A Brief History of Danielle Dax

Danielle Dax was born and raised in Southend, England. Despite a life-long interest in music, Dax claims that for years she was too shy to perform. This began to change as she befriended Karl Blake, an artist making experimental recordings under the name the Lemon Kittens. After designing a sleeve for an early Lemon Kittens release, she was soon drawn into making music with the group as well, appearing on the 1980 album We Buy A Hammer For Daddy. In 1982 the second Lemon Kittens album to feature Danielle was released, entitled They That Bite The Hand That Feed Them Sooner Or Later Must Meet...The Big Dentist. The group split shortly after this release, although Dax and Blake would maintain a strong friendship over the years and make occasional contributions to each other's musical projects.

Recognizing the absence of musical works produced entirely by women, Dax set out to remedy this situation. In 1983 she completed her first solo album, Pop-Eyes, and created the Biter of Thorpe label for the occasion (named after Danielle's predilection for aggression as a child, when she attended Thorpe junior school). While not entirely abandoning the dissonant roots of her Lemon Kittens work, the new album was much more radio-friendly, with a greater emphasis on melody and more complex production. The music wasn't the only striking thing about the album; the original cover created a bit of a stir as well. Dax's disturbing collage of pictures of meat combined to form a face was soon replaced by an ethereal portrait by Holly Warburton, the artist who would provide the covers to most of Dax's early releases.

Continuing where Pop-Eyes left off, the six-track mini-LP The Jesus Egg That Wept featured several compositions that would have been very comfortable on stations to the left of the dial. Few stations actually took up this challenge however, and in a pattern that would persist throughout her career, her cult following continued to develop while mainstream success was elusive.

The following years were not extremely prolific, with the release of one single per year: "Yummer Yummer Man" (1985), "Where The Flies Are" (1986), and "Big Hollow Man" (1987). What this period lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. With production on any one of these singles rivaling that expended on entire albums by other artists, the resulting tracks are a masterful blend of technical complexity and melodic hooks. The relative scarcity of new material during this time may also be due to other projects with which Dax was involved. She made her film acting debut in 1985 with a brief role in The Company of Wolves, and in 1987 she recorded a live-in-the-studio session for British DJ Janice Long, performing versions of "Fizzing Human Bomb," "Pariah," "Ostrich," and "Numb Companions."

It wasn't until 1987 that Inky Bloaters,the next full album, was released. Full of high-energy tracks with arcane lyrics, the album had many potential hits in "Yummer Yummer Man," "Bad Miss 'M'," "Flashback," and "Big Hollow Man." Despite its wealth of melodic hooks, the album did not achieve great chart success in the UK. In 1988 Dark Adapted Eye was released by Sire in the US. Essentially a greatly expanded version of Inky Bloaters, the collection added a number of tracks from various singles, including Danielle's masterpiece "Cat-House." A few of the tracks managed to get some airplay on college stations, but a mainstream crossover was as elusive in the US as it was in the UK. Dax's first cover song was also released in 1988, a version of "Blue Christmas" for the Winter Warnerland promotional compilation sent to radio stations by Warner Brothers.

In 1990 Sire released Blast The Human Flower, a ten-track collection of entirely new material produced by Stephen Street (Smiths, Morrissey, Darling Buds, Blur). The album drew immediate criticism from some quarters, charging that Dax had simplified her songwriting in an effort to achieve chart success. Much of this consternation likely came from a striking change in the overall sound of the new album. With the exception of a cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," the album downplayed the eastern instrumentation that had permeated much of her earlier work in favor of a more straightforward rock sound, featuring guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. The cries of "sell-out" might have carried greater weight if the new sound were poorly executed, but taken on its own merits, the album is quite strong. High-energy tracks ("The Id Parade" and "Big Blue '82") are balanced with gentle acoustic songs ("Daisy") and solid album tracks. Following the familar pattern, the album's two singles, "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Big Blue '82," failed to attrack much attention. In retrospect, "The Id Parade" might have been a more judicious choice for a single release than "Tomorrow Never Knows," featuring some irresistable hooks and a driving beat. Then again, "Big Blue '82" had these same qualities and was still largely ignored by the general public.

Blast The Human Flower is the last full album Dax has released to date. In 1993 she collaborated on two tracks on the Shock Headed Peters Fear Engine IIalbum, and the next year contributed "Defiled" to Sire's Just Say Roe, Just Say Yes Vol. VII compilation. These were followed by the release of Timber Tongue in 1995, an EP that found Dax returning to a more experimental sound. After Timber Tongue Dax released a final collection of hits and rare tracks. In a wry commentary on the mainstream's tendency to ignore her work, Dax aptly titled the collection Comatose Non-Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career of Danielle Dax. A treasure-trove for fans, the collection features a number of selections that are otherwise unavailable.

Whether Dax will return to release any more albums is very much in question. Rumors indicate that several recordings made after Timber Tongue exist, but when these recordings will surface is unknown.

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