It's Been 30 Years Since Barenaked Ladies Wished They Had $1,000,000 and Became Icons for Longer Than One Week

It's Been 30 Years Since Barenaked Ladies Wished They Had $1,000,000 and Became Icons for Longer Than One Week
It's been 30 years since Scarborough natives Steven Page and Ed Robertson teamed up, and out of desperation, named their project Barenaked Ladies. Back in the summer of 1988, the duo only expected to use the silly name for a one-off charity gig. Not in their wildest dreams had they imagined sparking a Toronto-wide controversy over their name, selling over a million copies of their debut album in Canada alone, having a #1 hit in the U.S., and continuing to be one of our nation's most celebrated musical acts as they enter their fourth decade.
But their lovable, idiosyncratic music has always offered a dependable balance of music and comedy, all while pushing the boundaries of how they present it through new media. The road to all of this success, however, hasn't been easy: from home-grown backlashes and health scares to Page's heavily publicized arrest for drugs and subsequent departure from the band, more than anything, Barenaked Ladies are survivors of an industry that in the beginning wanted nothing to do with them. As they enter the Canadian Music Hall of Fame this month, we look back at all of the stunts and spectacles over the course of their career.
1979 to 1987
Steven Jay Page (born June 22, 1970) and Lloyd Edward Elwyn "Ed" Robertson (born October 25, 1970) meet at age nine at Churchill Heights Public School in Scarborough, ON. Both come from musical families, but the two do not immediately become friends. As a teenager, Page falls in love with the music of English singer-songwriter Stephen Duffy, a founding member of Duran Duran and frontman for Tin Tin; the two begin a pen pal relationship that will in later years lead to a songwriting partnership.
Page befriends Geoff Pounsett and they begin writing music together. While counsellors at Scarborough Music Camp, Page and Pounsett they form a two-man band called Scary Movie Breakfast; they perform gigs at camp, as well as at Woburn Collegiate Institute. Fellow student Robertson begins playing with friends in a band called Rude Awakening; they later change their name to Three Guys From Barrie — despite being a quintet, none of whom are from Barrie — and then the Rage before breaking up. Robertson discovers the Scary Movie Breakfast tape and immediately learns all of the songs. The two finally connect at music camp, where Robertson and Page sing some Scary Movie Breakfast songs together.
"I was flattered and very impressed," Page will tell VH-1's Behind the Music. "The other thing that impressed me was as soon as I started singing with him, he had a perfect ear for harmony. So the two of us could sing together easily." The new friends become inseparable and begin collaborating on music together. Robertson tells Paul Myers, author of Barenaked Ladies: Public Stunts, Private Stories, "I always had a desire to play music and be involved in music, and for the first time, I saw a window into the creative end of it that I hadn't really known before. I thought, 'Hey, this guy's my age and he writes songs. I could probably do it with him.'"
1988 to 1989
Page and Robertson get their first gig, performing outside Toronto City Hall at a benefit concert for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Booked when Robertson was still in the Rage, he is forced to come up with a new name for his and Page's new duo. They come up with Barenaked Ladies on August 29, 1988, while attending a Bob Dylan concert at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. "I'd just turned 18 and I remember thinking, 'Well that's a cool name because it'll keep us alternative and we'll never hit the mainstream,'" Page tells Myers. "It made us laugh and reminded us of when we were eight years old, and would look at the women's underwear section of the Sears catalogue."
The two end up performing in between the sets of other bands; since they only know a few songs, they tap into their improvisational skills and make up the rest on the spot. Impressed by the crowd's reaction, local musician Tony Kenny invites the band to play their first proper gig at the Horseshoe Tavern later that week.
Page enrols at York University while Robertson finishes up high school, but the two frequently skip class to focus on their music. They begin playing more and more gigs, divided into two sets: the first featuring every song they know, while the second is almost completely improvised. "We'd have a request sheet and for the next set we'd play requests," Robertson tells Myers. "We'd tell people we didn't know any other songs than that, we're playing now, so write down anything you want to hear and we'll just make it up."
The duo begin to cover Madonna, Talking Heads, Johnny Cash, and one of their favourite new bands, the Proclaimers. Before the end of 1988, Barenaked Ladies release their first tape of four-track demos, called Buck Naked. The first run features artwork with their faces cut and pasted over images of Terence Trent D'Arby, whose song "Wishing Well" they cover. The next year they reissue the cassette with three times as many songs, including the earliest versions of "Be My Yoko Ono" and "If I Had $1,000,000."
At the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, Robertson discovers what will become one of the biggest influences on Barenaked Ladies: Windsor-based musical comedy troupe Corky and the Juice Pigs. Amazed by their ability to mix music and comedy, Robertson takes Page to see them when they play Toronto's Siboney Club. Impressed by their Buck Naked tape, Corky and the Juice Pigs ask Barenaked Ladies to be their support act on a tour of regional Canadian universities and colleges, which then leads to a national tour. The offer forces both Page and Robertson to abandon post-secondary education.
The tour with the Juice Pigs has its ups and downs (their song "Hello City" takes jabs at a demoralizing gig played in Halifax), but the duo learn to engage and interact with the audience, which will eventually be their calling card. For their final, hometown gig of 1989, Page and Robertson invite camp friends Andy and Jim Creeggan to perform with them as a quartet, on percussion and bass, respectively. Both rehearsals and the gig demonstrate what a rhythm section can add to the duo. "From the first note, Ed and I just looked at each other and said, 'This is it. This is the band,'" Page will later recount on Behind the Music.
1990 to 1991
Page and Robertson finish a tour of Western Canada with Corky and the Juice Pigs, again with mixed results. One lowlight occurs during a performance at Buffalo Bill's in Whistler, BC, when a spectator punches Page in the chest.
When Barenaked Ladies arrive home in Toronto, they immediately double in size when Page and Robertson invite the Creeggan brothers to join the band. As a four-piece, they record a second tape, called Barenaked Lunch, a cheeky reference to William S. Burroughs' surreal novel, Naked Lunch. According to the band, the 2,000 copies of the tape are mastered incorrectly, the result of which makes the songs sound faster than they were played.
An alleged third tape, Barenaked Recess, featuring the earliest version of "Brian Wilson" and covers of Prince's "When Doves Cry" and Madonna's "Material Girl," is never released for reasons unknown. Barenaked Ladies unexpectedly win Best Band of the Year at YTV's Youth Achievement Awards. "The YTV Achievement Award was the first thing that made us think, 'Wow, somebody actually thinks we're okay,'" Page will tell CBC in its 2004 documentary, The Barenaked Truth. The band are so unprepared that they end up rapping their acceptance speech.
Six months after joining, Andy Creeggan takes a leave of absence from the band to travel to Uruguay with Canada World Youth; he meets his future wife on the trip. He returns briefly to enter Wellesley Sound Studios with the band to record their cassette, before heading back to Uruguay.
The band meet drummer and former Super Dave production assistant Tyler Stewart at the Waterloo Busker Festival, where he is playing with the Would-Be-Goods. He repeatedly asks to sit in on a Barenaked Ladies practice; though the band are hesitant at first, since they never imagined having a rock drummer in the lineup, they give Stewart a chance and end up hiring him full time. Stewart assists the band with their recording sessions and makes his first appearance on their next self-titled cassette, which earns the nickname, The Yellow Tape.
Showcasing the band's hybrid sound of pop, folk, funk, rock, comedy and hip-hop, The Yellow Tape becomes an enormous success. Thanks to the early support of record shops such as Sam the Record Man, it becomes the first Canadian indie recording to be racked at the front of chain stores.
Looking to assist with all of the demand, Page's father, Victor, founds Page Publications (later Page Music) to distribute the cassette to retailers across Canada. With this boost, The Yellow Tape goes on to reach platinum sales (in excess of 100,000 units), forever changing the Canadian indie music landscape along the way.
Songs like "If I Had $1,000,000" and "Brian Wilson" receive airplay on the radio, while the band's impromptu performance of "Be My Yoko Ono" inside Toronto video booth Speaker's Corner is aired as a music video on both CityTV and MuchMusic. Toronto modern station CFNY 102.1 puts the band's songs into rotation and awards them first prize in its Discovery to Disc contest: $100,000 toward producing their debut album.
In need of a manager to oversee their blossoming career, Barenaked Ladies hire Nigel Best, a media relations specialist at Warner Music Canada. Andy Creeggan arrives home from Uruguay to learn that his percussion does not mesh so well with Stewart's rock style of drumming; he begins to mix keyboards in with his bongos.
In July 1991, Barenaked Ladies play the New Music Seminar in New York City, where they win over new fans, one of which is Sean Ono Lennon, who assures the band that his mother finds their song "Be My Yoko Ono" amusing.
Before the end of 1991, the band hire Michael Phillip Wojewoda to produce their album; at the time he is recording Whale Music, the new album by Toronto's Rheostatics, and brings Barenaked Ladies in to sing back up on "California Dreamline" under the name the Scarborough Naked Youth Choir.
Barenaked Ladies record a cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" for a tribute album to the Canadian singer-songwriter, called Kick at the Darkness. The song becomes the band's first Top 40 hit in Canada.
Barenaked Ladies are scheduled to close out the year by playing a New Year's concert in Nathan Phillips Square, however, city officials decide their name is too offensive and issue a ban on the performance. "We do have a policy against the objectification of women or any other sector of the community," events co-ordinator Dawna Proudman tells The Toronto Star. "If your mother or my mother saw a headline saying, 'City of Toronto presents Barenaked Ladies,' they'd be concerned." The ban ends up benefitting the band; not only are they on the cover of The Toronto Star, but they're a top story on national TV news, and they sell 18,000 copies of The Yellow Tape over the next month alone.
1992 to 1994
Barenaked Ladies and Wojewoda begin recording the album at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, QC, a favourite of Robertson's childhood heroes Rush. The band take advantage of the area's snowy Laurentian Mountains by skiing to and from their residence to the studio.
During the sessions, the band live up to their name and get bare naked to record "The King of Bedside Manor." "You felt more awkward if you had your clothes on," Wojewoda tells Paul Myers. "So I ditched my clothes too. Of course, I went out and took some photos of all of them buck naked."
Under the moniker the Suburban Tabernacle Choir, a nod to friends in the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, several Toronto-based musicians join in on the recording of "If I Had $1,000,000" including members of the Waltons, Rheostatics, and Moxy Früvous.
Having self-financed the album, the band send out promo copies to various labels without much success. They manage to find a fan in music industry heavyweight Seymour Stein, the man who discovered Ramones and Madonna, and he signs them to his label, Sire Records.
Barenaked Ladies release their debut album, Gordon, on July 28, 1992; it sells more than 80,000 copies in Canada within the first 24 hours and stays atop the Canadian albums chart for eight consecutive weeks. The album eventually goes diamond in Canada (one million units) and gold in the U.S.
During performances of the song "If I Had $1,000,000," fans begin pelting the band members with macaroni in reference to the lyric, "If I had a million dollars we wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner." Eventually the band ask fans to instead leave boxes of Kraft Dinner at the door of the venue, which will then be donated to a local food bank.
Andy and Jim Creeggan revive their brotherly duo they began as teenagers and release their first album – featuring Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette – under the name of the Brothers Creeggan; they will continue to release three more over the years.
Barenaked Ladies finance their own tour of the U.S., however, their inability to connect with American audiences sends them back home to record a new album. Cracks begin to show in the band's foundation. Page tells VH-1, "It became a very difficult process. We had spent so much time together and we were still growing. We were still in our early 20s… and we just stopped talking to each other."
Page spends six weeks writing with his teenage idol Stephen Duffy, which causes friction within the band. Duffy ends up co-writing five songs for the next album. "We were probably at our most dysfunctional at that point," Page tells CBC. "Ed and I barely talked to each other at all, and we barely had anything in common, except for the fact that we were the frontmen of this group."
They hire k.d. lang's go-to producer Ben Mink and head to Vancouver to record at Greenhouse Studio as well as Armoury Studios, this time with a big budget provided by the label. Robertson remembers it as a difficult time, later telling Noisey, "I was just less engaged in general, and I think the band was quite fractured at the time. I think the overnight and runaway success of the first record had put us into a very strange place when it came time to make the 'difficult sophomore album.' And I'd had some difficult times through there — my older brother had passed away in a motorcycle accident and it was just a very tough time for me. I wasn't ready to go and make another record, and then the band wasn't communicating well, the studio process was difficult."
During the sessions, Andy Creeggan considers leaving the band, but agrees to stay on to finish the album and tour. Barenaked Ladies release Maybe You Should Drive on August 16, 1994. Page tells Myers that the band had considered calling the album Car Rearender or Career Ender, due to the tough time the band had making it. Andy Creeggan leaves Barenaked Ladies after fulfilling his commitments to study music at McGill University in Montreal.
Maybe You Should Drive ends up going double platinum in Canada, but compared to what Gordon sold is considered a failure. A backlash in their home country is blamed for the disappointment. "You never feel so hated as you do when you're the most successful," Page tells CBC. "Why is that when I was nothing I felt like I had friends. You know, I felt ignored sometimes too. But when we were popular and everywhere, people would yell stuff at me across the street, 'Barenaked Ladies suck!' or people would throw things at me in a bar if I was watching a band.'" To make matters worse, Page begins to drink heavily and is diagnosed with depression.
The Art Gallery of Ontario hosts the Barnes Exhibit, which features an assortment of nude female paintings. As a joke, the gallery launches an ad campaign and merchandise reading "Rarenaked Ladies." BNL manager Best fails to run the AGO's idea by the band, and asks their lawyers to issue a cease and desist to the gallery. The media turns on the band and calls them out for not seeing the humour. Once the band gets word of the hubbub, they clear up any confusion by countering with a T-shirt of their own that reads "The Barnes Exhibit" and features images of three old barns.
1995 to 1996
Tyler Stewart forms a funk-inspired "supergroup" with Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson and Chris Brown of the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir called Don't Talk Dance; they release a one-off album.
Barenaked Ladies reconnect with Gordon producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda at the Gas Station in Toronto. Page and Robertson also reconnect as a songwriting team. Page tells Impact, "For the first time in five years Ed and I did most of the writing together. On the second record we mostly worked separately. This time, Ed would come over to my house and we'd play off each other. I'd come up with a verse and chorus, Ed would give me a bridge or help me finish the lyrics."
Feeling pressure to fill in gaps after his brother left, Jim Creeggan also steps up and contributes a couple of songs. One of the first songs the band record is a single called "Shoe Box," their contribution to the Friends soundtrack; it is later released as an EP. Friends stars Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow are cast in the song's music video, but pull out at the last minute.
Once they finish recording the album, Stewart suggests they bring in Rheostatics collaborator Kevin Hearn to take over keyboards, which they do. Although he doesn't appear on the new album, Hearn is thanked for "injecting new spirit" into the band. Released on March 19, 1996 as an enhanced CD (new technology at the time), Born On A Pirate Ship fares even worse commercially in Canada, but thanks to singles like "Shoe Box" and "The Old Apartment" as well as a gruelling tour and promo schedule, the band begin to attract new fans in the U.S. The latter single's video is directed by Beverly Hills 90210 hunk and Barenaked Ladies fan, Jason Priestley.
The band's morale hits an all-time low and they realize a change needs to be made in order to keep moving forward. They fire manager Nigel Best after his behaviour becomes erratic and hire Terry McBride, co-founder of the Nettwerk label and manager of Sarah McLachlan. "Terry blew us away," Robertson tells Impact. "He has this fascist work ethic that I think we needed. And it's great not to get calls until noon."
Immediately McBride stresses the importance of focusing on breaking in the U.S. and suggests releasing a live album to help the band show off what they do best. Eight months after Born On A Pirate Ship, they release Rock Spectacle (pronounced Rock Speck-tack), featuring songs recording in Chicago and Montreal. Using their spirited take on "Brian Wilson" as the lead single, the live disc becomes an unlikely success, giving them their first radio hit and selling more than 750,000 copies in the U.S. Once again released as an enhanced CD, the Ladies load it with exclusive features including a ridiculous fake TV program called BLTV.
Page later tells the Toronto Sun, "[McBride] wanted it to just tide people over for another few months while we were busy making a new record. But the live album ended up being so successful and because it was so cheap to make, people kind of went, 'Wow, this thing is happening.' We did basically three nights of shows, we started hearing the master tapes, it was like, 'This is better than we thought it was.'"
1997 to 1999
Thanks to their pal Jason Priestley, Barenaked Ladies appear on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 as themselves, performing "The Old Apartment" at the Peach Pit After Dark venue. They are also cast as singing policemen alongside Dave Foley in his film, The Wrong Guy.
Using a concept designed by album art director John Rummen, the "stunt" idea becomes a central motif and brand refresh for the next Barenaked Ladies album. While getting ready to record at Phase One Studios in Scarborough with David Leonard, the band hold an intervention for themselves, where they discuss get everything off their chests. They record the bulk of the new album at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas with Susan Rogers. Page works with Stephen Duffy again and they co-write three songs together, including single "Call and Answer."
On a flight to San Francisco to shoot publicity photos, a backpack in the overhead compartment falls on Hearn and cracks his head open. When he checks into Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, he is treated and later told by the doctor that he has chronic leukemia. One month before the release of their album, Hearn undergoes chemotherapy and successfully receives a bone marrow transplant from his brother. He misses the first legs of the upcoming tour, but friends Chris Brown and future super producer/songwriter Greg Kurstin fill in.
The first studio album recorded with Kevin Hearn, Stunt is released on July 7, 1998 and is an immediate smash hit in the U.S., reaching #3 on the Billboard 200 and selling more than 145,000 copies in its first week (it will go on to sell more than four million). Page tells the Halifax Herald, "We hoped to make a good all-purpose, summer kind of record. The kind you just put on and like. I think that's what everybody tries to do, but I think we really tried. I don't think we recorded it with a sense of making something that would do something commercially from the record company's point of view. But Rock Spectacle was designed to act as a bridge between Born on a Pirate Ship and this record, and it did that way better than we ever expected."
Lead single "One Week" becomes the band's first and only #1 hit in the U.S.; inspired by the improvisational nature of their live shows, the novelty rap-pop tune becomes ubiquitous over the summer. "I can't speak for everybody, but I think I'd lost touch with the joy and the reason of it all," Robertson tells Paul Myers. "And I didn't really find that again until making Stunt, when I thought, 'This is good, and we're great at it and we need to realize that and celebrate that and work for that.'"
Hearn re-joins the band in Buffalo for a show, six months after his treatment, but doesn't return to the tour until after a full year in the summer of 1999. Feeling unwell after playing some dates, Hearn returns home and learns his body has rejected the transplant and he needs to undergo further therapy. Two years after his diagnosis, Hearn receives a clean bill of health and returns to the band in the summer of 2000.
Jason Priestley directs a documentary on the band called Barenaked In America, featuring footage of the band on tour in the U.S. Barenaked Ladies appear on an episode of sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, starring fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds.
In the aftermath of the tragic Columbine High School massacre, Barenaked Ladies are approached by Teen People magazine to perform at a media event. Page tells Paul Myers, "If the kids of Columbine had all written us a petition saying it would be helpful for them, then we absolutely would have gone. No question. In fact, that was one of the reasons we didn't do it. It wasn't coming from them."
2000 to 2003
The band enter Cello Studios in Los Angeles with Don Was, who introduces them to Brian Wilson. "It was very bizarre to have Brian Wilson drop by the studio and play you his version of the song," Robertson tells Yahoo. "I mean, that song was written in '88-'89; we were this tiny band in Toronto and thought that Brian Wilson would never hear our music. He looked up at me afterward and said 'Is it cool?' I did not know how to answer him. What — 'Yeah?' It was amazing."
Their fifth album, Maroon, is released on September 12, 2000 and scores a hit with first single "Pinch Me." Although it can't quite live up to the mega-selling Stunt, Maroon reaches #5 on Billboard and sells over a million copies in the U.S. It does however reach #1 in Canada. "It's just not as glib as some of the other records were, so it doesn't have that same kind sarcastic humour that some of the other songs have," Page tells the Toronto Sun.
Hearn contributes a song he wrote in Princess Margaret Hospital called "Hidden Sun," which appears as a hidden track. To battle illegal downloading via services like Napster, members of the band flood the Internet with imposter files of their music. Instead of "Pinch Me," one user will open a Trojan download with a message that contains a file of Page saying, "Although you thought you were downloading our new single, what you actually were downloading is an advertisement for our new album." A week after the album's release, Barenaked Ladies are given the key to the city by Toronto Deputy Mayor Case Ootes.
The band perform "Pinch Me" on an episode of Charmed. On November 21, 2001, the band release Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001), featuring 17 of their hits and two new tracks. Not a fan of compilations, Page tells the Toronto Sun, "Lenny Kravitz put out his greatest hits album last year, it was huge and surprised everybody. So everybody said, 'I want one of those.' I think the labels are going, 'We aren't doing that well right now. Greatest hits albums don't cost us anything to make, or cost very little.' So they can put out releases by major artists without having to invest the million-dollar recording budget. And of course they want them out for Christmas 'cause it's the big time."
The band take a much-needed break in 2002, and reconvene in April 2003 in Los Angeles with Ron Aniello. They keep fans up to date by posting daily blogs with photos and behind-the-scene clips of the sessions.
The band invite members of Blue Man Group to add PVC tube percussion to the song "Shopping." Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn begin contributing more to the songwriting process, while Robertson takes on more of the lead vocal duty. Everything To Everyone is released on October 21, 2003 and enters the top ten album charts in both Canada and the U.S., but can't quite live up to the success of Stunt or Maroon.
The album's darker tone is a reflection of that period's post-9/11 war on terrorism. "It was a strange time to write a record. It was bizarre," Robertson tells The Columbian. "We'd get together in our basement and Colin Powell would be in the background on TV presenting the smoking gun to the United Nations... But it was just a strange time, and there were all these polls on TV. 'Do you care what celebrities think?' Celebrities were vilified for speaking out against the war. It was just weird. So here we are in our basement in Toronto going, 'OK, do people care what we have to say about anything?' So we just decided, 'Well let's just write what we're thinking about and see what comes out.'"
The album is their last with Sire/Reprise, and they decide to launch their own label, Desperation Records, with distribution from Warner Bros. On the subsequent tour, Barenaked Ladies offer downloads of their concerts via CD-R or MP3s from their website. Robertson lands a cameo as the sheriff in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
2004 to 2007
Barenaked Ladies get into the holiday spirit and release an album of Hanukkah and Christmas songs called Barenaked for the Holidays. "We just didn't want to do the same old style of song with this album," Page tells The Record. "It's fun to have different types of songs on this kind of album." The album is their first for Desperation and features guest vocals by Michael Bublé, and Sarah McLachlan.
Fox orders a pilot for The Barenaked Ladies Variety Show that will feature songs and skits performed by the band. "This is a natural expansion to their live experience," co-executive producer John Ziffren says in a press release. "We are trying to capture that energy and make it into a TV show." Unfortunately Fox decides not to pick it up.
Page teams up with the Stratford Festival to write lyrics for its production of As You Like It, which also features music performed by the rest of Barenaked Ladies. They release an album of the recorded music on June 3, 2005. Page tells the Canadian Press, "The most time is spent trying to fill in those lyrical blanks and perfect them, with the constraints being imposed by the already written music. Where here, I wrote these songs with the constraints being imposed by the text. I thought that was going to make this more daunting, and it actually made this easier."
Steven Page releases a self-titled album with long-time collaborator Stephen Duffy under the moniker the Vanity Project.
On July 2, 2005, Barenaked Ladies take part in a Live 8 concert at Park Place in Barrie, Ontario; they perform "Brian Wilson" and "If I Had $1,000,000" alongside acts such as Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Mötley Crüe and Neil Young.
Shortly after earning his pilot's licence, Robertson gets his own television program on the Outdoor Life Network called Ed's Up, which sees him travel around the world experiencing different professions. The series lasts three seasons.
Barenaked Ladies enter the Metalworks Studio in Mississauga, Ontario to work on their next album. They decide to self-produce for the first time ever, using Susan Rogers as engineer. The sessions are so fruitful they end up with 29 songs in the can. With so many songs too choose from, tracks featuring Hearn and Creeggan on lead vocal make the cut. Looking to take advantage of new technology, the band decide to release the album in two parts. The first CD, Barenaked Ladies Are Me (a play on the word "army"), is released on September 12, 2006; however, the digital and USB stick versions also include the second CD, Barenaked Ladies Are Men (a CD release follows five months later). Also included with the album are ringtones, acoustic versions and concert recordings. Fans can also remix their songs and post it to the band's official website.
Page explains the concept to NPR: "I think part of the revolution with this USB stick is that there are no copyright protections. Our industry is so fixated on protecting and controlling their intellectual properties that they only allow to use them the way the industry sees fit. We trust our fans to listen to it, spread the word and come to the shows."
On November 6, 2007, they release another live album, Talk to the Hand: Live in Michigan, which also available as a DVD. Barenaked Ladies are asked to write the theme song to CBS's new sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Robertson later tells Songwriting magazine, "I had read a book called Big Bang, by a British science writer called Simon Singh… I loved it, I was totally blown away... And then I was doing a show in L.A. just after having read the book, and I made up a silly song in one of our improvs one night, about red-shifting galaxies and dark matter and all this cosmological stuff I'd just been reading about. And [show co-creators] Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre happened to be in the audience that night, so they contacted me after the gig and said, 'You have to write the theme song for our show.' It was quite a serendipitous thing! I wrote the 30-second song in the shower at my cottage, I recorded it in my bathing suit on my laptop on the bed that I'm currently sitting on, emailed it to L.A. and they loved it."
2008 to 2009
Barenaked Ladies release a children's album titled Snacktime! on May 6, 2008, along with a companion illustrated book written and designed by Kevin Hearn. Hearn is also responsible for "The Canadian Snacktime Trilogy," a three-part song that features famous names such as David Suzuki, Geddy Lee, Gord Downie and Weird "Al" Yankovic naming off their favourite snacks. In an interview with NPR, they explain the decision behind the foray into kids music. "We wanted to make a record that parents would enjoy listening to and wouldn't get tired of," Hearn says. "You know I have lots of memories of being in my car on long road trips with my — I have three boys, and listening to the same songs over and over again and being thankful for the ones that I loved," adds Page. "And really when it came to listening to the Crazy Frog album, I wanted to tear my hair out."
However, Page later tells the Calgary Herald in 2009 that Snacktime! "was a lot of fun to do, but it wasn't my idea. I was along for the ride." The album reaches the top ten of the Canadian album charts and wins a Juno Award for Children's Album of the Year.
Steven Page is arrested on July 11, 2008 in Fayetteville, NY, where he is visiting his girlfriend Christine Benedicto. After the couple are heard fighting, police arrive on the scene and discover that Page has two capsules of cocaine in his possession. He is charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. The band cancel performances at the Disney Music Block Parties following his arrest. McBride posts a statement on their website that reads "Members of the band completely support Steven Page. But we don't want to put Disney in an awkward position before issues involving Steven's arrest are resolved. We are confident Steven will be completely exonerated." Charges are eventually reduced to misdemeanour possession, and six months later dropped.
On August 24, 2008, Robertson crashes his plane in Bancroft, ON; neither he nor three other passengers are injured. Due to the events that transpire in the year, Barenaked Ladies choose not to celebrate the band's 20th anniversary. They end the year on a high note, recording a special cover of the Hockey Night In Canada theme song for TSN.
On February 24, 2009, Barenaked Ladies announce that Steven Page is no longer a member. They post a message on their website that reads, "By mutual agreement, Steven Page will be parting company with the remaining members of Barenaked Ladies. Jim Creeggan, Kevin Hearn, Ed Robertson and Tyler Stewart will continue recording and touring together as Barenaked Ladies. Steven Page will pursue solo projects, including theatrical opportunities, while the band enter the studio in April 2009, and hit the road in the fall."
In addition, Page says, "These guys are my brothers. We've grown up together over the past 20 years. I love them and wish them all the best in the future." In an interview with MacLean's, Page elaborates on his feelings, admitting, "I've always struggled with my identity inside of Barenaked Ladies. As much as our repertoire was so varied, and emotionally varied, the image of the band, it's pretty, not only well-scrubbed, but jovial and so on. And that's not always my personality. So I think the arrest isn't even the issue as it is kind of where do I fit as a personality inside of that image we created for ourselves–the image I created for my own self… I'm not trying to suggest that I'm always angsty or un-Barenaked Lady, but I always saw that Barenaked Ladies image as being only a portion of who I am."
Teaming up with Ben & Jerry's Barenaked Ladies debut their own ice cream called "If I Had 1,000,000 Flavours," which features "a collision of chocolate and vanilla ice creams."
Barenaked Ladies enter the studio once again with Wojewoda to record their first album without Page. They take advantage of the opportunity to allow Hearn and Creeggan sing lead on some tracks. Page continues with his love for Shakespeare, writing music for a production of Bartholomew Fair: A Comedy at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
2010 to 2013
Steven Page releases a collaborative album with the Art of Time Ensemble called A Singer Must Die. The album is a set of covers by the Mountain Goats, Elvis Costello, Radiohead and Leonard Cohen, which he had recorded in 2008 at the Enwave Theatre in Toronto.
The next month, Barenaked Ladies' ninth album, All In Good Time, is released on March 23, 2010. It fares well, reaching #3 in Canada and #23 in the U.S. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Robertson says, "We didn't want to become someone else. We wanted to redefine who and what we were, and move forward… I think for me the success of the record is that it still sounds like us. But it sounds like us more raw. It's more rock in places, it's more emotional in other places. I think it's got the sonic centre of the band — people will know immediately that it's us. But I think they'll be surprised with where it goes."
On October 19, 2010, Steven Page releases his first proper solo album, Page One. Again it features songwriting with Stephen Duffy as well as Craig Northey of the Odds. In an interview with CTV, Page discusses his disappointment in Barenaked Ladies continuing with the name he helped coin. "You know what? Ideally — just because it was my baby — if they wanted to stay together and call themselves something else, I would have been a lot happier."
On September 27, 2011, Barenaked Ladies release a compilation of singles released in the U.S. titled Hits from Yesterday & the Day Before. Another companion of B-sides and rarities called Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before follows on May 8, 2012. Three weeks later Robertson guest-hosts Live with Kelly with Kelly Ripa; the two interview Private Practice actress Amy Brenneman and 16-year-old American Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez.
Producers for the stage musical of National Lampoon's Animal House hire Barenaked Ladies to write an original score for the show, however, it never reaches production.
They head into the studio to record their tenth album with Howie Beck and Gavin Brown in Toronto. Robertson collaborates with astronaut Chris Hadfield for Music Monday; on February 7, 2013 Hadfield premieres the song live from the International Space Station.
Released on June 4, 2013, Grinning Streak becomes their highest charting album on Billboard in a decade, coming in at #10. It is also the band's first release on new label Vanguard. Speaking to The Globe & Mail, Robertson explains that the pop-leaning songs like single "Odds Are" are "the sound of the band opening up… We've always embraced current trends, but now it's pretty cool for your 17-year-old daughter to say: 'Dad, I'm really digging your new record.'" Page hosts a television show for the Travel + Escape network called The Illegal Eater, which features him travelling around North America discovering "under the radar" eateries. At the end of 2014, Barenaked Ladies head back into the studio.
2015 to 2016
On June 2, 2015, Barenaked Ladies release their 11th studio album, Silverball, which is produced by Gavin Brown. The title and album cover are a reference to Robertson's love of pinball machines. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Robertson explains that this album found the band relieved of the stress they felt with previous albums. "I think it was about getting to the intersection of confidence and not giving a shit," he says "For me, it's looking back at our career and going, 'Wow, like what else could one possibly hope to accomplish beyond what we've already accomplished.' So however you want to describe it, 'our faded star, our reality-check career'... we're still on tour in America; we're going to play 30 dates there for five to 12,000 people depending on the market... And you could go, 'Oh, we're not getting nominated for Grammys anymore, we're not selling platinum records,' or you could go, 'It's 27 years in and we're in a rock band and that's our job!'"
Steven Page sues Barenaked Ladies over unpaid royalties for his contribution to the theme song to The Big Bang Theory. In the suit he claims he is owed more than $1 million. He tells CTV News, "I wish I could say more, but I'm sure my lawyers don't trust me to say the right thing," he says. "I'll probably be too honest."
On May 20, 2016 Barenaked Ladies release another live album, BNL Rocks Red Rocks, which was recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO during their Last Summer On Earth Tour with Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Howard Jones.
2017 to 2018
On April 14, 2017, Barenaked Ladies release a collaborative album with New York City a cappella group the Persuasions, which they recorded in Toronto with Gavin Brown. Titled Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions, the album features both groups jointly performing reworked versions of BNL songs as well one by the Persuasions. The collaboration is a result of Hearn meeting the Persuasions at Lou Reed's 2013 memorial at the Apollo Theatre. Tyler Stewart tells Billboard, "For me personally, it was probably one of the top three musical experiences of my life, to just create that magic in the room, playing live and recording it. We didn't really rehearse very much; we took a day to get to know the songs and rehearsed, and then there you go, boom, we had this amazing document, this really joyful, incredibly melodic and fun recording."
Seven months later, they release their 12th full-length album, Fake Nudes, a play on President Donald Trump's overuse of the term "fake news." Robertson tells Huffington Post, "We were making the record in January at the height of the brouhaha over the term, which kind of in my mind, appeared then. It became popularized then. It's just so absurd in my mind. It provided the opportunity for us to make the joke about our band name that everybody else has been making for 29 years. On every show, 'They're not nude and they're not women. But our new act, blah blah blah.' It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to call our own bluff there."
On March 25, 2018, Barenaked Ladies along with Steven Page are inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, marking the first time the band appear in public since Page's arrest. "I honestly haven't been in the same room as the other guys — all the other guys at once — since I left the band," Page tells the Canadian Press. "It'll be good to see them all, but it's going to be odd. It's not like we're getting back together."
Robertson also speaks to the Canadian Press, adding, "It's a delicate thing to address. At the end of the day we're all just looking forward to celebrating this achievement together. We're going to figure out how to do that in a way that's fun for everybody and (which) makes sense."
Essential Barenaked Ladies
Gordon (Sire/Reprise, 1992)
Capitalizing on the phenomenal success of their Yellow Tape the year before, BNL knocked it out of the park with their debut album. At a time when major labels were looking to sign gloomy -rock bands, Gordon arrived to offer up something completely at the other end of the alternative's spectrum. The album perfectly demonstrates the band's ability to juxtapose an off-the-wall brand of lovable comedy with a welcome side of gravitas. Somehow the ska-lite hijinks of "Grade 9" don't upset the heavy sentiment behind tracks like "Brian Wilson" and "What A Good Boy." This is a stone-cold CanRock classic.
Rock Spectacle (Sire/Reprise, 1996)
After releasing their third album, the band were officially in a rut. But thanks to new management, they managed to finally break through in the U.S. Oddly enough, it was a live album that saved their career. Like KISS, Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton before them, BNL struck gold by showing off what they do best: performing live. A rousing version of "Brian Wilson" even became their first radio hit down south. What's most surprising about Rock Spectacle though is how the band opted for the more mature set list, instead of the improv raps and goofy sing-alongs they built their name on. But thankfully they didn't forget about "If I Had $1,000,000," which is as bubbly and amusing as its ever been.
Snacktime! (Desperation, 2008)
That it took Barenaked Ladies 20 years to record an album of original children's songs is the only surprise behind Snacktime! Never has a musical act been more suited to sing about the wonders of dried up grapes, make one of their heaviest rock songs about being allergic to everything, and tell the story of a loon named Louis. But Snacktime! also features some of the band's most fascinating and diverse arrangements, jumping from folk and synth-pop, to indie pop and bluegrass. Like a Pixar movie, Snacktime! is just as enjoyable for the parents as it is for the kiddies.