Back and Blue

Just a few songs into Deep Blue Somethings hour-long set, it happens. A stagehand brings guitarist Taylor Tatsch an acoustic, replacing the electric model he had been usinga subtle transaction, a swap that takes place unnoticed at most concerts. But here its important. Because only a few seconds later, Tatsch begins strumming the instantly recognizable riff that begins Breakfast at Tiffanys, the hit song that made the band the most popular, and most hated, in town. Eight years ago Breakfast at Tiffanys was No. 1 with a bulletand it went straight into the bands temple.

There's virtually no remnant of that ill will here today at Spring Fest, a mid-April outdoor shindig in a parking lot in Deep Ellum, with another one-hit wonder, Dishwalla, on the bill. As Tatsch picks his way through the intro, Todd Pipes, Deep Blue's singer, bassist and primary songwriter, steps forward to the microphone, bathed in amber light, the literal version of what Russell Hammond was talking about in Almost Famous when he called himself a "golden god." "You say we've got nothing in common," he sings, without a hint of shame. "No common ground to start from/And we're falling apart."

The audience--mostly female, mostly in their 20s, mostly indifferent until now--perks up just a few measures into the song, moving closer to the stage. Soon, they're singing along, dancing, rocking back and forth, bouncing in place. Some are just smiling. Two women hold on to each other, their matching grins so broad they can't sing every word through the unstoppable upward curves of their mouths.

Maybe this song changed some of their lives. Doubtful, but maybe. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" certainly did that for Pipes, his guitar-playing brother Toby and longtime drummer John Kirtland, along with various guitarists over the years. It topped the charts worldwide and took the band with it. It also earned them the nickname "Deep Blow Someone" when the fame that resulted inevitably gave way to backlash from local musicians and fans, when the bottom fell out and they were surrounded by more enemies than friends. All this because of a four-minute ditty about trying to patch together a relationship with tiny bandages such as a mutual love for the film Breakfast at Tiffany's.

But they don't care about all that. They could have kept cranking out albums, milking their fan base for every last dollar, deftly deflecting the criticism, but the truth is, they were happy when it all went away. They never needed the spotlight; they always wanted to be behind the scenes, helping other bands get there. They didn't want to be the Beatles--they wanted to be George Martin. And now, with their own recording studio, they're doing just that. Called Bass Propulsion Laboratories, it has helped launch a few fellow local musicians onto the national scene and given numerous burgeoning bands a chance to make a name for themselves, the Pipes brothers offering their equipment and experience to whomever needs it. This is the way they saw it happening when they were teen-agers, recording their friends' bands. Yet even these good deeds are coated in the resentment that lingers from the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" days.

"There are not enough people who know how much those guys have done for bands around town," says Eric Martin, whose band Hi-Fi Drowning recorded its latest album, Rounds the 'Rosa, at Bass Propulsion. "It's never written about. It's never talked about. They do so much for all these local bands, and I don't know if it has something to do with them being in Deep Blue Something or whatever. That's bullshit. The bottom line is, they've put their money and their energy and their time toward other musicians nonstop for the last three years. And if they don't get respect for that just because somebody doesn't like Deep Blue Something, then that's just fucking bullshit."

A decade or so ago, Deep Blue Something was just like the bands that come to Bass Propulsion Laboratories now. That is, until they recorded their second album, Home, using money from a bank loan co-signed by Ed Lamonica, the former owner of Denton's Rick's Place and currently of Curtain Club. (Lamonica declined to comment, saying, "Someone told me that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, and I have no good comments at all.") Home was released on Dallas' Rainmaker Records in 1994, but it wasn't until the following year when KDGE-FM began playing "Breakfast at Tiffany's." A lot.

A major-label deal with Interscope Records followed soon after, and the label released a slightly remodeled Home in June 1995. By the end of the year, Home had reached first position on Billboard's Heatseekers charts, and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" had peaked at No. 30 on the Modern Rock Tracks and third on the mainstream charts.

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Shannon Sutlief