One Hit Wonders – You Get What You Give

Stardom is a double-edged sword, especially when one seeks to unmask it, showing its emptiness. You can complain about fame, but by the time it gets to you, you’ll encounter a contradictory place. Being in this situation, there are only two ways of dealing with it: either you choose to accept that you are now on the side at which the darts are being shot at, or you decide that it is just not your thing. The latter illustrates the life of Gregg Alexander, former leader of the band New Radicals.

The New Radicals was a band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1997 primarily focused on its front man, vocalist, songwriter and producer Gregg Alexander. The talented multi-instrumentalist from Michigan who at age 20 had already recorded two solo albums, was the only steady member of the band. Being exposed to the music business from this young age, Gregg Alexander was soon very aware both sides of stardom: the glamorous side and the miseries it brings with it.

"Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson  Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson  You're all fakes Run to your mansions  Come around, we'll kick your ass in!"

“Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson – Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You’re all fakes – Run to your mansions – Come around, we’ll kick your ass in!”

In 1998 the vice president of MCA Records, Michael Rosenblatt, approached the New Radicals and offered them a record deal including $600,000 to record their first (and only) album “Maybe You’ve been Brainwashed Too”. The first single from the album was also their biggest hit, “You Get What You Give”. It reached  #30 on Billboard Hot 100 Airplay in January 1999, #36 on the overall Hot 100 and #8 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. It reached #5 in the United Kingdom and #1 in Canada and New Zealand. Overall it has been played over one million times on U.S. radio. But with the hit single Gregg Alexander also caused a lot of stir within the media for his criticism of the entertainment world, complaining about Beck, Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love. According to Alexander, the main purpose of this criticism was to test the media attention. As one response Marilyn Manson said “I do not dislike to kick my ass, but I will be used in the same sentence as Courtney Love … If I see him ( Alexander ) will break your skull … “. Also several U.S. institutions (i.e. the Health System, the Food & Drug Association and the media establishing paranoia for Y2K), were harshly criticized in his lyrics, but in the end nobody really noticed. But ignoring the social criticism, it’s just about the happiest, most infectious song you can ever imagine.

Gregg quickly found out that he was no becoming part of the business he was criticizing and did not feel comfortable being part of it anymore. After being forced by his label to record a second video clip to promote the album, he gave an interview stating that the group would cease to exist, also claiming to have reached his goals and that the dynamics of shows and promotional tours were nothing for him. “The fatigue of traveling and getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring ‘hanging and schmoozing’ with radio and retail people is definitely not for me,” he once said.

" I lost interest in fronting a ‘One Hit Wonder’ to the point that I was wearing a hat while performing so that people wouldn’t see my lack of enthusiasm."

” I’ve lost interest in fronting a ‘One Hit Wonder’ to the point that I was wearing a hat while performing so that people wouldn’t see my lack of enthusiasm.”

Ever since, Alexander retired from the active music business and up until today has been working as a producer and songwriter for other artists ranging from Sophie Ellis Bextor (“Murder on the Dance-floor”) to Ronan Keating (“Love is a Roller coaster”) and from Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) to Enrique Iglesias – all under the pseudonym “Alex Ander”. His biggest success as a producer was in 2003, when a song he wrote for Michelle Branch featuring in Carlos Santana’s album (Shaman – “The Game of Love”) , earned him a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration. Today it is almost impossible to find our  regarding what he is up to, either as a producer as an artist. Well, I think he had his one hit. He had his platinum record. He had the riches, the fame and the success. And then, as soon as he achieved all those things, he walked away from it, dropping his microphone in an act of either rebelliousness, intelligence, anxiety or some combination of all three. He figured he was destined for one-hit-wonders, anyway, so he quit while he was ahead, driving home with an extra hundred bucks in his pocket, rather than putting it all on red for one more spin aimed at landing him thousands.

One Hit Wonders – Lemon Tree

The following story proves that not all “Anglo-Hits” come from Britain, Australia or America. Fool’s Garden is pop coming from Pforzheim – a peaceful little city in western Germany. “The traffic lights here are always red and green traffic lights here are very rarely seen,” it reads in an online description of the city. Metaphorically seen a well matching comparison, imagining Fool’s Garden upcoming career at the time when Lead-Singer Peter Freudenthal founded the combo in 1991. With first appearances in local radio broadcasts and local television programs, they started to draw attention to their music and 1993 finally released their self-titled debut album “Fool’s Garden”. However, the album could not really knock anybody’s socks off – but the foundation was laid.

In the fall of 1995, Fool’s Garden released “Lemon Tree” as the lead single of their upcoming third album. “The song came to me as I waited for my girlfriend and it was immediately clear to me that this song is something special. A day of production – the rest is history, which continues to this day,” explains singer Peter Freudenthal. In Germany, the single remained in the charts for 36 weeks, including 15 weeks in the Top Ten. Overall, the title has been translated into 45 languages ​​and was published in over 40 countries. In Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and France, the single was awarded gold; in Norway and Ireland Fool’s Garden even received platinum status. The following album “Dish of the day” also made ​​the jump to the top of numerous charts, achieved platinum status in Germany, and gold in Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Singapore, China and Malaysia. In 1996 the band was awarded as the most successful young band with several international awards as for instance the “Bambi”, ”The Golden Europe”, “The Golden Tuning Fork” and the “Echo”.

"What we have experienced with this song was awesome. Better to be a one hit wonder than a Never Hit Wonder", Peter Freudenthal.

 “What we have experienced with this song was awesome. Better to be a One Hit Wonder than a Never Hit Wonder,” Peter Freudenthal.

Unfortunately, it remained a commercial One Hit Wonder. Following the recognition of Lemon Tree, the band released the albums “Go and Ask Peggy for the Principal Thing” (1997), “For Sale” (2000) and “25 Miles to Kissimmee (2003)”, which proofed to be commercially unsuccessful. Sacked by their record company in 2003, the band performs without a record company ever since  and after the separation of two band members also performs under a new name – Fools Garden. New Name? Look closely: the apostrophe is missing. In 2012 they released their last album where the cover was designed by ex-Beatles graphic Klaus Voormann. While fans still have to wait for a real cracker in type of “Lemon Tree”, Fools Garden delight their audience at smaller venues and developed new music markets in Lithuania and Russia. Fools Garden for example played for the 750-year celebration of the Königsberg in front of 100,000 visitors in Kaliningrad. The most loyal fans, however, are still represented in the Asian region. Only recently the band was playing for a charity event for earthquake victims in China. I think this is the only way a band like Fools Garden can handle success.

Fools+Garden“If you played in Russia live front of over 100,000 people and appeared on Chinese television in front of 30 million people, if you wrote a song that is being played everywhere in the world, so far has sold more than six million records and has been translated into more than 40 languages ​​and is already a classic – then you don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore”.