where to now?

We packed up the master and artwork for Lippy and sent them off to the manufacturer, thinking we still had an outside shot at getting it out before Christmas.  I didn’t want it out too close to Christmas, though – I figured if it was too close, nobody would notice that it had even come out.  It would get lost in college radio inboxes while Music Directors were on vacation, and it would get lost in my distributors’ inventories because the holiday rush would be over.  But if I could time it right, maybe I could get it into people’s hands in time for the rush, before college MDs broke for the holiday.

1994 was one of the first years where the mainstream rock radio charts were dominated by the slickly-produced, guitar-heavy “commercial alternative” sounds that we’re still subjected to today.  Sure, there were alt-rock bands before 1994, but it seemed like in ’94, those bands were everywhere.  The popularity of Green Day appeared to catapult one guitar band after another to the top of the rock charts – Stone Temple Pilots, Offspring, Soundgarden, Live, Candlebox, Veruca Salt, Rage Against The Machine…all with heavy guitars, crunchy riffs, and mostly weak songwriting (Soundgarden excepted).

I felt that Footstone was better than all of them.

And I wanted to do whatever I could do to make everyone else know it, too.  

I began a campaign of whining about it: “Don’t even fucking tell me you’re playing Live on your radio station if you’re not playing Footstone,” things like that.  I started as soon as the record was sent off to the replicator, by posting bitchy comments on message boards and mailing lists.  I wanted it made clear: nobody rocked harder than Footstone and still made accessible pop music.  Nobody.

As proof of my claim, I began sending out a “wet your whistle” sort of advance tape, containing three songs from the upcoming CD: “Toothpick,” “Mad-G,” and “Watermelon.”  Those three songs were, in my opinion, perfect representations of the band at that point in time.  “Toothpick” was a short, intense burst of rock; one of the most aggressive and heavy songs they had written at that point.  “Mad-G” was one of those tracks I mentioned before, where the drums sped up during the song to the point where the song hurtled forward like a runaway train.  The song’s subject matter (a friend who, umm, relieved himself in the ladies’ room at a strip club) was besides the point.  And “Watermelon” was a propulsive, punk-tinged song about Ralph’s unnatural love of watermelon.  I think.

Here’s “Toothpick,” from Lippy.

Listen to how hard that rocks. The song opens with Ralph’s voice, soaring over the rest of the band as it usually did. But then the entire song changes after the bridge, evolving into a powerful jam, with the band carrying Ralph through the second half. And despite the fact that everything about the song – production, performance, overall structure – was very accessible, it was also not a mainstream-sounding song. In less than two minutes, “Toothpick” was the best possible demonstration of what Footstone had become. And I loved it.

It was Jim Testa who first caved.  Jim came to the realization that while so many New Jersey bands had come and gone, Footstone was always there, putting on great shows, being everybody’s friend.  He promised some extra press for the band once the CD was complete.  Oculus came next, agreeing to do an interview with the band in an upcoming issue.

When a punk zine got a copy of the advance cassette and reported back “that’s not punk,” I bombarded them.  “Bullshit,” I would say.  “What is punk?  Is it guitar-heavy pop like Green Day?  Is it messy, sloppy grunge like Nirvana?  Is it Rancid?  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones?  Listen to it again.”

Suddenly I started to hear positive feedback.  “Yeah, you know what?  I do kinda like it.”

Meanwhile, the indie pop people were all over it from the start, without any prodding.  I guess they had grown tired of all things twee, and wanted a little distortion in their lives.

All in all, I sent out about 30 of these advance tapes, and contacted each and every person who received one, in a two-week period after the masters were sent out.

We also talked about the record release party.  The band wanted to have it at ACME, but unfortunately ACME was booked and then closed prior to Christmas.  Mark thought it would be a great idea to have the party on New Years’ Eve, and so did I, but the club was booked.  In fact, so was every club that the band liked to play, from Manhattan to New Brunswick and all points inbetween.

But Love Sexy was free the day before New Years’ Eve.  And better than that, they were willing to offer drink specials all night long.  I also decided to do something I never had before: offer a free Footstone CD to the first 50 people in the door.  

It was tough to find bands who could play the day before New Years’ Eve.  None of our “regulars” were able to play.  

“How about Blenderette?” Ralph asked.

“Who is Blenderette, and what the hell kind of a name is that?” I wanted to know.

“Oh, shit, you’ll love this band,” he responded, “they’re pure pop.  Just a total power pop band.”

So I agreed to ask Blenderette (or, rather, to have Ralph ask them).  Ralph also told me that a Hoboken band called Friends, Romans, Countrymen wanted to play – apparently they were friendly with Footstone, and were very interested in possibly being on Dromedary.

When Kid With Man Head were unable to make it, someone got in touch with a band called the Thirsty Cows, and that was it.  We had our bill.  Not the strongest bill of all, but we thought it would make a good party nonetheless, and would definitely ensure that Footstone was the strongest and most popular band of the night.

With all that buttoned up, Sandy and I made copies of our intro letters and band bios, ordered a few bags of cheap plastic toys, and picked up a few hundred jiffy mailers from Staples.  We figured we’d send out the promo copies around Thanksgiving, give them a month or so to start generating interest, have the release party on the 30th, and watch things kick into high gear as 1994 rolled into 1995.

Then the phone rang and jarred me right out of my fantasy world.

It was my customer service rep at the pressing plant.

“Hey!”  I said.  “How are you doing?”

“Not so good,” she said.  “I’m calling you about the project we’re working on – Lippy.  There’s a problem with it.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.  Lippy was so together – the artwork was perfect, the recording was fantastic, and I was not in a position with either one where I couldn’t turn around and produce a second copy of either, if need be.  Even if they lost both the master and the artwork, I would be able to provide new ones.  I was a pro at this point.

“Unfortunately, we refuse to manufacture it,” she said.

~ by Al on July 17, 2009.

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