Song #49: Footstone – “Mad-G”

October 12, 2020
Song #49: Footstone – “Mad-G”

The last time I visited my old college – the University of Hartford – in any kind of musical capacity, it was with Footstone, to play a show in a dorm basement that we’d put together with the student-run radio station, WSAM. I was heavily involved with the station as a student, and some of my friends were still there the following year, and super supportive of the fact that I had started a record label. They wanted to start doing more live shows, and so they booked Footstone to come up and play. I think it was really early in 1994.

I don’t remember a lot of the circumstances surrounding the show, my memories are super hazy of this one. I know that it snowed like crazy while we were driving up there, but I do not, for the life of me, remember how we got there. I have memories that conflict with one another – one memory of me sitting in a white van with the band, someone else driving, me staring out the windshield, certain I was going to die in a car wreck. Another memory of me actually driving my own car really slowly, wondering if we’d make it to Hartford in time to play the show.

However it is that we got there, I remember feeling really comfortable. After graduating college, my life had changed in every conceivable way, really fast. Sandy and I got married a month after graduation, and after finding our first day jobs, we rented an apartment and settled into 9-to-5 life. Suddenly, we were adults. We went from college students to married adults in the workforce almost overnight.

When we arrived, I was suddenly back in the dorms where I’d spent four really comfortable years, among people who worked at the radio station when I was the General Manager. To the people in attendance, the band were celebrities, and I was the guy that brought them there, so by extension, so was I. It was really easy to relax.

Ralph was conscious of the fact that nobody at the show would know any of Footstone’s music, so they put together a medley of cover songs that included “867-5309 (Jenny)” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” along with one or two others – maybe “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar. It was received really well.

There is a lot of hair, and a lot of flannel
Baby Rico and Baby Bishop

I don’t remember where we slept, or if we even slept in Hartford or came back home to Jersey that night. I remember it being a pretty successful show, to the point where I immediately started thinking of some of the campus bands that were “regulars” at the University, who would come up and play two or three times a year and make tons of money. I was certain Footstone would become one of those bands. We never were invited back.

The thing about Footstone: they were always excellent live, and they always had a surprise – maybe a cover song, maybe they’d wear ridiculous costumes, maybe they’d just goof their way through an entire set. I actually started bringing a camera with me to their shows, just because it seemed like there was always something notable happening, either before, during, or after the show.

Footstone recorded a bunch of different times before Lippy came out, but none of the recordings ever captured their energy as a live band. They were loud, the music all had this rhythmic, “chug-chug-chug” sort of quality to it. On bass, Mark rarely held to the root, walking all around it while Dave held the song down, but typically without the bass simply playing along with the drums, occasionally the drums would accelerate during the song. Dave was an excellent drummer, but the music sort of lent itself to racing – and rather than trying to hold it back, the rest of the guys would just speed up with him, but never losing their tightness as a band. The result was often pretty manic live, and really difficult to capture in a studio where the inclination is to get it perfect, and to restrain a lot of what they did live.

Lippy was a mixed bag, probably attributed to the length of time it took to actually get into the studio and record it – they were constantly writing new music, and each song was an improvement over the prior ones. The band had a following, and there were songs on Lippy that remained staples for the band for years – but others that they probably never played live after the record came out.

The one I felt was probably best representative of what the band would become when they were at their best was “Mad-G.” Short, tight, crunchy and frenzied, with Ralph’s voice blowing all the instruments all to hell, the whole thing speeding up until it felt like it couldn’t possibly hold together, and yet it did. In 1994, “Mad-G” was a story about a very specific, funny and irreverent thing that happened with one of the band’s friends. In 2020, it’s about the complete lack of responsibility and decorum of youth. It’s meaning is much better today than it was then.

When I listen to Lippy today, it brings me snapshots of memories from a variety of events – a show at the Fastlane in Asbury Park (RIP) where we took a bunch of pictures hamming it up at a convenience store, and then the band played a bunch of their set wearing rubber noses. Listening to the album on cassette while smoking in the driveway of the house some of the guys shared. Going to a party the band threw in their rehearsal space and feeling like I was walking through a war zone to get there. Doing a show at Under Acme where everyone drank so much that the bar actually ran out of beer – we kicked the entire bar! But in all the snapshots, we’re smiling.

Here’s “Mad-G.”

~ by Al on October 11, 2020.

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