In the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, Dean Wareham was the front man of the immensely influential Boston indie band Galaxie 500. They put out three legendary albums, then found themselves supporting Cocteau Twins on the Heaven or Las Vegas tour. After the last show on the tour, Wareham informed Damon and Naomi that he was quitting the band, and that was that.
Wareham immediately signed a deal with Elektra records, he went to New York City, and he recruited some guys to get Luna going. Actually, at the time, they were one of many dozen indie bands who were being sued or otherwise harassed about their band name. People were getting sued left and right over copyright infringement. To placate some pre-existing new age musician who called himself Luna, Wareham and Co changed their name (at least their name in print) to Luna2. Not long after Lunapark, an agreement was reached and Wareham and Co were allowed to drop the ridiculous superscript. Nobody was ever going to call them “Luna squared”, so there was no point to that anyway.
Before the band was fully formed, Wareham spent some time working with Jimmy Chambers, the drummer from the Buffalo alternative band Mercury Rev. They recorded some songs that were released under the name Dean Wareham. He played some live dates with a quickly assembled band which also included Mercury Rev guitarist Sean Thomas Mackowaick (better known as Grasshopper).
Wareham took a very little bit of time to assemble the right band, and they recorded Lunapark. While Other Luna albums have individual songs that are better than any song on Lunapark, I still think that when consumed from soup to nuts, it’s better as a total package than the others.
There are no fewer than three “standout” tracks, and this one comes right out of the gate. Track one.
“Slide” by Luna
I love that bass solo right from the drop. Played “melody bass”, like a guitar solo. It’s really weird to say this, but just for those first ten seconds, it sounds like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, who used two bassists. One played regular bassy bass and the other played that guitar-esque melody stuff similar to what’s being done here.
I also love the opening vocal lines:
You can never give
the finger to the blind
Sometimes I act so stupid
but you never seem to mind
I remember being slightly obsessed with the album when it came out, largely because of the single “Slash Your Tires”, which very nearly became a mainstream hit. However, I didn’t know the lineage of Dean Wareham. I might not, to tell a truth, even have known about Galaxie 500. I was “working” at the college radio station, and spending a lot of time there. I’m pretty sure that made sure to play a song from Lunapark on every one of my shows.
At the time, I was completely fanatical about The Sundays, and when they announced their winter 1993 promotional tour for Blind, with Luna as support, it was an absolute no-brainer. A band that I loved playing a show with a band that I already liked a lot as the opener? On a Friday night? Really close by? Yep. I saw that Sundays/Luna show on consecutive nights, involving a 4.5 hours of travel on Saturday.
On the second night, I ended up with backstage passes, and it was my first experience with that kind of thing. After a few awkward moments of being starstruck, it was a really fun night. More than meeting The Sundays, the most memorable thing from that night was that I ended up playing the part of courier. A young teenage girl who saw that I had “media” credentials asked me to hand something to Dean Wareham. I obliged. It was just some object wrapped by a piece of notebook paper and bound by string. It turns out that the paper was some really bizarre love note and the “object” was a carrot. It was really creepy, and that was the last I saw of Dean that night.
On the return trip, my buddies and I ended up making a joke of that carrot incident. It started off with someone wondering how often young girls have given Dean carrots. That changed into acting out a scenario where a rock star is annoyed not by the bizarreness of the “gift” but the fact that it’s always carrots. For some reason, this was acted out in an English accent. “Carrots, carrots carrots. All they ever give me is bloody carrots! How about a parsnip every once in a while?”. From that, we decided to start a fake band called The Parsnips. We each made up an identity and a specific role in the “band”. We took this joke to the next step by creating a legal ID station break for the radio station.
We’re The Parsnips, and you’re listening to WQFS Greensboro
We put it in with the others, and we all played it during our own shows. The thing is, I think other people started to play it, too.
All of that because some girl asked me to give Dean Wareham a carrot.
For more details (centered around The Sundays) about how things went down that night, check in to this post from one of my old blogs.
The picture above is a more modern picture. It’s not the lineup from Lunapark. I think that picture is from around the time of their final record —Rendezvous— in 2004. Britta Phillips, who is now Dean’s wife, didn’t even join the band until 2000.
Dust off your old copy of Lunapark, and play this record loud. Or buy a new one here.