Normal History Vol. 413: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

While I was in my room listening to CCR and Rush, my parents were playing jazz on the hi-fi at the other end of the house. I loved how they loved it, how loud they played it, how they related to it, how it fit with the art they made, how they talked about hearing jazz at (the?) Hickory House (and other clubs) on trips to New York in the ’60s.

My teenage years were 1973-1979, but, by 18, I was living on my own in a tiny apartment closer to my boyfriend, the classical cellist who gave me several Jimi Hendrix albums. By 19, I was living with a man 10 years older than I was (a newspaper photographer), buying jazz albums (Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Yusef Lateef) loosely based on my parents record collection.

While I was a teenager living at home, the AM radio on a small shelf above my bed was everything. It was almost always on—unless I was reading (sometimes with one of my mom’s ice-cold seven-percent apple cider stolen out of the fridge) novels (Daddy Was A Numbers Runner, Another Country) until I went to sleep. My parents didn’t really read. Not the way I did, one book after another. I was always curious why they weren’t curious about what I was reading. Just as well.

There was a time when the public library started loaning LPs, and I took out a Grateful Dead album that made me feel slightly nauseous, and a Wings album that resulted in a similarly visceral reaction.

Around 1975, I recall trading a can of three tennis balls (I guess I gave tennis a try or maybe they were my brother’s) for Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy which always felt kind of tainted by the method of acquisition. I’d had IV for a long time and I liked the colors on the cover of “Houses of the Holy”, but I didn’t like the album much. I mean, let’s say you listen to “IV” a lot for a couple of years, then you slide Houses Of The Holy out of its sleeve, put it on and you hear “The Song Remains The Same”? What a drag. And then the violins on “The Rain Song.” Serious bummer. As was the horn section on “The Crunge”plus stupid lyrics. The 9/8 time signature meant nada to me. Wait … is that a keytar on “Dancing Days”?

“Then” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):