Lorde Had a Band Before She Was Famous Plus 7 More Musicians With Surprising First Recordings — VIDEOS
It's rare that a musician starts out fully formed. Sure, maybe sometimes the melodic alchemy is just that instantaneous and pure — but for most who want to strut and fret their half-hour upon a concerthall stage, getting to the point where you're producing quality material takes at least some noodling around, probably in your bedroom, then your friend's living room, an open mic or two. These days, in the age of Soundcloud and iPhone cameras, many more of these early efforts are available to those willing to look — and today in particular, Pitchfork is looking at Lorde. Apparently, when the singer was still in high school — and still went by Ella Yelich O'Connor — she recorded vocals on a few songs with some friends of hers, New Zealand band And They Were Masked. Though her voice is just as lovely as ever, the backing track is certainly a shift, trading in thick, driving beats for plinky ukulele and what sounds suspiciously like a rain stick.
Of course, Lorde's tale joins plenty of other infamous reinventions; we all now know well how Lana del Rey was originally Lizzy Grant, or Lady Gaga started out playing piano as Stephanie Germanotta. And it's not just today's ladies of pop. Acts of all types and eras once dabbled in other genres — The Beastie Boys' infamous early punk career — and thankfully, most of them had the decency to do so in public, for our Internet-searching pleasure. Below are the compiled early incarnations of seven major acts — some cool, some baffling, all fascinatingly telling. But first, to Lorde (I mean, if only for the rain stick).
Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig had a rap group
There are certain things in this world you just can't unhear, no matter how much you may desperately want to, and I'm sorry to report that one of them is Ezra Koenig rapping. It is, in fact, worse than you're imagining — a post-post-ironic novelty project, the kind of thing you can only make when you're 17 and stoned out of your mind and just super stoked to put your name on the Internet, because, um, pizza, man. Have fun trying to listen to "A-Punk" from here on out (though, honestly, you should probably cool it with that song anyhow).
Daft Punk were post-punk band Darlin'
Today, they're regarded as electronica gurus, but back in the '90s Daft Punk were playing with electric guitars instead of synthesizers and sampling machines. Listening to their tracks, though, you still get the same wordless appreciation for catchy hooks and the repetition thereof — just, this time, with a little more feedback fuzz.
Alanis Morissette had a Canadian dance-pop career
You guys, Alanis Morissette was Robin Sparkles. Of all the throaty 90s chanteuses in all the world—! What it all comes down to is, I'm now sincerely doubting everything's gonna be fine, fine, fine, as my every paradigm has been drastically shifted, and I'm now pretty much convinced we're living in an alternate dimension. Tinfoil hats, anyone?
Katy Perry was Katy Hudson, Christian rocker
Before exploding to taboo-testing popularity with "I Kissed a Girl," in 2001, Katy Perry put out an album as Katy Hudson — a Christian album, complete with song titles like "Faith Won't Fail" (above) and a dirty blonde shag haircut. It's hard not to raise an eyebrow or two at these lyrics (e.g., "he will prevail in the midst of all my sins and temptations"), especially in the face of her later output (e.g., "Last Friday Night"), but hey, people change, and now we have another prolific, if appropriative, mainstream pop diva to get her choruses immovably stuck in our heads.
David Bowie was Davy Jones, novelty musician
Though David Bowie is famous for his ever-shifting personae and characters, one of his lesser known alter egos is his first: Davy Jones — which, though it happens to be his real name, also coincides pretty well with the pirate legend / unfortunately with the Monkees' lead singer — under which he performed with bands like The King Bees and The Lower Third. And even when he swapped out his surname for that of a hunting knife, for a while he wasn't so much a gender-bending rock god as he was the lost member of The Wiggles. There's a whole delightfully wholesome album to explore — "Sell Me a Coat," "Come and Buy My Toys" — but perhaps the most dream-hauntingly bonkers is "The Laughing Gnome," above. I mean, it's not like Bowie disavowed this sense of goofiness as he got popular — or even the distorted, gnome-y voices (see: "After All"; the end of "The Bewlay Brothers"; the Labyrinth soundtrack; even last year's "If You Can See Me"). Still, there's a marked difference between throwing lines like "squawking like a pink monkey-bird" into your otherwise standard rock song and infusing a januty ditty about roasted toadstools and dandelion wine with the helium tones of Alvin in the Chipmunks.
Tori Amos fronted cheesy 80s band Y Kant Tori Read
While most people know Tori Amos the piano-playing chanteuse whose voice you call to mind when you have to cry on cue (or is that just me?), I guarantee you will now never be able to forget her turn as the frontwoman of Y Kant Tori Read — because wow is this video insane. From the opening exchange between her and the traffic cop that plays like a bad night at your brother's middle school improv troupe, to the thumping 80s drums, to that hair— Excuse me, I have to go listen to From the Choirgirl Hotel for a few hours, before my brain simply explodes.
The Beatles originally recorded in German
Okay, to be fair, they were still totally The Beatles at the time, and these songs also became smash hits in English — but the fact remains that, before the band made it big, their management wanted to make sure they could sell as many records as possible in the thriving German rock scene, so "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" became "Komm, gib mir deine Hand" (above) and "She Loves You" became "Sie liebt dich." For those non-Deutschsprechenders out there, yes, the lyrics are a little different; my personal favorite is when, in "Hand," they just pop in the line "Oh, you are so pretty, pretty like a diamond; I want to go with you." Hey, no one ever said translation was easy.