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Barenaked Ladies - abbreviated BNL or BnL, is a Canadian alternative rock band comprising of Jim Creeggan, Kevin Hearn, Steven Page, Ed Robertson, Tyler Stewart, and formerly Andy Creeggan. They formed in 1988 in Scarborough, Ontario. They are best known for their hit singles, One Week, Pinch Me, If I Had $1000000, and Brian Wilson, and for their cheery, comic performance style and also for their humorous mockery between songs, and improvised raps/songs in their liver performances.
The band started off as the duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page. The two had gone to school together but were not friends until they ran into each other at a Harvey's restaurant following a Peter Gabriel concert. They became friends, and when Page had an extra ticket to a Bob Dylan concert that no one wanted, he ran into Robertson at a party. The two attended the concert at Exhibition Stadium (most likely on August 29, 1988). It was the time when Dylan's band was led by G.E. Smith, and Robertson describes the show as horrible and lame. The two turned to amusing each other, pretending they were rock critics, creating histories and comments about the Dylan band. They also made up various band names; one of which was Barenaked Ladies. Robertson had agreed to perform with his cover band in a battle of the bands at Nathan Phillips Square for the Second Harvest food bank. The band broke up and he forgot about the gig. When he received a phone call a week before the show, asking him to confirm the gig, he improvised that the name of the band had changed to Barenaked Ladies, recalling the name from the Dylan concert. He then asked his friend Steve if he was interested and Steve agreed.
The two performed together on October 1, 1988. The show went well and they were invited to open a show for another well-known local band, the Razorbacks, at the Horseshoe Tavern the coming weekend. They set up three more rehearsals, and again missed them all, and proceeded to improvise their set once again.
The full band's first release was the 1991 Yellow Tape. It was a demo tape originally created for the band's performance at South by Southwest and was the first recording to feature all five members. They spent between $2000 and $3000 on it, and sent a copy to all the labels in Canada; but rejected by all of them. The band turned to selling them off stage, and ended up selling a lot. People began asking for the tape in local stores and the stores began asking the band for copies of the tape, and the demo tape became a profitable release. Sales began simply on word of mouth and their live shows, and the tape became the first release by any band to achieve platinum status (100,000 copies) in Canada.
The cassettes began to sell off in 1991 New Years Eve concert in Nathan Phillips Square outside Toronto City Hall because a staffer for then-mayor June Rowlands thought the band name depicted obscenity. The band shrugged it off and booked another show at McMaster University. Nonetheless, the media decided to write about it as an example of political rightness gone too far. The first article earned the paper a large quantity of mail against City Hall's decision. The story gained on popularity until about a week after New Years, when the band was asked to take a photo in front of City Hall for the front page of the Toronto Star. The stories incorrectly targeted Rowlands, even though she had not even been in town when the decision was made. The following week, sales of the Yellow Tape exploded.
Also in 1991, BNL contributed a cover of Bruce Cockburn's Lovers in a Dangerous Time to the Cockburn tribute album Kick at the Darkness. It became the band's first Top 40 hit in Canada.
The band's first full album, the hotly anticipated Gordon, released in 1992, was a smash hit in Canada and included some of the band's most well-known songs, including Enid, the first single; Be My Yoko Ono, If I Had $1000000 & Brian Wilson, named after Beach Boy Brian Wilson (who later covered the song on a live album). It profited from the fact that a number of songs on the album (including the latter three) had been live favorites for a while and had been recorded on past releases like the Yellow Tape. While the band was doing outstandingly in Canada, they found that it gained success in the U.S.
BNL's second album, Maybe You Should Drive, released in 1994, fared considerably less well with the Canadian public. On the album, the band lessened its comic image, teamed up with kd lang producer Ben Mink, and worked on a more mature manner.They tried touring the United States, but the tour was a crash and ended up losing money despite an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Before the next release Andy Creeggan decided to leave the band and wanted to attend McGill University to study music further.They came back in business with their 1998 release Stunt which earned great success propped up by one week which unexpectedly remained number#1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Immediately after Stunt was released, Kevin Hearn was diagnosed with leukemia, eventually undergoing a bone marrow transplant and spending several months at a Toronto hospital recovering. The band toured, with friends Chris Brown and Greg Kurstin both filling in on keyboards until Kevin recovered & made a come-back. The singles It's All Been Done (used as the opening theme song on an animated TV series Baby Blues) and Call and Answer (later appeared in the film EdTV) were included in this highly successful album. The band was also asked to contribute a song (Get In Line) to the soundtrack of the FOX cartoon, King Of The Hill.
Maroon, released in 2000, did fairly well led by the single Pinch Me, though not as well as Stunt had. In 2001, they released a compilation album, entitled Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001. It contains 15 singles from previous BNL albums, two singles from other compilations, and two new tracks. Everything to Everyone was released October 21, 2003, coincided by the first show of the unique Peepshow tour. The first single off the album was Another Postcard (Chimps), which received modest radio play. Testing 1, 2, 3 was the second single of the album with a video but no CD, however Celebrity was released later in the UK with a CD single, but no video. Maybe Katie and an edited version of For You from a concert in Glasgow, Scotland were also released as singles. Regrettably, the album was their weakest seller in years, despite positive reviews. With the release, the band completed their contract with Reprise Records, with whom they did not re-sign. This made the band independent for the first time since 1992 (though retaining a distribution relationship with Warner Music). On the following Everywhere For Everyone tour, in early 2004, the band began offering their full live shows for purchase as a download or CD-R on an unknown website, as well as studio releases.
Barenaked for the Holidays ?the next album, was released on October 5, 2004. It was their first independent record since the Yellow Tape, also the first album recorded at Steven Page's then-recently completed studio at his farmhouse called Fresh Baked Woods. The band created the label Desperation Records for this album.The band's 2005 Christmas fan club release of a rare 1991 concert was also released on the label.
In January 2005, the band taped a starting theme for a show, tentatively titled Barenaked Ladies Variety Show, which was rejected by the FOX network. Later, the band was asked to write music for the Stratford Festival of Canada's musical production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. Steven Page wrote most of the music, and the band recorded it for the actors. The recording was available on CD from the festival and on the band's website. On July 2, 2005 BNL took part in the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario.
In 2005, the band went into the studio at Fresh Baked Woods to begin recording 29 songs. They broke from the studio in November and December of that year to play a 22-show holiday tour, each night of which they played one of their new songs. An iTunes Originals ? a collection of interviews and live songs (with some old album tracks) was recorded in the studio and was released in February 2006.
Apart from their band work, the groupies also have several side projects during their time off from. Tyler was part of a trio called Don't Talk Dance which released a self-titled album in 1995, but are no longer together. Jim is part of the alternative/jazz trio The Brothers Creeggan, with brother and former BNL member Andy Creeggan and friend Ian McLauchlan. They have been on interval for several years now. Andy also has several solo albums. Kevin is the frontman of Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle, who play a mix of alternative rock and jazz with many other eclectic influences. Steve has a side project called The Vanity Project. The first self-titled album was written mostly with long-time collaborator Stephen Duffy. Steve has said that the project is an opportunity for him to write with non-BNL writers, and a future release might not necessarily include Duffy. Ed Robertson has a television show titled Ed's Up! that premiered on November 1, 2006 on the Canadian Outdoor Life Network. Currently, Ed has numerous tracks that he records in his bathroom and posts on YouTube, named as Bathroom Sessions
Barenaked Ladies have authorized a biography, Public Stunts Private Stories, written by friend and band fellow Paul Myers & published by Madrigal Press. The updated version also comprises information about Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991?2001 and Everything to Everyone.
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