Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bootblogging #1: Three by The Lettuce Heads

What do you call bootlegging on a blog? Bootblogging? This post initiates a new series of bootblogging the unreleased recordings of my friends.

I'll start by stealing from the best: The Lettuce Heads, my favorite-ever St. Louis rock band, which is either enjoying a quiet revival or never quite called it quits despite never getting their due and never getting off their duffs to release their exquisite recordings.

Let me get to the bootlblogged recordings now, so you can be listening to them while you read on about these humble, inward, talented dudes. Between now and their next gig - 9 p.m. Friday, January 9 at The Schlafly Tap Room, 1221 Locust - or until I receive that "cease and desist order," I plan to upload most of their best unreleased record.

These promotional geniuses were calling this record, I think, "demo" when I got ahold of it. I think I convinced them to let me release it under the title When You Blink, but then they never produced a finished master and, if they had, I probably wouldn't have had the money to release it anyway.

Here you go, the first three songs from "demo" or When You Blink, one each by each of the three songwriters, with the writer taking the lead vocal, in the time-honored rock & roll tradition:

* Love Lead (Mike Burgett)
* When I Plant My Garden (Carl Pandolfi)
* Rose (Jon Ferber)

The fourth player in the band is drummer John Marshall.

For all of those community radio producers out there who are downloading these tracks with plans to play them on your show, the artist name for all three tracks is The Lettuce Heads; I have just specified the songwriting credits because it seemed like the thing to do.

If you don't know nothing about these boys, the bio their pal Danny Hommes wrote for the band website is the place to start. And I ought to know - it was my job to write the bio, and I stiffed them, even though I was returning Carl Pandolfi's favor of playing on the poetry score to Go South for Animal Index.

But I did write a preamble to the bio I never wrote. Goes something like this:

First, a little philosophy of local rock musical history (yeah!). Then, the story of one of the best rock bands you have never heard of.

Because the music industry is yet to discover St. Louis – and St. Louis is yet to discover it has a music industry – our musical history remains largely untold. This is especially true of our rock music.

When a history is unwritten, for it to be passed on older people need to talk to younger people, and the younger people need to listen to them. There are obstacles to these things happening in a rock music scene, because the older guys quit going to clubs and the younger guys think they are too cool to listen to the older guys.

Of course, this is all bound up in the ethos of rock music as a young person’s game, "it’s better to burn out than fade away," "I hope I die before I get old," etc. It doesn’t help that the people who do self-consciously keep in memory the history of St. Louis rock music, like Beatle Bob or Jay-Jay, tend to be dismissed as eccentrics who know too much about trivial things, rather than genuine historians.

Surely the fact that The Lettuceheads – a St. Louis rock band most active in the early 1990s – are playing together again will not be enough to shatter these deeply-held cultural values. But, if those values are at least slightly cracked, and a younger audience (along with its resident musicians) checks out these old-head rockers, it will be a great thing for the transition of musical history in a city that hardly knows itself.

Also, said young people are going to get their asses rocked off.

The Lettuceheads must have been surprised to see themselves slip into old-guard status in the past 15 years. They were always well-aware of already coming after the really great rock music. These guys are Beatles and Kinks buffs who understand that most of the things you can do to expand, disrupt, or perfect rock music had already been done by The Beatles and The Kinks.

But, they weren’t paralyzed by the example of their overseas elders, and they certainly didn’t imitate them slavishly. The amazing thing about The Lettuceheads is that they wrote a sufficiently diverse group of dynamic rock songs and performed them with such a groove, with so much style and energy, that you could compare them to their historic musical idols without humiliating them.

Melodic, smart, strange, surprising, constantly evolving rock music: The Beatles did that, The Kinks did that, The Lettuceheads did that. And, now, The Lettuceheads are doing it again.

That's it for now. More between now and that Friday, January 9 gig, which will be prefaced from 7-9 p.m. by the 1st St. Louis Indie Rock Swag Swap Meet, a free event catered musically on cassette by Thomas Crone and myself, where everyone who was ever in a local band (working or defunct) is encouraged to bring some swap to swap (or, if you must, sell; suggested price ceiling $5).

The event is free and, God help us, there is no "vendor fee" or any such stuff, though we'd love to know you are coming and what you are bringing so we can bid you up and make it sound like it's going to be a party, and not just Crone and me getting drunk and playing cassettes of dead bands. Though, come to think of it, that sounds like a pretty fun Friday night in St. Louis.

And I hereby swear I will take down these free recordings if the friends in question ever get up off their musical derrieres and print some commercially available copies of these recordings. When they do, I'll be the first in line to buy one.


Artwork from the band website. No telling which one of these multiply talented loonybirds drew it.


Heather said...

I LOVE the Lettuceheads! I always thought they were amazing and these recording really hold up.

I really wish I was going to be back in St. Louis for this reunion show.

Heather said...

By the way, can you get your hands on "Catfish Hank"? I have it on cassette somewhere but alas no cassette deck to play it on. I love that song.

Confluence City said...

I will upload "Hank" with the next batch. I was thinking of doing a goofy set - this decides it.

There is another set of three on this blog, look for it!