|Origin:||New York City, United States|
|Years Active:||1985 - 1992|
|Past Members:||Ann Magnuson|
Bongwater was a college rock band formed in 1985 and dissolved in 1992. The group was founded by Ann Magnuson and Mark Kramer (who was also the founder of the Shimmy Disc record label). The group also featured drummer Dave Licht and guitarists Dave Rick and Randy Hudson. Guests included Fred Frith, Peter Stampfel and Fred Schneider.
Earlier recordings consisted of psychedelic-era cover songs, sound collages and originals in an abrasive and/or abstract, dense and sludgy experimental style with often punishing vocals by Magnuson on the songs "Frank" (a sardonic "tribute" to Frank Sinatra) and "Dazed and Chinese" (Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused", sung in Mandarin). The band's style ultimately evolved into a more poppy, sexy approach which still retained an experimental edge as well as retaining the surreal and wicked, often self-deprecating wit which had distinguished the group's earlier releases. Lengthy sound collages would often terminate or begin the songs and without warning, a spoken word monologue might cut into the music.
They distinguished themselves as interpreters of songs by other artists, particularly those working in the vein of 1960s psychedelic rock, although they also covered occasional oddities like "Bedazzled" by Dudley Moore. They made "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" by The Weavers and "You Don't Love Me Yet" by Roky Erickson into virtual signature tunes, the former made into a tribute to Bobby, Magnuson's late beloved brother, and others lost to AIDS, obliquely referred to in several of the songs, including their arguably biggest college radio hit, "Folk Song".
The group created a number of arty low budget home movie-style music videos, three directed by Magnuson's boyfriend at the time, Brad Dunning. However a more slick and polished example, "The Power of Pussy", perhaps strangely, aired on the Playboy Channel, which also financed its production. (The video features Cristina Martinez writhing about during the opening moments.)
Bongwater had two major college radio hits, "The Power of Pussy" and the marathon-length "Folk Song", and some college radio chart success until personality clashes and money issues caused the duo to split up with much acrimony.