I Think I’ll Disappear Now (Where Are They Now: Crash Test Dummies)

I told my wife that a bunch of us were doing where-are-they-now posts, and she said “so you’re doing Crash Test Dummies?” and I said “yeah, I don’t want to do any research.”

Anyone who reads this will likely know that I was a fan and I ran their website for a time. You can read more of the backstory in my review from the last times I saw them.

Looking back, that post really also serves as a minor where-are-they-now story and I don’t think much has changed since then. Oh well, not stopping now.

In most of the world, the Dummies were pretty much a one-hit wonder, coming out of nowhere to score huge with Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm from their 1993 album God Shuffled His Feet and disappearing just as quickly. In Canada, however, the Dummies had a near 10-year run starting with Superman’s Song from 1991’s The Ghost That Haunt Me, finding themselves dropped from their label after the release of 1999’s Give Yourself A Hand. During that stretch, they released four albums and over a dozen videos, toured the world, got nominated for Grammys, won Junos, played Saturday Night Live, covered  XTC (twice) and The Replacements, were parodied by Weird Al, played with Weird Al, and taught us all the true meaning of Christmas.

But despite all that, yeah, I get it. It’s an unusual band to like. Especially now, years after the fact. Though truth be told, I lost interest in their newer stuff as time went on, band members “left,” and I found myself disappointed by later albums. I never quit following them, though, and I’m still on friendly terms with all of them, which is still a really weird thing to consider.

I said “left” in quotation marks up there because even now, nobody has ever really left the band. Sure, they’re never all getting back together to tour or put out an album, and one member is approaching the 17th year of his hiatus, but hey, if I don’t get an official statement, I’ll take whatever technicality I can get.

So, to return to the title question – because I need to get this posted by midnight(-ish) and don’t have time to compose a more-clever segue – where are they now?

As far as I can tell, the last time the band played together as the the fivesome that made it big was in Toronto in 1999. I was there, not knowing the significance of the show. After that, the remaining four only played together a few times, but Benjamin Darvill never rejoined the band. In early 2000, he released his first two solo albums under the Son of Dave moniker, available exclusively online. A groundbreaking move for its time, but the market wasn’t ready for it. When I saw him that summer, he told me he’d sold fewer than 20 CDs online. This was at a concert where the attendance was in the single digits. It would have been easy for him to retreat back to the Crash Test Dummies name as his best hope for success, but he soldiered on, moving to London and making music there. Since then, he’s gone from busking in the street to releasing several albums, getting songs used in commercials and TV (notably on Breaking Bad), and picking up a devoted following. It’s actually a pretty inspiring story of hard work and determination, if you’re into that sort of thing. His harmonica-driven blues is nothing like the Dummies’ sound and he himself once said “it makes no sense that Son of Dave was part of that band.”

The most recognized Dummy is, of course, lead singer Brad Roberts. He continued putting out albums under the Crash Test Dummies name, sometimes working with past Dummies and sometimes with other musicians. 2010’s Oooh La La was the last album to make it to store shelves, and while it’s still not my favourite, I liked it better than the previous few. More recently, he’s been living in New York, making music and teaching yoga – combining his passions with an album of chanted mantras. After relative silence for the past while, he just recently performed a small series of solo shows.

The other star of the Dummies was Ellen Reid, who sang lead vocals on the XTC cover The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead on the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack. After putting out one solo album, she seemed to withdraw from the music business, returning to tour with Brad in 2010. Now she’s a vegan with cats and a dog and a blog and I think she’d enjoy that description. She recently did her first few solo shows in years as a benefit for an animal rights charity.

Right now, Dummy drummer Mitch Dorge could be anywhere. Who can tell? He posts “right now” pictures on Facebook but they are often from airports. Still based out of Winnipeg, he travels all over to speak and perform at schools. I heard a first-hand report that he does fine work. And if you tell him you know me, he’ll give you a hug to give me. So if you want two free hugs, there’s a tip.

And finally, Dan Roberts, the bass player (and Brad’s brother) lives in Winnipeg. That is super detailed! He is largely out of the public eye, as far as I can tell, so I’ll respect that, but I will volunteer this – he has bad taste in CFL teams. He would say the same about me, and he’d be right.


 

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21 thoughts on “I Think I’ll Disappear Now (Where Are They Now: Crash Test Dummies)

  1. Sarca says:

    I was NOT a fan of these guys when they were popular. Over-played, over-played, over-played. Now, when their songs come on, I am inclined to listen. Enough time has passed, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J. says:

    Great post, James. God Shuffled His Feet is the only album I know (obviously off the back of ‘that’ single). Only heard bits and bobs after that – liked what I heard, but just never investigated further.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James Kalyn says:

      The XTC version has an extra verse! Blew my mind when I found that one out.

      You might also note some similarities between The Disappointed by XTC and He Liked To Feel It by the Dummies.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says:

    Loved the Dummies back then, and those albums still sound great to me now. I’ve continued to buy just about anything he/they have released, with 2004’s Songs Of The Unforgiven being a personal favorite. Their Christmas album also gets played during the holiday season every year, much to my wife’s chagrin. Only saw them once, at The Bottom Line, the legendary (and now defunct) 400-seat venue in New York City, on the God Shuffled His Feet tour. That band was fantastic and I would love for the classic five to reunite. But it all comes down to Brad’s voice, a thing of beauty that had me smiling from ear to ear when I heard it in person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James Kalyn says:

      Songs of the Unforgiven! Dang, it’s rare that people know about that one.

      I saw the 5-piece twice, in Calgary and Toronto, both on the Give Yourself A Hand tour. Calgary was good, but Toronto was one of my favourite concerts ever. And then saw them twice later in 2010 with Brad, Ellen, and Murray Pulver in Regina, and Mitch and Dan joining them in Winnipeg.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. deKE says:

    Nice post! Course my exposure to them was thru all the play MuchMusic gave them so I seen a lot of Superman and Mmmmmm being rotated heavily! Of course they had a good run even on SNL? I think..
    Props to,running their site! Now that’s cool and also cool that you wrote on about what there doing…
    Great stuff…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. boppinsblog says:

    I didn’t know about your history with the band. Cool stuff. I think I’ll check out the Benjamin Darvill solo stuff, as I love harmonica driven blues.

    As an old school dude, I can’t stand when artists release online only stuff. Sometimes the most rare, and unique stuff an artist has is only available online. As an example, imagine how awesome it would be to own the 1 in 20 album if it was on cd, cassette or vinyl. To me, being online only makes it worthless unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. keepsmealive says:

    This is awesome. Of course we loved the Dummies back when with Ghosts and God Shuffled. I totally lost track of them after that.

    I think it’s cool that you stay in touch with them. It’s not a weird thing to consider at all. Friends are friends!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James Kalyn says:

      It’s weird to think that I liked a band and somehow became friends with them as a result. Less weird that we stay vaguely in touch, in this the age of Facebook and Twitter and whatnot.

      Like

  7. jprobichaud says:

    I loved “The ghosts that haunt me” and still do. “God shuffled his feet” was less a classic but still enjoyable. After those too, I haven’t listened to them enough to have an opinion. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James Kalyn says:

      There were several Dummies albums that could qualify :-/

      Really, I love the first two, A Worm’s Life has its moments, and then it’s slim pickings from there. The Christmas album wasn’t bad.

      I don’t think anyone was fired and I don’t think even Darvill technically quit – he just went to work on his own stuff for a while and is still at it.

      Like

      1. mikeladano says:

        I could swear that somebody was fired…I used to read MacLeans all the time and my fading memory tells me they did an article on them post-split. Anyway that’s just me and my brain.

        When the CTD came out with the first couple albums, I thought they were great, Canadian, smart, great players…great players that didn’t really get recognized as such.

        Like

        1. James Kalyn says:

          I know there were other musicians in the band before the first album, and at least with one guy, the split was not a pleasant one.

          Either way, the main point that the original 5 are never getting back together stands.

          Liked by 1 person

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