August 31, 1994. Oasis play their first and last show in North Wales at the Buckley Tivoli. ‘Definitely Maybe’ is fast becoming the most talked about album in years and a few hundred mad ferrit North Walians wanna know what all the fuss is about. Yet within minutes of entering this dark and dingy nightclub, the Manchester five-piece are momentarily forgotten about once word gets out that a certain Evan Dando has entered the building. Sure enough an hour later, The Lemonheads frontman arrives onstage to massive cheers and opens up for what later turns out to be the most legendary night this town has ever witnessed. Undoubtedly Oasis had everyone in the palm of their hand that evening but the night well and truly belonged to Dando. When he waltzed onstage with some random girl he’d picked up for the opening of ‘Live Forever’, it marked the first great moment in Britpop history.
“It was funny when I was dancing with that girl onstage, Noel was like nah nah do that somewhere else,” he laughs. “He was really pissed cos I stayed on the side of the stage while they carried on playing and I was like making out with this girl ha ha. Every once in while he’d look over at me and start shaking his head.” Two hours later, Dando was spotted necking with another girl on the backstage roof terrace while a group of fans below looked on in disbelief.
At the time The Lemonheads were massive worldwide and Dando’s face was splashed across countless magazine covers. Kurt Cobain had been dead for a mere four months and the press were already linking Dando with Cobain’s widow Courtney Love. “The whole thing with Courtney was weird. There was nothing ever going on with me and her,” he confesses. “She was just comforting herself with me after Kurt died. We took one joke picture and somebody stole it from my hotel room in New York. The next thing we knew, it was published all over the world. That was a pretty horrible experience and I was really pissed off. I paid for the development of that picture and all I wanted was my 15 bucks back. They made like 70 grand I figure from that shot alone.”
Turn the clock forward three years and Dando found himself entering the darkest period of his life. Close friends were dying around him and two years of hard partying on a diet of drink and drugs took him to breaking point. “1997 was probably the worst period,” he says with a hint of sadness. “It seemed like a lot of people were dying and I was just getting bored with the old routine of partying a lot. I just got burned out and I forgot why I’d gotten into music in the first place.” As a result, Dando split the band following their performance at Reading that summer. “I remember that time wasn’t a good period for real music,” he explains. “It was sort of the height of the Spice Girls and stuff and I just felt it was a good time to split for a while.”
Ten years on, a clean and now married Evan Dando is back with an all star Lemonheads line-up and a self-titled album which sees a massive return to form for the band. Songs like forthcoming single ‘Become The Enemy’ and the pulsating ‘Pittsburgh’ are three minute bursts of pure pop genius. “I think musicianship wise this is definitely one of the most dynamic Lemonheads albums I’ve ever made,” Dando enthuses. “I think both J Masics (Dinosaur Jr) and Garth Hudson (The Band) have added a lot to the album. On ‘No Backbone’ for instance, I do a couple of guitar solos before J comes in and totally nails it. I think he’s one of the best guitar players around.”
I just got burned out and I forgot why I’d gotten into music in the first place.
It may have been 10 years since the last Lemonheads album but Dando hasn’t been away for all that long. In 2003 he released his first solo LP ‘Baby I’m Bored’ and he’s been on the road ever since. “When I did the solo record that was me really getting back into music cos I hadn’t put anything out for a real long time,” he says. “I needed some inspiration which I found in my wife Elizabeth. She got me grounded and helped me to feel more balanced. Then I went down to Brazil in 2004 and they had this thing where all these Brazilian bands got together and did all these Lemonhead songs at a little festival. After seeing that I thought I might as well get the brand name out there again.”
At the wise old age of 39, Dando seems happier than ever these days. And he’s got every reason to be. With a series of UK dates lined up, talk of a slot at next year’s Glastonbury festival and an album just itching to invade your stereo, things could be a hell of a lot worse for The Lemonheads right now. “I have no complaints,” adds Dando. “I’m just glad to be able to still do it. I’ve never had to get a job since I was in college and I’ve managed to be a professional musician for about 17 years. That’s all I wanna do, be able to eat and live off my music.”