Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 266
Friday, Oct 05, 2012
I always believed that My So Called Life‘s Jared Leto’s “Jordan Catalano” character was based on lead Lemonhead Evan Dando. During the 1990s, Dando was the acoustic lothario who could make women swoon and men envious. He was the laid back singer/songwriters guys longed to be and women wanted to undress. In 1996, NME’s Sylvia Patterson brilliantly described The Lemonheads front man best when she wrote, “It was the character of Evan Grifflth Dando, aged 25, however, which illuminated our times. He didn’t hate himself and he didn’t want to die, he was a jolly child of the universe! The pop personality of the decade who walked lopsided and, ‘smiled like a dolphin’. He was a nomadic minstrel with no home, whose favorite phrase was, “The universe is unfolding as it should be”. He was always losing his shoes. He was an elite-schooled Bostonite of ‘groover’ pot-smoking, roller-skating, surfing parents (mum a sometime model, dad a lawyer) who was a child model himself (debut: aged six in a TV commercial for Jell-O), who quoted Blake when musing on his lack of need for a watch: “Who needs time when you’ve got angels in the trees?” He loved the telephone, “‘Cos when it rings, like, man, that’s the unknown!””
Evan’s persona was also the prototype of James “Sawyer” Ford, Josh Holloway’s character from Lost — a misunderstood and mysteriously dark heartbreaker reculse. Like Dando, Sawyer was as Evan described himself to NME’s Patterson, “I was the loner on swings.” The thing is that Sawyer and Catalano were characters. Dando lived the life. He may have been a reluctant pop star but Evan made it with his voice. It’s that rough nicotine and whiskey tainted voice that sounds like a raspy whisper. Dando’s lyrics are like the secrets that woman would love to hear at a pub to make you go home with them. It’s the simplicity in the lyrics and the honesty of Evan’s delivery that made The Lemonheads stars.
“[Car Button Cloth] is the first record I’ve worked really, really hard on. Every time I’ve finished a record before I’ve just split to Australia, but this time I even went to the mastering. I have this really pompous idea that I wanted to make some lasting contribution to music as a whole, so I really went for it. I’m actually really serious about this work, which is why I have to get so silly in interviews. It’s so hard to talk seriously about music, because music and talking don’t have that much to do with each other. For the person making the music, they’d rather not do it, so why not completely bullshit your way through interviews? That’s why I created the force field of the idiot dope fiend around me, sating ‘Yeah, cool, man’ all the time. That was just my way of shielding it.” Dando said talking about his public persona as he told Mojo Magazine in 1997.
For those of you who think Dando became famous because he has a cover star needs to listen deeper than to the flash of his imperfect skin. Evan’s explained his songwriting process in 2003 with The AV Club when he said, “It was reverse in a reverse kind of way. I just waited until I had enough really good songs. I didn’t want to put anything else out in my whole life unless it was what I considered really, really good. I waited until I had the songs. So it wasn’t like a lot of pressure. I put no pressure on myself. I was going to put nothing out if I didn’t come up with anything I thought was worthy, that was sort of like a step beyond. I think it’s a step beyond anything I’ve ever done. I just kept recording and recording […]”
Even though Dando had the athletic or male model like appearance, in real life, I picture him being more than another one of the characters Dando’s persona inspired, Freaks & Geeks, James Franco’s Daniel Desario. Evan was a freaky creative lyrical guy who happened to become famous. Dando took the art of the pop song and gave it his Lemonheads rock twist. Dando would be the envy of Kurt Cobain, Evan wrote a song with one of Nirvana’s front man’s heroes The Vaseline’s Eugene Kelly. Kelly co-wrote, “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You,” with Dando my favorite song from his ultra-underrated Car Button Cloth. According to 1996 Mojo Magazine interview, Evan told Barney Hoskyns, ““If I Could” was written after doing lines of coke on Napoleon’s draughting table, an item belonging to “a very, very rich and famous family whose name you know and which I probably shouldn’t say.””
“If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” echoes the life of an outcast stutter, which was my life for a better part of thirty years. This is why I respect the songwriting of Evan Dando, no matter how he looks, his exquisitely direct lyrics universally connect with music lovers because of his enthusiastically unbridled emotion. I imagine, Dando singing in the character of Jimmy Stewart’s Harvey. Someone wide-eyed who believes in something intangible others cannot see. Dando’s magic is in his lyrics, when Evan croons, I can relate as he takes me away with his clever wordplay. No matter how down I felt, “♫ Your place or Mein Kampf ♫” always inspired a grinning laugh. Speaking of, I love the faux bird sounds, it’s as if Evan’s reaching out lyrically saying it’s going to okay, tomorrow will be a better day. And he was right. That’s a true artist, you can’t see his face when Dando sings, it’s what his lyrics say that’s important and not his facial expressions. It’s all about how you feel underneath when Dando sings and “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” is a song that still connects with me today.
Evan Dando wants to leave something more than his much admired corpse after he passes away as he explained to CMJ’s Tom Lanham in 1996, “Yeah, and that’s why I’m doing it. Because when I’m dead, there will be nothing more for me, I don’t think – I don’t believe in the afterlife in any way. So that’s why I work so hard – I’m trying to make a lasting contribution to music. And that’ll all burn up eventually, too. But at least it might make some people laugh or think or… or… something.”
1996’s Car Button Cloth was the end of a chapter for The Lemonheads. More than just an under appreciated singer/songwriter, Evan Dando, was a pop culture icon who inspired many on screen characters like My So Called Life’s Catalano, Lost’s Sawyer and Freaks & Geeks’ Desario. Hopefully, Evan will be remembered not for his looks or his former paramours. Unfortunately, Dando’s excessive lifestyle overshadowed what he created on wax. “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” is one of the best Lemonheads songs Dando has ever recorded. It’s got that heart still has the voice of a loner, with Car Button Cloth, Evan Dando swung with the fences hoping his lyrical echoes outlast the flashes of his dreamy blazing heart.