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4 Non Blondes

About 4 Non Blondes

4 Non Blondes began in 1989 as four San Fransciso lesbians who built a local following and got ‘a lot of press’ in the area, attracting a number of record labels who smelled a hit in their ballad “What’s Up?” – a song so powerful that bass player Christa Hillhouse actually stopped having sex and ran down the hall when she first heard Linda Perry playing the song to express how much she liked it.

The band chose Interscope Records and recorded at a studio in Calabasas, California. During these sessions, drummer Wanda Day was fired due to drug problems (she later died in 1997) and guitarist Shaunna Hall left the band over differences with the album’s producer, who told Day’s replacement “the record is not happening with your guitar player”.

In 1992, Interscope released “Dear Mr President” as the album’s first single. It found small success in the UK and reached the bottom of the top 40 in New Zealand.

When “What’s Up?” was released as the second single, the band rocketed into international stardom. It topped the charts in seven countries, reached #2 in three more (including the UK) and peaked at #14 in the US, making them the first openly lesbian group to reach the top 40 there.

“Spaceman” was the group’s third single. It reached the top 40 in six countries overseas and would be their last to chart anywhere. “Drifting” was the album’s fourth and final single, aside from the Spain-only release of “Superfly”.

Two more songs were released in 1994 on film soundtracks as the band began work on a follow-up album. However, Perry began writing melancholy music in the direction of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the rest of the band wanted to continue making rock songs like “Superfly”, and the label kept pressuring them to come up with “What’s Up, version 2”.

Perry left by the end of the year and released two solo albums on Interscope Records in 1996 and 1999. She claims to have told her A&R rep:

“I will kill myself if you do not let me off this label. I am so unhappy with you guys. I will never write you another ‘What’s Up’, so why would you hold onto me?”

Perry was released from label due to poor sales of those solo albums. By then, she’d blown through all of the money she’d made from 4 Non Blondes. But three weeks after becoming broke, P!nk seeked her out and they began a lucrative songwriting partnership beginning with the Perry-penned #4 smash hit “Get The Party Started”.

In 2011, Perry told Rolling Stone she would not be performing “What’s Up?” or any other 4 Non Blonde songs with her new band Deep Dark Robot because she didn’t like Bigger, Better, Faster, More:

I wasn’t really a big fan of my band. I didn’t like the record at all. ‘Drifting’ was the only song I loved. I did love ‘What’s Up?’ but I hated the production. When I heard our record for the first time I cried. It didn’t sound like me. It made me belligerent and a real asshole. I wanted to say, ‘We’re a fucking, bad-ass cool band. We’re not that fluffy polished bullshit that you’re listening to.’ It was really difficult.