Tuesday, July 10, 2012

R.I.P. Dennis Flemion, of The Frogs

By Evan Rytlewski
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Some more sad news for the area music scene: A missing swimmer who presumably drowned after disappearing in Racine on Saturday has been identified as The Frog's Dennis Flemion. He was 57, the Journal Sentinel has reported. Eulogies have been trickling in since yesterday. Early Frogs supporter and Matador Records founder Gerard Cosloy has a touching post on the label's website, and longtime fan Billy Corgan has tweeted his prayers for Flemion's family.

Flemion started the farce-folk band in 1980 with his brother Jimmy, and after years of alternatingly alienating and delighting audiences around the city, they amassed a cult following that at times seemed to consist mainly of famous musicians. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder was a vocal fan, along with Corgan, who took on Flemion as a touring member of the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996. That same year Beck sampled The Frogs on his hit "Where It's At."

Flemion remained active with The Frogs until the end; just last week the group released two digital albums, Count Yer Blessingsz and Squirrel Bunny Jupiter Deluxe. Given the band's history of questionable taste, fans could be forgiven for wishfully thinking that Flemion had faked his death as some sort of satirical commentary on publicity stunts. Sadly, that is not the case.

I can't pretend to be a very big fan of The Frogs—their racially charged and sexually subversive humor was never my cup of tea—but The Frogs prided themselves on their divisiveness. They were never meant to be the band that everybody enjoyed; it was enough for them that those who did love them loved them so deeply. Flemion was by all accounts a great guy and a legend in the local music scene; it will be a small comfort in the coming days hearing local musicians share some of their stories about him.

Stay tuned for updates about memorial services. In the meantime, to get a sense of how much The Frogs meant to their fans, enjoy the video below. It's from 1994 and shows Eddie Vedder, not known for his sense of humor at the time, singing The Frogs' great satirical grunge anthem "I Only Play 4 Money" backed by the band.


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