Crash Test Dummies

The Crash Test Dummies are a Canadian rock band from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Crash Test Dummies
Crash Test Dummies performing at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on March 29, 2019
Crash Test Dummies performing at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on March 29, 2019
Background information
OriginWinnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
GenresAlternative rock, folk rock
Years active1988–present
LabelsArista, ViK., Deep Fried
Websitecrashtestdummies.com
MembersBrad Roberts
Ellen Reid
Dan Roberts
Mitch Dorge
Past membersBenjamin Darvill

The band is most identifiable through Brad Roberts (vocals, guitar) and his distinctive bass-baritone voice. The band members have fluctuated over the years, but its best known line-up consisted of Roberts, Ellen Reid (co-vocals, keyboards), Brad's brother Dan Roberts (bass guitar, backing vocals), Benjamin Darvill (harmonica, mandolin), and Mitch Dorge (drums, percussion). The band is best known internationally for their 1993 single "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" and best known in Canada for the 1991 single "Superman's Song".

HistoryEdit

Beginnings: 1988–1991Edit

The origin of the Crash Test Dummies is tied to the history of two Winnipeg nightspots, the Spectrum Cabaret and the Blue Note Cafe, owned by Curtis Riddell.[1]

In the mid-1980s, Riddell joined with Brad Roberts to form the decidedly less-than-serious bar band Bad Brad Roberts and the St. James Rhythm Pigs. Over time, the band evolved into the Crash Test Dummies, a name suggested by a friend of the band who was in medical school. The diagnostic mannequin, known colloquially as a crash test dummy, was known to the public already by this time. Ellen Reid and Benjamin Darvill became permanent additions. George West, the original bass player, quit and was replaced by Dan Roberts, Brad's brother. Riddell was replaced by Vince Lambert, who was replaced by Mitch Dorge just before the release of The Ghosts That Haunt Me.

After signing with BMG Records in 1991,[2] the band signed with manager Jeff Rogers (Swell).

Mainstream success: 1991–1999Edit

The band first began to achieve commercial success in Canada with the release of The Ghosts that Haunt Me in 1991. The album eventually reached sales of 400,000 in Canada, largely due to the popularity of the hit single "Superman's Song", which appeared on the RPM Top Singles chart that year[3] and earned the band the 1992 Juno Award for Group of the Year.[4]

The band did not receive much international recognition until the 1993 release of their second album, God Shuffled His Feet.[5][6] Particularly instrumental in increasing the band's exposure in the American market was the appearance of a new type of radio format, adult album-oriented alternative rock (AAA). These stations put the first single "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" in high rotation and the song peaked at No. 4 on the US Hot 100. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" did even better in the United Kingdom, where it was a No. 2 hit, and Australia where it peaked at No. 1. Popular parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic parodied the song under the title "Headline News" in 1994.

In their native Canada, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was a comparative disappointment on the charts, only peaking at No. 14. Two other songs from the album went top 10 in Canada: "Swimming In Your Ocean" and "Afternoons & Coffeespoons". This latter song was also a top 40 hit in Australia and the United Kingdom and hit the lower portion of the US Hot 100. The result was that by mid-1994 the album had passed the platinum sales mark (one million) in the United States and had also earned the band three Grammy nominations and three more Juno nominations. To date, God Shuffled His Feet has sold more than five and a half million copies worldwide.

In January 1995, the band released "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" (a cover of XTC's 1992 track) as a single and on the soundtrack of the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels comedy Dumb and Dumber. The single, credited to The Crash Test Dummies and Ellen Reid, charted at No. 30 in the UK singles chart and was a No. 4 hit in Canada.

In 1996, the Dummies' third album, A Worm's Life, was released to mixed critical and moderate commercial success. The guitar-heavy singles were warmly received in some markets. Lead single "He Liked to Feel It" hit No. 2 in Canada, becoming the band's highest-charting single in their home country, but internationally nothing matched the runaway success of either "Superman's Song" or "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". Regardless, the album went platinum in Canada in less than one month.

Give Yourself A Hand, the Dummies' fourth album, was released March 23, 1999. The album showcased a new sound for the Dummies, as it featured Ellen Reid singing lead vocals on three tracks, and Brad Roberts singing in a falsetto on several others. The whole sound of the album was much more electronic than the previous recordings. Once again, the lead single ("Keep A Lid On Things") was a top 10 hit in Canada.

During a hiatus between albums, Benjamin Darvill became the first Dummy to release solo material. Under the name Son Of Dave, Darvill first brought out the album B. Darvill's Wild West Show, followed with 01, both released on Benjamin's own label, Husky Records.[7]

Post-mainstream career: 2000–2006Edit

The less-than-stellar commercial success of both A Worm's Life and Give Yourself a Hand resulted in the band feeling much more restricted by their label BMG, especially after the label rejected 35 songs during the production of Give Yourself a Hand. As a result, the band and the label parted ways, and Brad Roberts formed his own independent label "Cha-Ching Records" (later renamed to "Deep Fried Records").[8]

Free from major-label restrictions, the Dummies surprised their fans in 2001 by putting their solo projects on hold for a fifth studio album and tour. After suffering a near-fatal car accident in the fall of 2000, Brad found himself recuperating in the town of Argyle, Nova Scotia. It was there that he met some local "lobster fishermen" who happened to be quite musically inclined - Kent Greene, Dave Morton, and Danny MacKenzie. Together, they recorded the bulk of I Don't Care That You Don't Mind, which was to have been Brad's first solo album. Later on, Ellen was brought in to record backing vocals for a few tunes, and Dan agreed to tour with Brad. When Ellen and Mitch agreed to tour as well, the Crash Test Dummies name was put on the record. This album saw the Dummies returning to their acoustic roots. Brad compared this album to the Dummies' first, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, though he calls it more atmospheric and polished.

Near the end of 2001, some new Dummies solo albums were released. First, Ellen Reid launched her debut solo effort, Cinderellen.

Soon after, Brad Roberts' long-awaited double-live CD and rockumentary entitled Crash Test Dude were made available through MapleMusic.

2002 opened with the surprise of Mitch Dorge's debut album, As Trees Walking. On the CD, Mitch played almost all of the instruments, took some of the photos for the liner notes, and won a Prairie Music Award for Best Instrumental Recording.

Brad, Dan, and Ellen returned as Crash Test Dummies at the end of 2002 with Jingle All the Way, a long-rumoured Christmas album.

In 2003, Puss 'n' Boots was released. Much like I Don't Care, the album began life as a Brad Roberts solo project. Co-written by Stuart Cameron, 13 songs were selected from a pool of 30. Ellen sang backing vocals and Dan played bass, though much of the music - funky grooves that would not have seemed out of place on Give Yourself A Hand - was performed by other musicians.

Songs of the Unforgiven, the eighth studio album under the Crash Test Dummies name, was recorded not long after Puss 'n' Boots.[7]

Hiatus and Oooh La La: 2006–2012Edit

After releasing three records through his own label, Roberts realized he was losing money. As such, he stopped recording and touring and instead worked as a songwriting teacher in New York City, while participating in yoga, chanting, and meditation (the latter influencing Roberts's side-project Satsang Circus).[9]

Despite the hiatus, in 2006 Brad Roberts began to record the album that would become Oooh La La with producer and friend Stewart Lerman, using the optigan and omnichord.[10]

In October, 2007 Sony BMG released The Best of Crash Test Dummies, featuring twelve tracks selected from the band's entire catalog, including most of their singles and several album tracks. The compilation would later be re-released on March 10, 2008 as "Best of Crash Test Dummies - Collections" with two previously unreleased tracks: "Laid Back" and "You Said You'd Meet Me (In California)", the latter being an early version of a song that would later appear on Oooh La La.

In addition a new online store was opened allowing users to purchase downloads from all of the band's post-BMG releases, including Cape Breton Lobster Bash series, a collection of songs written about Brad Roberts's experiences at Cape Breton and an annual tradition known as the "Lobster Bash".

Work continued in 2008 on songs for an album which was tentatively titled Toys. In July 2009, the title of the album was renamed from Toys to Oooh La La.[11]

A fourth song in the Cape Breton Lobster Bash series was released on July 27, 2009.

Oooh La La was released on May 11, 2010. The album's release was accompanied by the band touring in an "Acoustic Trio" format consisting of Roberts and Ellen Reid, accompanied by either Stuart Cameron or Murray Pulver on guitar.[12] On October 9, 2010, as part of the Canadian leg of the tour, Dan Roberts and Mitch Dorge joined Brad Roberts and Ellen Reid in the band's hometown of Winnipeg for the first performance by the original line-up in a decade. Benjamin Darvill was not present for the reunion, despite having played a solo show in town a few days earlier.[13] During the tour, Brad Roberts began the habit of taking photographs at random and posting them on his blog and the band's Facebook page.

In 2011, the band continued to tour in support of Oooh La La. On April 19, 2011, the band released Demo-litions: Cast-off Recordings 1996–97 featuring previously unreleased demos of songs written during the recording of Give Yourself a Hand.

In June 2012, Brad Roberts wrote a blog post saying that there is an incomplete new album lying around, but that producer Stewart Lerman is currently too busy with other projects to work on it.[14]

Second hiatus, solo tour, side projects: 2015–2016Edit

Following the completion of touring for Oooh La La, the band went on an indefinite hiatus, as Ellen Reid decided to retire from performing and Brad Roberts began to develop back problems. However, the hiatus was ended when Brad Roberts decided to go on a solo tour in 2015.[15]

In the spring of 2016, Brad Roberts announced his first tour of Canada in five years. In an interview about the tour, Roberts provided an update about the other members of the band, who he still keeps in touch with: Dan Roberts now has a family in Winnipeg, Mitch Dorge devotes most of his time now to motivational speaking at schools, Ellen Reid is married and spends her time creating elaborate Facebook pages with all her own illustrations, and Benjamin Darvill has found success for himself as Son of Dave. Roberts confirmed that he is the last remaining active member of Crash Test Dummies, with it just being him and guitarist Stuart Cameron going on tour.[16]

On May 28, 2016, to commemorate his first Canadian tour in five years, Brad Roberts released the new song "I'll Be Peaceful Then".[17]

Full band reunion and God Shuffled His Feet 25th anniversary tour: 2017–presentEdit

In the summer of 2017, the full band, except Benjamin Darvill, reunited for a show in Winnipeg and Brad Roberts went on a tour of South Africa in early 2018.[18] The band continued to perform together that summer, including a stop at Ontario's Burl's Creek Event Grounds in July.[19]

In the fall of 2018, it was announced that Brad Roberts, Ellen Reid, Dan Roberts, and Mitch Dorge would be going on their first full tour of Canada and the United States in nearly two decades to celebrate the 25th anniversary of God Shuffled His Feet.[20]

Musical styleEdit

InstrumentationEdit

Throughout their career, Crash Test Dummies have experimented with many different styles and genres of music. These styles include the acoustic folk rock of The Ghosts That Haunt Me, the electric alternative rock of A Worm's Life, the urban influences of Give Yourself a Hand, and the optigan-based compositions of Oooh La La!

Crash Test Dummies recorded as a full five piece band from their debut album The Ghosts That Haunt Me until Give Yourself a Hand. At this time, the most notable instrumentation of the band's music included Brad Roberts' lead guitar, Ellen Reid's keyboards, and Benjamin Darvill's harmonica. Another notable element of Crash Test Dummies' music are the contrasting harmonies between Brad Roberts' deep lead vocals and Ellen Reid's backing vocals in the higher register.

Beginning with I Don't Care That You Don't Mind in 2001, the band's albums were recorded primarily by Brad Roberts, Ellen Reid, and a rotating roster of session musicians.

InfluencesEdit

One of the biggest influences for Brad Roberts was the band XTC and Andy Partridge in particular.[7] The band even went on to cover two of XTC's songs: "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" for the soundtrack to the film Dumb and Dumber, and "All You Pretty Girls" for the XTC tribute album A Testimonial Dinner.

Band membersEdit

  • Brad Roberts – lead vocals, guitar (1988–present)
  • Ellen Reid – vocals, keyboards, accordion (1988–2012, 2017–present)
  • Dan Roberts – bass, backing vocals (1988–2004, 2010, 2017–present)
  • Mitch Dorge – drums (1991–2002, 2010, 2017–present)
Former and inactive members
  • Benjamin Darvill – harmonica, percussion, guitar, mandolin (1988–2000)
  • Daniel Koulack – bass
  • Vince Lambert – drums (1988–1991)
  • Curtis Riddell – drums (1988)
  • George West – bass (1988)
Touring members
  • Stuart Cameron – guitar, backing vocals (2001–present)
  • Murray Pulver – guitar, backing vocals (1996–2000, 2010–present)
  • James Reid – guitar, backing vocals (2010)
  • Kathy Brown  – keyboards (1993–1995)
  • Ray Coburn – keyboards (1999–2000)

DiscographyEdit

Studio albums

Awards and nominationsEdit

Crash Test Dummies awards and nominations
Totals[a]
Wins3
Nominations16
Note
  1. ^ Certain award groups do not simply award one winner. They recognize several different recipients, have runners-up and have third place. Since this is a specific recognition and is different from losing an award, runner-up mentions are considered wins in this award tally. For simplification and to avoid errors, each award in this list has been presumed to have had a prior nomination.
Denmark GAFFA Awards

Delivered since 1991, the GAFFA Awards are a Danish award that rewards popular music by the magazine of the same name.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1994 Crash Test Dummies Foreign Newcomer Won [21]
God Shuffled His Feet Foreign CD-Cover Won
Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States. Crash Test Dummies received three nominations.[22]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1995 Crash Test Dummies Best New Artist Nominated
"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
God Shuffled His Feet Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
Juno Awards

The Juno Awards are a Canadian awards ceremony presented annually by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Crash Test Dummies won the 1992 Juno for Group of the Year and received an additional 10 nominations.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1992 Crash Test Dummies Group of the Year Won
The Ghosts That Haunt Me Best Album Nominated
Kevin Mutch, The Ghosts That Haunt Me Best Album Design Nominated
Dale Heslip, "Superman's Song" Best Video Nominated
1994 Kevin Mutch, God Shuffled His Feet Best Album Design Nominated
Dale Heslip, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" Best Video Nominated
1995 Crash Test Dummies Entertainer of the Year Nominated
Crash Test Dummies Group of the Year Nominated
"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" Single of the Year Nominated
1996 Tim Hamilton, "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" Best Video Nominated
2000 Greg Wells, "Keep A Lid On Things" and "Get You in the Morning" Best Producer Nominated

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Dummies crash head-on into big time". Toronto Star, November 29, 1991.
  2. ^ Larry LeBlanc (27 February 1999). "Dummies Hand In their Latest Set". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.: 18–21. ISSN 0006-2510.
  3. ^ "Top Singles".. RPM, Volume 54, No. 16 Sep 21, 1991
  4. ^ "Winnipeg’s one-hit wonders. They were supposed to be the next big thing. Where did they go?". The Uniter, Catherine van Reenen, March 31, 2011
  5. ^ Larry LeBlanc (24 December 1994). A Breakthrough Year for Canadian Acts. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 53–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  6. ^ "Crash Test Dummies God Shuffled His Feet:. Drowned in Sound, by Colin Weston January 7th, 2001
  7. ^ a b c "Crash Test Dummies FAQ". Crash Test Dummies. July 2006. Archived from the original on 8 August 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  8. ^ "Phillyist Interviews... Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies". Phillyist. 2010. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  9. ^ "'Dummies' singer on the road again". Jam! Music. 2010.
  10. ^ "Crash Test Dummies avoid destruction to release new CD, 'Oooh La-La'". The Moose Jaw Times Herald. 2010. Archived from the original on 2013-01-01.
  11. ^ "Crash Test Dummies – Oooh La La". by Matt Melis, May 12, 2010,
  12. ^ "Voice from city's past revives Dummies with new CD". Winnipeg Free Press. 2010.
  13. ^ Sterdan, Darryl. "Crash Test Dummies: Mmm Mmm Good". Winnipeg Sun. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  14. ^ "Blog Post - June 10, 2012". Crash Test Dummies Blog. 2012. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  15. ^ "Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummes)". Jammin Java. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Brad Roberts Announces First Tour In Five Years". FYI Music News. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  17. ^ "Crash Test Dummies singer Brad Roberts glad to be back touring". CBC. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
  18. ^ "Crash Test Dummies: Q&A with Brad Roberts". BizCommunity. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  19. ^ "Weather Turns Perfect Just In Time for Barenaked Ladies at Burls Creek". Jewel 88.5 Toronto, July 23, 2018
  20. ^ "Crash Test Dummies reunite for 25th anniversary of breakout album". CBC. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  21. ^ "1991-2014 GAFFA Prize - And the winners are ..." GAFFA (in Danish). Denmark. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  22. ^ "37th Grammy Awards - 1995". Rock on the Net. Retrieved 2010-05-15.

External linksEdit