It began in typical fashion- months of rehearsal followed by a shaky debut performance. In this case, the Gin Blossoms debuted on Christmas night 1987.
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The lineup would change but the band that night featured Jesse Valenzuela on vocals, Doug Hopkins on guitars, and Bill Leen on Bass.
By May 1988 the band solidified under the more familiar line-up, with Robin Wilson taking over as lead vocalist, Jesse moving over to guitar and vocals, Hopkins & Leen reprising their roles, and Phillip Rhodes joining as the band's new drummer. A relentless touring schedule quickly earned them Best Rock Band honors in a Phoenix New Times Reader's Poll. That award in turn, landed them a much-coveted spot at the South By Southwest Music Conference in March of 1989. Interest in the band increased after they independently released, 'Dusted'. The twelve-song tape featured early versions of "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You" and soon earned them a review from the College Media Journal that dubbed the band, 'The Best Unsigned Band in America'. The spring of 1990 saw the Gin Blossoms sign with A&M Records, where they would begin work on their debut album.
The first sessions resulted in half an album being scrapped and the band wondering if they were still signed. After the failed attempt, A&M let the band cut an EP on their own in hopes of rekindling the spark on 'Dusted', that had been missing from the recent recordings. The 'Up And Crumbling' EP was released in 1991 and was followed by an extensive tour. Once again the band was ready to tackle their first album, only this time with veteran Memphis producer, John Hampton. The band fared better their second time around except for Hopkins. Doug left the band before the album's completion when his bouts with depression and alcoholism worsened. Jesse did double duty on guitar and the record was eventually completed. Upon returning to Tempe, Hopkins was replaced by scene veteran and friend, Scott Johnson. An anxious label looked on, quietly wondering if all of this had been a mistake. Once again thrown into turmoil, the band found themselves at the crossroads.
The result was 1992's, 'New Miserable Experience'. The record struggled to find its place in the market but refused to go away. Nine months after the initial release, "Hey Jealousy" was finally a legitimate Top 10 hit. Four more singles followed it: "Mrs. Rita", "Found Out About You", "Allison Road"
and "Until I Fall Away". By the time the dust settled, 'New Miserable Experience' had sold nearly 3 million copies in the U.S. and the Gin Blossoms were a band to be reckoned with. The enjoyment of their success was bittersweet, when in December of 1993 founding member Doug Hopkins committed suicide.
The Gin Blossoms took some time off to recover from their 24-month roller coaster ride and to examine where they would go from here. The band was adamant against co-writes, especially being under the microscope from their series of triumphs and tragedies of the previous two years. However, Jesse couldn't turn down the offer of writing with Marshall Crenshaw. A&M was looking for songs for one of their new signings, Kelly Willis and perhaps the two would stumble across something. The collaborators clicked and three quarters of the way through the co-write Jesse confessed that the track, "is too good to give away." The song was then passed onto singer Robin Wilson to finish the lyrics, and three months later became the band's first #1 hit, "Til I Hear It From You", which appeared in the film, 'Empire Records'. The strength of the track landed the band in unofficial history books because never before had a movie not made it to wide release, yet spawned a soundtrack certified Gold (sales of over 500,000 units) that featured a #1 single.
The band's next album, 'Congratulations I'm Sorry' was released in 1996 and yielded two more hits: "Follow You Down", which spent ten weeks in the top 10, and "As Long As It Matters", which earned the group a Grammy nomination for "Best Performance by a Duo or Group." The album debuted in Billboard's Top Ten and a year of touring helped push the record past 1,500,000 units sold.
Early in '97, the band found themselves back in Los Angeles to receive two awards from ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers). These were in recognition for having two of the most played songs from the previous year, "Til I Hear It From You" and "Follow You Down". The irony of collecting such honors, as the band entered its final days was not lost on any of them. There was no great fanfare heralding the end of the band. It was one of those things where one day they just realized that they all wanted different things.
From the ashes of the Gin Blossoms two new bands formed. Robin Wilson started the Gas Giants, while Jesse formed The Low/Watts. Guitarist Scott Johnson was in an early version of Low-Watts but eventually ended up joining up with ex-Refreshments front-man, Roger Clyne and his band the Peacemakers.
Drummer Phillip Rhodes followed Wilson into the Gas Giants. The band was signed to A&M and then inherited by Intersope in the Seagrams deal of 1998.
The Gas Giants' debut, "From Beyond The Back Burner", sat unreleased for a year before it found a new home at Atomic Pop and was finally released in January 2000. The Gas Giants toured extensively in 2000 behind the single, "Quitter".
A 1999 Gin Blossoms Greatest Hits CD, 'Outside Looking In', started to bring some attention to Wilson & Valenzuela as songwriters. When people looked at the Gin Blossoms' body of work it was hard to deny the band's prowess as craftsmen of great pop songs. Jesse's songwriting and session work found a home with a wide array of artists including Judy Collins, The Rembrandts and Stevie Nicks, among others. During that same time, Robin began a career as a producer. He built and began operating Mayberry Studios, producing and engineering records for a slew of Tempe bands. Wilson also started a label, Uranus Labs and put out a compilation of local Arizona bands.
The new millennium was ushered in with a Gin Blossoms reunion show in Tempe, AZ. Clearly, the band hadn't missed a step and it left fans wondering if they would soon be joining forces again. Jesse remained somewhat cryptic when asked about the future of the band, "I think that show proved that you can never say never. So, anything is possible - I just don't know if it's likely." Another New Year's Eve show at the close of 2001, proved to be the final push the band needed. In February of 2002, the Gin Blossoms decided that there was still fun to be found in the joy of playing together live.
When asked about the upcoming tour and the possibility of a new album Robin said, "We always said our breakup wasn't forever and right now we're all feeling like we want to be Gin Blossoms again. We make a noise together that we can't make otherwise. We respect and appreciate that we need each other to create that sound. This time we hope to avoid being swallowed by the chaos."
The band embarked on an 80 date US tour in 2002. The shows were in support of five Gin Blossoms related projects that were released last year: Gin Blossoms 'Just South Of Nowhere1 DVD (featuring a full concert & a collection of all of the bandıs A&M videos), Gin Blossoms - 'Dusted' (the band's first pre-A&M release that had only been available on cassette until now), Gin Blossoms - 'New Miserable Experience - Collector's Series' (an expanded 2 CD version with bonus tracks, demos and outtakes), The Poppin'
Wheelies (Robin Wilson's marriage of comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, Sci-Fi and Pop Music) and Jesse Valenzuela's - 'Tunes Young People Will Enjoy'.
The band continues their rigorous touring schedule into 2004, while writing material for a new album that will be released later in the year. In the meantime, fans can find the Gin Blossomsı hit song, "Follow You Down" in the box office smash, 'How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days'. The song also appears on the filmıs soundtrack released by Virgin Records.
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