#29 New Roman Times part 5: I Hate this Part of Texas.
Band dressing rooms are famous for their graffiti. Most of it is pretty is juvenile. But on occasion there are gems. A long standing tradition is just to simply write on the dressing room wall “I hate this part of Texas”. This piece of graffiti is usually written in the dressing room at some venue outside of Texas. My favorite incidence of this graffiti was on the wall of a dressing room in Bergen Norway.
As I was born in Texas i am familiar with your average Texan’s overbearing pride in their home state. They don’t really know that most of us don’t sit around thinking about Texas. Texas enters our mind mostly when there is a hurricane or some other natural disaster. Or mass shooting. Sometimes I fear that this graffiti was originated by prideful Texans who view all the world as somehow a lesser part of Texas.
Other times i think this graffiti originated with bands who have played the notoriously shitty venues in Texas. More than any other state the venues in Texas suffer from cramped or no dressing rooms, bad PA’s and surly staffs. Sorry Texas but it’s true. I remember the first time i walked into the Liberty Lunch and thinking “This is the famous Liberty Lunch”? It was December of 1985 and Camper Van Beethoven was opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Chili Peppers being from LA had the total old school rock crew. So their crew used to working for Motley Crue or Night Ranger had staked out the entire Backstage. The venue gave us some folding chairs that they placed along the wall along the side of the stage. I watched the Chili Peppers thinking “that Flea guy is a great guitarist, But why is he playing guitar parts on Bass?” All the while Rock historian then just a journalist Ed Ward was rattling in my ear about how “unprofessional” Camper had been that night because Jonathan had complained about how cold it was in the venue and he couldn’t keep his violin in tune. While the Chili peppers were “consumate professionals putting on a great show” full of stupid double entendres and flat footed funk that only a drunk UT Pi Chi might find revelatory. I was polite but only because i had no place to hide from him.
In some ways Ed Ward was right. The Chili Peppers were consumate professionals and were rewarded for that with massive success. But “rewarded” may not be the right word. It’scertainly not the kind of success that i would want. I’m not sure that i would want the kind of audience that thinks “Yeah Yeah Yeah Oh No, No No Oh Yeah” is a chorus. I mean what would i say to our fans? What would we talk about? “Hey i don’t like getting hit in the head with a stick, do you? do you like Ice Cream headaches? I don’t !”
This and having your CD sold in a Starbucks is one of the most dubious distinctions in rock music. It means your music and career has acquired the stink of faux of credibility; the Pleather™ sheen of stylized rebellion and pleasant sleepaid gurgling of empty sloganeering. Or as David Cross and Bob Odenkirk so succinctly put it “Break the rules, but don’t really break any rules”.
Bizarre story. I walked into a Starbucks in Grapevine California. It was december and freezing. The wind was blowing a zillion miles an hour down the grapevine and so know one would even dare to get out of their cars to actually go to the counter. The drive thru was packed but i was the only one in the store. At the counter was a Starbucks Compilation of Sonic Youth songs chosen by such celebrities as Marc Jacobs (the clothing designer!?) Wow that is so punk rock dude. The Chicana behind the counter was pretty chatty and a little bit of a smart-ass so i thought she’d be good to engage in conversation. Holding up the Sonic Youth CD:
“Do you know who this band is?”
“Do you know what they sound like?”
Squinting “Are they …were they..some kind of Boy Band?”
“Has anyone bought this CD”
“Not during my shifts”
” Do you know any of the celbrities that picked theses songs?”
“um…Portia de Rossi–Are you from Corporate Headquarter?”
“No i’m just an asshole”
Even Thurston Moore The Third knew how weird this was. Check out how he keeps laughing nervously in this pitchfork interview.
Grapevine California. Sonic Youth Hotbed.
Camper Van Beethoven writes music that could never be played in a Starbucks unless the clerks managed to splice their iPods into the pipe that drizzles the music, like low calorie icing in from the Seattle Headquarters. And this is probably one of the top 5 Camper Van Beethoven songs least likely to be played in a Starbucks. Even if Portia de Rossi swore up and down cross-my-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye “this is the best song in the world” it would not make it past the censors at Corporate. I’m proud of that. In fact i am proud that there is no song in my entire catalogue that could possibly make it onto a Starbucks CD. ( And i dare Starbucks to prove me wrong. he he)
Aside from that Sonic Youth mistake. Which was weird enough that the Traders on CNBC’s Fast Money mentioned it in connection to Starbucks stock price, someone at Corporate in Starbucks is very good at picking out fake edgy bands like Death Cab For Cutie. Band’s that are really the equivalent of 70’s mustachioed soft rock. Bands “that break the rules but don’t really break the rules.” Bands that if they were ground up and loaded into shotgun shells that then a drunken Dick Cheney fired in your general direction and one small piece of a Death Cab for Cutie song lodged next to your heart the doctors would not operate. In a press conference in their spiffy white coats they would announce :
“The small fragment of the Death Cab For Cutie song is so innocuous, so bland and devoid of roughness, sharp edges or any dangerous ingredient, we think the safest course is just to leave the fragment next to the heart. Thank you.”
I hate this part of Texas. What is this song? in the context of the story of New Roman Times, it’s our protagonist really high on some extra strong flower, trying to get his Los Tigres contacts to put him in touch with either Mexican Intelligence services, Grey aliens or The CVB. He is going over to the other side.
Again what is this song. Like post #1(The chemist said) this is one of those songs that came about because Engineer John Morand was listening to a song backwards (The Long Plastic Hallway). He really enjoys doing this. He of course found an engaging melody and pointed it out to us. Eventually we figured out we could sing “I hate this part of Texas” to this Backwards melody.
It’s fun to be Camper Van Beethoven.
And as a Bexar county born son of Texas. I got to say this on behalf of Texas: If Starbucks were based in Texas at least the damn CDs would suck less and they’d have a beef brisket BBQ sandwich.