Lost in the ’90s: Lotion

Writing about the Luna Lounge got me thinking about Lotion, one of my favorite NYC bands of the ’90s. Which in turn gave me an idea for a new feature here: Lost in the ’90s. There are certainly a treasure-trove or great bands who got lost in the shuffle between grunge, Britpop, and boy band mania. My first installment…

Lotion_telephonealbum
Years active
: 1991-1999

Backstory: Singer Tony Zajkowski said Lotion originally formed as an excuse to make band flyers, and theirs became somewhat legendary around the Lower East Side — cleverly appropriating a flurry of brand logos as their own. (Zajkowski was/is a graphic designer.) The got the idea from UK rave posters, and Lotion initially wanted to be an American version of what was going on in Manchester. They wisely dropped that element and focused instead on crafty pop, often with complex time signatures.

Claim to fame: There’s a few. Lotion were one of the first to receive "Cute Band Alert" status in Sassy; their debut Full Isaac was named Album of the Year by the Village Voice (though not in the Pazz & Jop poll); and perhaps most notably, the famously reclusive Thomas Pinchon penned the liner notes to their second album, Nobody’s Cool.

ETC: Lotion continued to play Luna Lounge even after their popularity had grown enough to play bigger places. Those shows, often playing unannounced on a Friday or Saturday, late after the last scheduled band, were loose, boozy affairs, loaded with the band’s affinity for covers. One night I saw them perform kick-ass versions of "This Charming Man," "Brand New Key" and "Love is the Drug."

What to buy
: It got the least acclaim of Lotion’s three studio efforts, but The Telephone Album, is hands-down their best. Ambitious, melodic, muscular, clever… Lotion in a nutshell. It also contains the band’s finest pop moment, "Feedback Queen." Followed quickly by Nobody’s Cool and Full Isaac, in that order. You can skip The Agnew Funeral EP, but if you can find their four-song debut EP released on Kokopop, snatch it up immediately. All their CDs are out-of-print (though available on iTunes) but easily found on Ebay, Amazon, and your local record store’s used bin (sadly).

Where are they now? Tony Zajkowski and drummer Rob Youngberg formed Honeycomb early this decade that were equally pop-friendly but added a multimedia element to their shows that made them unique. Despite winning some big Best Unsigned band contest a couple years ago, I’m pretty sure they’re now defunct, though the website still exists. Tony is a mainstay at NYC’s Loser’s Lounge tributes. As for the rest of the band… no idea what happened to brothers Bill and Jim Ferguson. If anyone out there has the scoop, please write in. Meanwhile, here’s a song from each of Lotion’s albums:

MP3: Lotion – Head
| From Full Isaac. Best song ever about a dog’s envy of it’s owner’s new baby.

MP3: Lotion – Marijuana Vietnam
| From The Agnew Funeral EP, by special request.

MP3
: Lotion – Rock Chick | From Nobody’s Cool. I still can’t figure out the time signature of this song. The piano solo (played by Loser’s Lounge founder Joe McGinty) that is the song’s latter half is second only to The The’s "Uncertain Smile."

MP3: Lotion – Feedback Queen
| A perfect pop song, just ridiculously catchy, yet it never gets old.

20 Comments

  1. A song that made it on every mixed tape that I made in 1996 or so was Lotion's Marijuana Vietnam, which I remember as a very moody kinda song, from that EP Agnew Funeral which you don't like. ;-p
    I saw Lotion, alone but along with about 7 other people who didn't seem to care, at what I assume was Live Tonight in Hoboken, NJ, in what I assume was 1996. I recall telling them how much I liked the release and performance after the show, in that creepy-and-a-little-too-excited-fan kind of way. They seemed appreciative though, and I ended up having a nice conversation with the singer as i helped them clear the stage of gear.
    Forgot all about them. Thanks for the reminder. Now, if I could just find one of those mixed tapes, or a CD with that song on it, I'd be all set.

  2. Hello thought I'd let you know the brillinat Rock chick lotion track is in 4/4. just lots of syncopation make it hard to count..and it goes into 6/8 in the middle which doesnt help matters..great tracks on here – thank u for sharing your thoughts

  3. Dude,
    You know Lotion is one of my all-time favorite bands. Funny story, in the summer of 1995 I saw Lotion in two separate countries–London, England and Barcelona, Spain. They were on tour supporting their European label, Black Cat, and a couple members of the band thought I was a stalker!
    Great site by the way and now my source for what's new and interesting in the music world. Keep up the great work!
    Rob

  4. I spoke with Tony over email about a year ago, and he said they were in the middle of working on their full length and trying to find a label. I tried to get them to play at my wedding but they were too busy, unfortunately. or maybe it was a lame idea to them. anywho, i'm keeping the lotion fire burning.

  5. My first time seeing Lotion was in May of 1996, at the Metro in NJ. I've got setlists from about 17 of their shows that I went to up until 1999. They had a bunch of songs written after the Telephone album that never made it on any release, such as "Uncle," "No Men to Judge," "Radio Daycare Center," "Lucky Me," "True Crime," "Brite Idea," and "Vanillaroma".
    Have any of you heard their cover of "Fly Me to the Moon" found on the 'Chairman of the Board' compilation? It's phenomenal.
    Thanks for the post on my favorite band of all time! (FYI – 'full Isaac' is my favorite Lotion release)

  6. Luckily my sister and I have a few of the lost Lotion songs on cd. Vanillaroma would have taken the world by storm.
    I miss Lotion like no other band.
    Tony signing Fly Me to the Moon – very good. Tony signing I'll Be Home for Christmas – better. Jim signing Christmas Wrapping – the best.
    I'm glad to have lived in DC in their hey-day. I was all over the coast seeing them with my sister.

  7. Just an awesome band, it's a real shame that they are not around anymore. I hear bits of Lotion in everything I have listened to since them, i.e Starmarket, Knapsack, The Jealous sound, Lemonheads, Early Get Up Kids. It's a tragedy that you guys never got all the recognition you deserve. Without a doubt my favourite band of the 90's bar none.
    Best of luck to all of the band whatever you are doing these days I wish you well 🙂

  8. What fond memories that I am happy to see others share. My sister and I would always drop what we were doing to go see them up and down the East coast. We LOVED those Luna Lounge shows. My fav. song was when Jim sang Hole's "Miss World" at the old 9:30 Club. Unexpectedly expected. Who was there that crazy night at the Khyber Pass Pub in Philly when the beastly skinheads dropped by? The last we heard from Jim, he had moved to Cali. Bill had a daughter. Tony and Rob got married (to their respective spouses) and ya'll know the Honeycomb story. This is all awhile back. Tony did send "Vanillaroma" a couple years ago which is my favorite, along with "Around" and "Uncle." I haven't found another band in 13 years that tops this one(not for lack of listening). [wistful sigh] Thanks for letting me ramble!

  9. I'm also proud to claim Lotion as my favorite band of all time. I ran a fan website back in mid to late 90s and it was a total blast. I was lucky enough to see Lotion play in and around my hometown (Cincinnati) about 5 or 6 times. Some of my favorite songs were: Dalmacia 007 (Which to my knowledge they never played live), Drop Dead, Head, Dear Sir, and Glorified to name a few. Some of my fondest memories were hanging out with the band, being able to help them put together the show's setlist. I was lucky enough to run across a live Lotion cd that was circulated to a few radio stations that helps me remember those great live shows. If any other lotion fans want to share stories, music, etc. you can reach me at tcarter3@cinci.rr.com

  10. lotion was one of the first bands i ever saw, and i'll always adore them. somewhere in a shoebox i have the nestea can that tony had been drinking from at the first lotion show i attended; my best friend and i were big on saliva-tainted souvenirs at the time (i also have a poland springs bottle that marilyn manson drank from, threw into the crowd, and split my lip with). thanks for giving them their well-earned dues! some songs never get old, and tony's are among them.

  11. I'm glad to see so much lotion love here! they were one of my favorites in the mid to late 90s, still are. I would love to hear some of those unreleased songs, does anyone have mp3s? anyways, definitely a much missed band!

  12. Hey folks, so happy to find this kind of love still out there for Lotion. They were tremendous and all wonderful guys too. To this day I'll never understand how Wesley Willis could have had such a problem with Tony. 🙂
    I was very excited to see a few mentions of post-Telephone Album Lotion songs floating around out there, and would love to get my hands on as much of it as possible. Was hoping to contact Heather who posted about she and her sister having some of these unreleased tunes on CD, but alas there is no contact info/profile ID for me to use as a jumping-off point.
    If anybody knows how I could reach her, or if you've got the same collection of songs, PLEASE make contact.
    I'm at mikejmccann@yahoo.com or "ctmstr" on Skype.
    Cheers,
    Mike

  13. Hi,
    Can you post Feedback Queen and West Of Here? I can't find this album.

  14. Lotion was the best.They did it all! I miss them still and continue to play the discs. Saw them in Pittsburgh twice and D.C. once. Have always hoped for the band getting back together.

  15. Yeah, can someone post those "lost Lotion songs" in mp3 form somewhere? I was a HUGE fan of this band back in the 90s, but being stranded in the South at the time, never got to see them. "Nobody's Cool" is destined to be a lost cult classic album a la Skip Spence's "Oar;" a forgotten timepiece that sums up its era better than any other album. In about ten years, it'll get reissued, and we'll watch the assholes at Spin and Blender bend over backwards to claim they were cool w/Lotion at the time (it won't be true).

  16. I would absolutely LOVE to hear some unreleased Lotion material. THANK YOU so much for putting this up so people who appreciate the band can share their thoughts. Seriously one of my favorite bands of all time…

  17. Tony and Rob just started a new band called Spellbender! No shows booked just yet, but stay tuned!
    spellbender.com

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