Normal History Vol. 474: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I wrote the words for “Waiting For Rudy” in the early 90s after finding out that an apartment building we frequently stayed at when we played in San Francisco was slated to be torn down once Rudy, an elderly tenant, died. He had some sort of deal with the owners that disallowed them from evicting him.

“Waiting For Rudy” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 473: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I can’t help but think violent games are part of a well-thought-out system of indoctrination that helps lubricate the impulses of economically oppressed youth to slide off to war. Putty in da man’s hands. What if all those hours of shooting were actually replaced with something positive and useful—like a rising up against the corporate ogres and shady politicians who are running the show?

Where’s that video game?

“Greater Beauty” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 472: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I wish my band had clout! I know first hand that music can change the world, but we timed-out after our 15 years of fame. I get that we fall into the old and irrelevant heap. Christ! Women my age are invisible at best—mostly regarded as worthless, ugly and taking up space, etc. Ever wonder why that is? It’s because we are a dangerous element that needs to be suppressed, and treating us like we’re lepers is part of how that’s accomplished. As a culture, we’ve succumbed to the abhorrent notion that 100% of a woman’s value is wrapped up with youth and sensuality.

A Kind Of A Girl” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 471: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Pre-dating Anonymous, the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 and Occupy Wall Street, my intention with “Nobody’s Asking” was to instill a kind of Road Not Taken sensibility of empowerment by using language that intended to activate a sort of slivering off of conventional notions about creativity, gender-based roles and various traditions that helped maintain the status quo. Having had some success in connecting with people, I felt fortified to a degree that I wanted more poetic approaches to do the same sort of heavy lifting. I don’t think I succeeded here.

“Nobody’s Asking” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 470: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Something’s blowing
through the town walls
on a current of agreement

Slowly take the green
from the wood

Factory dance on broken glass
Metal, teeth and keys

Letters hung on velvet walls
There used to be a season for the blue

“Current Of Agreement” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 469: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

We performed “Ribbon” a lot in the mid-1990s. It’s a landscape-and-time scenario that reflects a spike in our energy. So much had already been accomplished in terms of albums released, tours and associations with like-minded people. I felt there was room for less literal lyrics, even though I’d frequently been told no one could tell what I was singing about anyway. At the time, a lot of our history was “streaming out behind us” with the “news from nowhere” being a general nod to a restructuring of society, referencing William Morris’ novel from 1890 about a future based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that to anyone before.

“Ribbon” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 468: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Originally released as a K Records single back when Calvin wrote poetic descriptions of recordings and published a catalog on yellow broadsheet-size newsprint:

“This beauty spreads. Feel it. Two concise song sketches, “Rose” and “Days,” in the inimitable Mecca Normal style that celebrate life in all of its sublime, melancholy and emotional power.”

“Rose” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 467: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Jarred Up is a compilation of singles, but without looking, I can’t say where “One More Safe” was originally released. I’m not sure if we ever played it live. David’s guitar is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of “Throw Silver,” and it’s possible I wrote the lyrics on the spot as I was realizing that. It isn’t about love lost or found or a specific injustice that sometimes reveals larger truths. It’s about the stories we tell. Their importance. More from the teller’s point of view. If there was a visual for it, there’d be something representing the story scampering, ducking and diving, across dangerous territory toward something that represented … what? Being heard? Or simply succeeding in releasing a significant tale.

It’s bittersweet that “Throw Silver” is probably our best-liked song. Here’s me: the angry feminist agitator writing lyrics about injustice, and the song that sticks to the ribs of the choirs we preach to is an ambiguous tangle of jumbled metaphors about blue and yellow, going away and returning home, silver and gold, yesterday and today. Tragic! Yet it connected with people, and it taught me a lesson about the nature of conceptual communication that happens while music plays. Even when it’s political, it doesn’t have to be literal. There’s one more story safe.

“One More Safe” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 466: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Cripes. If Cobain was still around, even he might agree that the most important thing that came out of the grunge era was riot grrrl.

“Echo” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 465: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

One could make a case that riot grrrl’s original influence appeared to taper off only to surge again as a sort of macro-nostalgia 20 years after its inception. Now, around the 25-year mark, riot grrrl’s powerful history begins to look both fluid and cyclical. Who saw Pussy Riot (founded in 2011, inspired by riot grrrl) on the horizon? Who imagined that Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile) would record a relaxed interview with Ana Da Silva (the Raincoats) about influence and inspiration all these years later? Let’s say Mick interviewed Paul 20 years after the fact. What the hell would they talk about? This note. That chord. Record sales. Ana’s conversation with Allison effectively connects two revolutionary eras of populist uprising. Never mind that it’s also feminist history!

“More More More” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):