21 Years Ago: The Lemonheads’ ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ Album Released
For one brief, shining moment in 1992, the Lemonheads mattered. After five years and just as many albums, the Boston-based revolving-door band led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Evan Dando finally had something close to a hit, thanks to mainstream radio’s opening of the floodgates during the great alt-rock wave that crashed in the early ‘90s.
Before ‘It’s a Shame About Ray,’ the Lemonheads made little noise outside of the Boston area and within the innermost circle of the snobbiest music fans. By the time Dando headed into a Los Angeles studio in 1991 with a drummer and Juliana Hatfield (a Boston indie-rock fixture and Dando pal who played with the Blake Babies before launching a semi-successful solo career), they were signed to a major label and ready for their close-up.
They got it with the album’s title track, a ringing ‘90s power-pop tune laced with Dando’s sleepy-stoner delivery and a sprinkling of indie-rock spice. But it was an after-the-fact addition to the record that propelled the Lemonheads out of modern rock’s borders. To mark the 25th anniversary of the classic movie ‘The Graduate,’ the band recorded a cover of ‘Mrs. Robinson,’ the Simon & Garfunkel hit that served as the film’s de facto theme song. Initial pressings of ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ didn’t include ‘Mrs. Robinson’; the song was added as a bonus track after the Lemonheads’ version became a radio hit. (Even though it didn’t crack the pop chart, it reached the modern rock Top 10, as did the title cut.)
Thanks to ‘Mrs. Robinson,’ the album climbed to No. 68. And it generated enough buzz to land the follow-up LP, 1993’s ‘Come on Feel the Lemonheads,’ at No. 56 and send its lead single, ‘Into Your Arms,’ to No. 1 on the modern-rock chart. But the rush of success didn’t last. As the ‘Ray’ song ‘My Drug Buddy’ suggested, Dando’s drug use was increasing, fueling his erratic behavior and leading to two decades of spotty albums, unreliability and a reputation as a world-class screw-up. But 21 years ago on the Lemonheads’ best album, Dando’s future seemed mighty bright.
Watch the Lemonheads' Video for 'It's a Shame About Ray'