Too Much Joy
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Too Much Joy
Too Much Joy, 1991.
|Origin||Scarsdale, New York, United States|
|Labels||Stonegarden Records, Alias Records, Warner Bros. Records, Giant Records, Discovery Records, Sugar Fix Recordings|
|Associated acts||The ITS, Surface Wound, Wonderlick, Fields Laughing, Beauty Constant|
|Website||Too Much Joy|
|Members||Tim Quirk, Jay Blumenfield, William Wittman, Tommy Vinton|
|Past members||Tommy LaRusa, Sandy Smallens|
The original members were Tim Quirk (vocals), Jay Blumenfield (guitar, vocals), Sandy Smallens (bass, vocals) and Tommy Vinton (drums). During 1982-1983 Tommy LaRussa temporarily replaced Vinton as drummer. Smallens departed on amicable terms in 1994; producer William Wittman joined on bass guitar and vocals after Smallens's departure. Blumenfield was also in Fields Laughing (who released an EP in 1985 on Stonegarden Records) and Smallens was also in Beauty Constant (whose Like The Enemy LP was issued in 1987), Wittman continues to play with Cyndi Lauper.
After the success of their third album Cereal Killers, TMJ released several other studio albums, but none achieved the same popular success. In 1997, TMJ announced a hiatus, saying that the commercialism of the music business had taken the "joy" out of performing. Too Much Joy emptied its vaults in 1999 and 2001 to produce the album Gods and Sods, composed of studio outtakes and demos from the period between Mutiny and ...Finally and the live album, Live at Least. The later incarnation of the band briefly reunited in the early 2000s to record the one-off holiday single, "Ruby Left a Present Underneath the Christmas Tree." Although TMJ remains inactive, if not technically defunct, its members have since formed the sometimes overlapping subprojects The ITS, Surface Wound, and Wonderlick.
TMJ found themselves with celebrity fans Penn and Teller, to the point where Teller directed the video for Donna Everywhere,. Penn liked the guys in the band so much that he took the opportunity to jam with them in the studio when the opportunity presented itself.
While never officially broken up, the entire band performed for the first time in 10 years on May 4, 2007 at the Knitting Factory in New York City. The opening band, The Final Stand, included Tommy Vinton's son Tommy on drums and Sandy Smallens' son Ziya on bass, followed by New Jersey's The Impulse. Both TMJ bassists, Sandy Smallens and William Wittman, took part in the performance, trading between second guitar and bass. The concert was a celebration of drummer Tommy Vinton's retirement from the NYPD.
Bozo the Clown lawsuitEdit
TMJ were sued by Bozo the Clown for including a sample taken from a Bozo the Clown album in the intro to the song "Clowns" on the independent release of Son of Sam I Am. The five-second sample ("I found something in one of my pockets. It was about as big as your shoe, but it was shaped like a rocket!") was pulled from the track when the album was re-released by Warner Bros. Records.  The song "Clowns" went on to be used in the soundtrack to the movie Shakes the Clown (also without the sample).
In 1990, the members of Too Much Joy were taken aback to learn that hip-hop group 2 Live Crew had been arrested on obscenity charges in Florida, and that a record store owner had been arrested for selling their music. In response, the band planned a protest concert in which several acts would cover a 2 Live Crew song in Miami. Failing to drum up much commitment among other bands, Too Much Joy themselves played a number of selections from the Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be album, and wound up spending a night in jail. Tim Quirk recalled the incident in an interview with The A.V. Club. 
Lead singer Quirk was detained by the Secret Service after a performance where he made a joke about strangling President Clinton. Although the band believed that President Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was in the audience at the time, reality was that the Secret Service contingent was there to 'protect' an obscure foreign ambassador. It being a longstanding Too Much Joy tradition to tell an obvious lie in the break section of their version of the L.L. Cool J song, "That's A Lie", Quirk explained at some length that the band was well aware of the presence of agents with coily cords in their ears and that the Secret Service was "not famous for their sense of humor". So it was explained further that the song was called "That's A Lie" and that the band is known to tell a lie at this point in the song at which point "my friends will jump in and sing 'that's a lie'... so If I were to, for example, say that I voted for President Clinton but when I see him eviscerating the Bill of Rights it makes me want to strangle him, you'll understand that I don't mean it because..." and then the band came in singing "that's a lie". This would have been the end of the story but apparently the Secret Service felt obligated to take it as a serious "threat". Two hours later, at the end of the show, they detained the band and questioned Quirk until they were satisfied that the band was not in fact on a mission to assassinate Clinton. Apparently they never heard, over the noise of the crowd, that Tim had announced the next song ("I Want To Poison Your Mind") as "I Want To Poison The President."
We sleep on floors and live on crumbs,
We're a bunch of ugly bums.
A great idea when we were smashed...
Turning anger into cash.
We ain't seen much, but we don't starve
We drive around in our moms' cars
To create, you must destroy.
Smash a glass and cry... Too Much Joy
Theme Song, (Cereal Killers, 1991)
Green Eggs and CrackEdit
The band's first LP, entitled Green Eggs and Crack was released in 1987 on the small Stonegarden label; it collected material the band had recorded during the previous four years during college breaks, as well as during their senior year of high school for Quirk, Blumenfield and Smallens and freshman year for LaRussa. LaRussa appears as drummer for "James Dean's Jacket" and "Don Quixote." All other tracks have Vinton on drums. Allmusic describes the album's songs as "often extremely clever and catchy," although "clearly the work of over-educated, under-employed, upper-middle class kids with far too much time on their hands".  When the album was re-released in 2002, The Onion called it "a thinly produced, underwhelming record recorded by teenagers, and charming mostly for reasons revolving around sentiment and potential", while the band's Quirk described the long out-of-print record as the perfect legend: "a cool title that people could talk about and search for without any real chance of ever actually hearing it".  But college radio's attraction to quirky songs like "Drum Machine" paved the way for a wider reception for the band's subsequent recordings.
Son of Sam I AmEdit
The band's next release, on the independent Alias label, was Son of Sam I Am in 1989. This album was rereleased by Giant/Warner Brothers in 1990 with two extra tracks: "If I Was a Mekon" and "Seasons in the Sun" and minus the introduction to Clowns (see above).
This album features the crowd favorite L.L. Cool J cover "That's A Lie" and was always performed with "The Big Lie", which was a lie composed for the show or tour that seemed reasonably plausible (throwing keys into the audience for the after party at the Holiday Inn for example).
Too Much Joy's 1991 LP Cereal Killers, released by Warner Bros. Records, met with some popularity on college radio and alternative radio stations rotations all over the U.S., with the song "Good Kill" featuring the rising hip-hop star KRS-One. The single "Crush Story" made it to No. 17 on the U.S. Modern Rock chart in 1991. This album features the epicenter of the "Joy" universe by offering "Theme Song" which is sung drunkenly at the end of Too Much Joy shows by band and fans alike.
American music essayist Robert Christgau gave the album an A- and wrote, "After a year of sleeping on floors, stealing wives, and expressing solidarity with 2 Live Crew, their music is thicker, tougher, hookier, sometimes even a tad overproduced. And their lyrics are still what it's there for. So smart they have dumb people sniffing about the Dead Milkmen, they have their moments of empathy, social responsibility, self-knowledge, and so forth. But as a sucker for a cheap laugh, I prefer "King of Beers" ("na na na na na na sorrow") and "Long Haired Guys from England" ("i bet in london i could get a date/'cause i'm a short haired guy from the united states"). Both of which are longer on self-knowledge than most dumb people I meet.)"
- Green Eggs and Crack, 1987, Stonegarden Records, re-released 1997 on Sugar Fix Recordings
- Son of Sam I Am, 1988, Alias Records, re-released in 1990 on Giant Records label
- Cereal Killers, 1991, Warner Bros. Records
- Mutiny, 1992, Giant Records
- Dr. Seuss Is Dead EP, 1994, JoyBuzzer fan club-only release
- ...finally, 1996, Discovery Records
- Gods and Sods, 1999, Sugar Fix Recordings
- Live at Least, 2001, Susquehanna Hat Company
- We Are the Clash b/w We Are Not the Clash, 2018, 7" single Asbestos Records
- Penn and Teller FAQ
- Penn's diary account of jamming in the studio with Wonderlick/Too Much Joy Archived 2006-09-09 at the Wayback Machine
- "We Are The Clash". March 7, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
Crooked Beat is putting out a tribute to the final Clash LP, Cut the Crap.
- Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity
- Christgau, Robert (1991). "Too Much Joy". www.robertchristgau.com. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
- Official site for Too Much Joy and its sub-projects Surface Wound, Wonderlick, and The ITS.
- Map Like Mine, a resource center for all things Too Much Joy
- Rolling Stone bio on Too Much Joy
- Allmusic: Too Much Joy
- In-depth article on Too Much Joy by Sean Koepenick on Earcandy Magazine as part of the "Rock and Roll Case Study" series.