lemonheads and jewel boxes.

I was so pissed about the print job on the CD booklets that I forgot about the actual CDs, and when Rich asked me “How does it sound?”, I didn’t have a good answer for him.

“It sounds like there’s more than a dozen boxes in my living room and I don’t know which one has the CDs in it,” I said.

“So you’ve got CDs in your living room, then?” he responded.

You can see that had become sort of a running joke, but also as an assessment of how “real” we were.  We laughed about that early conversation with Abe Hoch, but we also silently considered it to be a benchmark.  Once I had CDs in my living room, I could tell Abe that Dromedary was “real.”

I opened up the box with the CDs on spindles and popped one in.  Indeed, it sounded great.  So did the cassettes.

So we called up a bunch of people – Frank, Paulie, Steve Bailey, Mark, Ray, and a few others – and invited them over to our house for a CD assembly party.  We bought a bunch of Lowenbrau – at $15 a case it was the most expensive beer we could buy at the local liquor store, and thus was our favorite beer.  We also bought a couple of cases of Glacier Bay – which had changed its name to Arctic Bay by then.  Arctic Bay was a fairly decent beer that had the most ingenious packaging I’ve ever seen in beer (we still called it Glacier Bay so that we could say we knew it when).  On the bottom of each bottle, the glass had been molded in such a way that there was a bottle opener, formed directly into the glass.  By putting the top of another bottle into the bottom of the one you were holding and giving a quick twist, you could open the next bottle.  This enabled an activity I fondly called chain drinking, which was like chain smoking only better, in that you never had to be without an open beer.

I spent a lot of time – as I usually do before a party – figuring out what the evening’s playlist would contain.  There was The Lemonheads, who had become a heavy rotation staple in our apartment because Evan Dando wrote such great pop songs, and Buffalo Tom.  There was Superchunk, and Arson Garden, Curve (for Rich), and of course, the completed Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth.

Paulie showed up early, with Sweetcakes, which was a big surprise.  Rather than get working on the assembly, we sat in the living room and played the CD through from start to finish.  Joe was visibly upset when it was over.

“What do you think?” I asked

“I think we made a big mistake,” he said, lamenting Wretched Soul’s decision not to participate.

I felt bad for him, but I felt even better that he thought it was a good record.  I was still unsure – there were a number of songs on it that I had already grown to detest, and I felt like if I could go back in time, I would have avoided the metal bands altogether.  The indie bands were fun, and nice, and basically without ego.  They were becoming my friends.  There was the afternoon with Ralph and Mark from Footstone, the almost daily phone calls with Ray of Melting Hopefuls, the regular phone conversations with Steve Bailey, interesting phone calls with doug from cuppa joe and Rob from Rosary – each helped establish the fact that I really preferred dealing with nice people and good bands, and with each day, I was more and more pleased that Dromedary was turning into a nice indie rock label.

We spent a lot of time talking about all the hiccups we had experienced up until then, trying to get bands to participate, forgetting the tray cards, dealing with managers and friends handing us horrid demos.  It felt like a milestone, even as we felt like we still had miles to go.  Having these tangible things in our hands made us feel as if the work was finally yielding something meaningful.  We had made a CD, and somewhere, ten or twenty years from then, that CD would still be in somebody’s music library.

The “assembly party” turned out to be a microcosm of what Dromedary was evolving into.  We had some of our close group of friends – Rich, Paulie, Frank, Brad (another close friend of mine from high school), Rich’s friend Dave – and we also had Steve and Ed from Ya-Ne-Zniyoo, and Ralph and Mark from Footstone.  We had a bunch of beer, and the Footstone guys brought some more.  We ordered some pies from Lodi Pizza, and I started spreading out the pieces of the CD to assemble.

I assembled the first one, took a quick look at the finished product, and realized that it was covered with fingerprints.  “This looks like shit,” I said.

Steve Bailey looked at me, smiled, and said “That’s why I brought lots of rubber gloves.”  He reached into his backpack and pulled out a small box of disposable medical gloves.  “No fingerprints.  I’ve done this before.”

Nice.  Once again, we had no idea what we were doing.

We started working, and quickly assembled a dozen or so CDs.  I gave one to each person in the room as a “thank you” for helping us.

After an hour or so, the beer was flowing.  I felt great.  I put on the Lemonheads’ album Lovey.

“Man, I love the Lemonheads,” Ralph said.  “I liked their old stuff much better, though.”

“I think Evan Dando is the cutest guy in rock,” I said.  “If I had to, I’d have sex with Evan Dando.”

“What?!” said Ralph.

“Nah,” said Edzo.  “Eddie Vedder is way cuter than Evan Dando.  I’d have sex with Eddie Vedder.”

Pearl Jam had gotten huge by then.  Everybody knew who Eddie Vedder was.  Even me.

Someone suggested that Kurt Cobain was cuter than Eddie Vedder and Evan Dando.  A roomful of men were actually having a discussion about the physical attractiveness of various rock and roll frontmen.  Sandy just listened and periodically shook her head.  “How about we assemble some CDs and stop talking about which rock star my husband wants to sleep with?”

“Umm, I didn’t say I’d want to sleep with them,” I said.  Then I stopped.  “Or maybe I did.  I don’t know.”

We had developed an assembly line.  Someone was putting the tray cards inside the jewel boxes, then someone else was putting the tray on top of the tray card.  The next person was putting the CDs into the box, and the last person would put the booklet into the jewel case, close it up, and put it into a pile.  Then, Sandy would swoop up the pile of finished CDs and stick them in a box.  It seemed like we were making progress.

I think everyone in the room got drunk.  Everyone but Paulie and Sweetcakes – they didn’t drink.  At some point they politely excused themselves, I think, because I remember at the end of the night there were just a few of us.

One person was draped all over Buca, petting her, letting her lick him on the face.  It was weird.  “I love this dog,” he kept saying.  “I love this dog.

Soon, people started leaving.  Eventually, it was just Sandy, Rich and me.  We had spent the entire night assembling CDs and drinking, and now that everyone was gone, it was time for us to check out our progress, and see how we did.

We had assembled about 300.

We still had 700 to go.

This was a nightmare.  Albert Garzon was great with advice, but he clearly had a bigger assembly line than we did.

The three of us stayed up late and built another hundred CDs or so.  Once you stopped drinking and bullshitting, the process moved quicker – which is a pretty good rule of thumb for almost anything, by the way – and by 3AM, we had a little under 400.

We needed 500 CDs in order to send them out to distributors for review and cover our press and radio lists with promotional copies.  I figured if we used 500 CDs for promos, that would leave us with 500 more CDs – and 500 cassettes (499, actually, as I had opened one up) for resale, which should just about get us to breakeven.  Then, with the second pressing, we’d be making money.

If only.

~ by Al on January 22, 2009.

5 Responses to “lemonheads and jewel boxes.”

  1. Evan Dando? You seem more like a Scott Baio kind of guy.

  2. […] and anticipation that we had when we assembled all our other releases.  For Elizabeth we had an assembly party, with a roomful of drunken friends, all forming an assembly line in our living room.  For […]

  3. Glacier Bay! Wow. Now that you mention it I clearly remember chain drinking (good term) that stuff in Demarest Hall at Rutgers.
    The other go-to beer due to $ was Olympia – I think it was like $5 a 12-pack in ’93. “It’s the Water.”

  4. […] snarling and barking.  She was there with us when we had our Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth CD assembling party, and she protected me when Officer Friendly invaded my house to play me his demo.  And of course I […]

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