Today is the 32nd birthday of mercurial power-pop rocker Kristin Hersh, who played guitar and sang for college-radio favorites Throwing Muses from 1983 until she disbanded the unit last year. Hersh and her half-sister, guitarist/vocalist Tanya Donelly, formed the Muses (for which Hersh served as principal songwriter) with high-school friends.
The band released its eponymous debut album in the U.K. in 1986. The Muses were the first American band to be issued on the famous British label 4AD. The band's anguished lyrics and moody music were largely a product of Hersh's bipolar disorder, which sometimes caused hallucinations.
The Real Ramona (1991), featuring the engaging "Counting Backwards" and "Not Too Soon," was a lighter, more pop-oriented effort than Throwing Muses' previous work. But the sisters began to clash over musical direction and Donelly quit the band in 1992 (she went on to the Breeders and then formed Belly). During that same year, Hersh added drummer David Narcizo to Throwing Muses' lineup and the band released Red Heaven, featuring "Pearl," which had an electric portion but nevertheless was indicative of the folky rock that Hersh came to favor as a solo act.
In 1994, Hersh issued her solo debut, Hips and Makers, which featured heartfelt songs (such as "Teeth" and "A Loon") about madness, family and love, set mostly to acoustic guitar and piano. The album was co-produced by Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye and featured R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe on "Your Ghost." Another solo album from Hersh, Strings (also 1994), included a cover of Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks."
These releases and a good deal of touring by Hersh left the future of the Muses in doubt. But in 1995, the band released University, including the candid "No Way In Hell." The Muses followed it with the next year's Limbo. Both albums were accomplished sets, but neither sold much beyond the band's small fanbase and they left Hersh upset with Throwing Muses' financial future. She broke the band up in 1997, chiefly because they were unable to make any money.
Hersh told Addicted To Noise in 1997: "Right now, we can't afford to make records or tour. Unless one of us wins the lottery, we're no longer able to play together. If we can afford to play, we will. Like a death, [a breakup] takes time to get over. It was very, very sad. [The band] was the focus for half our lifetimes."
Earlier this year, Hersh issued another solo album, Strange Angels, which included such acoustic tracks as "Gut Pageant," "Some Catch Flies," "Home" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Heaven." It was yet another album that didn't break Hersh into the mainstream. In addition to her musical activities, Hersh is the mother of two children.
Other birthdays: Charles Pope (Tams), 62; Rodney Cromwell, 48; Andy Fraser (Free), 46; Bruce Dickenson (ex-Iron Maiden, solo), 40; Jacqui O'Sullivan (Bananarama), 38; and Ian Dench (EMF), 34.