Normal History Vol. 555: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“Ribbon” was always one of my favorite songs to perform live because of its lack of specific focus in terms of imparting a concept. Ambiguity was enticing terrain after writing what were sometimes called anthems for various causes.

The ominous repetition of several potentially unrelated phrases presented audiences with the opportunity to make what they wanted of it more than many of our previous songs. The never-mentioned ribbon was a loose and flowing connection between ideas.

Streaming out behind us, filaments on fire.

You’re marked.

We’re the news from nowhere.

We played “Ribbon” many times in the ’90s, but as newer songs came into our setlist, it was dropped due to time constraints. Strangely, this nub of sociopolitical songwriting philosophy is back in play in my current painting practise. Viewers are free to make what they want of the individual portraits as I post them almost every day on Facebook, but in a somewhat unexpected interactive component to the project, every now and then I am privy to evidence of how other people compile and compose individual paintings.

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

Normal History Vol. 554: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Even I don’t really relate or respond to the term “political art” because it lacks the liveliness that draws people in (pardon the pun … draws? … art?). Hell, I don’t really like the word “people” either. Political art sounds perfunctory and filled with rhetoric, but every now and then a political song is written that is so simple that it risks seeming trite. Is it even true that if you fight for a little you don’t get a lot? No. Not in terms of how wealth is distributed within the one percent, but yes, when it comes to human rights being eradicated or reduced. 

“Fight For A Little” from Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986) (download):

Normal History Vol. 553: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

CBC Radio, 1986 talking about spontaneous songwriting.

“Women Were King” from Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986) (download):

Normal History Vol. 552: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Weirdly, more than 35 years later, my phone is still unplugged and, if anything, the intensity and frequency of the problem has launched into a realm I could never have imagined except that nowadays boundaries have replaced anger and blame.

“Phone’s Unplugged” from Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986) (download):

Normal History Vol. 551: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

It’s not just business. It’s everything we’ve worked on for the past 35 years wrapped up in a location where other artists can come and stay for free while they work on projects that intend to change the world. I’m nearly ready to buy the property, but I’m taking a last-minute chance and offering 5% of my net profit from my $100 USD paintings in exchange for a $100K USD investment to get a place that functions as accommodation, an artist residency program and an art gallery as opposed to the lowest price house in the region and all that implies.

“Beaten Down” from Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986) (download):