The Tuesday Night Music Club was a loose collective of musicians who came together in 1992 for casual recording sessions that eventually became Sheryl Crow’s blockbuster 1993 album of the same name. One can see the roots of the band in two pre-’92 releases – 1986’s critically-acclaimed Boomtown album by the “erratically brilliant” RS David Baerwald alongside bandmate David Ricketts, and 1990’s self-titled Toy Matinee album featuring singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Gilbert, drummer Brian MacLeod, and producer Bill Bottrell.
From their work in Toy Matinee, Bottrell had became “a kind of father figure” JS to KG. Bottrell subsequently included KG on sessions for Madonna and Michael Jackson. When Gilbert decided to “start his solo debut, …[he] sublet the space next to Toad Hall, Bottrell’s studio in Pasadena.” JS
In August 1992, Bottrell launched a weekly jam session at Toad Hall. JS As Gilbert recalls, it “‘started when Bill Bottrell…and I got frustrated with the isolation of working alone…We really missed the days when you got together with a bunch of people and just jammed and didn’t worry about whether it’s a great song or not, or you didn’t worry if it’s going to be a hit record or if your A&R person is going to approve. So we started to get together on Tuesday nights to have fun.’” PS
The weekly jam sessions bcame known as the Tuesday Night Music Club and, along with the aforementioned members, included bassist Dan Schwartz. KG described the group as “a collaborative of artists,” CH who, as Baerwald says, “were all good, not to be immodest…we were also all cynical, embittered by the process of pop music. We were trying to find some joy in music again.” JS
MacLeod describes the TNMC as “the brilliance of Bill going ‘hey, I’ve got this great recording studio. Let’s drink some beers and write some songs.’” BM “Somebody would have a topic ‘Did you see on the news today, Bush did this…’ ‘Oh, let's write a song about it.’ So whatever came up.’” BM
KG confirmed the loose process, saying “We get together on Tuesday nights, drink, talk about politics, and make up music. We just write something there on the spot…A lot of times we'll play instruments we're not good at, so it’s a strange funk thing.” CH
MacLeod continues, “Bill would sift through [the music] the next morning while we were all nursing hangovers.” JS MacLeod remembers Fun, a song later on KG’s The Shaming of the True, as the first creation of the TNMC. BM
David Baerwald’s Triage:
By the end of that year, David Baerwald released his second solo album, Triage. The album served as a sort of first release by the TNMC as well, since all but Ricketts served as session players. Baerwald not only sings, but plays organ, bass, guitar, and keyboards; he also co-produced the album with Bottrell. Bottrell contributed work on guitar, keyboards, vocals, and loops as well. KG contributes piano and drum work, Brian MacLeod adds his drumming, and Dan Schwartz lends his bass, guitar, and producing and engineering talents (Triage album credits).
Of course, the crew’s most famous member was Sheryl Crow. KG brought his then-girlfriend to the TNMC and they helped her craft the multi-platinum album that would be named after them. Gilbert first met Crow when he hired her as Toy Matinee’s touring keyboardist. She’d first moved to Los Angeles in 1986 where she landed “some jingle-singing assignments, and got her first big break when she successfully auditioned to be a backup singer on Michael Jackson's international Bad tour. In concert, she often sang the female duet part on ‘I Just Can't Stop Loving You,’ and was inaccurately rumored by the tabloids to have been Jackson’s lover. After spending two years on the road with Jackson, Crow resumed her search for a record deal, but found that record companies were only interested in making her a dance-pop singer, which was not at all to her taste.” SH
She also worked “as a session vocalist…and performed with…Sting, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Joe Cocker, Sinead O’Connor, and Don Henley, the latter of whom she toured with behind The End of the Innocence. She also developed her songwriting skills enough to have her compositions recorded by…Wynonna Judd, Celine Dion, and Eric Clapton. Thanks to her session work, she made a connection with producer Hugh Padgham, who got her signed to A&M. Padgham and Crow went into the studio in 1991 to record her debut album, but Padgham's pop leanings resulted in a slick, ballad-laden record that didn't reflect the sound Crow wanted.” SH After spending a half million on it, A&M signed KG to fix it. Producer/engineer Bill Bottrell was eventually asked to step in as well. JS The efforts to “remix her ill-fated album” SH were of no use; “the album was shelved.” SH
As Macleod notes, “she was down and out about all that, so Kevin wanted to cheer her up. He said ‘Why don't you come to these Tuesday night jams and forget about your record and just make music with us?’ So she came down and she was a total sport. Totally hanging with the lads…doing whatever.” BM
The group decided some female energy would nicely counter what Baerwald called “the increasingly macho atmosphere that was developing in the room.” RS As MacLeod reports, Bottrell was also up for the idea: “Bill is the kind of guy who loves underdogs.” BM On the third TNMC session, KG called Crow to join what Baerwald labeled the “buzzing hornet's nest of wild ego and just fun energy” of the “the slacker poets and castrati revolutionaries.” RS
It was Crow’s first night with the TNMC when Baerwald brought in the idea for the song Leaving Las Vegas, the title of drinking buddy John O’Brien’s book that would later be the basis of the Nicholas Cage film of the same name. Baerwald and Ricketts, both high on acid, came in that night with the first verse. “Sheryl started to get drunk,” Bottrell says, JS and “David [Baerwald] couldn't function much…so we put him on this keyboard that had monophonic sound, meaning no matter how many keys you play, it only plays one. You still hear it on the record, going all over the place.” RS
Meanwhile, KG and Crow were secretly carrying on their relationship.“I’d see long conversations in the parking lot,” says Baerwald. JS She was in over her head, and KG would rant to her about his negative experiences in the music industry, “filling her with doubts,” as Bottrell says. Still, as MacLeod says, “Kevin challenged her…he was trying to get her to be honest and sing from her heart.” JS
From Casual Club to Album Sessions:
“In this informal, collaborative setting, Crow [got] her creative juices flowing again.” SH MacLeod says Crow asked the TNMC if she could play the stuff for A&M, who loved it and encouraged her to keep it up. BM “The group agreed to make its newest member – the only one with a recording contract – the focal point” SH and the TNMC sessions became the “drunken demo versions of the songs” that Bottrell and KG would then fix up. BM As KG says, “her whole record was written that way. We’d all get together at night, throw musical ideas in, write lyrics and…Bill [would] …have her come in and sing what we’d written like the next day. So that’s the stuff that ended up being her record.” CH
Rolling Stone reports that there were only three more meetings that really played into the TNMC album. Bottrell says, “The rest of it is just sweat and blood from me and Sheryl Crow.” RS
Other accounts suggest that the TNMC turned into week-long recording sessions for Sheryl’s new album over the course of nearly a year. While everything was intended to be collaborative, with equal songwriting credits, Baerwald says, “everybody was equal…except Sheryl. She wasn’t one of us. We helped her make a record.” JS
When Crow suggested calling the album Tuesday Night Music Club, MacLeod was opposed, saying “that takes the mystique out of our thing.” He continues, though, saying he wasn’t mad at her; “I was proud of what we did and I wanted Sheryl to be successful.” BM
Of course she did name the album after the group and “described it lovingly in the disc’s liner notes.” SI After the album took off, Crow told i>Billboard magazine “There were guys in the group who were feeling bitter about the record doing so well…Maybe I should have called it something else.” JS
The album does credit the TNMC throughout, specifically thanking KG for “two years of musical and emotional support.” RS He played keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums on the album and is also cited on 7 of the 11 songs as one of the writers. JS However, things would get worse.
Crow abandoned the TNMC the day Bottrell met her at a coffee shop to deliver the final master of the album. “She essentially told me to get lost,” says Bottrell. Apparently the members assembled at an out-of-town club for one guest appearance with Crow, but that was it. JS She went back to Missouri to hire cheaper musicians to take the material out on tour. RS As TNMC’er Dan Schwartz says, “I add Sheryl Crow to a long list of people in Hollywood who told me they were my friend until they got what they wanted from me.” JS At this point, Bottrell merely “tolerated her because she was fronting the songs he prized.” RS
In his journal, KG wrote “I think I’m a tinge jealous over her upcoming release…it’s probably going to be huge, so I have to prepare myself mentally for that. If she gets what she wants after behaving this way, she’ll be absolutely intolerable.” JS KG’s friend Pat Terrell says, KG and Crow’s “relationship started to go south as soon as the Tuesday Music Club started recording for Crow…No doubt part of it was jealousy. A&M was pouring millions into the project, and he was essentially blackballed.” SI
The album was “enthusiastically accepted by A&M and released in 1993.” MO Crow was about to become a huge success. She was not, however, bringing the TNMC’ers along for the ride, as far as they interpreted it.
The real falling out between Crow and the rest of the TNMC’ers came in March 1994. JS “Crow had been invited to perform ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ on Late Night with David Letterman. In a brief interview segment, Letterman asked if the song was autobiographical, and Crow offhandedly agreed that it was,” SH continuing that although she’d never been to Vegas, she “wrote it about Los Angeles. It’s really metaphorical.” JS Having been burned by the industry already, some of the Tuesday Night Music Club took Crow's comment as a refusal to give proper credit for their contributions.” SH
KG exchanged angry words with Crow over the phone the next day. JS Terrell adds, “Kevin saw it as an example of how people can change after a huge success. The Tuesday Music Club went from a bunch of people getting together to jam…to a corporate machine in which he was steamrolled, as were many others…He realized the record companies could turn who they want into superstars.” SI
Gilbert’s friend KOME DJ Greg Stone says that “Crow betrayed Gilbert…[She told A&M that] she was just being nice to everyone by mentioning him in the liner notes. She said he didn't have anything to do with these songs. That pissed him off and got him depressed.’” SI
Three weeks later, O’Brien shot himself “a scant few weeks before the movie deal was complete.” He was also still grumbling to his literary agent about Crow on the day he killed himself. JS
“Although O’Brien’s family stepped forward to affirm that Crow had nothing to do with the tragedy, the rift with Baerwald was already irreparable.” SH He did confirm in L.A. Weekly that he didn’t blame Crow for O’Brien’s suicide either, but did believe she caused him to betray his friend. RS
“There was a lot of bitterness towards Sheryl after that because she would go on talk shows and not mention us,” MacLeod says. BM “Some Club members bitterly charged that Crow’s role in the collaborative process was rather small, and that the talent on display actually had little to do with her.” SH MacLeod adds that “really Crow didn’t do anything different than KG himself. Much like KG took command of Toy Matinee when no one else did anything, Crow took charge of her record. “I got published on a record,” MacLeod continues, “I don’t care if she goes out and kisses babies and says she wrote on everything and played drums on the record. I still get the checks in the mail. She’s better looking than me. Better to see her on Letterman’s couch than me.” BM
All I Wanna Do:
Meanwhile, the album had “proved slow to take off. Lead single Run Baby Run made little impact, and…‘Leaving Las Vegas’…reached only the lower half of the charts.” SH
“A&M took one last shot by releasing All I Wanna Do” SH which borrowed the words of a little-known Vermont poet JS named Wyn Cooper. “With its breezy, carefree outlook, ‘All I Wanna Do’ became one of the biggest summer singles of 1994, falling just…short of number one. Suddenly, Tuesday Night Music Club started flying out of stores, and spawned a Top Five follow-up hit in Strong Enough.” SH
The Grammys Spawn a Monster Superstar:
Most of the TNMC gang attended the Grammy Awards in March 1995 to watch the album garner three Grammys JS for Best New Artist, Best Female Rock Vocal, and Record of the Year (the latter two for ‘All I Wanna Do’).
KG and girlfriend Cintra Wilson sat right behind Crow, wearing 19th-century funeral regalia to show irreverence. “They were not on good terms,” says Wilson. “She was tensely gracious. It was a furtive, tense, real glitzy night.” JS A week later, Gilbert “was still wearing his Grammy medallion around his neck like a badge of valor.” JS
“Her surprising sweep pushed Tuesday Night Music Club into the realm of genuine blockbuster, as its sales swept past the seven million mark. After close to a decade of dues-paying, Crow was a star.” SH
“Terrell says that at the time [KG] had gone into serious debt to build his own studio, to the point that he lived in it on a mattress. The royalties from Crow’s album helped him find a place to live, and he began working on his own career.” SI
Some of the TNMC describe Crow…”as a marginally talented singer who exploited [Kevin Gilbert’s] skills and theirs in a ruthless grab for success.” JS In his journal, KG wrote “I don't know if I can ever forgive her…I don’t hate her – I’m just soooo disappointed.” JS
Crow says of the album that “There’s been enough reference to…those guys lashing out at me. It’s unfortunate in some ways that the record did so well, because I lost friends over it.” RS
Crow accepts no blame for KG’s “great unfulfilled potential,” nor does anyone hold her accountable for his demise. She has, however, become the symbol of all things evil to the TNMC. Rolling Stone said about the best word her acquaintances could muster to describe Crow was the “familiar backhanded compliment of ‘driven.’” RS After working on her aborted album, Bottrell said, “She's fucking hopeless. She's obnoxious…she was probably needling [Padgham] to death.” RS
Beyond Crow’s Album:
While they never followed through on talks of a tour with rotating vocalists, at least an album’s worth of material is rumored to be in Bottrell’s vaults. DH The gang was also behind other artists’ work, including the Baerwald-produced Susanna Hoffs album and 4-Non Blonde’s lead singer Linda Perry’s In Flight album, specifically the song Machine Man.” DH The TNMC gang dubbed Perry “the anti-Sheryl.” JS
Ten years later, when Bottrell was producing albums by Sierra Swan and Toby Lightman, he brought Schwartz and MacLeod on board for a mini-TNMC reunion.
KG turned to the TNMC’s Bottrell, MacLeod, and Schwartz in creating his Thud album. All four share writing credits on Joytown and Shrug; Bottrell also wrote When You Give Your Love to Me with KG. In the album credits, KG also thanks Bottrell for work on ‘Joytown’ and The Tears of Audrey; MacLeod is thanked for drumming on everything but Tea for One and ‘Audrey;’ Schwartz is credited for bass on “the TMC tracks” and ‘When You Give Your Love to Me’” (Thud album credits).
Shockingly, Bottrell still attempted working with Crow through TNMC and her next album. As he told Rolling Stone, “It’s amazing we were still trying to work, but we both said to each other, ‘We write the best songs with each other.’” They started out at Toad Hall, but because ,as Bottrell says, they were “feeling ghosts in that room” they went to New Orleans. By the second day, they were fighting and Bottrell left. Three of those songs would end up on the next album. RS
It was when Crow returned to L.A. to finish that album that she got word of KG’s tragic death in 1996. She tells Rolling Stone about the memorial service: “Yeah, everybody was there…It was very awkward. I feel like, I think I’ve done everything that I can, and now how is it I still can’t do anything right? It’s almost like a father relationship where you are just always trying to please somebody, and you can’t really.” RS
Baerwald says, “I saw something in Entertainment magazine that said Kevin Gilbert, the piano player on Sheryl Crow's record, had died…he hated that…record and that's all he's going to be known for…Roll over, Kevin Gilbert.” JS
“By any measure, Gilbert's career was a fitful tumble of brilliance and happenstance, a series of near misses and one hit that wasn’t his…[KG had] a history of anti-depressant use and a string of journal entries registering acute self-loathing and doubt.” JS “In a way it’s a classic Hollywood tale: Gifted boy artist meets girl artist, mentors her to success and is left in the dust.” JS
Despite negative comments after Gilbert’s passing, Crow seems to have left some final more uplifting thoughts. Her “faintly ironic country dirge” RS called Sad, Sad World, “only on overseas versions of [her self-titled sophomore album included the lines]: ‘I know you hate me, I see that now…I'm a bad, bad girl for letting you down / I remember every fucked up minute / It's a sad, sad world without you around.’” RS
- David Baerwald, Triage album credits, 1992.
- Kevin Gilbert, Thud album liner notes. 1995.
- CH Christine Holz (co-editor), Music News Network. “Toying with Kevin Gilbert.” (11/94 - 1/95).
- DH Don Hosek, Kevin Gilbert discography.
- SH Steve Huey, All Music Guide (Sheryl Crow biography)
- BM Brian MacLeod (interviewed by Wayne Perez), ’Wayne Perez Interviews Brian MacLeod.”, 2001 copyright by Goblynz Groove Media and The Estate of Kevin Gilbert.
- MO Michael Ostrich, Kevin Gilbert bio.
- PS Performing Songwriter magazine (?). “Gigs from Hell.” (Jan/Feb. 1996).
- RS Author not cited. Rolling Stone. “She Only Wants to Be with You.”, pages 64-71 , 11/14/96.
- JS Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle. “Dark Secrets” from “Music” column (?), 9/22/96.
- SI Richard Sine, Metro Active Music. “All Rocked Out.” Kevin Gilbert obituary (8/7/96).