goodbye to 1993.

In the entry about the Melting Hopefuls/cuppa joe release party, you could see that Liz Phair was playing Maxwell’s the following Tuesday, October 26 by looking at the Village Voice ad I posted.

Liz Phair’s debut LP Exile In Guyville was in heavy, heavy rotation in our apartment.  We had subscribed to a digital music service that was provided by our cable company, and the independent music that was played on the alt-rock channel was heavily weighted toward Matador Records.  Selections from Exile, along with Bettie Serveert’s Palomine and Superchunk’s On the Mouth seemed to be on every hour, and while I thought Superchunk were a better band and Palomine was a better album, Exile in Guyville seemed to be on the stereo every day anyway.

So when Sandy won tickets on WFDU to see Liz Phair perform at Maxwell’s that Tuesday night, I was supremely pissed that I had to work late that evening.  Sandy took Rich to the show, they had an awesome time, drank too much beer, and I worked.

That was sort of the story of my life at that point.  Nobody at the cellular company seemed to mind that I had a second career at home, but they didn’t seem to care, either, which made it difficult for me to structure Dromedary around the dayjob.  You read stories about guys in bands who have dayjobs that permit them to take weeks off at a time to tour, or people who are actors whose dayjobs permit them to leave early for auditions and rehearsals; I did not have a job like this.  This was just one more reason I was scouring the Sunday Star-Ledger and New York Times each weekend and sending out resumes for any job that even remotely looked interesting.  I had just about ruled out any record business jobs after the TVT interview, but was still looking for a better dayjob than the one I had.

In late 1993, we were addicted to the three records mentioned above, as well as the Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen and Archers Of Loaf’s Icky Mettle CDs.  Teenage Fanclub’s Thirteen was a big one, as was the Spinanes’ Manos.  In heavy rotation virtually all year was the Posies’ pop masterpiece Frosting on the Beater.  

In hindsight, 1993 was probably the high point in the history of good, quality indie and alternative rock. It was a great time to be starting a record label.

It was also a great time to enjoy a summer and fall.  Sandy, a Boston-area transplant, began watching Yankee games with me each night to see Boston transplant Wade Boggs in pinstripes (watching televised Yankee games was a great, low-cost entertainment option for us, and listening to Yankee games was a great way for me to pass the long evenings of shift work at the cellular company that summer).  The Yankees had an unbelievably exciting season in 1993, arguably the most exciting season of their monstrous 1990s dynasty.  They finished the season 7 games behind Toronto, but it was a much closer 7 games than the standings would indicate, as it was a 5-7 finish (including a 5 game losing streak) in the season’s last two weeks that did them in.  It was really the 1993 Yankees’ season that cemented baseball into our lives the way it has remained ever since.

Melting Hopefuls played a late-fall show with a Brooklyn band called Glistening; they were, I believe, an all-female band that drew a lot of comparisons with bands like Tiger Trap and Heavenly.  These were bands I really enjoyed, and Ray picked up a copy of their demo tape for me.  This song is “I Can Only Ask,” and it became one of my favorite songs toward the end of the year.

We had a record planned for late 1993/early 1994, but Glistening became my next “target” – I planned to bide my time, though, because I was starting to feel a little overloaded with bands I liked.  Jenifer Convertible was a great band, as was Gapeseed.  We also really liked Thirteen, who I played you a few posts ago.

On top of that, we had received a 7″ from an aggressive North Carolina punk band called Hellbender that we liked very much, and I had written a letter to a San Francisco pop band called the Sarnos, and gotten a nice letter and demo tape from their singer, Sam.

So we had a bunch of bands we liked in addition to Glistening, and we were trying to figure out the most economical way of getting music out from all of them.  We were considering doing a singles’ club, like Simple Machines and Sub Pop had done so successfully.  We were also drawing inspiration from Simple Machines and how they had a mission to educate, and we were beginning to discuss ways we could do that same thing.

One of the things we were learning was that our scene in New Jersey, small as it was, was very similar to the scenes that existed all over the country.  We learned about some guys in Wilmington, North Carolina who were big into building a scene down there, and also about some guys in the Raleigh/Durham area that were doing the same thing.  We had learned about Silver Girl in San Diego, and the Sarnos in San Francisco, and Ron at Surefire had told us about some cool bands in Boston that were building a cool thing.  

We were starting to think of ways that we might release music from different parts of the country, in the context of a package describing the scene in that part of the country: where were the cool clubs, where were the indie-friendly record stores, places to eat, places to crash, places to book your band.  An “indie rock travel guide,” if you will.

We were beginning to envision a monthly box, sent out to subscribers, with each installment containing an intro to a different scene.  Each box would be designed to look like a little suitcase, and would contain a book that was designed by local artists, with maps of the key areas in each town, coupons to the cool stores and clubs, info on where to stay and where to eat cheap.  We’d include copies of local zines, and then a seven-inch compilation of the cool bands from that town.  It would be like Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life, except the opposite: instead of telling bands how to plan a tour, we’d be telling fans how to plan a road trip.

It seemed like a pretty massive undertaking.  We decided to  take our time, and let the idea percolate.

We were planning out the logistics of this when we received a postcard from Jenny at Simple Machines; I had sent her some information on a printer that we used for our 7″s – she responded with a “no thanks” on a pre-printed Simple Machines postcard.  That seemed like a great way to save some money; I was forever putting letters in the mail (remember – it’s still 1993 – no email yet) and the cheaper postcard rate seemed to be a more efficient way to send things to people.  Plus, the small format of postcards seemed to be a great way to communicate brief messages with people – a nice way to put a postcard in the mail to, say, Silver Girl, saying “Hi, I’m Al, I dig your label.”

Seeing it was approaching the end of the year, we decided to make Dromedary holiday postcards.  We asked Rich’s friend Dave, a talented cartoonist, if he’d make up a postcard design for us.  He agreed to do it, and decided to play on the theme of the camel (the dromedary), disguised as a reindeer, pulling a sleigh filled with Melting Hopefuls, Footstone, and cuppa joe records.

We thought it was brilliant.

1993-xmas-card

 Dave gave us the original artwork, which I brought right to Staples and had copied onto heavy stock.  We made up a huge mailing list and sent these things to everyone.

On New Years’ Eve of 1993 we planned a whirlwind New Years’ trip where we tried to balance our old friends with our new.  We started the night at Footstone’s rehearsal studio where Rich, Sandy and I stopped by for some beers and to hang out with the Footstone and American Standard guys, as well as some other music folks.  The Footstone guys were always a blast, and we made every effort to go with them whenever they invited us somewhere because they were so much fun.  

We hung out there for a few hours and then made the drive to Passaic County where we went to a party at our friend Kenny’s house.  Kenny had rented the Howard Stern New Year’s Rotten Eve special on Pay Per View, and invited a bunch of folks over for a keg party.  

When we got there, we realized pretty quickly that it was going to be a bizarre night.  Our original plan was to crash there, but we quickly changed that plan.  One of the hosts of the party, a guy I had known for a long, long time, was doing his damndest to make everyone feel uncomfortable by eating – and eating, and eating, ultimately scooping onion dip out of a container with his hands in huge dollops and licking it off his fingers.

At the same time, in another room there was a fight brewing between a family member of another friend and another attendee of the party who was upset because the family member was making advances at Sandy.  

In the television room, Frank was angry at the roomful of people watching the Howard Stern special; he felt that Stern objectified women in a way he was uncomfortable with, and wanted to turn the program off.  Everyone else in the house disagreed, which made Frank angry.

Between Frank’s anger, the disgusting food episode in the kitchen, and the near fight, we stayed awake long enough to sober up and then made the long ride home.  

And with that backdrop, we ended 1993 and began what we thought would be an exciting 1994.  With all the things we had on deck for the first part of the year, we thought for sure that the next few months would be fantastic.

We had no idea.

~ by Al on March 14, 2009.

2 Responses to “goodbye to 1993.”

  1. You should have stayed longer at our party. I don’t remember any of it. But I’m sure it was fun.

  2. […] The Mommyheads broke up after their self-titled Geffen Records debut.  The band had actually been dropped from the label before the record was even released, owing to the typical major label shakeup that has doomed so many other bands.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the band reunited and released an excellent new album in 2008 following the tragic death of their original drummer.  Today, Adam is a successful composer for television commercials.  Michael just recently toured Sweden as a solo artist.  Jeff left The Mommyheads and joined Sunny Day Real Estate and played on one album, and also played for Granfaloon Bus, a band affiliated with Sam of The Sarnos. […]

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