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BoDeans is an American rock band. Formed in Waukesha, Wisconsin, BoDeans came to prominence in the 1980s. The band's sound encompasses multiple rock genres, including roots rock, heartland rock, and alternative rock. The band's biggest hit to date is "Closer to Free", which was used as the theme song to the hit TV series Party of Five. The band has been described as "one of the most successful, and best known, bands to come out of the Milwaukee area". BoDeans is included in a permanent installation at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
BoDeans in 2014
|Origin||Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States|
|Genres||Roots rock, heartland rock, alternative rock|
|Labels||F&A Slash, 429, Zoë, He & He, Megaforce/MRI|
The 1980s: Emergence and early successEdit
Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas met at Waukesha South High School in 1977. After discovering that they had similar music interests, they began writing songs together. Llanas entered college, but soon left after Neumann urged him to pursue music with him. At this time Neumann did not sing much, and considered himself to be primarily a drummer, while Llanas had little experience as a guitar player. However, the two decided to get serious about music and both began to sing and play guitar under the name Da BoDeans in 1980.
In April 1983, Da BoDeans began playing around Milwaukee's East Side music scene, with a hired drummer and bass player. The band practiced in the garage of Mark McCraw, a mutual friend who soon became their manager and provided financial support during the early years. The band lost its rhythm section later that year, but continued to perform live as a duo and used the recording studio at McCraw's university to record demos on which Llanas and Neumann played all the instruments. In 1984, drummer Guy Hoffman joined the band. The trio's first recorded song, "Sally", appeared on the first volume of the Milwaukee Sampler compilation released by Breezeway Records. To compensate for the lack of a bass player, Neumann modified his Fender Esquire with two additional pickups intended to capture solid low-end frequencies. After the trio became popular around Milwaukee, they decided to add bassist Bob Griffin in 1985.
Later in 1985, the quartet received interest from multiple major labels and chose to sign a contract with Slash/Warner Records. After signing, the label suggested that they shorten their name to simply BoDeans. Under the guidance of producer T-Bone Burnett, they entered Hollywood's Sunset Sound Factory in October to record their first album. Burnett focused on capturing the band's natural sound without many additional overdubs. The band later expressed their regret of not being able to spend more time on the production, but high studio costs kept the sessions concise. Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, the band's critically acclaimed debut album, was released in 1986.
In January 1987, a Rolling Stone reader poll voted BoDeans the Best New American Band. Early that year, they traveled to Los Angeles to work with producer Mike Campbell, but the sessions were shelved after disagreement arose over the album's sound. Campbell wished for the album to resemble Tom Petty's brand of 1960's rock. The band, however, felt that this style did not fit their music and instead wanted a state-of-the-art production. They went back to Wisconsin and accepted an offer from Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison to produce their second album and were given more freedom to experiment. Outside Looking In was released in October 1987 and featured a more modern 80's-rock sound than its roots-influenced predecessor. At the time, the band wished to break past the "roots" label with a state-of-the-art production, but in retrospect, they felt that the album was not able to capture the true essence of the band. The album's lead single, "Only Love", peaked at number 16 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. In support of the album, the band toured extensively with U2 on The Joshua Tree Tour. That year, the band also contributed to Robbie Robertson's debut solo album alongside U2 and Peter Gabriel.
In 1989, the band's third album, titled Home, was released. It was more reminiscent of their rootsy debut, but showed a diverse range of influences including Motown, U2-inspired arena rock, and heartland rock.
The 1990s: A new directionEdit
In 1991, in search of a different take on their music, the band began recording with David Z (producer and sideman of Prince) at Paisley Park Studios. The band released its fourth studio album, Black and White, that year. The album's electronic-influenced sound was a sharp departure from most of their previous efforts, with more emphasis on synthesizers, drum machines, and processed guitar tones. The album also explored darker and grander lyrical themes. Though not a single, the album's first track, "Good Things", achieved some success and became one of the band's best-known songs. The rebellious and political "Black, White, and Blood Red" was the only single released from the album; it did not perform well in comparison to the band's previous songs that made the charts.
"Closer to Free" and aftermathEdit
After Black & White, the band decided to shift their focus to making the album that pleased them instead of searching for a hit. For their 1993 album Go Slow Down, the band reunited with T-Bone Burnett and took a more homemade approach, with Neumann playing many of the instruments himself. Unlike their previous album, Go Slow Down was more acoustic and marked their transition into 90s alternative rock.
The first song from the album, "Closer to Free", brought Bodeans to a much larger audience after it was selected as the theme song to the TV series Party of Five in 1994. (In 1999, the band would perform a cover of The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" as the theme song for the show's short-lived spinoff, Time of Your Life.) Due to the newfound exposure, "Closer to Free" became the group's biggest pop hit, peaking at number 16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1996. "Closer to Free" was also the opening song used in the movie Heavyweights, and is the theme song (and namesake) for an annual fundraiser at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.
In 1995, Joe Dirt Car, a two-CD live set, was released. The album included live tracks recorded between 1989 and 1995, some of which were acoustic. In 1996, the band released Blend, produced by Greg Goldman. The single "Hurt By Love" achieved minor chart success, while the song "Hey Pretty Girl" was used in an episode of Dawson's Creek.
Around this time, the band became entangled in legal battles with longtime manager Mark McCraw, who had gone on strike stating that he was entitled to partial copyright ownership of the band's first two albums. The band became further immobilized when Slash chose not to renew their record contract.
In 2003, the band was able to terminate their former management and sign with Rounder Records. The following year, the band released their seventh album, Resolution, on Rounder/Zoe. It was well received by fans. In 2003, they also released The Leftovers, a collection of previously unreleased songs that never made it to studio albums. A live album recorded during the Resolution tour was released in 2005, entitled Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst. The group released the DVD for Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst at the end of 2005.
BoDeans released an album entitled Still on March 4, 2008. Produced again by T-Bone Burnett, the album moved away from the modern rock sound of their previous albums and was more reminiscent of their heartland-esque sound of the late 80s. "Everyday" was the first single to radio from "Still".
The band's ninth studio album, Mr. Sad Clown, was released on April 6, 2010. Similar to their 1993 release, Neumann produced and played most of the instruments on the album in his home studio. Though critics lauded the album for its homemade approach, reviews were mixed due to the overall melancholy theme. The album features some of Neumann's most personal songwriting. The song "Headed for the End of the World" was used in the antiwar documentary film "Countdown to Zero".
On August 10, 2011, Llanas failed to arrive in Colorado for BoDeans performances in Denver, Boulder, and Winter Park, CO. He sent a text message to several band and crew members on August 11, 2011 notifying them of his departure from the band. On August 18, Llanas officially left the band due to "differences of opinion" that had been "going on for years", according to Neumann. The band stated that it would continue without Llanas, with the band's guitar technician Jake Owen filling in.
The band released its tenth studio album, titled Indigo Dreams, on July 26, 2011.
The band's eleventh studio album, entitled American Made, was released on June 12, 2012. On March 26, the album's first single, "All The World", was released. In November 2012, the band announced the upcoming release of "Amped Across America", a double live album recorded at several venues from the American Made tour.
On October 3, 2014, Neumann announced the release of the band's 12th studio album, entitled I Cant Stop. On June 17, 2016, the band released the single "My Hometown" from their upcoming 13th studio album, which was entitled Thirteen. The release benefited the Milwaukee County Historical Society, which opened a BoDeans exhibit the same day. The band also released BoDeans Original Ginger Brew, a beer made by Sprecher Brewery in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their debut album. On November 11, 2016, the band released a Christmas record, “The Night Divine”. On April 21, 2017, the band released Thirteen.
On June 11, 2018, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Kurt Neumann's stepdaughter, Tessa Neumann, had accused former BoDeans member Sam Llanas of sexually abusing her from 2001 though 2007 while she was a minor. Earlier in 2018, on the band's Facebook page, Kurt Neumann had publicly accused Llanas of molesting his stepdaughter. Llanas denied the allegations, stating that he was "shocked and sickened to read about the tremendously terrible, untrue allegations of misconduct against me by the Neumanns." The band posted the June 11 article on the Bodeans Facebook page and commented as follows:
We’ve had an amazing outpouring of love and support in response to Monday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Thanks so much to all who have reached out offering love and encouragement. While we’ve tried to keep the BoDeans page all about music and positivity and moving forward, we’ve made the difficult decision to post the story here because, unfortunately, it is part of BoDeans history. It is our deepest desire to close this chapter and move forward as soon as we can.
- Kurt Neumann – lead vocals, lead guitar (1983–present)
- Eric Holden – bass (2005–2009, 2014–present)
- Tolan Shaw- acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2019–present)
- Stefano Intelisano – keyboards, accordion (2013–present)
- Kramer Sell – drums (2018–present)
- Bukka Allen – keyboards, accordion (2004–2011, 2014–present)
- Kenny Aronoff – drums (1993, 1998, 2004–2007, 2012–present)
- Glenn Fukunaga – bass
- Sam Hawksley – guitar, backing vocals (2013–2018)
- David Sierra – drums (2011–2017)
- Sam Llanas – vocals, acoustic guitar (1983–2011)
- Guy Hoffman – drums (1984–1987)
- Bob Griffin – bass (1985–2005)
- Susan Julian – keyboards (1987–1989)
- Jim "Bo" Conlon – drums (1987–1988)
- Rick Jaeger – studio drummer (“Outside Looking In” 1987, ”Black and White” 1991)
- Rafael Gayol – drums (1989–1992)
- Nick Kitsos – drums (1993–2000)
- Kevin Leahy – drums (2001–2004)
- Michael Ramos – keyboards, accordion (1989–1995, 2001–2004, 2011–2012)
- Noah Levy – drums (2005–2012)
- Jake Owen – guitars, backing vocals (2011–2012)
- Ryan Bowman – bass (2009–2012, 2013)
- Warren Hood – violin (2011–2013)
- David Duffy – violin (2012–2014)
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