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Beat Happening

Beat Happening was among the truly seminal and influential American bands of the post-punk era, a paragon of pop minimalism, rebellious innocence, and indie defiance. The linchpin of the Olympia, Washington-based International Pop Underground, they adopted a stance in direct opposition to the accepted norms at the heart of rock music; ignoring all notions of pretense, professionalism, and stardom, Beat Happening created an unorthodox, raw sound that democratically rotated vocal, guitar, and drum duties between members while jettisoning bass altogether. Dropping their last names to further emphasize their everyman approach, members Calvin (Johnson), Heather (Lewis), and Bret (Lunsford) expressed simple truths and simple emotions with simple music, favoring off-key, tuneless vocals and three-chord primitivism over slick, processed packaging; implicit in their work was also a rejection of major-label trappings, as the group steadfastly remained with K Records, Calvin's self-owned imprint and a model of D.I.Y. indie success.

Beat Happening formed in the early '80s; Calvin, a longtime fixture of the Olympia scene who also helped establish the original Sub Pop fanzine (the basis for the subsequent label), had already founded K, originally a cassette-only project started to release music no other company would touch. An alumnus of the short-lived Cool Rays, Calvin teamed with Heather and assorted friends in the first incarnation of Beat Happening, playing shows whenever and wherever they could as long as the performances were held at all-ages venues; his canyon-deep baritone quickly became as much a group trademark as their sardonic, even juvenile songs. After Bret joined in mid-1983, Beat Happening issued their debut five-song cassette a year later; a sightseeing trip to Japan followed, and while in Tokyo, the trio recorded its second effort, 1984's Three Tea Breakfast EP. Their 1985 eponymous full-length debut, produced by the Wipers' Greg Sage, brought Beat Happening their first widespread exposure, as well as a number of comparisons to the burgeoning British twee pop scene spearheaded by the Pastels. A long layoff followed prior to the release of 1988's remarkable Jamboree, co-produced by Mark Lanegan and Gary Lee Conner of the Screaming Trees.

The four-song joint release Beat Happening/Screaming Trees surfaced a few months later, trailed by 1989's Black Candy. With the release of 1991's Dreamy, Beat Happening's influence on the indie community became increasingly pronounced; not only did the blossoming cuddle-core movement owe the trio a huge debt, but in the summer 1991 Calvin masterminded the International Pop Underground Festival, a now-legendary concert spotlighting over 50 bands -- among them Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Scrawl, the Fastbacks, L7, and Mecca Normal -- all aligned in their opposition to corporate music. The sublime You Turn Me On followed, but apart from "Not a Care in the World," a track contributed to a 1992 Sub Pop sampler given away free to readers of Sassy magazine, Beat Happening spent much of the decade in limbo as Calvin focused on his Dub Narcotic Sound System project as well as the Halo Benders, a band founded with Built to Spill's Doug Martsch. Despite its absence from the stage and the studio, the trio maintained that it had not disbanded, and reportedly continued practicing on a monthly basis. Ten years after its last release, the band became the unlikely focus of a box set, Crashing Through. The set featured a newly recorded song, "Angel Gone," but nothing else new. In 2015, Domino Records released the career-spanning, band-selected collection Look Around, which served as a reminder to anyone who may have forgotten just how good and influential the band was. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: You Turn Me On

1. Tiger Trap

2. Noise

3. Pinebox Derby

4. Teenage Caveman

5. Sleepy Head

6. You Turn Me On

7. Godsend

8. Hey Day

9. Bury The Hammer

x

Track List: Beat Happening

1. Our Secret

2. What's Important

3. Down at the Sea

4. I Love You

5. Fourteen

6. Run Down the Stairs

7. Bad Seeds (Live)

8. In My Memory

9. Honey Pot

10. The Fall

11. Youth

12. Don't Mix the Colors

13. Foggy Eyes

14. Bad Seeds

15. I Let Him Get to Me

16. I Spy

17. Run Down the Stairs

18. Christmas

19. Fourteen

20. Let's Kiss

21. 1, 2, 3

22. In Love With You Thing

23. Look Around

24. untitled

x

Track List: Black Candy

1. Other Side

2. Black Candy

3. Knick Knack

4. Pajama Party In a Haunted Hive

5. Gravedigger Blues

6. Cast a Shadow

7. Bonfire

8. T.V. Girl

9. Playhouse

10. Ponytail

x

Track List: Crashing Through

1. Foggy Eyes

5. Gravedigger Blues

6. Tiger Trap

7. Bewitched

8. Red Head Walking

10. I've Lost You

11. Collide

12. Our Secret

13. Cast A Shadow

14. In Love With You Thing

15. Indian Summer

16. Other Side

17. Godsend

x

Track List: Dreamy

1. Me Untamed

2. Left Behind

3. Hot Chocolate Boy

4. I've Lost You

5. Cry For A Shadow

6. Collide

7. Nancy Sin

8. Fortune Cookie Prize

9. Revolution Come And Gone

10. Red Head Walking

x

Track List: Jamboree

1. Bewitched

2. In Between

3. Indian Summer

4. Hangman

5. Jamboree

6. Ask Me

7. Crashing Through

8. Cat Walk

9. Drive Car Girl

10. Midnight a Go-Go

11. The This Many Boyfriends Club

x

Track List: Music To Climb The Apple Tree By

1. Angel Gone

2. Nancy Sin

3. Sea Hunt

4. Look Around

5. Not A Care In The World

6. Dreamy

7. That Girl

8. Secret Picnic Spot

9. Zombie Limbo Time

10. Foggy Eyes

11. Knock On Any Door

12. Sea Babies

13. Tales Of A Brave Aphrodite

14. Polly Pereguinn

15. I Dig You

Comments

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Man some of u suck if u don't like them don't write on the GODDAMN PAGE I love beat happening. Let's kiss is best song
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I used to see Calvin around town when I first moved to Olympia. He was already CALVIN by then, but was still a nice guy (if quiet). It's cool that their weirdness was so influential. I still have a few of their songs on my digital shuffle list. Dub Narcotic is pretty neat too, but may be an acquired taste.
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This is my favorite band at the moment
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Nice sounds
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3 tea breakfast, please
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wenberep
All 3 of my children were concieved to this band. It's in their DNA now.
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great band
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don1983
almost as bad as the vaselines
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bromide01
More like Lame Happening.
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best band ever
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i thought it was a girl band when i saw the album cover!
Report as inappropriate
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