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10 Years Ago: The Wallflowers’ ‘Red Letter Days’ Album Released

The Wallflowers, 'Red Letter Days'

After three albums and more than a decade as frontman of the Wallflowers, things were finally starting to come together for Jakob Dylan. “We’re all here because we believe in what we’re doing,” Dylan said upon the release of 2002’s ‘Red Letter Days,’ the band’s fourth album. “Recording ‘Red Letter Days’ became a huge lesson for us — that records do not have to be torture to make. I’m not very Zen about these things, but now there’s definitely a good vibe.” Ten years to the day ‘Red Letter Days’ was released — it dropped on Nov. 5, 2002 — that good vibe seems to still be going on. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Considering the band’s early success, the fact that Dylan even hinted at difficult times in the those days was a bit surprising. When the Wallflowers surfaced in 1992 with their self-titled debut album, it seemed the biggest hurdle Dylan and his bandmates faced was being perceived as living in the shadow of Jakob’s legendary father, folk-rock icon Bob Dylan. But by their second disc, the multi-platinum 1996 release ‘Bringing Down the Horse’ — which snagged two Grammy awards (Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song) for its biggest hit, ‘One Headlight’ — they’d put those comparisons to rest permanently.

It took four years for their follow-up, 2000’s much grittier ‘(Breach),’ to finally drop, and when it did, it sold significantly fewer copies than its predecessor, barely earning a gold record. But the band hit the road hard in support of the disc — and that’s when Dylan found inspiration for album number four. “I kind of stumbled upon writing a record this time,” the Wallflowers leader said of ‘Red Letters Days.’ “I kind of needed a distraction from the road so I naturally started writing. I really took advantage of the schedule and by the time I looked down there were a bunch songs. I just woke up one day and realized we had a record.”

With most of the album already finished on the road, the turnaround this time around was a lot quicker, and less then two years later, the Wallflowers issued ‘Red Letter Days.’ Sales were even more disappointing — which is surprising, considering the fact that the disc saw the Wallflowers returning to the more melodic sound and polished production of ‘Bringing Down the Horse’ — and the band only shot a video for one single, ‘When You’re On Top,’ which was a big hit on AA radio but virtually ignored everywhere else. But despite the flagging sales, the Wallflowers managed to identify a core audience of dedicated fans. A decade later, it’s much of that same fan base that latched on to the band’s latest album, ‘Glad All Over,’ which dropped this September.

Watch the Video for ‘When You’re On Top’ by the Wallflowers

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