Charm Farm signed to major and had a massive radio hit. So what happened?
Published: September 14, 2011
"We had a hit song — No. 1 in Detroit for 16 weeks straight," Zuccaro says. "We ended up playing the Detroit Music Awards and bringing Kid Rock up. Mercury Records came to see us and ended up signing us. We got signed, everything was going well, and then ... there were a couple of miscommunications."
He's not wrong. A cheesy pop remix of "Superstar" had become a big hit on California radio, despite that the band didn't want it released. As a result, the band sold 1,200 records in California in one week, then 1,000 were returned when the buyers realized that the rest of the album didn't sound like that one disposable single.
"The remix of 'Superstar' was by a guy called Richard Humpty Vission," White says. "He even took my voice out of it, just used the female backing vocals. I told the label that the songs would destroy our careers. We had remix approval, so we thought that was the end. Fucking Vission, who is one of my best mates now, so I can say this, this asshole presses up 3,000 copies and that version of 'Superstar' becomes the biggest song of the year at the big pop station here in L.A. It was an anthem, huge. The record company was dying for attention for that, so that's the version they put on the album. Then, when we got booked, people would show up expecting this dance band with girl singers and they'd get us guys."
"There was a split with the label trying to push the dance side of it," Zuccaro says. "Then everything fell apart. We didn't get any tour support from them, and they put us on a shelf. A year later they gave us the tapes back and released us from the contract, but by that time we'd changed the name to Control Freak. It was all so anticlimactic. We were going to L.A. to shoot videos, and then it all nose-dived."
"They were trying to market it in two different directions," Hoegemeyer adds. "They didn't know what to do with it. Grunge was happening at the time too. In those days, a lot of bands were getting signed, like us, but just as easily getting dropped if it didn't click right away. It got wrapped up in legal bullshit and everybody got impatient so we just moved on to different things."
But not before glam-tranny Pete Burns (of Dead or Alive) wanted to manage the group.
"I think they'd met Dennis through the Inner City thing or something," Hoegemeyer says. "That was during my first trip to London when they were taking us out to dinner every night and spending ridiculous amounts of money. Pete had turned into a hot chick by then. Somebody in the camp was a transvestite who had been in Madonna's Sex book. Apparently, I met Boy George on one of those nights, but I don't remember at all."
That's Charm Farm then. Maybe they didn't hit it but they've a shitload of stories, and some wisdom from experience.
The forthcoming reunion show reminds us that, contrary to popular opinion, Detroit wasn't musically barren between the mid-'80s and early '90s.
"There was a lot of great stuff here," Zuccaro says. "There was us, Big Chief, Sponge, Majesty Crush ... there was a lot more than most other places."
The guitarist laughs. "I don't hear anything great coming out of St. Louis."
Charm Farm plays the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale at 9:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, with Lettercamp, Stepdad, Phantasmagoria and others. See diystreetfair.com.
> Email Brett Callwood