what was happening to footstone.

A while ago, I posted the original version of the B-side of our Wobbles seven-inch, before Ralph went back into the studio a second time with Bill from American Standard. To refresh your memory, it sounded like this:

I never posted the final version. Here it is, directly from the DAT master:

Still not the greatest song, but you can hear a huge difference (I accidentally clipped the beginning of the song, but you get the point). The first verse is virtually identical, but then the layered vocals create texture that wasn’t present in the initial recording. Bill’s vocals (which Ray described as “Pearl Jammy,” an expression I still use today) help create some nice harmonies later in the song.

While we were busy harping on the travesty of our “Allnighter” record, Footstone just kept playing. When we first met them, they were playing lots of shows at second-rate clubs like the Pipeline in Newark, or the Bond Street Cafe in Manhattan. Soon they were jumping onto bills with more popular bands like American Standard, Outcrowd and FF, playing the opening slots at places like Maxwell’s, Coney Island High, and Continental.

At some point, and I’m not sure when it was, they started booking gigs on their own, playing weekends at Maxwell’s, CBGB, Under Acme, and Brownie’s. They started latching onto shows with out-of-town bands, and making plans to play further South, and in Pennsylvania.

What made them a strong live band was also the thing that helped them evolve pretty quickly – they liked to play loud, and fast, and tight. They worked pretty hard at it. They had a lot of punk influences, but they also had a lot of pop ones, and they never let themselves get sloppy. They played with energy, but they played well.

When their lead guitarist Guy left the band, they decided that Ralph would fill in on second guitar. He still says he didn’t know how to play, but he certainly knew how to write. The music they wrote with Guy on guitar was filled with noodly guitar solos, and after he left, they still wrote songs as if it had a guitar solo – long, open, repetitive instrumental passages with nothing happening.

But neither Ralph nor Eric were able to solo particularly well, and so they started to realize that something had to fill the spaces in the song where there were no vocals. As a result, they started to develop this “sound” that became their signature – fast, percussive, crunchy washboard guitar parts, and subtle changes in the song structure from verse to verse.

They also started playing faster, and writing shorter songs.

The first place I heard this was in the song “Superworld,” which they began playing live around the same time as cuppa joe and Melting Hopefuls had their respective 7″ releases. In digging through some tapes, I found some Footstone rehearsal tapes from this era – here’s a recording of part of “Superworld.”

This recording is interesting for a couple of reasons: First, it’s a very early version of the song, so if you’re familiar with the recorded version, you’ll hear that Ralph hadn’t quite nailed down the lyrics yet. Second, you can also hear the band picking up the tempo a bit, and filling in passages that once may have been more subtle and quiet with harder rock. Third, you can hear Ralph’s voice beginning to soar over the band, creating depth that they once created with the second guitar. And lastly, you can hear Ralph struggling to maintain the pace, until the song eventually derails – I guess he was still learning to play guitar – at the end, he says “I’m really, truly trying to keep pace.”

These rehearsal recordings are pretty crude – they basically involved setting a boom box in front of their amps and letting it fly. So the fidelity is rough. But you can hear the band coming together.

This song, which I think was called “Greenie,” was sort of a cross between old and new Footstone. It dragged in places, but was also punctuated with gratuitous hooks and that signature sound they were developing with the noisy, crunchy guitar and soaring vocals. This song never wound up being recorded, which continued a long-standing Footstone tradition of getting tired of their songs before they ever heard the light of day – or even worse, getting tired of them just after they came out on a record.

Lots of hooks, lots of crunch. But still too long. Probably why it never got recorded.

During this period, the band was also being influenced by some of the heavier bands in the South Jersey and New Brunswick scenes, as well as by their buddies in the punk bands up north. Their songwriting reflected it; I tend to think that if Footstone had sent me their demo in early 1994 instead of in mid 1992, the letter that came with it would not have drawn comparisons with Kenny Loggins and Aerosmith (the letter they sent me in 1992 did). More likely, the comparisons would have been with the Descendents or Green Day (who were just beginning to break out at the time).

The song that the band really became known for was called “Watermelon.” It was a song about a guy who loved watermelon (in more ways than one). I can’t even begin to imagine the inspiration for that song (perhaps Ralph can tell us), but when they played it, people dug it.

In its earliest stage – I guess that would make this a “seed” – here’s “Watermelon.”

~ by Al on April 3, 2009.

3 Responses to “what was happening to footstone.”

  1. Wow!! That “Greenie” song was, I think, called “White Horses”, but don’t remember. I’m not sure if we ever played that live. Either Bishop or Eric wrote that one, I think Bish. Could have been a great song if we took the time to edit it better. But we didn’t really take the time to do anything better, except drink. Which we did best. Thanks for posting that Al.

  2. Bishop had some free time tonight and left a comment that got deleted by my spam filter.

    It was the word “ha” written about a hundred times, punctuated by the word “cough” midway through, and the word “puke” at the end.

    Not sure what that meana.

  3. We put s drop of maple syrup on that letter in 1992. Kenny Loggins loves maple syrup.

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