Happy Birthday: Greg Dulli
Picture it: Hamilton, Ohio, 1965. What’s that? You can’t picture it because you’ve never been to Hamilton, Ohio? In that case, we’ll skip Sophia Petrillo’s stock story opening and just tell you that today’s the birthday of Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, which is a date worthy of celebration. To do so, we’ve set up a Spotify stream of the deluxe reissue of the band’s 1996 album BLACK LOVE, and we’ve also put together a six-pack of tracks featuring guest appearances by Dulli, some of which may be new to you.
1. Bullet LaVolta, “Ceiling Life” (1992): Dulli guested on this track from the 1991 album SWANDIVE when both Bullet LaVolta and Afghan Whigs shared a label in SubPop Records, and when Afghan Whigs released their 2014 album DO THE BEAST, the song “Parked Outside” featured musical contributions from former Bullet Lavolta member Clay Tarver, now of the band Chavez.
Dulli spoke of his lengthy friendship with Tarver at the time, telling Rolling Stone, “We met on the Whigs' first national tour. [Our bands] were both opening for Mudhoney, and we've been close ever since. I actually named Chavez; I also gave them their first show, opening for the Whigs in New York on the Gentlemen tour in '94. I remember it well: that was the night before the world heard about the death of Kurt Cobain.”
2. The Backbeat Band, “Please Mr. Postman” (1994): Dulli was part of the all-star band that performed the songs played by the early Beatles in the film Backbeat, along with Dave Pirner, Thurston Moore, Don Fleming, Mike Mills, and Dave Grohl. “When I got asked to do that record, it was, I think, five or six of us in a room at Ocean Way, and we just started plowing through the songs, man,” Dulli told the AV Club. “Literally, I think the idea was for them to sound like they were in a bar in the ’60s and played fast and loud. And there was not a lot of do-over. I think we made that record in two days.”
As it happens, this particular track was one that meant a lot to Dulli. “It’s hard to explain, but I remember when I sang ‘Please Mr. Postman,’ it almost seemed like it was a destiny type thing,” he said. “This is gonna sound strange, but the version of the song I remembered most from my childhood was the Carpenters’ version, and I remember thinking when I heard that song as a kid, this song’s gonna pop up again someday.’ And all of a sudden, there it was.”
3. Throneberry, “Touched” (1994): The ties between Afghan Whigs and Throneberry are even closer than those with Bullet LaVolta: not only had Dulli been roommates with Throneberry’s guitarist / singer, Jason Arbenz, but Michael Horrigan had been the drummer for Throneberry before Dulli drafted him to serve as the Whigs’ new drummer, having gotten to appreciate Horrigan’s way with a beat when he’d played on a Twilight Singers album. That was good news for the Whigs, but it was a shock to the members of Throneberry.
"That was a decision that Michael made, to lobby for a spot in our band,” Dulli told CityBeat in 1998. “I could see that those guys (Throneberry) were definitely upset. I think they thought I had a big hand in that, but even I can't do something like that. He loves those guys, and we love those guys. But I think Michael was looking at a long time of doing nothing and was interested in doing something. He wanted to work on another record. I know it was a really hard decision for him and a really hard decision for us. It definitely caused some temporary discomfort in band relations, but we've known those guys for way too long for that to be a nagging concern."
4. Denis Leary, “Insane Cowboy (In Africa)” (1997): Dulli’s been a fan of Leary’s for the better part of two decades, having first met up with him through their mutual friend, the late Ted Demme, which is how Dulli came to contribute to Leary’s 1997 album LOCK ‘N LOAD. Based on the aforementioned AV Club interview, his favorite contribution would seem to be “Insane Cowboy (In Africa),” a track which barely features Leary at all. “I [co-wrote the song] with the great Jeff Garlin,” said Dulli. “I play guitar and sing backup on it, and Jeff Garlin is the lead singer. It’s a phenomenal piece of music.” It should be probably be noted that Dulli laughed at the end of that last sentence, but the song in question is, uh, definitely something.
5. Lo-Fidelity Allstars, “Somebody Needs You” (2002): This collaboration came about through the connection built between Dulli and the Allstars when the group opened for Afghan Whigs on their 1965 tour. (That’s an album title, by the way, and not the year of the tour.) The recording process involved the Allstars sending Dulli the track, at which point he sang over it and sent it back, but the long-distance process proved successful: not only did the track make it onto their 2002 album DON’T BE AFRAID OF LOVE, but it was used in an episode of Sex and the City to score one of Charlotte’s sex scenes.
6. Mark Lanegan, “Methamphetamine Blues” (2004): Although he first came to fame as a member of the Seattle grunge-era band Screaming Trees, Lanegan has since found considerable success as a solo artist, a voyage that started with his 2004 solo debut BUBBLEGUM, from which this track is taken. He’s also slipped back into a group dynamic on occasion, however, with the most high-profile endeavor being the Gutter Twins, a collaboration with – you guessed it – Greg Dulli.