Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Song of the Day: 'Ask Me No Questions' by Kindred Spirit

Have been down a bit of a Bangles rabbit hole recently -- well, more than I normally am -- and have wound up in the era of the gals' post-breakup endeavors. Everyone but Susanna Hoffs went the band route -- I remember Michael Steele's Crash Wisdom and that Vicki Peterson joined the Continental Drifters -- but it was sister Debbi whose adventures I was least familiar with. Turns out she briefly teamed up with fellow girl-band drummer exile Gina Schock to form a duo called Smashbox. In addition to the former Go-Go, the group also featured Sara Lee (Gang of Four, B-52's) and Wendy & Lisa of Prince fame. This lineup didn't last long and by 1991 the group was reduced to Peterson and Schock, who signed with IRS Records (original home of the Go-Go's) and renamed themselves Kindred Spirit. After recording some demos with producer Humberto Gatica, Schock decided to quit. (I haven't gotten too many details about what the friction was about, but I've been told Gina had nothing nice to say about Debbi on a recent podcast hosted by Abby Travis, who played with the Bangles after Michael Steele retired then All About Eved her way into the Go-Go's for a few years during the spat with Kathy Valentine.)

According to Wikipedia, Peterson looked for a replacement and found Siobhan Maher, who had just split with her group, the River City People. In late 1992 they released the single "Here in My Eyes" in Europe and went on tour as the opening act for Joan Armatrading. 

 Their self-titled album was set to be released in early 1993. The songs Peterson and Schock had written together were slated for the album, however Schock sued the group to "regain control of her material." 

The lengthy legal battle put the LP on hold and it wasn't until 1995 that it was released, preceded by the single "Ask Me No Questions."  The album, produced by Peterson and Maher, was a collection of acoustic and pop-rock songs. As with the Bangles, Peterson and Maher wrote their songs separately, singing lead vocals in their own songs and harmony vocals on one other's. The only song co-written by Schock included in the album was the single "Here in My Eyes," which Schock allowed as part of her favorable out-of-court settlement. The album bombed. And then other than one contribution in 1995 (a song called "Christmas Son") for a Christmas compilation album (that also featured Olivia Newton-John and Belinda Carlisle), the group never recorded again. IRS Records went bankrupt the following year and after unsuccessfully trying to land another record deal, the duo parted ways. (Siobhan Maher released a solo album in 2002, and Debbi Peterson rejoined the Bangles in 1999. She recorded a new version of "Ask Me No Questions" with the group in their 2003 album, "Doll Revolution.")

Question: If I didn't know about this, who did?

You'd be forgiven for thinking this was 1964 rather than 1994 ...


Just listened to the podcast and my source was correct -- Gina does not mince words. She claims that it's "not her fault" if someone can't play their instrument, referring to Debbi -- who she describes as being a "good vocalist" --  and says the younger Peterson sister got upset that producer Humberto Gatica (of Michael Jackson "Bad" fame) picked more of Gina's songs for the proposed album than hers. ("The politics were f**king ridiculous. It was the first time I've ever walked away from something.” For her part, Abby claims that while she toured with the Bangles, they stopped allowing her to have a stagelight on her.) I have no reason to question Schock's feelings. But if she can play drums and Debbi can sing, wouldn't that be the perfect situation for two drummers in one band? Also: Schock has described her former House of Schock collaborator Vance DeGeneres as a "total asshole," formed various bands with Kathy Valentine -- including joining the Delphines -- and had an extremely short-lived band in the late '90s called K-Five, all of which didn't work out. So you have to ask yourself: What is the common denominator here? 

According to the BMI database, the songs Debbi and Gina wrote were: 

1. Here in My Eyes (released) 
2. Minutes Away Miles Apart 
3.  My World Your World 
4.  Can't Stop Falling 
5. Conversations 
6.  Hideaway 
7.  I Want Everything 
8. In the Real Time


Gina discussed her "House of Schock" album on Jon Lamoreaux's "Deep Dive" podcast in March 2023. The conversation is a riot, but unfortunately she hadn't actually listened to the album in ages so most of the specifics were more generalities. But more to the point: Her attempted collaboration with Debbi Peterson briefly comes up and she has as much rage and venom now as she did 30 years ago. She didn't go into specifics, but she made it sound like they got along face to face but that perhaps things were said (by Debbi, I presume) behind her back that caused her to walk away, "the one and only time she says she's ever abandoned a project." Listen HERE.

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