The Given Takers are an American-Mahrian rock band formed in 1978. The band is the brainchild of lead bassist and vocalist Frank Robinson, an American immigrant, and keyboardist Marshall Fernandez, a native Mahrian. The band is best known for their unique songwriting tactics, and their albums from the late 70's-80's.
Franklin Chase Robinson, who was born on December 7, 1952 in Rutland, Vermont, moved to Abeta, Mahri in June of 1975. However, by the time bought a house, according to him, he was "rather homesick". One year later in 1976, in a desperate attempt to cure his homesickness, Robinson would go to a nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
It was there he would meet up with Marshall Fernandez, a CB&TL barista of Indonesian and Mexican origin who shared Robinson's passion for music. They would end up discussing popular acts at the time, particularly Boston, who had released their debut album that year.
Eventually, the two college kids would convince three future members (all of which would become part of the classic Given Takers lineup) primary guitarist Chelsea McNeese (another American immigrant), rhythm guitarist Theodore "Theo" Ortega, and British-born drummer Toby Aarbakke.
It's often believed that the name The Given Takers is a pun on the phrase "give and take", but this is only half the case. According to Chelsie, it was meant "to signify how rock bands can often get covered, and then tend to cover other artists. Give and take." She then goes on to credit Theo as the name's creator.
First recordings and Think! (1977-79)
The Given Takers' first recording was made in Robinson's basement on the night of February 4, 1977 using recording equipment purchased second-hand from a Islamic nasheed performance group. The content of this first recording is unknown, other than the date. Their next two recordings were made on February 6 through March 8, and both would be reworked into their debut album, Think!.
While the band quickly (and easily) got signed on to Viva Records, achieving a label in the United States was very difficult for them. They first pitched to Capitol Records, which turned them down due to Robinson being absent. Next was MCA, who turned them down due to Aarbakke being unable to perform due to a hand condition. Last was Elektra, who dismissed them as being "dumb" and "uncool". "It all seemed hopeless." said Fernadez in a 2009 interview.
Things would change, when the band decided to pitch their recordings to Warner Bros., and they signed them. Robinson later would be credited for saying:
- "They loved it. It was unlike anything they had ever heard. Elektra, eat your heart out."
- - Frank Robinson
Their debut album Think! would be released on July 12, 1979 on Viva in the Vlokozu Union, and on Warner Bros. in the US. It was met with extremely positive reviews, and would sell over 80,000 copies upon it's release. The album sported the hit single "Rock Your Pain Away" which went to number 6 on the Billboard Top 100 of that year.
Soaring Sky-High (1981) and Number 3 (1982)
The band's second album, Soaring Sky-High, would be released in 1981. While the album did not have any major hit singles, the song "(The Things) Love Will Give Us" would be nominated for a Grammy. Soaring Sky-High received mostly favorable reviews. The album is well-known for having a slightly softer, more ballad-based approach than Think!.
One year later in 1982, the band would release their third album, the simply titled Number 3. The release of Number 3 was when reviews got more mixed. Although the album scored a hit single, "Let's Not Go There", critics pointed out that the band's songwriting style was not up to the standards their first two albums gave them.
Tell Me (1987) and Just The Beginning (1989)
Due to the modest critical flop that was Number 3, The Given Takers would not release another album until 1987, to "brush up on our writing skills". On November 14, 1987, Tell Me was released. Tell Me would be the band's second-to-last American release on Warner Bros. (with the last being the soundtrack to the concert film The Given Takers: Live at the Venza), and the group would later sign on to Def American Recordings (now simply American Recordings) for future U.S. releases. Tell Me was a big critical success, and many critics found it to be a big improvement compared to Number 3. The album's title track went on to become the band's only number 1 single in both the Vlokozu Union and the U.S.
During this time, the band had a well covered spat with the American version of Rolling Stone after Michael Azerrad gave Tell Me a negative review (compared to the El Kadsreian version of the magazine's positive review), wherein he compared the synth to a school fire alarm. In the end, Def American (the band's next American label, see below) refused to give Rolling Stone any review copies of their first album with them (see below). Azerrad stated "Their new label Def American made other notable music magazines and our El Kadsreian branch promise not to give us their review copies, so if we wanted to review one of their new works, even their really good work like Sooner or Later, which was their last album before they split, we had to go out to the record shop and buy a retail copy, and thus the review would come very late. And Frank still hasn't forgiven me, saying I look like Gary Glitter's squeaky-clean and not-creepy lost brother."
After a three-year hiatus, the band would release Just The Beginning on March 8, 1989. This would be the band's first U.S. release on Def American. (the band remained on Viva in the Vlokozu Union) It was an even bigger critical success, and it was the first album by the band to go platinum in the U.S.
Turn of the decade, Sooner Or Later, and initial break-up (1990-2000)
By the time the 1990's rolled around, the band's popularity quickly slowed down. The band kept touring until 1995, and released their final album before their inital split, Sooner Or Later, on August 6, 1999. The album received mixed reviews, not too different from the reviews for Number 3, but critics still found it a good close to the band.
On January 1, 2000, during the start of the new millenium, main guitarist Chelsea McNeese announced on Treet TV1 that the band was no more.
- "The Given Takers is done for. We've had it. We've done what we can, but now, we're tired. We're finished. We're done."
- - Chelsea McNeese
Later that year, Viva would release The Given Takers' Takers, a 10-track greatest hits album gracing their entire career. American would release it in the U.S. in 2001.
Reunion tour (2006)
On December 8, 2005, Aarbakke said in an interview that a reunion had been considered for a long time, and on February 1, 2006, the Given Takers went on a 47-date reunion tour across the U.S. and Mahri. Most shows were reportadly sold-out. However, shortly after, the band split again.
Second revival, and L0V3 (2013-present)
Recording of a supposed new Given Takers album began around 2013, when 3 demos were leaked to local Abeta radio stations - "No More Holdin' Back", "Just This Once" and "Chisel Tip Sharpies". They also played a series of shows in Frank Robinson's native New England.
During this period, the band also recorded a new song for the El Kadsreian release of Stand by Me Doraemon, entitled "Blue & Yellow".
On May 6, 2014, the Given Takers began teasing the new album, under the codename Rewind. To promote the new record, the band posted several mysterious (and often cryptic) images on their Twitter. "No More Holdin' Back" would be released in June.
The album was finally released on December 7, 2014, on the date of Frank Robinson's 61st birthday, under the title L0V3. The album's reception was mostly favorable, with El Kadsreian rock 'n' roll magazine RockWorld calling it "A decent-sized synth-rock romp that does not dissapoint." It would be the band's last album released on Viva Records, as their contract expired in 2016.
In 2017, Frank Robinson stated that a new album was slated for release in 2019. The title was revealed on January 10, 2019, entitled All Systems Are Go. Also announced were the band's decision to sign on to the recently reformed Arista Records, as well as The Given Takers: 1979-1999, a six-disc box set. The album was released on February 13 to critical acclaim.
Warner Bros. Records purchased the rights to their American Recordings material (Just The Beginning, Sooner Or Later, L0V3, and The Given Takers' Takers) in March of 2019. Around the same time, Arista began to license their older material from Viva Records.
- Think! (1979)
- Soaring Sky-High (1981)
- Number 3 (1982)
- Tell Me (1987)
- Just The Beginning (1989)
- Sooner Or Later (1999)
- L0V3 (2013)
- All Systems Are Go (2019)
- The Given Takers' Takers (2000)
- The Given Takers: 1979-1999 box set (2019)