“The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, Ellen Reid of the Crash Test Dummies (1996)
The voice of Brad Roberts is unmistakable. His bass-baritone timbre resonates in songs like “Superman’s Song” and “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”.
The Canadian, ‘Crash Test Dummies’ from Winnipeg, got their name from a suggested by a friend of the bands who was in medical school. Really started as a bit of a joke, Brad played as “Bad Brad Roberts & The St. James Rhythm Pigs” at the Spectrum Cabaret and the Blue Notes Cafe owned by Curtis Riddell. When the name change occurred, Ellen Reid (vocals/keyboards), Ben Darvill (harmonica/mandolin) were permanent members of the ‘Dummies’ and the line later added Robert’s brother Dan (bass), and Mitch Dorge (drums).
The band first achieved commercial success in 1991 with the album, “The Ghosts That Haunt Me”, which contained the singles “Superman’s Song”, which won a Juno award that year and has now sold over 400,000 copies. Their lyrics were personal without being in your face.
1993’s “God Shuffled His Feet’, spun off the strange single “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” which broke the U.S. market (#4), the U.K. market (#2) and Australia (#1). This was an interesting bit of song-writing and the album eventually sold a million copies in the U.S.
1996’s “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” was actually an old ‘XTC’ song. Ironically, the ‘Dummies’ covered it for the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ soundtrack. This was the first time Ellen Reid recorded commercially. When I first heard the song on the radio I had no idea who did it and went on an immediate search to see who it was.
Also in 1996 they produced “A Worm’s Life” and in 1999 “Give Yourself a Hand”, neither of which came close to the commercial success of their second album. Ellen Reid sang lead on 3 songs however on the ‘
99 albums. There was much consternation with their record company BMG as it rejected 35 of their songs in the making of “Give Yourself a Hand”. The Dummies then at the end of their contract set up their own company “Cha-Ching Records”, later renamed “Deep Fried Records”. They have had some success but never the way it was in ’91-93.
Ellen Reid did her own solo album in 2000 called ‘Cinderellen’ and Brad Roberts put out “Crash test Dude”. Brad also has released a series of songs he calls the “Cape Breton Lobster Bash”.
In 2010 the band released an acoustic album called “Ooh La La” and continues to tour.