It's A Shame About Ray

Album: It's A Shame About Ray (1992)
Charted: 31

Songfacts®:

  • In this song, it's not clear what happened to Ray, but his name is still engraved in the stone under the dust - that can't be good.

    In a Songfacts interview with Lemonheads lead singer Evan Dando, he talked about the song. "It's spooky," he said. "It's about a disappearing person. It's a very open-ended, grey sort of song. I think it's one of those things, like The Trouble with Harry [a 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film]. Like a mysterious sort of song."
  • Evan Dando wrote this song in Australia while he was performing solo as the opening act for Fugazi. He collaborated on the track with Tom Morgan, who was the lead singer for the Australian band Smudge.

    So who is "Ray"? Dando explained to Melody Maker: "It comes from this guy in Melbourne, Australia, who calls everyone Ray. So I started to think that Ray could be a name for everybody, so 'It's A Shame About Ray' could be about anybody. It's a pretty grey and indefinite kinda thing, but then it's very specific. It's a little puzzler for me, too. I'm not sure if the person singing the song is Ray himself, or someone who knew him. It's hard to know."

    Dando tends to confabulate when speaking with the press. He told this version of the story in his Songfacts interview: "We were pretty young back then, and we stayed up a bunch of days in a row. We came across a newspaper article that said, 'It's a Shame About Ray,' and we just liked that phrase. From there, I had the music and I just wrote it really quickly - about half an hour or an hour - and then we had it. We brought it down to our friend's record store and played it for him, and we were all excited about it. That was the first song we had written together - myself and Tom Morgan from Sydney, Australia."
  • A little bit about the It's A Shame About Ray album: It covers 12 tracks in less than 30 minutes. Critics loved it, and sometimes labeled it "bubblegrunge," which was an attempt to describe a cross between Pearl Jam-ish grunge and more melodic pop. Later pressings included the Lemonheads cover of "Mrs. Robinson." It established Evan Dando as a top songwriter, and made him famous as a pop idol.
  • Johnny Depp, a friend of Evan Dando's, stars in the video. Directed by Jesse Peretz, the clip shows Depp at a house in the desert, preparing for a trip.

    It wasn't Depp's first music video: He starred in Tom Petty's "Into The Great Wide Open" in 1991.
  • By this point, the Lemonheads were more a collective than a band, with Evan Dando using a rotating cast of musicians. On the It's a Shame About Ray album, David Ryan did the drumming and Juliana Hatfield was the bass player and backing vocalist (you can hear her near the end of this song). Hatfield fronted a band called Blake Babies, and was just getting her solo career going.
  • Lemonheads built a modest following around this time among the alternative rock crowd that was looking for a mellower variation of grunge. The group didn't go much higher, but frontman Evan Dando did. In 1993 People magazine named him one of their "50 Most Beautiful People"; the following year he appeared in the film Reality Bites. He was an object of intrigue known for unpredictable, self-destructive behavior, like getting arrested in Australia after an overdose and getting in a love triangle with Johnny Depp and Kate Moss. He revisited The Lemonheads from time to time, but is now more famous as an icon of Generation X.

Comments: 4

  • Sallyfromthevalley from San Fernando ValleyThe newspaper article was about a Pacoima resident named Ray ******* who had recently committed suicide because the girl he loved was sorta harsh and matter-of-fact with her rejection. Apparently he had been carrying this flame for the entire five year friendship. I never knew Ray except in stories she told me over the years and he was a great talent whom everyone loved except the one that mattered to Ray.
  • Ray from BostonNo need to worry... everything is still all right with me no matter what the rumors say!
  • Brian from Boston, MaI don't know who to believe about Ray but regardless this is a great song
  • Stacey from Boston, MaRay Lemieux is not dead! He is alive and well and still living in the Boston area!
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