Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Canadian Music Hall of Fame Inductees the Barenaked Ladies

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Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Canadian Music Hall  Fame Inductees the Barenaked Ladies

For the past 30 years, Barenaked Ladies have been a fixture in Canadian music by combining jokes, inescapable hooks and an endless abundance youthful enthusiasm. They were also the nation’s first platinum indie band, selling over 100,000 copies their Yellow Tape, not to mention the subject a city-wide controversy in their hometown Toronto, after the mayor’s fice took fence to their silly name.
 
In the 1990s, the band experienced incredible success, first in Canada by unthinkably selling over one million copies their debut, Gordon, then years later, when they were at a career low, breaking through in the U.S. with a live album, Rock Spectacle, which was followed by a #1 Billboard hit with their kooky rap-influenced single, “One Week.” In 1998, Barenaked Ladies were one the biggest acts in the world.
 
Like all good things, the success waned and years later co-founding member Steven Page left the band, after a drug-related arrest. Many thought that would be the end Barenaked Ladies, but the remaining members successfully carried on. Last November they released their 12th full-length, Fake Nudes, and this month will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall Fame, alongside Page.
 
Our latest Timeline, out now in the April issue Exclaim!, traces Barenaked Ladies’ ups and downs.
 
1. There was not much thought given to the name Barenaked Ladies.
 
Steven Page and Ed Robertson get their first gig performing outside Toronto City Hall at a benefit concert for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Booked when Robertson was still in the Rage, he is forced to come up with a new name for his and Page’s new duo. They come up with Barenaked Ladies on August 29, 1988, while attending a Bob Dylan concert at the CNE Exhibition Stadium. “I’d just turned 18 and I remember thinking, ‘Well that’s a cool name because it’ll keep us alternative and we’ll never hit the mainstream,” Page tells biographer Paul Myers. “It made us laugh and reminded us when we were eight years old, and would look at the women’s underwear section the Sears catalogue.”
 
2. Their third cassette, The Yellow Tape, was integral in shaping Canadian independent music.
 
Showcasing the band’s hybrid sound pop, folk, funk, rock, comedy and hip-hop, The Yellow Tape becomes an enormous success. Thanks to the early support record shops such as Sam the Record Man, it becomes the first Canadian indie recording to be racked at the front chain stores. Looking to assist with all the demand, Page’s father, Victor, founds Page Publications (later Page Music) to distribute the cassette to retailers across Canada. With this boost, The Yellow Tape goes on to reach platinum sales, in excess 100,000 units sold, forever changing the Canadian indie music landscape along the way.
 
3. There was once a press-fabricated beef between Barenaked Ladies and the Art Gallery Ontario.
 
In 1994, the Art Gallery Ontario hosts the Barnes Exhibit, which features an assortment nude female paintings. As a joke, the gallery launches an ad campaign and merchandise reading “Rarenaked Ladies.” BNL manager Nigel Best fails to run the AGO’s idea by the band, and asks their lawyers to issue a cease and desist to the gallery. The media turn on the band and call them out for not seeing the humour. Once the band gets word the hubbub, they clear up any confusion by countering with a T-shirt their own that reads “The Barnes Exhibit” and features images three old barns.
 
4. The band’s career was saved and revitalized by a live album.
 
Eight months after Born On A Pirate Ship, they release Rock Spectacle (pronounced “Rock Speck-tack”), featuring songs recording in Chicago and Montreal. Using their spirited take on “Brian Wilson” as the lead single, the live disc becomes an unlikely success, giving them their first radio hit and selling more than 750,000 copies in the U.S. Page later tells The Toronto Sun, “Manager Terry McBride] wanted it to just tide people over for another few months while we were busy making a new record. But the live album ended up being so successful, and because it was so cheap to make, people kind went, ‘Wow, this thing is happening.’ We did basically three nights shows, we started hearing the master tapes, it was like, ‘This is better than we thought it was.'”
 
5. Yes, they record bare-naked.
 
During the sessions for their debut album, the band live up to their name and get bare naked to record “The King Bedside Manor.” “You felt more awkward if you had your clothes on,” producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda tells Paul Myers. “So I ditched my clothes too. Of course, I went out and took some photos all them buck naked.” It is a tradition they will continue with subsequent albums.