new year’s rockin’ eve eve.

Obviously with the delay in the printing of the Lippy art, our record release party could no longer be a record release party.  We had no record to release.

Instead, we decided to riff on Dick Clark, and call it a “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Eve” party (since it was December 30).  Instead of giving away 50 Footstone CDs, we gave away 50 Footstone seven-inches, and John agreed to stick with the ten-minute drink specials every hour.

Oddly enough, a shitload of people came, even though it was Love Sexy.  

Thirsty Cows delivered an absolutely forgettable set; the most I can remember was that they were some sort of almost-punk band or something.  They were done as soon as they started, and I sat at the bar with Sandy and Rich, drinking beer and enjoying the evening.  This was the first show in a long time where we had nothing whatsoever to do – since only one of the bands was a Dromedary band, we didn’t even set up a merchandise table, opting instead to let the bands sell their own merch (we used to sell our own stuff from a table at most of our shows).  So we just sat and drank.

The next band was Blenderette.  I had never heard them before, but Ralph had good things to say about them, and was friendly with their singer, Jeremy.  Based on Ralph’s recommendation, I put myself in a decent seat to see the band (but still remain at the bar), ordered a Rolling Rock, and sat back to enjoy the show.

And was blown away.

Blenderette were a power pop band, pure and simple.  Jeremy played one of those big, fat, hollow-body Rickenbacker guitars, and he was backed by a band that was good and tight, providing backing vocal harmonies and big, fat hooks.  At the time, having put out two pure pop records in a row in Flying Suit and nurture, we were falling into favor with pop zines, labels and fans – and I was falling in love with power pop music in general.

The band raced through about a half hour of original music that kept me on the edge of my chair, alternately looking at Sandy and Rich with wide eyes and making comments like “Holy shit, this is amazing.”  That Sandy liked them even better than me was also pretty inspiring; our tastes don’t always match up but when they do, it’s always fun.

What sold me, though, was the last song of their set – a balls-out, rocking version of “Pictures of Lily” (one of my favorite songs) that simply knocked me out.  Jeremy’s voice was perfect for that song.  Nice, high register, not too edgy or gruff.  And the rest of the band could sing the high parts that made up the backing vocals.

By the time they were done performing, I was sold – I wanted to put out a Blenderette record.  

I bought another Rolling Rock and walked over to Jeremy and introduced myself.  He shook my hand, and we sat down at the bar and started talking about their set.  

Our conversation meandered around a bit, and pretty soon we were talking about pop music in general.  Jeremy was a huge power pop fan, and we found that we liked a lot of the same bands, from older bands like the Raspberries to contemporary ones like Velvet Crush and the Pooh Sticks.  As we talked, Friends, Romans, Countrymen eventually took the stage, so we moved to the end of the bar and continued our discussion.  

At some level I realized that I needed to watch Friends, Romans as well.  I had heard from more than one person that they were interested in working with us, and since they were playing our show for free, I felt an obligation to check out their set.  But I was in the middle of a conversation with Jeremy, and I couldn’t find a way to break away.

At some point, Eric from Footstone came over and sat on the other side of me, and became involved in the conversation.  I remember thinking that in three years of working with Footstone, I’d never really exchanged more than a few words with Eric – and here we were, three of us, hitting it off great and having an enjoyable discussion.  But Friends, Romans were working their way through their set and I needed to excuse myself so that I could hear a few of their songs.

But I couldn’t.  Every time I made a move to walk away, either Eric or Jeremy would continue the conversation.

I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, Ralph was standing there, watching me, laughing.  He held up two fingers and mouthed the words “two talkers.” 

Here’s the thing: I’m a talker, too.  So it was actually three talkers, and eventually Friends, Romans finished their set without my paying attention to a single song.

Having missed their whole set, I decided I wasn’t going to waste the entire night.  So when Eric left us so he could start setting up for Footstone’s set, I looked at Jeremy and said “Hey, we’re planning on doing a Cheap Trick tribute record.  Would you be interested in recording a song for it?”

“I’d love to!” he said.  “Except for one thing – are you aware that there’s another label currently working on a Cheap Trick tribute record?”

I just stared at him.

“Yeah,” he said.  “It’s a big deal.  Even Cheap Trick is involved.  Some of the guys from the band are actually playing on one of the songs.  I can’t remember the label that’s putting it out, but it’s definitely coming out.  Are you going to put out a second Cheap Trick tribute?  Do you think that two Cheap Trick tributes will sell?”

“Well, umm, maybe we could do something else,” I said.  “Maybe a seven-inch.”

“We’d do a seven-inch,” he said.  “Whatever you want.  Give me your address and I’ll mail you our demo tape as soon as it’s done.  It’s almost done.  I’ll mail it to you.”

Footstone played a set, I’m sure.  They were the headlining band.  I have no fucking idea what their set was like – I’m assuming it was good, because they were always good.  But I wasn’t paying attention – I was staring at the bar, wondering what the hell a guy had to do to come up with a novel idea in indie rock.

In the car on the way back, I said “Looks like we’re not doing a Cheap Trick tribute.  I guess the guys in Cheap Trick already had the idea.  They’re involved in their own tribute record, on some other label.”

“Oh, good,” Rich said.

“Yeah, I know you didn’t like the idea, but I’ve got 800 bands that I’m trying to get music out by, and I’m looking for some sort of unique concept to take the place of Schoolhouse Pop.”

“A tribute record is not a unique concept,” he said.  “Every label is putting out a tribute record.  The other day I heard that someone was doing a tribute record to Bread.  Fuckin’ Bread.

“I know,” I sighed.  “But I really wanted to hear Footstone cover ‘He’s a Whore,’ and now I have no reason to ask them to do that.”

We drove home the rest of the way in relative silence.  At some point Sandy said “We’ll come up with something.”

And that’s how Dromedary rang out 1994.  It was a year of the highest highs: we sold through two pressings of busy work, met dozens of labels and bands that we’d become friends with, put out two fantastic CDs and raised our profile tremendously with the release of the Mommyheads’ Flying Suit.  We’d increased our retail distribution by adding some of the best companies in that business, expanded our distribution overseas, and got an unbelievable amount of favorable press.

It was also a year of the lowest lows: we ended our relationship with a band on an awful note and lost the rights to release two important titles and a CD that had been in our plans for a year.  We almost had to shut our doors because Way To Go! didn’t pay their bills, and two bands we planned to work with disappeared.  We lost the artwork for one CD and royally screwed up another, had to find a new printer for a Footstone CD that had been terminally delayed, and had two compilation CDs – one based on a fantastic idea – fall apart without notice.

We had been at this record label thing for two solid years, and I still felt like I had absolutely no clue what the hell we were doing.  And I still couldn’t come up with a good reason to ask Footstone to cover “He’s A Whore.”

~ by Al on July 23, 2009.

6 Responses to “new year’s rockin’ eve eve.”

  1. A friend of mine from high school, Rich was in the Thirsty Cows. Later he formed a Grover Kent. Very nice guy.

    Jeremy moved to Memphis and joined a little band called The Reigning Sound, who have one of the greatest songs ever written, “Time Bomb High School”. After two cds, and a tour of Europe opening for The Hives, Jeremy left the band as they relocated to NC.
    Today he still lives in Memphis, still plays in a number of bands. And has a great radio show. Sunday nights on WEVL 89.9 in Memphis. He plays everything pop, as you could imagine. Gene Clark to Ff.

  2. I remember The Reigning Sound, and remember not liking them much. But Jeremy was a nice guy, and Blenderette figures pretty heavily into Dromedary’s story in 1995 and 96.

    Pretty cool that he’s got a radio show; I’ll have to look him up. It would be good to hear from him.

  3. Whew… I probably said this before, but you really couldn’t catch a break. I never knew about the Cheap Trick concept until a week ago (and never heard of the “official” version, either)… now I see why it never happened. Who woulda thought?

  4. Steve, I’ve got to imagine that the “one step forward, two steps back” nature of a lot of this was not unique to Dromedary, as there were a zillion tiny indies doing all sorts of experiments at the time – cuppa joe even worked with another one, if I remember, and Doug had one of his own.

    As frustrating as it could be, I think that was also part of its charm. It was such an unbelievably creative environment, and such a tight community. Who could imagine a business environment where distributors refusing to carry a title because of what the band did to their label, or labels share their artists with one another? So little of it was driven by profit motives that it was really easy to bounce from idea to idea and even if each letdown seemed earth-shattering, there was always another idea right around the corner.

    Plus it’s not the greatest idea to do a tribute record just because you want to hear one band do one song. Virtually every band we talked to about the Cheap Trick record said the same thing, and thus we would have had fourteen versions of “Surrender” and Footstone’s version of “He’s A Whore.”

  5. Yeah, your situation wasn’t unique – you probably got thrown about as many curveballs as any other little label. From what I’ve seen, some of that smooths out over time, after dozens of releases.

    Right, but if it came off well, you would have been able to say, “And it all started because I wanted to hear Footstone’s version of ‘He’s a Whore’!”

    If you’d asked us (probably not, at this point), I’d have been one of the bands fighting for Surrender – if only because they mention Kiss in it. But I was big into Dream Police – that was actually the first album I bought on my own (I got my Mom to buy all the Kiss records I owned up until that point).

  6. I bet if you scoured those old Footstone practice tapes you’d find at least part of “He’s a Whore”. I don’t think you’ll ever find our version of “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla” though.

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