When The Black Crowes first emerged out of Marietta, Georgia, in the mid-’80s under the jangly auspices of Mr. Crowe’s Garden, they helped reboot rock and roll by paying particular tribute to its past precepts. They parlayed a contentious sound fueled by unabashed energy and insurgency, a style that incorporated their Southern roots while still distancing themselves from any stereotypical good old boys branding.
With their debut album, Shake Your Money Maker, released in February 1990, the band firmly established themselves as part of a classic American musical ethos. Signed to Def American Records by their soon-to-be producer George Drakoulias, the band, helmed by brothers Chris and Rich Robinson, emerged fully formed, immediately proving their prowess with a multi-platinum debut that stunned the critics and brought them instant accreditation. In total, they recorded eight studio albums, four live albums, and numerous top-charting singles, selling some 30 million records in the process.
Nevertheless, like many outfits that found a pair of male siblings at the helm, there was a certain tension and contentiousness that plagued the band all throughout the course of their career. In 2002, the band called it quits for the first time, allowing both Robinsons to pursue solo projects and other associations. They reunited in 2005, only to opt for a second hiatus following their 20th anniversary tour in 2010. Yet another breakup transpired in 2013, only to lead to the brothers’ decision to entirely revamp the band in 2019 in preparation for a tour that would commemorate the 30th anniversary of their seminal debut.
The pandemic postponed those plans, but in the meantime, the “Brothers Robinson” have cause to continue the commemoration via the rerelease of Shake Your Money Maker. Now expanded through the choice of a 4-LP or 3-CD super deluxe edition box set, the reissue has rarities, demos, unreleased offerings and an entire Atlanta concert from 1990. The deluxe edition also comes with a 20-page booklet containing liner notes, a tour laminate, a patch and a set list to boot. A slimmed down 2-CD set is available as well.
Goldmine recently had the opportunity to talk to the two Robinson brothers via separate interviews and got their thoughts about the original album, the circumstances that resulted in its aftermath and the way it impacted them going forward.
GOLDMINE: It was evident even at the outset that Shake Your Money Maker was a monumental first effort. What led up to that point in your trajectory?
RICH ROBINSON: We had done some demos, and early on in our career we had a developmental deal with a record label when I was only about 15 years old. A close friend of ours —who’s still our friend to this day — liked our songs and helped get us into a studio where we made the demos. He had a contact at A&M Records in L.A., so he sent a couple of the songs out there. At the time, the music we were making was very jangly, kind of R.E.M.-ish, which is what was going on pretty heavy in Atlanta at the time. There was this A&R guy out there who was way into it, and he wanted to see what we could do in the studio, so he arranged for us to go and record at a studio outside of Raleigh, North Carolina — in Boone, North Carolina as I recall. We hooked up with a pro ducer who had worked on some records for a band that we liked called Rain Parade. So we went up there a couple of times and it was great, and then we did a couple more sessions back home in Atlanta.
GM: Was the experience intimidating at all, going into the studio for the first time and knowing this might be your big break?
CHRIS ROBINSON: We ran away from it and ran a million miles to the dismay of all the grown adult corporate moneyf**kers around us at all times. When I hear Shake Your Money Maker, and when I go back to those kids going in that studio, it takes me back, not in an established way, but in a philosophical way and in a cultural way. It brings me back around to being those kids that went in the studio. There was so much passion and love and inspiration.
RR: We weren’t the types to be intimidated. We were just excited to get some kind of break. We had these songs but obviously we didn’t know a ton — in fact, we didn’t know anything really but our producer George Drakoulias was really patient and cool and we learned a bit. That’s really what it was about. I mean, I remember having a ton of fun. George is hilarious, so we mainly had fun. We were so excited that we were in that studio.
GM: What were the early songs like?
RR: Over the years leading up to making the record, Chris and I were writing a lot of songs. The first one I wrote was “She Talks to Angels.”
GM: Not a bad start!
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