Toronto, Canada's quirky popsters
Barenaked Ladies were never ones to follow a trend. They
were more interested in making someone laugh than being
astute and serious. Most of all, a friendship consumed this
band and that bond cemented their place
in alternative rock.
Teenage friends Ed Robertson and Steven Page found
themselves laughing at the innocent and child-like term "barenaked
lady" while attending a Bob Dylan concert in 1988. Both
Robertson and Page agreed that it would make a funny band
name, and since the duo was already into rock music and
playing guitar, the Barenaked Ladies were born. Joining them
were bass man Jim Creeggan, his brother Andy on keyboards,
and drummer Tyler Stewart, and the Barenaked Ladies began to
blend their comic relief sensibilities inside an eclectic
mix of jazz, folk, and rock.
The famous self-titled Yellow Tape (1991) captured
first independently recorded material, however Canadians
weren't too fond of the group's naïveté. They were branded a
novelty act by some, but The Yellow Tape proved successful
when it became the only indie release to achieve platinum
status in Canada. Record labels entered an instant bidding
war, and Sire won over the band. Their rock & roll dreams
were beginning to unfurl. Their zany, wacky, and hip debut
Gordon was released in 1992, and college kids across North
America were keen on singles such as "Be My Yoko Ono,"
"Enid," and the charming favorite "If I Had a $1,000,000."
Canadian contemporaries also warmed up to the silliness of
"If I Had a $1,000,000" and BNL began their reign as
Canada's pop kings alongside the Tragically Hip. Not
everyone was amused, however.
Toronto mayor June Rowlands considered the band's name to
be sexist and demeaning to women, and therefore forbid the
Barenaked Ladies from playing a local gig in 1992. In
typical style, BNL laughed it off and resumed their
At the height of grunge, Ben Mink came around to produce
the acoustically mellow Maybe You Should Drive in 1994.
Songs like the jaunty "Alternative Girlfriend" and the
sweetly melodic "Jane" were college radio favorites, but
changes were on the way. Before they could collect
themselves for a third album, Andy Creeggan left the band in
order to finish college and Look People
guitarist/keyboardist Kevin Hearn hopped on board for BNL's
joint tour with Billy Bragg...and never left. Hearn joined
the band for 1996's obscuro-pop album Born on a Pirate Ship
and again, BNL charted new celebrity territory by appearing
on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 to perform their Top 40
hit, "The Old Apartment." Success was fast, leaving BNL to
sellout countless summer shows. This merry mayhem was
captured on the band's first live album, Rock Spectacle
(pronounced Rock-Spek-Tak). The uninhibited and playful
effort introduced a new audience to the aspect of the band
that had been winning them fans since they started -- their
live shows. It even included one of their signatures --
improvised rapping and stage banter. Rock Spectacle was
BNL's first album to be certified gold in the U.S. The
Barenaked Ladies had finally arrived, positioning themselves
to take over America -- and the pressure was on.
Stunt, the band's fifth album, was issued in July 1998,
marking a pivotal time for BNL. "One Week" was their most
popular hit to date, and Stunt debuted at number three on
Billboard. The North American Stunt Tour moved them from
theaters and clubs and made them stadium sweethearts.
Sadness loomed over BNL's carefree effervescence, however.
Hearn had been diagnosed with leukemia earlier that spring
and spent almost six months recuperating. Geggy Tah's Greg
Kurstin and fellow BNL comrade, multi-instrumentalist Chris
Brown, filled in for Hearn on tour. After a bone marrow
transplant in October, Hearn was free of all cancerous cells
and BNL was at their finest.
The Don Was-produced Maroon followed two years later and
did moderately well with "Pinch Me" and constant touring.
Still their comical selves, and now glorified pop stars,
Maroon introduced a more mature group and Page's lyrics had
now become more abrasive. They grew into men, some of them
marrying and having children by this time, so the
progression was natural. That same year, the
Barenaked Ladies won two Juno
Awards for Best Pop Album and Best Group, as well as being
nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a
Duo or Group with Vocal for "Pinch Me."
They proved to be unstoppable...and still enjoying their
rise to fame and having fun at the same time. Taking its
title from their song "Box Set," a greatest- hits
collection, Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001),
was issued in fall 2001 and celebrated BNL's work and bond
as a musical family. Two years later, the band returned with
Everything to Everyone. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, All Music Guide