business of its predecessor, and only spawned the minor hit singles ‘What About Love’ (US#26/OZ#92) and ‘Coming Up Close’ (US#59). The album saw ’Til Tuesday dispense with some of the slicker, high tech production values associated with new wave, and embrace a more personal and folk/rock-influenced sound, which may have damaged its prospects commercially, at least with an audience expecting more of the same.

Following the release of ‘Welcome Home’, keyboardist Joe Pesce left the ‘Til Tuesday home, and was replaced by Michael Montes, with the band’s line-up expanded by the addition of guitarists Jon Brion and Clayton Scoble. In the months following the release of ‘Welcome Home’, Mann’s relationship with Shear dissolved. With ‘Til Tuesday’s fortunes seemingly on the wane, and a difficult period in her personal life to contend with, Mann found herself weighed down to the point of incurring a serious case of writer’s block. A song-writing collaboration with the acclaimed Elvis Costello, helped Mann to re-tune to her creative channels, and once again she poured heart and soul into many of the tracks for ‘Til Tuesday’s introspectively toned third album, ‘Everything’s Different Now’ (produced by Rhett Davies - US#124) - the title track co-written with Matthew Sweet (see future post). Things certainly were different for Mann and her band, as the album only realised one minor hit in ‘(Believed You Were) Lucky’ (co-written with Shear - US#95) in early 1989. However, the album gained very positive reviews, and was later cited as an important stage in Aimee Mann’s development as a songwriter, and a launch pad for her subsequent solo career. Amid entanglements with their record label Epic, and a poor outlook commercially, ‘Til Tuesday parted ways during 1989, though it’s unclear on which day of the week this occurred.

It took Aimee Mann several years to extricate herself from legal hassles with Epic, but in 1993 she released her debut solo album ‘Whatever’ (UK#39) on the Imago label. The album featured some very Beatles-esque tracks, and quickly established a strong cult following for Mann as a singer/song writer of considerable substance. It also yielded the minor U.K. hits ‘I Should’ve Known’ (UK#55), and ‘Stupid Thing’ (UK#45). The Imago label then went belly up, which led to another serious blow to Mann’s fledgling solo career. But she emerged through the litigious wreckage and signed with Geffen for 1995’s ‘I’m With Stupid’ (UK#51). The album featured a more acerbically biting edge to the lyrics, and boasted some high profile guest talent, including Juliana Hatfield and Squeeze mainstays Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford.

Over the last decade Aimee Mann has released a further five solo albums, from ‘Bachelor No.2’ (2000-US#48), to ‘@#%&*! Smilers’ (2008-US#32), and the award winning ‘Magnolia’ soundtrack, all of which have further solidified her reputation for recording finely crafted, and emotionally resonant songs. Oh, and Aimee Mann happens to be married to another gifted songwriter and musician in Michael Penn (see earlier post), whilst former ‘Til Tuesday drummer Michael Hausmann is now her manager.

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