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The Dentists

Although the Dentists were arguably the first Brit-pop band, they never were able to capitalize when the style they'd perfected over the course of a decade suddenly became the Next Big Thing around 1994. Their signature sound, a combination of Mick Murphy's veddy British voice and Bob Collins' hyperactively jangly guitar, has been duplicated many times over, but it's never quite been equaled.

The Dentists formed in their native Chatham, a small town in rural Kent, in 1983; the original lineup comprised Murphy, Collins, bassist Mark Matthews, and drummer Ian Smith. Their first single, "Strawberries Are Growing in My Garden (And It's Wintertime)," was released on the tiny indie Spruck Records in 1985. A neo-freakbeat masterpiece that sounds like it could have been recorded in 1967, "Strawberries" remained the Dentists' best-known and most beloved song for the rest of their career. That early peak was quickly followed by the album Some People Are on the Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now (the title taken from the famous end of the 1966 World Cup final won by England) and the six-song EP You and Your Bloody Oranges, which have no overlapping tracks. The album titles, matched with songs like "One of Our Psychedelic Beakers is Missing" and "Where's My Chicken, You B**tard," made the group out to be a bunch of paisley-clad goofballs in some reviewers' eyes, a mistaken first impression that never entirely went away.

Smith left the group in early 1986, replaced by the equally anonymously named Alun Jones. In contrast to their exceptionally busy first year of recordings, the quartet only managed two EPs in 1986 and 1987, Down and Out in Paris and Chatham and Writhing on the Shagpile. In 1988, the Belgian label Antler released a CD compiling the best parts of all the previous releases minus Some People Are on the Pitch and Beer Bottle and Bannister Symphonies: A Collection of Some of the Finer Moments of Dentistry. The label followed this with an EP's worth of new material, The Fun Has Arrived.

Oddly, for a band that had been so productive in the early years of their career, the Dentists all but disappeared for over two years at this point, only contributing one new track, "Snapdragon," to the compilation Time Will Show the Wiser in 1989. However, when they reappeared in 1991 with the new album Heads and How to Read Them, the Dentists launched a new and even busier phase of their career. Besides a pair of singles extracted from the album, both with excellent and otherwise unavailable B-sides, the Dentists landed exclusive tracks on a number of compilations and finally began an attempt to introduce themselves to the American market, which they had so far ignored. A 10" EP, Naked, compiled seven rarities from 1986 and 1987, most of them previously unreleased. This was followed in 1992 by Dressed, a 22-track CD of other songs from the 1985-1987 era, containing nearly all of Some People Are on the Pitch and the best moments from the EPs. (There's a fair amount of overlap with the 1988 Belgian CD.)

Along with that spate of reissues, the Dentists released a series of three thematically linked singles on three different indie labels, each with a poem by John Hegley on the B-side. The songs (but unfortunately, not the poems) were compiled in 1993 on the U.S. release Powdered Lobster Fiasco, along with re-recorded versions of several other songs from the preceding five years. New drummer Rob Grigg replaced Jones starting with these singles. Later in 1993, the Dentists unexpectedly signed with a major American label, the East/West division of Atlantic. Although this proved to be as unlikely a pairing as it sounded (East/West was primarily an R&B imprint), the label immediately went to work on establishing its indie credibility by releasing a box set of three 7" singles, Bigbangredshiftblackholes, which included several tracks from their upcoming album and a clutch of demos, rehearsal versions, and otherwise unavailable songs.

That album, 1994's Behind the Door I Keep the Universe, turned out to be one of the Dentists' best, but it unfortunately stiffed completely despite East/West's best promotional efforts, which included a hard to find but extremely cool hour-long promo disc called Radio Novocaine, featuring the Dentists playing some of their favorite recent singles and interviewing each other. Apparently disillusioned, the Dentists made the unwise decision of having New York City noise rock maestro Wharton Tiers produce 1995's Deep Six. Tiers layers the songs with unnecessary guitar grunge and the tempos are uncharacteristically sluggish. It's a dispiriting record with an unfortunately accurate title. After its release and subsequent commercial failure, East/West dropped the Dentists. Collins called it a day, retiring from the music business; Murphy, Matthews, and Grigg found a new guitarist and formed the short-lived Coax. ~ Stewart Mason
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Children Of Nuggets

Disc 1

1. Vanishing Girl

2. Help You Ann

3. The Real World

4. We're Living In Violent Times

7. Strangers When We Meet

8. Wading Through A Ventilator

9. I Can't Hide

10. The Girl From Baltimore

11. It's A Good Thing

12. She's Fine

15. (My Girl) Maryanne

17. You Are My Friend

18. Mr. Unreliable

19. (I Thought) You Wanted To Know

21. There Must Be A Better Life

22. Slave Girl

23. I May Hate You Sometimes

24. I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape

27. I Want You Back

Disc 2

1. This Damn Nation

2. Tell Me When It's Over

3. Whenever I'm Gone

4. New Kind Of Kick

5. And She Rides

6. Motorbike Beat

8. 25 O'Clock

9. Don't Give It Up Now

10. If And When

11. Pabst Blue Ribbon

12. There She Goes

16. Everyday Things

17. I Wanna Destroy You

19. Apology

23. Flowers In The Sky

24. Metal Baby

Disc 3

1. The Unguarded Moment

2. I Can't Pretend

3. Out Of The Unknown

4. L.A. Explosion

5. I'll Cry Alone

6. Sunspots

8. Death And Angels

10. Pink Frost

12. Beauty And Sadness

16. She Goes Out With Everybody

19. God Knows It's True

21. Don't Break Down

22. The World Has Changed

23. Baby What's Wrong

25. My Name Is Tom

Disc 4

1. Gentle Tuesday

2. With A Cantaloupe Girlfriend

3. Like Wow - Wipeout!

4. Bad News Travels Fast

10. Transfiguration

12. Where The Wolf Bane Blooms

14. Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden (And It's Wintertime)

16. Weakness

19. Far Away

22. Tight Turn

23. One Way Ticket

x

Track List: The Indie Vigils

1. Lundi Bleu

2. Primitive Painters

3. Mesa

4. We Are All Bourgeois Now

5. Completely & Utterly

6. Skin Storm

7. I'm Done With Drugs

8. Magic

10. Stay Free

11. Gone

12. Shimmer

14. The Osmonds

15. Battling The Bottle (Fighting The Flab, At War With The World)

16. I Had An Excellent Dream

17. Tangerine

18. The Chocolate Elephant Man

20. Taste

21. Small Town Girl

22. Can't

23. El President

24. He's Frank (Slight Return)

25. Glorious Chorus

Comments

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I thought the Dentists were a skin head band or izaN punk band!?!?!? What is this insanity !?!?!?
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wow, good for you Pandora to have the Dentists on here... this is their first single, as far as I know - I have two copies!
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thanks jherr0081!

yea very cool.
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The only song I heard by the Dentists was "I Had an Excellent Dream" which I liked a lot. This album listed above looks very good, contains a lot of bands I saw live in the 80s.
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thanks for the info jherr0081.
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The Dentists were an indie/pop band from the Medway towns in England who were active from 1984 to 1995. The band's permanent members were Mick Murphy (lead vocals), Bob Collins (guitar) and Mark Matthews (bass). The band also had three different drummers: Ian Smith (1984-1986), Alun Jones (1986-1991) and Rob Grigg (1991-1995). All members participated in writing songs.

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