Dinosaur Jr.


Dinosaur Jr. (1984-1997, 2005-present): a Rock band from Amherst, Massachusetts, USA.


ormed in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1984, Dinosaur Jr. is an American rock band originally under the name Dinosaur until legal issues forced a name change.

Founded by Joseph Donald Mascis Jr. (guitar/vocals/primary songwriter), Lou Barlow (bass/vocals) and Murph (Real Name: Emmett Jefferson Murphy III; drums), the act soon earned a reputation as one of the formative influences on American 'alternative' rock. The band was started by Mascis and Barlow when they played together, on drums and guitar respectively, in the hardcore punkrock band Deep Wound, formed in 1982 while the pair were attending high school in western Massachusetts. After high school, they began exploring slower yet still aggressive music such as Black Sabbath, The Replacements and Neil Young. Mascis's college friend Gerard Cosloy introduced him to psychedelic-influenced pop bands like Dream Syndicate, which Mascis in turn showed to Barlow.

Deep Wound broke up in mid-1984. Cosloy, by then, had dropped out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst to focus on running his independent record label, 'Homestead Records', promising Mascis that if he were to make a record he would release it.

Wanting to re-launch his musical career, Mascis enlisted vocalist Charlie Nakajima, also formerly of Deep Wound, and drummer Emmett Patrick Murphy, otherwise known as Murph, to complete the band. The band was initially named Mogo, and played their first show on University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in the first week of September 1984. However, Nakajima used the performance to launch an extended anti-police tirade, leaving Mascis so appalled he disbanded the group the next day. A few days later Mascis invited Barlow and Murph to form a new band without telling Nakajima and re-named themselves Dinosaur.

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Mascis took Cosloy up on his offer to release their album, and Dinosaur recorded their debut album for $500 at a home studio in the woods outside Northampton, Massachusetts. Their debut album, Dinosaur (1985), would be the result. Mascis wrote and sang all of the songs in his trademark nasal drawl; he would sing most or all of the lead vocals on all of their subsequent releases. The album did not make much of an impact commercially or critically: it sold only about 1,500 copies in its first year and was largely ignored by the majority of the music press. But their New York City performance got the attention of Sonic Youth leading to Dinosaur recording much of their second album, You're Living All Over Me (1987), with Sonic Youth engineer Wharton Tiers in New York.

During the recording process for their first album, tension emerged between Mascis and Murph over specific ideas for the drum parts. Nonetheless, the album was completed and Gerard Cosloy was excited by the completed album, but was devastated when Mascis told him the band was going to release it on California-based 'SST Records', an up-and-coming label popular with the grunge movement. After the album's completion Mascis moved to New York, leaving the rest of the band feeling alienated. Adding to this alienation, early copies of the record sold in the Boston area were packaged with the Weed Forestin' tape, the first release by Barlow's side project Sebadoh; receiving much more attention in the indie-rock community than the debut itself. Nonetheless, the band trudged on.

Immediately following the release of You're Living All Over Me, a supergroup called The Dinosaurs (featuring ex-members of Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Hot Tuna, Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane) sued Dinosaur over the use of the name, prompting the addition of "Jr."

Dinosaur Jr. had a major breakthrough in the United Kingdom with their debut single Freak Scene, in 1988; a version with censored lyrics being issued for radio consumption. The band's third album, Bug (1988), followed shortly afterwards, reaching number 1 on the UK independent chart and spending 38 weeks in the chart.

Creative tension continued and led to Mascis firing Barlow, who returned to Sebadoh and, later, Folk Implosion. His replacement, Mike Johnson, came aboard for their next three major-label albums with 'Sire' in the form of Green Mind (1991), Where You Been (1993) and Without a Sound (1994). For the latter, however, Murph had quit, with Mascis taking over drum duties on the band's albums, including the previous along with Without a Sound (1994) and Hand It Over (1997) before the group disbanded in 1997.

The beginnings of a Mascis-Barlow d├ętente started in the mid-'90s when Mascis began showing up at Sebadoh shows, eventually gaining Barlow's receptive attention and began sharing the stage together. Mascis regained the master rights to the band's first three albums from 'SST' in 2004, and arranged for their reissue on 'Merge' in early 2005.

Following the reissues in 2005, Mascis, Barlow and Murph finally reunited to play on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on April 15, 2005. The original membership, now re-united and more artistically compatible with each other, would further their discography with Beyond (2007), Farm (2009), I Bet on Sky (2012), Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016) and Sweep It Into Space (2021).

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Dinosaur Jr. in Stockholm, Sweden in June 2008 (Left to right: J Mascis, Murph, Lou Barlow)
Photo by: Johannes Scherman
(CC BY 3.0)

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Nation USA
Location Amherst, Massachusetts
Genre Rock
Formations 2
Active Years 1984-1997, 2005-
Last Modified 2023-10-29
Diskery ID 2470

Artists Linked to Dinosaur Jr.

Grateful Dead Sonic Youth

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Dinosaur Jr. in Stockholm, Sweden in June 2008 (Left to right: J Mascis, Murph, Lou Barlow)
Photo by: Johannes Scherman
(CC BY 3.0)

Image Source/Author
Image License

Click to Purchase via eBay
Click to Purchase via eBay

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