Copyright 1999 Newsday, Inc. NewsDay August 5, 1999
LENGTH: 809 words EDITION: ALL EDITIONS SECTION: NightBeat DATE: 08-05-1999 BYLINE: By Billy Altman. Billy Altman is a freelance writer.
Lilith's Lone Mann / Rocker Aimee Mann beats the odds with an appearance at the all-women's Lilith Fair and a new album AIMEE MANN REMEMBERS the precise moment when she began to fully comprehend why the music business is called a "business." It was 1986 and Mann, then the lead singer and songwriter for the Boston-based new-wave band 'Til Tuesday, was riding high on the success of the group's hit debut album and Top 10 single "Voices Carry." The quartet had just completed work on a second album it was quite proud of - and was dumbfounded by its record company's reaction to it. "We knew we'd made a much better album the second time out," recalled Mann, speaking by phone last week from a stop on this year's Lilith Fair, which hits Jones Beach Friday night - and which she'll follow with her own headlining appearance Saturday at Tramps. "We found out that nobody at the record company cared one bit if it was better. It was like, 'Better? What does that mean? We can't sell it because it doesn't sound like the first one.' " "Funny, we thought, isn't that what you're supposed to do at any job? Get better at what you do? If it sounds different but it's better - that's a problem?" Mann laughed. "I mean, when I was growing up, I only bought records I thought were good. If a record is good, people buy it, right?" Unfortunately, as anyone knows who's followed Mann's critically acclaimed but star-crossed career, that isn't always so. In fact, in Mann's case, just getting recordings released has often been a struggle. A solo artist since 'Til Tuesday's late '80s breakup, the gifted singer-songwriter has suffered through a maddening series of distribution foul-ups, label collapses and contract disputes that came to their latest head in December, when her third album got caught in the crossfire of the Universal/Polygram merger. The album bounced from Geffen, for whom Mann had recorded it, to Interscope, which sat on it until April before finally letting her know it was passing on the work. After more than a decade of professional headaches and heartaches, however, Mann was undaunted. She financed a buy-back of the album, and, with the aid of a newly constructed Web site (www.aimeemann.com), is gearing up to release and market the album herself. "Doing this is helping me reconnect to my job as a performer and writer, because at least I'm in control of my own destiny now," she said. "With these big corporations, you're always being evaluated and criticized by people that you may not respect. I don't have to deal with that now. It's like leaving a bad relationship - and it's not like there's another guy, either. It's knowing I'm better off alone and, indeed, may well be much healthier on my own." Mann said she was extremely pleased about being asked to perform at several stops on this year's Lilith Fair, especially since she was part of a show several years ago that served as its inspiration. "It was Patti Smith, Paula Cole, Lisa Loeb, me and Sarah (McLachlan). It just ballooned from that because Sarah thought, why not put everyone together for a whole tour? Why is it always no more than one woman on a music bill?" The key to the event's success, Mann feels, is that the participants have never seen it as anything unusual. "Lilith Fair is not one big estrogen fest," she said. "And it's not like we're a bunch of juggling, fire-eating, unicycling midgets, either. That's not what this is about. There's probably been a million tours with all men; anyone ever say anything about that? It's really more of a way of saying, "Look, can we just maybe start a new paragraph here?" Consider it done, Aimee. LILITH FAIR: Aimee Mann appears with Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, the Pretenders, Sandra Bernhard, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Mya and others at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Jones Beach Theater. The show is sold out. Mann also performs at 9 p.m. Saturday with Josh Rouse and Juliana Nash at Tramps, 51 W. 21st St., Manhattan. Call 212-727-7788. Billy Altman is a freelance writer. ILLUSTRATION/PHOTO: 1) Cover Photo by Sam Jones - Aimee Mann is at Jones Beach Friday and at Tramp's in Manhattan Saturday 1) Photo by Sam Jones - Aimee Mann BACK