Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The history of GBV’s Alien Lanes

Guided By Voices is my favorite contemporary rock band. They might have more songs than any artist ever, and by my count, at least 2/3 of them are worthy of my “favorites” folders in my Google Play library. Many hundreds (!) are classics and should be favorites of any fans of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Why they aren’t could arguably be one of rock’s great mysteries.


Many people are indeed onboard with GBV and its ever-I creasing legacy. Website Uproxx recently had an excellent oral history of the making of the classic 1995 Alien Lanes release. The most interesting tidbits include:

  • Leader Robert Pollard never left Dayton, Ohio because he has so many friends and family there from growing up, playing sports, and teaching school there.
  • He doesn’t consider it “writing” songs, it’s more “making up” songs about stuff that’s going on around him.
  • A lot of the early GBV bass lines were played on a tuned-down guitar because they didn’t have a bass.
  • There was a garage sale going on upstairs while the band recorded weirdo classic “Hot Freaks,” which must have confounded several of the customers.
  • Matt Sweeney of Chavez gave everyone he knew, including Kurt Cobain, tapes of Propeller and Vampire on Titus, which are my favorite lo-fi albums of all time (especially when paired with their monumentally explosive live performances). 
  • Sonic Youth and Pavement were in the audience for GBV’s first-ever show in New York, at CBGB’s.
  • Alien Lanes is named after a bowling alley about 50 miles away from Dayton that Bob got the name wrong on; it was actually called Astro Lanes.
  • Awesome bassist Greg Demos played violin on some of the band’s best songs.
  • Pollard: “I wanted Alien Lanes to sound like a late-night radio show without a DJ. I wanted Bee Thousand to sound like a bootleg of Beatles outtakes.”
  • Pollard: “Abbey Road is my favorite album of all time. Also, the silliness of a lot of the songs is similar to the Abbey Road suite.”
  • Rolling Stone had a glowing review of Alien Lanes, and it remains the longest review ever in the magazine’s history.
  • The band got in a fight with Billy Corgan over a basketball game they were playing during Lollapalooza 1994.

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