one special afternoon

Right around that same time, on a Saturday afternoon, the phone rang.

“Hey, it’s Mark, from Footstone.”

On this record, Footstone had been an afterthought. We hung onto their demo, never quite sure of what to do with it. They compared themselves to Kenny Loggins, for Chrissakes. None of the other bands knew who they were. The music was good enough, but there was nothing about it that really stood out. There were decent hooks, decent musicianship, decent production, and that was just it – it was just decent.

And there was the Kenny Loggins thing.

Mark called that day to see if we’d be home. He wanted to drop off their DAT of “Forbidden Fruit,” the song we’d chosen for the compilation. I told him we’d be home, and he asked a really important follow-up question: “What kind of beer do you drink?”

I told him our favorite beer was Lowenbrau, and he said he’d see me later and hung up. At this point, I hadn’t met any of the Footstone guys personally – just a conversation or two on the phone with Mark.

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had sent out a questionnaire to each band, and solicited suggestions from each band on what they thought we should name the compilation. For a bunch of creative people, you’d think they would come up with some decent names. Two different bands suggested “What Exit?” Someone suggested “We Apologize For Bon Jovi.” There was, among all the suggestions, a grand total of one good name.

In New Jersey there’s a city called Elizabeth. When people from out-of-state think of New Jersey – particularly people who have never been here – they think of places like Elizabeth. It looks like this:



Elizabeth, NJ

Elizabeth, NJ

Very industrial, sort of run-down.  It’s pretty much what you see when you fly into Newark Airport.  Jersey natives act like they’re proud of this part of the state, but the reality is, we think it’s as nasty as you do when you fly in.

When Edzo from Ya-Ne-Zniyoo suggested the title Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth, we all loved it.  The potential for double-entendre was fantastic, the name was funny for an insider but tough to understand for an outsider.  Just what we wanted.

And it was, of course, the only good title we had.  

So that’s what we decided to name it.

We had made this decision just a few days before the Saturday afternoon of Mark’s call.  So we were pretty eager to tell someone about it.  Obviously, I told Ray – we were on the phone constantly at this point, so it was natural that I’d tell him.  He didn’t love it, but I didn’t think he would – Melting Hopefuls were the type of band to have a not-so-serious title to a record.

When I answered the door that day, there were two people there: Mark, who was impossibly tall with short hair and a beard, and Ralph, who was much shorter (we all are much shorter than Mark – even me, and I’m 6’3″) and had long hair.  They introduced themselves, produced a case of Lowenbrau, and asked if we had any free time.

I invited them up, and they sat in the living room.  I turned on the stereo, and a Superchunk song came on.  Mark said “Oh, cool – Superchunk.”

I said “You know Superchunk?”  How does a guy who’s into Kenny Loggins know Superchunk?

“Sure,” he said. 

We opened up some beers and started talking.  Evidently Mark did not like Kenny Loggins, and neither did Ralph.  

There was also not a pretentious bone in either of their bodies.  They liked beer, Ralph liked baseball (my other passion), they were happy to be a part of the compilation.  I dropped the name of one of the bands we walked away from (mentioned in another post, but I won’t name them here), and Mark said “Oh, we hate them.  They live near us, and they’re basically a bunch of spoiled brats.  Their parents manage them, and paid ridiculous amounts of money for all their gear – so they have all the best gear, and their parents pay for everything.”  

I asked them specifically about the Kenny Loggins thing, and they explained that they’d pretty much been together since high school, playing covers at parties and that sort of thing.  They – like me – grew up with classic rock, gradually evolved into punk and hardcore in the mid 80s, and preferred guitar-oriented indie rock and punk to just about anything else.  But they also weren’t jaded enough to ignore what was going on in mainstream music.  They didn’t like most of it, but they paid attention to it.

They were funny as hell.  And totally comfortable in their surroundings.  In turn, we immediately got comfortable with them.  We laughed a lot, told some stories.  At some point I think Rich came over.  Suddenly I looked at the floor and saw all the empties – we had drained the entire case of Lowenbrau, and then some, just hanging out and talking to Mark and Ralph.  When it was time for them to go, I didn’t want them to leave.  

After they left, Sandy looked at me and said “Wow.  Those guys are great.”  

Up until that afternoon, everything we’d done for Dromedary had been a task.  We had no idea what the hell we were doing, so we just floundered around, talking about starting a record company and not knowing how to do it, pretending we knew what came next, and learning as we went along.  It was exciting, it was interesting, and there were lots of funny things that happened.  But until that afternoon, I couldn’t really characterize any of it as “fun.”  That afternoon was fun.  These guys were great.

After they left, we pulled out their demo tape and gave it another listen.  For some reason, it sounded a whole lot better.

~ by Al on January 18, 2009.

One Response to “one special afternoon”

  1. […] have known Ralph Malanga forever.  Seems like forever; actually, it’s more like eighteen years, but we met him back in 1992 […]

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