Last year I wrote a proposal to write a book on The Dandy Warhols album Come Down for the 33 1/1 book series. I failed to get the comission because they felt that last year they would take more proper academic writers rather than ‘fans’. After failing in my attempt I was advised to put my proposal on their Blog but I’ve waited a year to put it on mine. I had to write a load more about how I would market the book for them etc and which Titles I had read in their series which I liked. I’ve left that out as it is too boring to put up here.
The Dandy Warhols – Come Down
A draft introduction/opening chapter for the book, of around 2,000 words
The Dandy Warhols are much more than a band. Like the Velvet Underground before
them they are as much art project as a full on rock band, and of that there is no question.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen The Dandy Warhols live but they never fail
to impress me. You see, we can take them as artists and we can take them as a pop band,
or a loud as hell shoegaze band, or a 60’s garage, 80’s electronic or 90’s post rock band,
musically that is. Above all, The Dandy Warhols have made themselves into a confined
global institution, mainly through their own persistence, hard work, foresight, and maybe
even an old fashioned bit of good luck.
But then, there are the songs, and almost every one of their 9 studio albums has a gem on
it. ‘Bohemian Like You’ was obviously a song that propelled them forward perhaps like
no other when it was used on the popular Vodaphone advert in 2000, it’s Stonesy riff and
insanely catchy “wuh-ho-woo!!” made it an instant success. Well nearly. Initially, the
single was released and failed to hit the top 40 in August 2000 but then went to number 5
a year later in October 2001 after its use in the advert and has subsequently become a
favourite at live shows and has been used in countless films and TV shows ever since.
English lower league football team Burton Albion even use it as they are running onto the
After the success of Bohemian Like You, Courtney Taylor Taylor (so cool they named
him twice) described the song as ‘saving their asses’ in an interview with the NME. It’s a
fine line between success and failure, recognition and obscurity and the Dandy Warhols
will have read their Velvet Underground Biographies and be the first to know that.
It doesn’t half help an art rocker with principles to be able to ‘sneeze’ the odd hit out,
perhaps an average of 2-3 per album gives you a pretty good chance of survival, like it or
I first came across the Dandy Warhols when I was performing with my own band, six.by
seven, at the London Calling Festival in Amsterdam at the Paradiso. The Paradiso is a
strange old building with torture chambers and cells in the basement that make do as
dressing rooms for performing bands. It was used as a Gestapo Headquarters during the
Nazi occupation of The Netherlands in the second world war and apparently there is a
ghost that stalks the place too although I’ve never seen him.
During the London Calling Festival the venue is split into two and bands play the large
room downstairs and a smaller room upstairs. If you are playing there, you get a pass, and
you spend most of your time going up and down the back stairs used by performers, crew
and venue staff, as you check out bands and make frequent trips to the dressing room to
grab beer from the fridge. I was doing just that when I came across 3 guys and a girl
standing in single file in front of me trying to get past the security guard. I waited
patiently behind them as I pulled my pass out to show to the man on the door and looked
at these dudes standing there dressed in golfing shoes, leather, fur and wearing peculiar
hats. They looked cool and weird, they sure looked like a band but I didn’t recognize
them, and neither did the security guard as he kept on asking them for a pass they weren’t
apparently willing to show. Every time he asked them for the pass, the tall man at the
front dressed in waistcoat and flower power shirt and beatnik hat just said, “We’re The
Dandy Warhols from Portland, Oregan.” What followed was a Spinal Tap moment.
Every time the security guy asked for the pass the band just replied “We’re The Dandy
Warhols from Portland, Oregan.” And so it went round and round. I couldn’t help but
think it would have been quicker by now to just have shown the guy the pass and move
past, but the dialogue between the security dude and the three Yank dudes and the sexy
dudette just kept on going like a hilarious scripted Tap Nigel Tufnell merry go round.
By this time I was shaking my head and laughing to myself and rather enjoying the
spectacle, waiting to see which party would be the first to give in. There could only be
one winner, I felt like shouting out myself. “They’re The Dandy Warhols from Portland,
Oregan, can’t you see that? No one else would walk around looking like that unless they
were in a cool as fuck rock band, let them through!” Needless to say, the security guard
gave up, shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something probably not too pleasant in
Dutch as they strolled past him. I followed up behind them, I had to show my pass, I
obviously had the wrong shoes and the wrong attitude entirely I guess.
The first time I met The Dandy Warhols was in Glasgow at The Garage in 1998. We
were on tour opening for them while they were in the UK promoting their second album
‘Come Down.’ Unbeknownst to me they had watched us in Amsterdam and liked the
band to ask us to go on tour with them. I hadn’t really heard their music then and most of
their early success had been local or confined to the shores of America. They had a single
out at the time called ‘Every Day Should Be A Holiday’ which was getting quite a lot of
airplay and I loved it. It had a whispery understated vocal cutting through a wall of
guitars with an incredibly poppy bouncy beat and bass line. It sounded like the
psychedelic bastard offspring of Duran Duran to me, with guitars.
August 1998. I had been cleaning out my cellar and painting it with a friend, installing an
8 track reel to reel and little mixing console in it for demoing when I first fell in love with
Come Down. I bought the album purely because I was about to go on tour with them and
I wanted to get a handle on what they sounded like. I listened to it once while painting the
walls, another time while still painting the walls, a third time while doing the ceiling, in a
row it has to be said. I think I listened to it for a few more times after that, and I never
stopped. I’ve always been quite obsessive about music and I tend to get into one album
and listen to nothing else until, roughly a year later, something snaps and I have to move
on and find the next one. Come Down had that effect on me. It’s a brilliant record.
Quite often, in fact more often than not, a bands second album is usually their best in
terms of capturing their sound. In the industry it is often known as ‘That difficult second
album.” This is because a band gets a long time to work on their first album in terms of
preparation. Songs are written and replaced over months and years by better tunes until
the band eventually gets a break and a deal. The trouble with the first album is, the band
struggle to capture a carefully honed live sound in the studio. Nine times out of ten the
debut album captures a rough diamond that the band are never entirely happy with mainly
due to their constant live focus and their inexperience in the studio. These faults are
remedied on the second album, but all that time the band had to write their first album is
significantly cut because they have done nothing but tour to promote the first album over
the last year or so. The label wants to act quickly to finish the second album and release it
before the scene changes or the ‘next big thing’ appears and changes what people think
they want to hear and what radio stations want to play.
I’m writing this book as a musician and a fan. For me this is an exploration of how a band
is formed and what motivates it. It is also a look at the individuals within that band and
how they interact to create something unique that we as a listener want to hear, see and
go back to time and time again. Music is time, time in a capsule, captured and nurtured
and dreamed up. Pumped onto tape (or hard drives, or whatever) through amps and by the
means of guitars and synths and hitting things called drums to make loud noises. It is the
sum of its parts. The parts are played by key individuals, often young men fuelled by
blind ambition, desire for success and a passion for creating music and often an empty
feeling about the world around them, which as young people always do, they think they
can change. So much in music is often created by accident and choice. Happy or not so
happy accidents that create pragmatic solutions to problems and choices of words,
chords, beats, amps, guitars and of course shoes and hats.
Come Down is a special record because it flows, it rocks, it charms, it has humour, it has
aggression, tenderness and it speaks volumes about its creator’s energy and passion for
music. Above all it has songs. It doesn’t matter if they are radio friendly ‘hits’ or slow
burners. I saw The Dandy’s live again last Friday (20th April, 2012) at the Manchester
Academy. I walked into the sound check and listened to their music slouching out of the
PA in a monolithic slab of guitar and electronic bass underpinned by a Neil Young
Harvest understated drum beat and peppered with melodic vocal hooks and harmonies. I
couldn’t wait for the gig because I knew it would be even better, and it was.
I want to explore Come Down and find out what made this album what it is. It sounds to
me like a band at a creative peak (in terms of creating a definitive album sound from start
to finish). It sounds to me like 3 guys and a girl who knew exactly what they wanted and
what they were doing. However, things are rarely like that, especially in music, there is
no formula and if you find one, you can become boring. There is much more to The
Dandy Warhols than Bohemian Like You. Sure, it’s a great song, genius in fact, but this
series is called 33 1/3 for a reason, not 45RPM.
When the aliens come down and pick up the pieces of our lost civilisation and sift
through the trash and come across a copy of Come Down and play it, they will realize
that they are listening to a definitive masterpiece of alternative, a complete work rarely
achieved by many bands. This book is an exploration of the history of the band up until
the point of making the record and the ways and means of making it. That’s the plan, but then the first thing that
happens when you make a plan, is that you have to make another one.
Analysis of the most relevant competing books already published about the artist in
question or the scene surrounding that artist – and how your book will differ.
Surprisingly there are no books about the Dandy Warhols yet, as they have been a very
successful alternative rock band who have been going for 18 years now. There is a book
called Come Down which is just a guitar / vocal chord book. It’s interesting to note that it
is on the album I want to write the book about and there isn’t one on ‘13 Tales From
Urban Bohemia’ which I guess would have to be their best selling album.
However, there was the film DIG and I guess this would be the most relevant
“Along with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols were the subjects of the
2004 documentary film Dig! It was recorded over the course of seven years by Ondi
Timoner, and won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film
This book will be about the album ‘Come Down’ and everything relevant to that but I
think I would also like to touch on the film DIG as it was and still is very popular. I’ve
never spoken to the band about it but I do know that they were not best pleased with the
outcome of the film especially the way The Brian Jonestown Massacre and their lead
singer Anton Newcombe was portrayed in it.
“It’s a good thing to have gone away because it was a very dishonest experience,” Taylor-
Taylor says. “It’s not a very true movie. There’s a lot of acting and a lot of ‘Well, we don’t
have a story. Let’s make one up.'” One of the band’s biggest gripes is with the timeline of
the movie — the Warhols were recorded for eight years while BJM was filmed for 10
months, yet they claim everything was depicted as happening concurrently. “It’s a
fantastically compelling movie because it’s all about awfulness and on a Jerry Springer
level, it really works,” Taylor-Taylor says. “I was very uncomfortable during that time
because I had to play along and I didn’t know what to say in interviews. You can’t say
‘Look, it’s not true’ because it was this big documentary, ‘the best rock and roll
documentary ever.'” Taylor-Taylor isn’t exaggerating the film’s hype and acclaim — it
won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance festival in 2004. ” Posted July
21st 2009 on Spinner
I think that The Dandy Warhols are a very hard working band and certainly the evidence
points towards that. My book will differ from DIG because it will show what it is like to
be in a band like the Dandy Warhols, working hard to remain truthful to your art and still
trying to be a commercial success. There is a lot to be said. Surviving as a rock and roll
band for 18 years in this day and age with the music industry collapsing all around us and
everything in change is a real achievement. I’m fed up of reading biographies with
endless tales of drug abuse and hotel room orgies. Being a successful band in the late
nineties and noughties didn’t work like that.
Drummer Brent De Boer also said this in the same interview about DIG:
“Ondi has 1,998 hours of footage that nobody saw and she could have taken it and made
a really respectful show about two really talented bands working very hard and making
great records,” he says. “It could be a feel-good story, like here’s where they’re born,
here’s where they recorded, here’s how they’ve grown together, and here’s where they are
now. But she just snagged a couple hours of just the worst behavior.” Posted July 21st
2009 on Spinner
I think Courtney Taylor-Taylor sums up my views of what this book should be in
comparison to the film DIG:
“It’s nice now that we’ve got all this other shit going on, the movie came out and really
led to the wrong idea about what we care about and what the hell we do. It was a mess.”
A draft annotated table of contents for the book and an approximate
date of completion
Here is a brief outline of the way I want to start this book and the outline I propose to
work along. This is just an outline that will lead me into exploring different avenues and
if I find more interesting stuff because of that I would probably change and adjust this
plan to make the book more interesting. I’ve only done one book before and that took me
2 years but I had to photograph over 100 football stadiums in the country from Plymouth
to Carlisle. Definitley less than a year I’d say, perhaps 6 months. I think I might have to
go to Portland Oregon and spend a week interviewing the band and associated people,
this could mean a slightly longer time schedule.
See enclosed – Introduction
The beginnings of The Dandy Warhols and formation – The Portland Scene – The Brian
Jonestown Massacre – release of first album “Dandy’s Rule OK” – Touring the first
album – Lead up to Come Down – signing to Capitol Records.
The beginning of the recording writing and demoing of Come Down. Interview with
Courtney Taylor Taylor on songwriting.
Courtney is a very enigmatic character whose apparent self-confidence is sometimes
bordering on amusing. People who appear initially over confident, in my experience,
have something else going on underneath, perhaps low self esteem and a general lack of
self confidence, it’s a common thing with lead singers and songwriters (he wanted to call
the 6th album ‘Shitty shitty band band’!) There is no doubt that Courtney is a very good
songwriter and I would like to find out more about him as a person and what drives him
to write songs. I think it will be very eye opening and possibly cathartic for him, I hope
so. None of this came across in the film ‘DIG’. I have a book by Paul Zollo called
‘Songwriters on songwriting’ which is a series of dialogues between the author and lots
of classic songwriters like Neil young, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman etc. I really like the
way you can tell when the songwriters are being honest and being quite guarded about
sharing too many of their secrets.
I have an idea to have each band member fill in an e mail questionnaire. This would be
quite lengthy and each questionnaire would be the same with the same questions to each
person. The idea behind this would be to try and gain an understanding of the
relationships between the different members of the band while they were making the
album and I know from my own experiences that when you are making an album you
have a tendency to forget about people around you and generally band members try to get
their sound and individuality onto the record. A lot of it is ego based but there is also
much more give than take in this process. Quite often the pressure of making an album
weighs so heavy on a band that they forget they are doing it together and helping each
other out. People often do their best work in difficult circumstances, under pressure and
with deadlines looming – it’s human nature. I want this chapter to be an exploration into
the psychology of a working band freshly signed to a major label, trying to hold onto
their identity but at the same time wanting to have hit records and become successful and
famous. I’ve been there myself and it’s a terrible dichotomy and a struggle (the drummer
Eric Hedford left in 1998 due to a row over royalties). This is especially relevant to The
Dandy Warhols in 1996-97 and the way the music industry was then. I’ll be honest with
you, this chapter is an experiment and I have no idea how it will turn out yet. If it fails as
an experiment, I will at least have plenty of research and ideas from it to create
something interesting for the reader.
Chapter 5 – 19
Analysis of the 14 songs on the album.
How they were made, what they are about or not about or even if people should be left to
work it out for themselves. Nothing too techy, nothing too literal. There is a diverse range
of tracks on this album from ‘Cool as Kim Deal’ to ‘Hard On For Jesus’ and the 3 hit
singles the album produced, along with some outrageous videos that went with them.
Album artwork and release – Reviews and Interviews of the time – touring and the bands
future after the album – the global success of “Bohemian Like You” and the effect it had
on the band artistically and financially – building of The Odditorium in Portland ( The
Dandy’s Warhol Factory). The success of the film DIG by Ondi Timoner and its
portrayal of the band.
Conclusion – marriage and children – successes and disasters along the way. A one line
answer from each member in a nutshell…