Song #16 & 17: Stuyvesant: “Dated” and “Hellbent for Heather”

September 6, 2020

Song #16: Stuyvesant – “Dated”
Song #17: Stuyvesant – “Hellbent for Heather”

I was on a train somewhere with Ralph and Brian from Stuyvesant when they told me the name of the free EP we were going to release would be Jihad Me At Hello. I nearly died laughing. Up until then, the band had a penchant for puns in their titles, or references to New Jersey, or classic album titles. Songs called “Bi-Polar Bears” and “Yahweh From Rahway” dotted their catalog, their first full-length was called Linden Calling and they had settled on the title Fret Sounds for their next.

The plan had been to release Jihad Me At Hello as a free EP, as a way of promoting the band in advance of the release of Fret Sounds. The EP would include a few songs from the band’s back catalog, which we’d send out to radio stations and press. Then, a few months later, we’d put out Fret Sounds with a ton of marketing and promotion behind it, and the band would support the record with a tour and a video for one of the songs.

It didn’t wind up working out that way; the completion of Fret Sounds was delayed. We announced Jihad Me At Hello at the end of July, 2010 but didn’t announce Fret Sounds until almost a year later. My love of Ralph’s songwriting is pretty well-documented in these pages, and by mid-2010 I had dived headlong into the revival of Dromedary, fully expecting that bigger budgets and better distribution would enable us to make a bigger dent than we did in the ’90s. If running Dromedary as a full-time endeavor was no longer a goal of mine, helping its bands still was, and I wanted Stuyvesant to feel comfortable that they weren’t just handing over a record that I’d slowly drip out there into the world. So I had big promotional plans. Again, I’m like Don King but not good at any of the stuff he does.

One of the things that really interested me about Jihad Me At Hello was the demo song that it included. Ralph felt that building an EP out of nothing but old Stuyvesant songs that were available elsewhere would be boring. So we pulled “Bi-Polar Bears” and “Ode to Bish” from the band’s debut EP Quit More Often, we took “Tape Hiss”and “Liars Poker” from the Linden Calling album, “Chocolate Phoenix” came from the B-side of their “Victorian Lawns” 7″, and then the EP included two songs yet to be released: one, “Broken Red Wing,” had been written by Sean. The other, “Dated,” was a demo written by Ralph.

“Dated” was built around a dynamite power pop riff that opened the song, and Ralph’s use of a stutter as a rhythmic device, in a “My Generation” sort of way. Ralph often uses the guitar to accentuate the rhythm section, muting the strings with his palm, but this was the first time I’d ever heard him use vocals the same way. I thought it was cool, but also thought I’d never hear the song again – as long as I’ve known him, by the time Ralph puts a song out in the world, he’s done with it, and gets tired of playing it live. Sometimes, by the time the song comes out somewhere, he’s already done playing it, and sometimes even sooner; there are songs on Stuyvesant albums I’ve never heard live, and there are Stuyvesant songs I’ve heard live that never made it onto an album.

In this case, though, the riff was too cool to deny, and the song made another appearance, nearly five years later. The song structure was mostly the same, but the title and lyrics had changed – it became the song “Hellbent for Heather,” with new lyrics inspired by the great short film Heavy Metal Parking Lot. It also became the most streamed Stuyvesant song on our website, and probably the most popular Stuyvesant song in their catalog – which, of course, they rarely play live.

Here’s “Dated” and “Hellbent for Heather,” back to back. Buy either one today and we will donate the proceeds to Citizen Action of New York, a grassroots membership organization focused on ensuring quality public education, ending mass incarceration, ensuring quality affordable housing and health care for all, getting big money out of politics and promoting racial justice. Also, you can learn more about Citizen Action of New York or make a donation of your own by visiting https://citizenactionny.org/about/.

~ by Al on September 6, 2020.

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