- The Frogs (band)
Infobox Musical artist
Name = The Frogs
Landscape = yes
Background = group_or_band
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Alternative rock, lo-fi, folk pop, comedy rock
Years_active = 1980-present
Homestead Records, Matador Records, Scratchie Records, Four Alarm Records
URL = http://www.thefrogsarchive.com
Dennis Flemion Jimmy Flemion
Past_members = Jay Tiller
Brian "Beezer" Hill
Eddie "King" Roeser
John W. Busher
The Frogs are an American
rock musicband founded in 1980, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by brothers Jimmy and Dennis Flemion. The brothers mainly write and perform short, pop songs, but they are also known for their improvised home recordings which are delivered in a comedic style, and often tackle controversial issues such as race, religion, and sexuality (notabily homoeroticism). A history of strife has hindered the band, although a devoted fan base that includes many well-known musicians has supported the group.
Early years: 1980-1989
Brothers Jimmy Flemion and
Dennis Flemionbegan playing as the "Gila Monsters" and "Stupid Frogs" in 1980, frequenting Milwaukee clubs and coffeehouses. [http://citypages.com/databank/22/1077/article9723.asp] In 1983, bassist Jay Tillerjoined the group and the band permanently became a trio. That same year, Jimmy began wearing what was to become his trademark stage gimmick, a pair of six-foot batwings, inspired by the band's set list which at that time featured many glam rocksongs about death and gloom. Soon the brothers also began wearing wigs at their performances, and using pyrotechnics. Hence, "wings and wigs" became synonymous with the band. Although in their early days the Frogs played mostly in coffeehouses, they developed a larger following due mostly to their fan-friendly shows. In 1988, the Frogs self-releasedtheir first album in limited quantities. In that same year, Brian Hill joined the group as bassistand continues to make appearances with the group to this day.
Jay Tillergave a tape of the Frogs' improvised home recordings to his friend Steve Albini, and the tape eventually made it's way to Gerard Cosloy, then head of Homestead Records. Colsoy approached the band and offered to release an album. The Frogs were hoping that Homestead would re-release their first album, but Cosloy wanted to release an LP of the group's improvised home recordings that dealt with over-the-top homo-eroticism. Since the songs were not intended to be released, the group hedged at first, but eventually they relented, and mixed a 14 track collection of songs that were recorded on 4-track reel-to-reel with two microphones. The result was " It's Only Right and Natural", the group's second LP. Songs like "Been a Month Since I Had a Man" and "Gather 'Round for Savior #2" gave the album (and the band) a unique theme. Homestead announced that The Frogs were leaders in a "new gay supremacy movement", and the media ran with it. The album was received with mixed reactions; listeners were generally ecstatic, although others, who either disliked the subject matter or misunderstood the concept, were not as enthusiastic.Fact|date=April 2008 In the gay press, writer Adam Block wrote "I thought I'd find the record a lot more remarkable if I believed the Frogs were actually gay."citation |title=Of Flattops, Fake Fags, and Real Benefits |periodical= The Advocate|url=http://www.monkeychicken.com/AdamBlock/1989_6_20phranc.pdf |date= June 20, 1989|first=Adam |last=Block] "It's Only Right and Natural" was even denounced by Pat Robertson on the 700 Club and a number of conservativereligious organizations as proof of Satan's control over the entertainment industry.Fact|date=May 2008
Grunge and success: 1990-2000
In 1991, the Frogs produced a new album titled "Racially Yours", which included songs sung from the point of view of both blacks and whites, who find themselves in various race-related situations and predicaments. The lyrics are equally serious as they are satirical. Their label
Homesteadwas unwilling to release it (although it was distributed freely by fans). It eventually released in 2000 by the Four Alarmlabel. The Frogs' further plans for a live album went unfulfilled, as labels they pursued all seemed to be suffering through bankruptcyand management problems. Jay Tillerleft the band in 1992, to be replaced by Damian Strigens, although there were several substitutes in the meantime, including such notables as Eddie Roeserfrom Urge Overkilland Kelley Dealfrom The Breeders.
The Frogs, through their unique sense of humor, have gained a small but very devoted fan base. Although critics have attacked the Frogs for poor taste, bands seen normally as
politically correcthave come to their defense. In 1993, Billy Corgansaw the band at a small club in Madison, Wisconsin, and invited them to open for the Smashing Pumpkins. The Frogs were soon opening for Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Urge Overkill, and other fans of the group, to mixed reaction. After meeting Nirvana singer Kurt Cobainin 1993, The Frogs wrote two songs about him and also made him a videotape, " Toy Porno". The VHSfeatured select live performances and stop-motion animationwith painted action figures. Action figures and dolls were used as sexually promiscuouscharacters in various short sketches. The tape became constant viewing material on Nirvana's tour bus.Fact|date=May 2008 The videotape has since been made available to fans and has become a cult classic.
summerof 1994, the Frogs played the second stage at Lollapalooza, with Billy Corganjoining them at every stop for their encore of "I Only Play 4 Money" and "Lord Grunge" with Corgan shredding away on lead guitar. Corgan continued to support and promote The Frogs by producing a short film, "Meet the Frogs", which he included on the Smashing Pumpkins" Vieuphoria" video compilation. The short film brought the group recognition, but it has also confused Smashing Pumpkinsfans who don't know if they should take the band seriously or not.
Pearl Jamreleased a song called "Smile" on their " No Code" album. The lyrics were taken directly from a note that Dennis hid inside Eddie Vedder's notebook when he was on stage performing. The words used in the note are taken from the Frogs songs "This Is How I Feel" and "Now I Wanna Be Dead". Vedder has told the story of "Smile" several times while performing in Milwaukee. Dennis also gave Vedder a small pair of bat wings from the Frogs' early days, and Vedder has proudly displayed them behind his guitar amplifier. (The wings can seen on the front cover of " Touring Band 2000".) Pearl Jam has unfortunately never performed a Frogs song, but Eddie Vedder has sung "I Only Play 4 Money", "Starboy", and "The Longing Goes Away" with The Frogs on more than one occasion.
1994, The Frogs followed Gerard Cosloyto a new label, Matador Records, releasing two singles. In 1996, Matador released an album of old home-recorded and improvised material called " My Daughter the Broad". It became another cult classic, with fans shouting out many of the song's titles and lyrics at every show.
1997, their " Starjob" EP, produced by a pseudonymof Billy Corganin 1994, was released by Scratchie Records(founded by James Iha, among others), but it almost immediately went out of print when it failed to sell enough units to satisfy the label.Fact|date=May 2008 The EP contains well-produced studio tracks, including "Lord Grunge" and one of the most well known Frogs songs, "I Only Play 4 Money".
1996to February 1997, Dennis Flemion replaced recently-deceased keyboard player Jonathan Melvoinfor the Smashing Pumpkins' Infinite Sadness Tour. Jimmy Flemion performed "1979" (which was influenced by an unreleased Frogs song, "Pleasure") with the Smashing Pumpkinsnightly during their encores, as well as selecting audience members to dance on stage. The Flemion brothers also appeared on The Smashing Pumpkins' " Tonight, Tonight" single, and sang backing vocals on 1998's "Adore".
1997, Jimmy Flemion joined Sebastian Bach's touring band. Rather than stripping Jimmy of his trademark bat wings, the whole band adopted costumes as well. Jimmy also recorded a side project called The Last Hard Menwith Bach, Kelley Dealand Jimmy Chamberlin. Bach also performed "Lord Grunge" with The Frogs on an infamous MTVappearance on "Oddville". The Frogs destroyed their set and broke several rules set forth by the producers, so the producers retaliated by only broadcasting the first verse of the song.
1999, the Frogs covered "Vacation" by the Go-Go's for a tribute album. In that same year, another LP of old home-recorded and improvised material called " Bananimals" was released on the Four Alarm label, and the unreleased " Racially Yours" album soon followed in 2000. To support these two releases, the Frogs played in Canadafor the first time. However, they were stopped at Canadian Customs as officials seized all of their merchandise, declaring it "pornographic".Fact|date=May 2008 The Frogs had to play their Canadian shows without any merchandise to sell.
The Frogs latest studio effort, "
Hopscotch Lollipop Sunday Surprise", was released by Scratchiein 2001. However, Scratchiewasn't happy with the finished album, and they put it out of print after only a few months, just like they had with the previous " Starjob" EP. Fans were still enthusiastic about the band's Scratchie releases, regardless.
After Damien Strigens exited the band in
1998, past bassists such as Brian Hill and Jay Tiller returned for some appearances, while some new bassists began performing with the band, including Josh Silverman, David Geschke, and John W. Busher. Australian Ben Leemade a special guest appearance on bass in New York City on September 28, 2001.
In November 2004, the mayor of
Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak, crowd-surfed during a Frogs set at First Avenue, a popular nightclubin the Twin Cities, fulfilling a promise made earlier in the summer when the club temporarily closed due to financial difficulties. [http://howwastheshow.blogspot.com/2004/07/mayor-rt-rybak-stage-dives-and-crowd.html] [http://citypages.com/databank/25/1254/article12779.asp]
In late 2005, news came on an unofficial website that two LP's were in the works. [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/news.html] One record being "spiritual" and the other "sad". There has been no update since.
In late 2007, Jimmy Flemion performed with the Smashing Pumpkins in
Austin, TX. [http://smashingpumpkins.com/news_2625]
The Frogs are currently on hiatus. [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/news.html]
* "The Frogs" (1988) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/thefrogs.html Lyrics]
It's Only Right and Natural" (1989) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/ioran.html Lyrics]
My Daughter the Broad" (1996) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/mdtb.html Lyrics]
Bananimals" (1999) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/bananimals.html Lyrics]
Racially Yours" (2000) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/ry.html Lyrics]
Hopscotch Lollipop Sunday Surprise" (2001) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/hopscotch.html Lyrics]
ingles and EPs
*"Now You Know You're Black" (1994), Matador Records
*"Here Comes Santa's Pussy" (1995), Matador Records
Starjob" EP (1997) [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/lyrics/starjob.html Lyrics]
*with Pearl Jam: "Immortality/Rearviewmirror" (1995), Epic Records
*with Wesley Willis Fiasco: "The Frogs do Wesley Willis/Wesley Willis Does the Frogs" (1996), Sympathy for the Record Industry
*"Night of the Living Dead" (1993)
Massacre at Central Hi Records
*"Bruce Lee, Heroin, and the Punk Scene" (1993) Massacre at Central Hi Records
*"Punk Rock X-Mas" (1995)
*"What's Up Matador?" (1997) Matador Records
*"Too Much Scratchie Makes You Itch" (1997) Scratchie Records
*"Live Music From a Dead Campus" (1998)
*"Unsealed: A Tribute to
The Go Go's" (1999) 4 Alarm Records
*"Better than God: Greatest Hits"
Ween, an alternative rock group with similar humor
* [http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.thefrogs.net/ Official Website] (on Internet Archive)
* [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/ The Frogs Archive]
** [http://www.thefrogsarchive.com/audio.html Audio Downloads]
* [http://www.rustyspell.com/music/frogs.html Frogs Biography] on RLM
* [http://citypages.com/databank/22/1077/article9723.asp Frogs Biography] on City Pages
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