nothing smells quite like rock journalism.

I made my monthly zine-buying rounds at the beginning of April or so.  Once a month I’d camp out at the big Barnes and Noble on Route 17 in Paramus, going through rows of zines that they stocked there.  Rich and I had also begun visiting See Hear on a regular basis.  See Hear was a zine store on St. Mark’s place in the Village.

We actually had a regular Village Routine that we had fallen into.  We’d drive into Hoboken and then hop on the PATH train to the Village.  We’d visit Bleecker Bob’s and See Hear, shopping for records and zines.  We’d go see a show, either at CBGB, or the Knitting Factory, or maybe Continental, Coney Island High or Under ACME.  Then we’d walk back, stopping at Grey’s Papaya for two hot dogs and a banana shake.  It was a pretty cool routine.  

One of my favorite zines at the time was Your Flesh.  First of all, it was huge.  Second, it had tons of record reviews in it – I loved reading the record reviews in zines, and YF always had a ton of them.  Third, there were always cool band interviews in each issue.  So I’d pick up a copy and read it cover to cover – it usually took me a couple of days.

This particular issue, though, I flipped right to the back of the pub, where the record reviews were, looking for the “Various Artists” section.  And there it was: the first national review of Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth.

Now, we had gotten local press before.  There was a nice review written by Bob Makin in The Aquarian (he called Godspeed “fat, freaky, in your face”), and a couple in student papers.  Rich Masio had written a nice review of the record release party (although he stated that cuppa joe sounded like they learned their songs 10 minutes before going onstage, I couldn’t really fault him for that since it really did sound that way).  Holly Ennist wrote a second blurb in The Aquarian saying that Elizabeth was “one of the best local compilations of the year.”  I wasn’t sure how many other local compilations there were that year – I think none – so that we were one of the best, in her mind, was kind of a drag – but I appreciated the props anyway.

We were also aware of some local radio play.  Footstone was on the “Local Licks” program on WDHA, and they played “Forbidden Fruit” during that broadcast.  “meanings” by cuppa joe was played on WPRB in Princeton.  Melting Hopefuls were played on a local bands show on WHTG down the shore.

I was even aware of some college radio play in other markets throughout the country – at that point I think I had spotted Elizabeth on the charts at maybe 15 or 20 different radio stations across the country.

But although I was aware it was being played, I never actually heard it myself.  And although I was aware of the local press, I didn’t really count it – I felt like the local press were almost obligated to review the record, since there were ten local bands on it.

National press, though, that was something different.  And it was a pretty great review, I thought, capturing a big portion of what we were trying to document:

New Jersey.  Home to Carole King in her halcyon days (writin’ for Drifters, Byrds, Animals).  Where Woody Guthrie spent his later years.  Point of origin for the legendary Regressive Aid (Andrew Weiss and Sim of Gone/Rollins Band renown as well as Billy Tucker of live Ministry).  Base of operations for Martin Atkins for quite the while, not to mention goddamn Funkadelic.  And doesn’t Lou Reed live here?

Jersey is regularly drained of its best and brightest by the dank clubs and bright lights and high paying studio/session gigs in NYC, with them talents being always obviously inspired/provoked by the proximity of those opportunities.

Jerseyites regularly play with amazing proficiency, rock with insane desperation, either strivin’ for them prizes or ventin’ their frustration at not attainin’ ’em.  It makes for strange, strained, sad, angry, angry, beat-up but not beaten, grooves ‘n vibes.

If that all sounds good to you, you’ll ver’ much dig this comp of current Jersey indieites, I’m sure.

Having a free cellphone in 1993 was pretty awesome.  I sat at a table in Barnes and Noble and called Rich.  Read him the review.  Then I called Ray.  Read him the review.  

I was pretty damn excited.

I called Steve Bailey, Ralph, and Mark.  Read it to all of them, right from the table in the bookstore.  

Over the next month or so, we got a number of other positive reviews.  Not a ton, but enough to keep me motivated, and keep me happy with what we were doing.  And as the reviews started coming in, we started getting letters.  A few people started placing orders through the mail.  We even got a couple of letters from overseas.

One letter was from a guy named Rudy, who ran a hardcore record label in Germany called re-CORE-ds.  He was requesting that I send him ten Elizabeth CDs and ten tapes for him to distribute via his own mailorder catalog.  He had a bunch of 7″s on his own label that he was offering in trade.

I thought about it for a bit, and realized that part of what I was looking for was to expand the size of our catalog beyond just the handful of releases that we were involved with.  I had also begun wishing I could remove the three demo tapes from our catalog – they seemed amateurish, but they were necessary in order to flesh out the selection of stuff we were selling a bit.  Ultimately I picked out a handful of 7″s that were less hardcore, and mailed him the CDs he requested.  

It seemed almost overnight that we went from being a bunch of dummies with a mix tape of local demos to being a bunch of dummies with an indie label with national press and radio play, a decent little mailorder catalog, a relationship with an overseas label that gave us something we could call international distribution, an old but new 7″ that I’d managed to place with Dutch East and Twin Cities, and another 7″ on the way.

Which was why it was so disappointing to get the call from Godspeed, letting us know they had to cancel our 7″.

The call came from David, who would occasionally ring me just to bullshit and let me know what the band was up to.  I had learned that, despite his manic stage presence, David was a really soft-spoken guy who seemed to go out of his way to be nice.  He called me to tell me that the band had singed – officially – with Atlantic.

“Wow, David, that’s fantastic!  Congratulations!” I practically shrieked into the phone.  A few of the bands on Elizabeth I never talked to again after the record came out.  A few, though, I had a real soft spot for – and Godspeed was one of them.  

“Yeah, I guess,” he said.  He sounded disappointed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.  “Are you happy with your deal?”

“Yeah, it’s a good deal.  We finished up the demo – I’ll send you a copy.  Now, we’re going back into the studio to do a full-length.  Then we’re going on tour.”

“Jesus, David, that’s awesome.  But why do you sound so down?”

“Well, I know we told you we wanted to do a 7″ with you.  And we really do.  But our deal doesn’t let us put anything out on any other labels,” he explained.  “So we can’t do it.”

It was weird.  I wasn’t upset that we couldn’t put out Godspeed’s record.  I was upset that our plans got messed up.  “David, don’t worry about Dromedary Records,” I said.  “Worry about Godspeed.”

“I know,” he explained, “It’s just that we really like the indie labels.  Not just you, but also Heat Blast.  We can’t do anything with Heat Blast, either.”

I thought for a minute.  “You know, some of the indie bands who have been signing major label deals have been getting their labels to agree to let them do 7″s and compilation tracks with indie labels.”  I was thinking of The Posies and Helmet, both of whom I’d read had similar arrangements.

“Too late,” he said.  “There’s nothing like that in our deal.”

We chatted for a while longer and hung up.  It was a drag, but it wasn’t devastating – it just meant we’d have to find another band to do the next 7″ with.  Plus, we loved those guys.  We were happy for them.

Here’s “My Brother,” which is taken from the demo Godspeed recorded before their Atlantic debut.  This is the song they played at the end of their set at the Elizabeth release party, where the sax player was wailing and the bass player was teetering on top of the rented cabinet.  Unfortunately, as I feared, most of the edges are missing from this recording – it sounds more metal, less monster, and the extended jam at the end is truncated to the point where you just don’t get anything resembling the full effect.

~ by Al on January 31, 2009.

4 Responses to “nothing smells quite like rock journalism.”

  1. Wow! Nice job. Godspeed certainly was a “vibe” more than anything and neither the demo stuff or the Atlantic release ever came close to capturing the live thing. I was the guitar player!
    I still have and wear my Dromedary T-shirt! No shit!
    Tommy Southard

  2. Holy shit, Tommy – TWO POSTS FROM TODAY I’m going to tell the story of when “Ride” came out, and I sent you that T-shirt! It’s already written!

    Man, it’s great to hear from you. How are you?

  3. […] Nothing Smells Quite Like Rock Journalism   Godspeed gets signed to […]

  4. […] Nothing Smells Quite Like Rock Journalism. Godspeed signs with […]

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