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January 1994 started off with the Dave Letterman show. After Christmas I spent a few weeks hiding out in London with friends. I received a call at the white courtesy phone at LAX when I reached Los Angeles from Heathrow. “You need to get on the red-eye to NYC tonight – you are playing the Letterman Show tomorrow.”

I hopped a flight to San Francisco, went home to get my bass and take a quick shower, then it was off to the airport for the red-eye to NYC. We flew all night and were at NBC studios by noon. Sandra Bernhart was a guest that night and I remember Linda ran out to a toy store and bought her a stuffed bunny rabbit. I had been a fan of Sandra Bernhart ever since I saw her on The Tonight Show and The King of Comedy was one of my all-time favorite movies. We were all big fans. Paul Shaffer was really friendly, he came into our dressing room and introduced himself before the rehearsal.

During the rehearsal the band kept playing with us – which honestly cheesed out the song into some kind of “we are the world” kind of anthem. We really just wanted to do our song ourselves, they way we always did it. I guess a little Paul on the piano would have worked fine, but that was not to be. I remember the guitar player saying “don’t worry – we won’t play this much when you tape” … and they did anyway. They sang on top of Linda during the chorus and walked all over my background vocals, too. It was weird. And fucking annoying as hell. I guess this was one of those moments when I thought to myself if we were all dudes it would not have happened. Oh well.

I was still jet lagged and hungover from my trip to London. When Dave walked over to greet us after we had played I spanked his butt with the neck of my bass. Then we got snowed in for an extra day or so. And getting snowed in while visiting NYC is one of my favorite things.

We were nominated in the 1994 Rolling Stone reader’s poll in three categories: Best New Band, Best New Female Singer, and Worst Single. Linda won the award for best new female singer.

We were nominated in the 1994 Rolling Stone reader’s poll in three categories: Best New Band, Best New Female Singer, and Worst Single. Linda won the award for best new female singer.

My good friend Waiyde Palmer interviewed us for the American Music Press in February 1994.  click on pages to read enlargement of article.

My good friend Waiyde Palmer interviewed us for the American Music Press in February 1994.
click on pages to read enlargement of article.

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94-daltry-passIn February we were offered a choice; the band would play a song – maybe two – at the Daltry Sings Townsend show at Carnegie Hall. Or Linda could sing a solo tune and also a duet with Roger Daltry. We decided it would be way cool for Linda to do the duet, because how cool it would be to perform with Roger Daltry?! I flew a couple of friends out to NYC and we had a great time at the show and hanging around backstage, most memorably meeting Roger Daltry, Pete Townsend, Sinaed O’Connor, and Alice Cooper. John Entwistle played bass on some songs during the show which was a treat to watch. After the show a bunch of us went out to a club and I sat next to Terry Gilliam for hours and tried to convince him to cast me in a movie.

It was the first time I had watched Linda sing from an audience perspective for years, and never anywhere that impressive! It was a blast. Sitting third row center stage at Carnegie Hall, I beamed with pride as Linda performed “Acid Queen” and then “Free” with Roger Daltry. It was nice to be in the audience for a change. I felt very proud of my bandmate.

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We were all over pop magazines in Europe, especially in Germany. This particular series featured a 4-week collection of pop-out posters of each of us.

It was during the spring of 1994 that Roger was fired from the band. Although he had made solid contributions to our music and to the success of our tours, he also seemed to me to be in over his head at times and perhaps overwhelmed with the responsibility – which was huge. I think that he just needed to be doing his own thing – that’s where his strengths are. So we let him go.

And once again we were looking for a guitarist.

airheads_1994_580x894_322614We were contracted to do a song for the Airheads soundtrack. We decided to do a rock song – a cover of Van Halen’s “I’m the One” – and considered who we wanted to play electric guitar on the track. Concrete Blonde was a band we all loved, and we knew that Johnette (Napolitano) was working on another project so we asked Jim Mankey if he would play on it and he agreed.

Dawn learned how to play a double-kick drum in a week for the rock shuffle the song required. We went into the studio and busted out the tracks smoothly, decidedly including a “big rock ending”. Jim and Linda wrote a cool middle section for the song with acoustic guitar, and Linda and I recorded the background vocals.

Mike Chapman is a famous guy, he has produced a lot of hit rock records in his long career. He was hired to produce the song, and the raw tracks sounded great. He did an initial mix, as producers often do – but we didn’t like it much. It just didn’t have enough balls, to put it blatantly. He said he wanted to work on it alone and so we all went down to the Palms bar to have a beer. When we returned we still weren’t happy with the mix and Linda suggested that she would like to give it a try. Mike flatlined the board and walked out of the room.

This is when it initially became obvious to me that Linda has a natural talent for producing. She mixed the song and we loved it. An Interscope rep (former Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison) came in and listened to both versions, and Linda’s version is the one we all agreed was best.

The song ended up being a stand out track in the movie. I went to see the film in LA, not knowing when it would be played – if at all. In the middle of the movie – and during a very climactic moment – our song is played with no dialog on top of it. I almost jumped right out of my seat. You can listen to the track here:

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img-christa-grazWe enjoyed playing with Jim and asked him to do an upcoming European tour we had booked. He agreed and we all headed back over the pond. We spent a month hitting our hotspots, including Germany and Austria.

We also had a show booked in Acapulco. The gig was an all expenses paid trip to play an internationally televised music show watched by millions of people. It was said to have the largest audience of any music show, anywhere. We were also to be presented with some award at the show. Our album had recently gone gold in Mexico, and we were getting a lot of airplay in South America.

We stayed at the Las Brisas – a fancy hotel high atop a hill and each of our rooms had it’s own swimming pool. After a day of relaxing we went down to the television studio for the soundcheck. We had no manager, but our A&R man’s assistant, Leslie Gerard, was with us. After we started rehearsing for the show, the producer started complaining about our volume. They became very controlling and started pissing us off, to say the least. A crew member we had hired from Chris Isaak’s band the night before said that Chris’s band was way louder than us and couldn’t understand why they were complaining. We started to think it was just some macho bullshit.
We made it through the rehearsal and came back later for the show. We were scheduled to do a 50 minute set. We normally play What’s Up? about halfway through, and after a few songs Linda started her usual strum into our hit single. But suddenly she paused and we brought the music down. She looked out the crowd as she strummed and said “You know, we are very happy to be down here in Mexico to play for you tonight.”

And the crowd of several thousand people started cheering.

She continued: “But when we were rehearsing this afternoon, the people who run this show weren’t being very nice to us.”

And the crowd settled down with curiosity, carefully listening to her.

“And so I want you all to do us a favor. On the count of three, I want you all to say FUCK YOU TV PEOPLE.”

And as Linda counted down “Uno, dos, tres … FUCK YOU TV PEOPLE” the entire audience chanted in unison along with her. I don’t even think half of them spoke english, but they yelled right along word for word. And then we broke into What’s Up? and finished our set.

After the set there were no awards presented to us as planned. We were rushed off of the stage into our dressing room, which was pitch black as they had cut our power. Someone in our crew found a flashlight and we gathered up our things and split. It was fucking hilarious.

4 Non Blondes “Spaceman” 1994 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.

4 Non Blondes “In My Dreams” 1994 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.

We flew home and began preparations to record our next CD. We secured Dave Jerden (Alice in Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers) as producer. I felt like taking some time off, I was somewhat exhausted and missed having a social life. But our lives were on someone else’s schedule at that point, so I buckled down and prepared myself for the next project. I had no clue that it was the beginning of the end.