it’s a long walk.

Friday my whole family walked in the Relay for Life, to benefit the American Cancer Society.  Sandy got heavily involved in that organization a few years ago, mostly out of a sense of obligation to try and do something after Rich died.  It’s sort of evolved to the point where the whole gang participates, raises money, and walks.

This year’s event was the first time I’d actually stayed til the end.  In years past, there’s been a point where I had to bring the kids home and put them to bed.  This year, they all walked on teams of their own, and I was a chaperone (I’m not a particularly good chaperone, by the way).

So I walked.  And as usual, when I got to the luminaria that Sandy purchased in Rich’s honor, I cried.  It’s thrilling and fun and just so cool to be doing Dromedary again, and Rich should be here doing it with us.  And he’s not, and sometimes that’s hard.

There are, however, other people who are filling small spaces in his giant shoes, and I’ve been meaning to make a post that thanks them publicly; this is as good a post as any to do that.

I have, on numerous occasions, mentioned Jim Santo on this blog.  Jim is an old friend that I screwed over pretty badly when I bailed on Jenifer Convertible in 1996 when we shut down Dromedary Mach I.  By all rights, Jim should be happy to never talk to me again.  Instead, when we discovered each other on Facebook he almost immediately became a regular reader of this blog, and one day posted on my Facebook page “There’s no hard feelings about any of that stuff, by the way.”

When I read that I exhaled pretty deeply; I guess I hadn’t realized just how bummed I was – even a decade later – over the way that whole thing played out.  You want to do things the right way, and sometimes “right” becomes a relative word because you’re forced to do something less than right.

Anyway, gradually Jim and I reconnected, until last October when I found myself sitting next to him at the Trash Bar in Brooklyn, having just seen Stuyvesant play.  I apologized again, and he laughed.  Then he offered to design a new Dromedary website for me.  And we sat there – Sandy and me, Jim, Ralph from Stuyvesant, and our great friends Chris and Lori – finished our beers, then walked into the back of the bar to see whichever band happened to be playing.

The band happened to be The Neutron Drivers, the great garage-influenced band that contributed “All Around The Sun” to our Make the Load Lighter compilation in January.  Coincidence is a funny thing.  This past Thursday after a Stuyvesant show at Maxwell’s, I sat at a different bar with Ralph from Stuyvesant, Mike from the Neutron Drivers, and Chris, talking about doing a show together.

But I digress.

Since that night in October, Jim has designed our website and all its media players, given us a host of advice, and joined us at our Footstone/FRC reunion show at Maxwell’s in February.  Without Jim I’d have a website that looked like a monkey designed it.

And without Steve Spatucci I’d have a Mommyheads record that looked like a monkey designed it, which would be a shame because we simply have the world’s worst luck when it comes to record art.

When it came time to do the art this time, I wanted to reverse the colors, to correct the 15-year-old error that we made when we first put out the record.  It seemed like a pretty easy thing to do, so I scanned the CD art and started working on it in Photoshop.

Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as it seemed.

Eventually I got some of the cover reversed, and realized that was going to be the best I could do.  Unfortunately, after reaching out to the original artist, I discovered that back in 1994, he had actually provided me with the original art.  So when I asked him if he could scan the original art for me, he responded by saying that the only art he had was the CD cover itself.

What the hell happened to the original art? I had given it to Rich, and he turned it into films.  I have a poster tube filled with films and transparencies from Dromedary, but there’s no Mommyheads art there.  The original art was nowhere to be found.

The band approved what I had done for the digital version, and so at least we had cover art that somewhat resembled the original art, so that we could get the record released on iTunes, eMusic and such.

But we had every intention of making physical CDs as well, and that was going to mean that not only would I need some sort of way to produce digital files – even if I didn’t change the colors – I was also going to have to make some changes to the art itself.  The original art had our old address.  It had our old logo.  It had the Mommyheads’ San Francisco mailing address, long gone.  It had no web address.

Most importantly, we added three tracks to the CD – “Box,” “Over,” and “Day Job.”  Those tracks needed to be added to the track listing on the CD booklet and on-CD printing itself.

I had no idea what I was going to do.

Then, one night, I was sitting in my office, and this thought just popped into my head:

Check the Mommyheads Press folder, in the white box in the basement.

Back in the day, I used to clip our bands’ reviews, and then scotch tape them to an 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of paper that I had designed for that record.  Each record had its own stationery, and then the reviews would be laid out on the stationery.  It was a trick I learned from Ray of Melting Hopefuls, as a way of keeping some uniformity to the look of all these different reviews from all these different publications.  You want to use the actual review, in the actual typeface of the publication, because it serves as evidence that the review actually ran.  At the same time, you want some uniformity to your press kit, so it doesn’t look like everything was just thrown together.

So I had folders for each of our bands, where I put the originals.  Those folders went into one of those white cardboard file boxes.  The file box went into my attic, where it stayed for 15 years.

And when I grabbed the folder and opened it, there were pieces of the original artwork inside.

I made some high-res scans of the original art and tried manipulating it, but was still having some trouble.  Despite working in the ad business, my own Photoshop and Quark skills are pretty limited (I’m on the business side more than the creative side).

Enter Steve Spatucci.

Out of frustration, I vented to Steve in a Facebook email – I’m never going to get this done right.

“Send me the files, I’ll do it,” he said.  “Free.”

I thought about not sending the files, because I knew there was a lot to be done.  Steve is a full-time designer; this is his job.  When someone asks me for marketing advice, I’m happy to dispense it.  When someone asks me to do a marketing plan for their business for free, it frustrates me.  This is my job.  I charge for it.  Now someone is asking me to do it for free.

That’s exactly what Steve was offering.

But I had to swallow my pride, because I didn’t know how else I was going to get this done.  I had, essentially, scraps of paper with black and white pen and ink drawings on it.  They needed to be put together and turned into the right colors.  Then, all the old information needed to be removed and replaced with new information.  And new logos.  And new song titles.  It was a big job.

Steve did it in one day.

When I sent it to the band to approve, I was almost giddy.  And of course they had no idea what was involved, but Adam responded with a litany of compliments on Steve’s skill, suggested a few changes (notably some performance credits for the additional tracks), and we were done.

Steve even matched the original handwriting when he re-created the inside artwork.

And so we made CDs.  And they look great.  Thanks to Steve Spatucci, another guy who had every right to be pissed at us for 15 years, who put it aside and, instead, has become one of our best friends.  Again.

One of our new friends, Brookes, suggested that we make the new artwork available via downloadable PDF, for those people buying the digital version.  And that’s a great idea, so I’m going to do that.  I just need to make the PDFs and I’ll create a page on our site to do this.

It is, most definitely, a long walk.  People join you along the way.  Some of them stay with you for a long time, some just pop in and then leave.  Some leave, and then come back.  But, without exception, I’m fortunate to have been joined on my walk by some of the greatest people ever, and I’m thankful for their help, their company, and just to have them walking with me for a while.

I’ll keep walking.  You’re more than welcome to join me.

~ by Al on May 23, 2010.

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