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Members include JillCunniff, bass, vocals, songwriter; GabbyGlaser, guitar, vocals, songwriter;KateSchellenbach, drums; and VivienTrimble (left band in 1998), keyboards. Addresses: Record company--Grand Royal Records, P.O. Box 26689, Los Angeles, CA 90039 Phone: (213) 663-3000 Fax: (213) 663-5726.
During the late1960s, when Luscious Jackson's namesake--Lucius Jackson--played for the Philadelphia 76ers in the National Basketball League, members of the all-female band were just coming into the world. Although they were born too late to notice the basketball star's greatness on the court then, they were impressed later when viewing memorable footage of his moves on the court, especially taking delight in an announcer's mispronunciation of Lucius's name as "luscious." As basketball fans--loyal season-ticket holders for the WNBA's New York Liberty-- born during Jackson's time of greatness, the women thought it appropriate to call themselves "Luscious Jackson" when it came time to think of a name for the band they put together in the early 1990s. The funk-pop music group blends many different influences and elements into its sound, from 1970s disco and bossa nova to 1980s punk and rap. Sara Sherr of the Village Voice described their generation and brand of song this way: "Too young to wear a Disco Sucks button or sequined tube top, they'd come of age as cool club kids or wide-eyed suburban new wavers who understand the Jammin' Gold segue from `Good Times to `Heart of Glass....' Luscious Jackson [lives] inside that segue too, making grown-up records for the kids who grew up eating to the beat indiscriminately." They've developed their image in their own way, even stamping to-become a prescription for hipness as they've come of age in their music. Billy Altman, in Stereo Review's Sound & Vision, applauded the band for its uniqueness in style, commenting, "From riot to Spice, girls with guitars who make it big in rock and pop tend to do so primarily by flaunting image and attitude. Luscious Jackson, like the old NBA hoopster the band is named after, has always approached its game stylishly but straight, choosing to chuck the tired --and ultimately regressive-- gender issue in order to simply get to the heart of the matter--namely, making good music."
The band members, Kate Schellenbach, drums; Jill Cunniff, bass, vocals, songwriter; and Gabby Glaser, guitar, vocals, songwriter, met in their teens while frequenting Manhattan's punk clubs, including CBGB, where Glaser reportedly spent her thirteenth birthday, Hurrah, Tier 3, and Max's Kansas City. They bonded over their affinity for the acts at those venues, such as the Funky Four Plus One More, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Slits, ESG, and Bad Brains. Moreover, they shared tremendous adoration and respect for the punk diva of the early 1980s, Blondie's Deborah Harry, as was common among American women of that generation. Meanwhile, Glaser bought her first guitar and began teaching some covers and Schellenbach started playing drums for a popular local band, the then-hardcore Beastie Boys, whom she dubbed years later as "the Daytona Spring Break Sideshow," as well as the Lunachicks and Wench. Glaser, who was known to be a chum of the Clash's Joe Strumer , reminisced on those teen years at the clubs in a 1999 Spin article, stating, "We really packed a lot into those years. We were exposed to so much stimuli that by the time we were 17, we were jaded."
When the trio reconvened in Manhattan after finishing their college studies, they pulled together money to put out a demo tape, which landed them opening gigs for the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill in 1991. Vivien Trimble, who had worked with dance companies in the New York City music scene, joined the band as a keyboardist. When the Beastie Boys launched their record label, Grand Royal, they invited Luscious Jackson to be their first client. In 1992 the band released its debut album, In Search of Manny, on Grand Royal, which included three tracks from the band's original demo and won the Best EP award in the Village Voice "Pazz & Jop" poll. They promoted their album by touring as the opening act for bands like Urge Overkill and the Breeders in 1992-93 and by playing second stage in 1994's Lollapalooza.
In late 1994, Luscious Jackson released its sophomore EP, Natural Ingredients, which was co-produced by the band members and Tony Magurian. Cunniff recalled in a 1999 Spin article that the album sounded "fun but sloppy," which she blamed on the band not relinquishing enough control of production over to the label's production experts. They then promoted the album with its own headlining tour in the United States and abroad. The track "Here" was marketed as a single and chosen for a video release and to be included on the soundtrack for Clueless. In 1995, Lucious Jackson appeared on Saturday Night Live and toured as the opening act for R.E.M. and Live.
In 1996 Luscious Jackson recorded and released Fever In Fever Out, produced by Daniel Lanois, who had done work for U2 and Bob Dylan. Written by Cunniff during a rocky period in her relationship with her boyfriend, Scott, "Naked Eye" was the take-off release for that album and became a hit in early 1997. The single put Luscious Jackson's name on the relatively more mainstream music charts. Accompanied by a smooth, even, funky harmony, the song's lyrics tell of the benefits and healing power of bold and clear communication with the people in your life. Billboard's Bradley Bambarger quoted Cunniff as describing the song as an expression of the "sense of relief" that comes from "emotional nudity--the feeling of not wearing all these layers...." She expressed further, "Even though it takes a lot of courage to be open. It's much easier to hide behind fences and wish the world understood." Luscious Jackson having yielded production control on Fever In Fever Out; Mike Kates, the new Grand Royal president, was disappointed with the album, because he felt that "it was more Daniel Lanois than [Luscious Jackson]," according to the same Spin article. By mid-1997 Fever In Fever Out achieved gold status. A fixture in American pop culture now, Luscious Jackson was featured in a colorful commercial for the GAP in late 1997, which gained distinction as TV Guide's Most Popular Ad that year.
Ready to get off the road and eager to pursue other musical projects, Trimble retired from the band, leaving the original trio. Glaser and Cunniff worked on developing their voices through voice lessons, studying in Miami and New York, respectively. Cunniff also spent time writing new songs. The band began recording it next release in 1998, which was released as Electric Honey in June of 1999. Spin applauded the release as Luscious Jackson's best, calling it "the most seamless fusion yet of the group's influences--punk, pop, New Wave, and funk ... more personal, less obsessed with unapologetic lust than it is with the benefits of hard-won maturity." The band members themselves called the album their first "top-to-bottom great record." They worked with four producers, including Tony Visconti, known for his work with David Bowie, and Mickey Petralia, who has worked with Beck, and accepted the advice of Kates and Mike D. The album features guest contributions by celebrities. Emmylou Harris, who also sang on Fever In Fever Out, sings on Electric Honey's first single release, "Ladyfingers." Ex-Brand New Heavies N'Dea Davenport contributes to "Christine." Kym Hampton of the New York Liberty sings backup on "Friends." Deborah Harry sings on "Fantastic Fabulous." Ex-Breeder Josephine Wiggs contributes cello and Petra Haden violin to the track "Space Diva."
Harry, a fan of the band's, has been deeply admired by the women of Luscious Jackson since they were girls. Harry invited Schellenbach to replace drummer Clem Burke for a short time during a Blondie reunion tour in 1998, which was a dream come true for the longtime Blondie fan, who was even a member of the Blondie fanclub as a child. In an interview with the San Francisco Gate, Schellenbach called Harry "a sweet, generous, badass woman with an incredible voice." Schellenbach also had the opportunity to play drums for the Indigo Girls' latest EP release and tour in 1999.
The success of Electric Honey, however, frightened Luscious Jackson. Perhaps wide acceptance in the industry is a sign that they have lost their status of setting trends in the music industry from the fringe. Achieving biographical coverage in the popular media could mean that they have outgrown their celebrity in the NYC indie music science as music industry mavericks who are always way before their time. It is too soon to survey whether audiences have hastened towards their style or whether their style has slowed down to keep pace with the mainstream. Cunniff even expressed concern that her happiness in her marriage and in domestic life could put her in danger of not being able to write the great songs that can only be born of sadness. However, she admitted to Spin that the success of Electric Honey is likely a product of her being "better at life."
In 1999, Luscious Jackson's members, well into their thirties, confessed in Spin to a softening, maturing, and slowing down in setting the latest trends in popular American youth culture. Schellenbach noted that her "record collection peaks at `83." Cunniff admitted to preferring a score on a good bargain on slipcovers than to hitting the latest club. The band, however, set the tone for immensely popular genre-blending artists in the late 1990s like Beck and the up-and-coming Cibo Matto. Beastie Boys' Mike D surveyed in the same Spin article that had In Search of Manny come out pre-Beck, or, in other words, during the hightime of genre fusing rock with surreal or goofy lyrics, it would have been their biggest selling album. Schellenbach remarked regarding the Beastie Boys' confidence in Luscious Jackson's style and art when they were just starting out, "I don't think anyone else could have understood what Jill and Gabby were doing back then."
by Melissa Walsh Doig
Luscious Jackson's Career
Group formed in New York City in 1991; signed with Grand Royal 1992; released debut album In Search of Manny, on Grand Royal, 1992; contributed to Clueless soundtrack with "Here," 1995; appeared on Saturday Night Live, 1995; hit the mainstream music charts with "Naked Eye," 1997; earned rave reviews for Electric Honey EP, 1999.
Luscious Jackson's Awards
Best EP award in the Village Voice "Pazz & Jop" poll for In the Search of Manny,1992.
- Selected discography
- Daughters of the Kaos (demo), Grand Royal, 1992; released on Capitol, 1993.
- In Search of Manny Grand Royal, 1992; released on Capitol, 1993.
- Citysong Grand Royal/Capitol, 1994.
- Natural Ingredients Grand Royal/Capitol, 1994.
- Deep Shag Grand Royal/Capitol 1994.
- Here Grand Royal/Capitol, 1995.
- Naked Eye Grand Royal, 1996.
- Fever In Fever Out Grand Royal/Capitol, 1996.
- Electric Honey Grand Royal/Capitol, 1999.
- Billboard, February 15, 1997; July 17,1999.
- Esquire, June 1999.
- Rolling Stone, July 8, 1999.
- San Francisco Gate, July 14, 1999.
- Spin, June 8, 1999.
- Stereo Review's Sound & Vision, July/August 1999.
- Vibe, June/July 1999.
- Village Voice, August 24, 1999.
- Billboard website, http://www.billboard.com/daily/feature/luscious.html (November 18, 1999).
- Grand Royal website, http://www.grandroyal.com, (November 27, 1999).
- "The Luscious Jackson Source," http://www.homepages.go.com/~luscious77/ (November 27, 1999).
- "The Official Luscious Jackson Website," http://www.lusciousjackson.com (November 27, 1999).
- Rolling Stone website, http://www.rollingstone.com (November 18, 1999).
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