nurture got done.  We got our CDs delivered to our apartment – and this time, we didn’t even have to be home for it.  The UPS guy dropped the cartons off in the courtyard, behind the fence.  They were waiting for me when I got home from work.

I loved our new apartment.

Immediately I opened the first box and was greeted with 50 pristine copies of cuppa joe’s debut CD, all lined up nicely and shrinkwrapped.  I tore into the first copy I could pull out of the box, and the first thing I did was pull the booklet out of the jewel box and open it.

Fucking ink was still wet.  Part of it peeled off and stuck to the other side.  I couldn’t believe it – it had been more than a month, and it was still tacky.

The CD looked fantastic, and I popped it into the stereo (didn’t even wait for Sandy to get home from work), sat back and listened.

It sounded great.  Crystal clear, guitars right up front, the heavier parts inbetween each verse just perfect.  Perfect.  I listened to it again.

It was the perfect leadoff.

The next song was “decline,” another one of the band’s newer songs, with brother rick on the bass.  It was a very sing-songy sort of ballad, with the opening line “in the interest of my state of mental health/i must respectfully decline your invitation to stay the rest of my life.”  Doug had such a unique way of writing lyrics.  The song’s melody was great, and despite the fact that the harmony vocals were off key, I still felt the song was fantastic.

Third was “broken arms,” one of the original songs off the band’s demo tape that they sent me way back before elizabeth.  “broken arms” was one of their more popular songs, and I thought it would be a nice third track, a good way to snap their older fans back into the CD if they were listening in sequence.

Next came “poster.”  I mentioned that “poster” was one of the clunkers on the record; we chose it because it was heavier than most of the band’s music, and also because I had seen them play it live once and liked the way it sounded.  In hindsight, the vocals were off-key and really whiny-sounding; I thought doug had a good voice for the band but in this case I thought it was really out of place.  I noticed it as soon as I played the CD the first time; I immediately didn’t like the song.

Thankfully, “swinging on your gate” came next; I felt this was the best cuppa joe song besides “bottlerocket.”  I wondered if it was a mistake leaving this song for fifth – perhaps I should have put it second, but I felt like “decline” was such a great followup to “sitting limit” that I needed to leave that one-two punch.

Then came “bottlerocket,” the band’s best song.

After that was a litany of songs that represented the band well.  “self-confidence,” which was a song that was meant to praise a woman that doug liked, simply because she took the initiative to get up and shut a door without asking if it was okay; in hindsight the lyrics seemed sort of egotistical and almost condescending to me (“self-confidence makes her pretty”), but I’m sure that’s not what doug was going for.  Then came “long walk,” from the band’s first demo, and “rollercoaster,” another clunker with horribly off-key vocals that we initially wanted on the CD because it was a heavier song, but upon listening to it, I regretted it.  Good song, bad recording.

Then came another older song, “medium well,” followed by another new one, “beauty of an unshared thing” (the one song doug insisted be on the CD.  “i still shake” was sort of an epic ballad that had doug really leaving his emotions on his sleeve (“i still shake/when you walk into the room”), and the CD closed with “safe,” and then the hidden track, “second violin,” the cover of the Bagatelle song.

I loved it.  Sandy did, too.  It was our first single-band CD.

I immediately packed up a few to send to doug, and shipped them off overnight.  I couldn’t wait to hear his response, as it was their first CD as well.  I had picked up a hundred or so Jiffy mailers, and inserted the introduction letter, sell sheet, band bio, and rubber/plastic toys into the envelopes already – all the packages were ready to go, just waiting for the CDs to be inserted.  So that night I turned on the TV, and Sandy and I went through the process of packing up the promotional copies, stapling the envelopes shut, and taping over the staples with packing tape, so that the letter carriers wouldn’t get cut on the staples.

There was no baseball.  On August 12, after keeping us on the edges of our seats all summer, Paul O’Neill, the Yankees, and the rest of baseball went out on strike.  O’Neill was my new favorite player; the right fielder flirted with .400 early that summer and the Yankees seemed ready to run away with the division.  On the day the strike began, the Yankees were 6 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore in the American League East, with the second-best record in baseball.  The fiery O’Neill had a .359 average and a team-leading 21 home runs, new catcher Mike Stanley was hitting .300 with 17 home runs, and Bernie Williams was emerging as a potent centerfielder.  Jimmy Key had 17 wins, and we were glued to each game – the games had kept us sane during the sagas with Melting Hopefuls and Way To Go!.

And suddenly, they were gone.

I was disappointed when I spoke with doug about the CD; he seemed underwhelmed by it and made it clear to me that steve was very unhappy with the packaging.  It was hard for me to blame steve; he was a visual artist and an outstanding illustrator (still is, actually), and his work had been mutated into a series of mushy, purple inkblots.  At the same time, I had wished that they would have understood the economics of the situation, the ridiculous amount of manual work we put in, and the saga of almost losing all the artwork, not to mention the CDs themselves.

Then again, I think steve probably would have been happy to lose them.  Furthermore, he had offered to come up and help us screen them.  We declined his offer, and in hindsight that was probably the right thing to do; we never would have gotten the CDs out otherwise.  

We had come to grips with the fact that the artwork was a trainwreck six weeks prior; now I was throwing them at the band and expecting them to be excited about it, which was wrong.

At the same time, it was their first CD, and I had expected a modicum of excitement about that – and received virtually none.   

It didn’t stop me from mailing out the CDs.  Our initial plan had been to release it simultaneously with The Mommyheads, but since the Mommyheads weren’t planning to tour until the fall, and since we had gotten desperate to get something out there (our last release was the Footstone 7″ in February), we pushed nurture out nearly a month early.

Despite the bad packaging, I was thrilled.

~ by Al on May 14, 2009.

2 Responses to “nurture.”

  1. I guess the truthful response is, we were definitely excited to get the CD out, but maybe (even back then), the physical disc is not much of a variable, but the art (of course, it meant more to me) and packaging were almost a bigger part of what made it “real”. So that definitely took the wind out of our sails. But don’t ever thin we weren’t totally proud to have our CD out – I’m more proud of it now, this week, after reading all of these tales.

    Al, I don’t know if this will make you feel better or worse, but I wound up going to Kinko’s and having them print a small number of inserts and tray cards, which I replaced on about ten or so copies. Sorry to waste your hard work – I just wanted something closer to the original art. But back then, color copiers weren’t very sophisticated, and the registration was way off – maybe 5 or 6 millimeters so – those versions were by no means perfect, either.

  2. Ouch. Much of this I agree with (especially the clunker “Rollercoaster”). I remember being excited about the CD, consoling Steve but being a bit puzzled by the artwork–when I first saw it, I too thought that’s what it was supposed to look like, until Steve held up a side by side comparison.

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