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Before Dinosaur Jr existed, Murph and Barlow played together in a drum and bass combo called Sebadoh, who were very successful in their time. The duo met while Murph was managing a Dairy Queen that Barlow used to frequent during his high school years. Murph was beginning to play drums, inspired by his childhood televison hero, Animal. However, he had a very obvious lack of talent and realized that he would need another highly skilled musician to balance this out if he were to succeed in any shape or fashion.
In late November 1978, on his way to Guitar Center, Lou crashed into Murph at a four-way intersection. This caused a 15-car pileup, but fortunately, the two of them emerged unscathed; the others were not so lucky. Rather than trade insurance cards, Murph noticed that Lou was wearing a Muppets T-Shirt, and they began to discuss Murph's musical aspirations. As it turned out, Lou was also looking for a band to start, as he was rapidly succeeding his idol, Flea, in technical ability as well as songwriting. They then decided to begin jamming, to see if there was any chemistry between them and if a band would arise.
It was not long before they found their trademark sound and began playing shows. They named their band Sebadoh, after their combined love of Play-Doh and the Pixies' top 40 hit "Subbacultcha." In the spring of 1979, Sebadoh released their first album, Dinosaur, and landed a headlining spot in the hippie musical festival Lollapalooza. Dinosaur debuted at the top of the charts to incredible critical acclaim. Their performance at Lollapalooza was considered a landmark in the drum and bass movement of the late 1970s.
Guitarist J Mascis was in the crowd at this event, and was so impressed by their musical ability that he snuck through the festival's security and bribed and/or beat several guards to meet the band members. He managed to catch up to them on their way back to their trailer, and professed his admiration at their showmanship and songwriting prowess. Murph and Barlow were taken aback at his unabashed gold-digging, and sensed an opportunity and asked if he would like to be their roadie. Mascis shyly mentioned that he "....played a little guitar,.......and wrote some...songs, if you would like to....listen sometime...?" At the time, they declined Mascis' request, but held on to his phone number in case they were to change their minds.
Around 1982, the mainstream musical atmosphere was changing, and Sebadoh's record sales began to drastically decrease. Their second album Bug was selling extremely poorly and the band was subsequently dropped from their label. Still wanting to play music together, and with nothing left to lose, Murph and Barlow decided to give Mascis a call, and the foundations of Dinosaur Jr were set.
edit Rebirth and Rise to Fame
The first jam sessions with Mascis were fruitful, and the trio decided on a sound and name rather quickly. Influenced by artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Autolux, and Nickelback, the band had a unique mix of heavy industrial metal and atmospheric jams and again found themselves recording demos and playing several shows per week soon after the band's formation.
In late 1983, the band, newly named Dinosaur Jr (after their desire to relive the success of Sebadoh's first album), began recording their debut, You're Living All Over Me. It would be released on Atlantic Records, and was notable for its highly polished and professional sound, partly due to the production experience of Mascis, and then-experimental Pro Tools recording software. Critics responded well to the album, as did the public, and it debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts. Soon the band embarked on a world tour and played such major festivals as Woodstock and Warped Tour.
The band's sound was still primarily dominated by the songwriting team of Barlow and Murph, and by their third album (which was still at the top of the charts), Mascis was beginning to feel like his contributions went unnoticed, and he was allowed less and less input as writing and recording went on. To make matters worse, Murph was beginning to record Mascis' guitar parts himself. Murph and Barlow later stated that they were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Mascis' guitar playing, feeling that he had not grown musically as they did.
As a result, Mascis was fired from the band during the recording of Green Mind in 1991. The record was finished with the help of Screaming Trees guitarist Gary Lee Conner and future Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme. Green Mind debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts to rave critical acclaim. It was supported by a 11-month universal tour, spanning over 200 sold-out venues in 8 galaxies. Even without Mascis at their side, it seemed as though Murph and Barlow received their second chance at success.
edit Internal Struggles and Lou's Departure
In 1993, after recording their fourth album, Where You Been, the seemingly unstoppable songwriting force of Murph and Barlow began to fracture internally. Murph wanted to push the band in an increasingly mainstream direction, in an effort to remain commercially viable for years to come, adopting the sounds of the current polka craze. Barlow also wanted to remain commercially viable, but he wanted to bring more of Sebadoh's old sound into the mix, since gangsta rap was also fairly successful. In spite of these differences, Dinosaur Jr continued to tour in support of the album.
At the end of the tour, in Hawaii, Barlow threw his bass at Murph at the end of the set and stormed offstage. Murph trashed his drum set and the show was over. Shortly thereafter, Barlow released a press statement, stating:
|Due to irreconcilable personal, creative, emotional, and racial differences, I am permanently leaving Dinosaur Jr. I wish Murph the best of luck in his future endeavors.|
Murph also released a statement:
|For the record, Lou is not leaving the band, he has been fired as a result of his public assault on me at our last show in Hawaii. His behavior was not only unprofessional, but insulting to me. A life-long friend and musical partner should not behave that way. I am going to continue to guide Dinosaur Jr towards the future and should release new music soon.|
edit Murph Continues Alone, and Mascis Returns
Murph began to record the next Dinosaur Jr album, the ironically titled Without a Sound by himself in early 1994. The record was soon released, and it is known that Murph played most, if not all, of the instruments by himself. The album had a very diverse and unique sound, showing influences from Britney Spears and the Beach Boys. Nevertheless, the record was still fairly successful on the charts despite lukewarm response from critics. Dinosaur Jr toured behind the album with various studio musicans, as well as musicians from other bands, including Axl Rose, Billy Corgan, Kurt Cobain, and many others.
After several quiet years since Mascis' firing, a statement was issued by the guitarist's management:
|It has come to my attention that several songs on the new Dinosaur album "Without a Sound" contain guitar riffs that I wrote while rehearsing for "Green Mind" back in '91. I am currently seeking legal advice on this situation.|
Mascis was subsequently contacted by Dinosaur Jr's management and was offered a spot back in the band if he dropped his lawsuit. Mascis decided to drop the lawsuit, and rejoined the band just in time to begin writing the band's 1997 release, Hand It Over. Mascis was allowed much more input this time around. The album's return to the sound of 1991's Green Mind suggested that Mascis was more responsible for the band's sound than previously understood.
Shortly after the album's release, Mascis somehow managed to fire Murph, and continued on his own under the Dinosaur Jr name. However, their record label was tiring of all the internal issues, backstabbings, firings, maltreatments, and narrowly-avoided lawsuits. They soon decided the band was too much of a liability, and dropped the band.
edit The Uncertain Future
Left without a label, Mascis attempted in vain to get signed to another label. A demo entitled Beyond was shopped around to various record labels, but no deals surfaced. He soon turned to prostitution to pay the bills. He soon dropped out of the public eye and was not heard from in several years.
In 2005, Lou Barlow began shopping various demos around to record labels in hopes of initiating a reunion. He managed to get a deal from a small indie label, and has begun working on the band's first recording since 1997. Mascis has been rumored to be involved, but no official word has been released, likely due to his other obligations. Murph has been confirmed to be involved in the reunion, however his role is somewhat limited as he was dealing with "personal issues" according to several sources.
The new record is allegedly entitled Farm and is said to be based on Barlow's post-Dinosaur farming partnership with former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry. There is no firm release date set as of yet, but is estimated to be released sometime in 2010.