more house madness.

We spent most of May of 1995 packing.  Sandy, being pregnant, had this desire for things to be in order, and so she had a plan to get all the “non-essential” stuff packed up.  The good silverware, seldom-used kitchen appliances, those 1980s metal CDs – they all got packed away in boxes as we started to prepare for our August closing.  Any chance I got, I’d send off a few emails for Dromedary, or check up on the status of Lippy, nurture, and Flying Suit.  All three were doing well, although nurture seemed to have the most staying power.  I figured that would change as soon as The Mommyheads’ new CD came out and they began their summer tour.

But this was definitely one of those occasions where life was getting in the way of the stuff I wanted to do.

At the end of May we got a phone call from Angie, our realtor.  The people from whom we had bought our new house had initially asked us to push the closing date back from July to August, and we agreed.  They were having trouble breaking ground on the land that they had purchased, and they thought the house they were building was going to take a few weeks longer than they had initially planned.  This phone call from Angie, however, was a little more urgent.

“The sellers are really having a problem,” she said.  “I actually feel bad for them.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Well, it turns out that the land that they bought is half in one town, and half in another.  They were able to get a building permit in one of the towns, but the other town won’t give them one.”

“Why?” I asked.

“No idea,” she replied, “but it’s going to take longer than they thought it would.”

I could almost see what was coming next.  “And?” I asked.

“And they can’t move out in August.”

I was silent for a few seconds, so Angie just kept going.

“They still want to close on August 1.  But they want to stay in the house until September or October.  They’ll rent the house back from you for those two months.  You and Sandy will own the house, but they’ll be your tenants.”

“And what if they can’t get out in October?” I asked.

“They’ll have to,” she said.  “If they can’t get out, they’ll need to find another place to live.”

I told Angie I’d discuss it with Sandy, and we’d call her back.

“I actually think that will reduce some of the stress of moving,” Sandy said.

She was right.  The baby was due in early September.  We were planning to close on the house and move in on August 1.  That meant we were going to have to move while Sandy was 8 months pregnant – she wasn’t going to be able to help much – and then we’d have to get everything unpacked and settled in within a month, so that Sandy and the baby wouldn’t come home to an empty house.  By pushing the move date back until the end of October, we’d have an extra month or two to get our act together.  Sandy would be in better condition to move, and we’d have two extra months to pack.

I called Angie back.  “We’ll do it, but I expect that their rent payment will cover our mortgage, and give us a little extra spending money.”  I named a figure that was pretty high.

“That’s awfully high,” Angie said.  “They could rent a house in Denville for a lot more than that.”

“That’s cool,” I said.  “They could move into one of those houses, then, and we can close on our new house and move in like we had planned.  But if they want us to own the house while they live in it, they’re going to make it worth it to us.”

She understood, and she called back an hour or two later to let us know that the sellers had agreed.

Meanwhile, the Mommyheads were planning the release of the followup to Flying Suit, something that we all knew would renew interest in that record.  Since Flying Suit was released less than a year prior, it was still a relatively “new” title – people were still buying it through the mail, college DJs were still playing it on the radio, and distributors were still ordering it for their inventory.

Our agreement with the band, which we called a “deal memo” and not a “contract,” since “deal memo” was such a more pleasant way of describing it, was basically a licensing deal.  The band was licensing their music to us, and we could sell it as a CD, in the song order they provided, with the artwork they provided, for 3,000 copies.  I don’t recall the payment terms but I seem to remember they were slightly different from our standard ones, in that the band wanted more copies to sell on their own, and was willing to take less payment from us.  It was a very pleasant arrangement.

We were, however, into our third pressing, meaning we’d have to re-do our arrangement soon.  Adam was fine with the arrangement the way it was, and so it was just a matter of getting it written up and signed, so that we could press another 3,000 copies.  So I typed up a new agreement and popped it in the mail.

Adam had sent me a copy of what was going to become the new Mommyheads CD, Bingham’s Hole.  It was a full-length, and it was absolutely amazing.

One of the things I had noticed about the band when I saw them in Berkeley, and again in New Brunswick, was that their recorded output was, essentially, incredibly clever and complex pop.  Pure pop – as many reviewers described it, similar to XTC in its wit and charm.  But the band were also incredible musicians, capable of writing and arranging some pretty fantastic pop songs.

When they played live, however, they leaned much further away from the pure pop, instead leaning towards more jammy, boogie-oriented music.  In a live environment, their straightforward pop songs took on more of a groove, more elements of funk.  Pleasant guitar solos took on more of a growl, and their crisp vocals took on more soul.  It was almost as if, when they played live, the band were playing cover versions of their own songs.

And they were an incredible live band; it was nearly impossible not to dance at one of their shows – even for a non-dancing, rhythmically-challenged, self-conscious geek like me.

The new CD, however, was much more of a collection of boogie songs than any of their other recorded output.  It was almost as if the band had made a conscious effort to move away from the mellow, quiet pop of songs like “Annabelle Ann” and “Sandman” from Flying Suit – both absolutely tremendous songs, but both very light pop.  The new stuff was louder, faster, and almost every song had a sharp groove.

The new label was going to have a fantastic record on their hands.  And as much as I was slightly jealous of them, I was already thinking ahead to the next record.  So, on the phone one night, I asked Adam, point blank:

“Adam, I’d like to put out your next CD.  Next year.  Would you be interested in that?”

“Yes,” he replied.  “I’ll be honest with you, though – we’ve been talking to a major label, and if something happens there, that would throw a wrench into our plans.”

“Really?” I asked.  “Who?”

“Can’t say,” he replied.  “But you know, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to have the next CD come out on Dromedary and then get picked up by the major.  Sort of like what Geffen did with Sub Pop and Nirvana.  It came out with a Geffen logo and a Sub Pop logo.  Maybe we could put it out on Dromedary, and then if it sold a certain amount of copies, Geffen would pick it up or something.”

Whatever.  Didn’t matter to me.  I just wanted to put out another Mommyheads record.  I loved those guys.

~ by Al on August 24, 2009.

2 Responses to “more house madness.”

  1. Sounds like you made a great deal – though I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Buying the house and then renting it back to the previous owners, as they continue to live in it – there’s got to be sitcom there somewhere. Or at least an episode of Seinfeld.

  2. As cool as it was to have you allow the owners stay in the house while you owned it, seems like a bad idea. With the strength of renters rights in NJ, it would have been near impossible to force them out if you needed to. Hurry up !!! What happens next?

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