How do you define musical success? Lots of money? Lots of fans? Most dedicated cult following? Major label deal? It just keeps getting trickier and trickier.
A few weeks ago a friend loaned me his copy of Dig!, a documentary about the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Two very talented and trippy groups that had very different career paths – the Dandys got a major label deal and got really popular, especially in Europe; the BJM got more and more dysfunctional over time, with rampant drug use and constant fighting.
It also follows the changing relationship between BJM’s volatile singer Anton Newcombe and the Dandys’ Courtney Taylor, who started out as great friends and ended up as bitter rivals.
I recently saw both bands at Emo’s in Austin. The Brian Jonestown Massacre played at Psych Fest and The Dandy Warhols played later at their own show. I loved both bands, but I think I would’ve appreciated them a lot more if I had seen Dig! beforehand. I didn’t realize how awesome it is that Anton is keeping it together as well as he is right now, or that tambourinist Joel Gion still tours with the band after quitting/getting fired/getting in fights, etc. so many times. (BTW, Joel was my favorite “character” in Dig!, just laughing and clowning and partying through it all, the quintessential stoner.)
So which band succeeded? I would have to say both. The Dandys had more commercial success (Although Capitol has since downsized, dropping them from the label and turning them back into a “true indie” band). Their songs are catchier.
Brian Jonestown Massacre make consistently great music that will stand the test of time. They’re like some of the great psychedelic bands from the ’60s before they got big and lost their edge.
I think the Anton and Courtney love/hate relationship is fascinating. Anton envies Courtney’s success with the Dandys and Courtney loves and envies Anton’s songwriting ability. Here’s hoping they get back to the point where they can hang out and perform together again.
If you’re a fan of either of these bands and haven’t seen Dig!, you owe it to yourself to watch it. Even if you never heard of either band, watch it. Best documentary and in fact best movie I’ve seen in a long time.