From The Desk Of Shoes’ Jeff Murphy: Food For Thought

Power-pop progenitors? O.G. DIYers? The last college-rock survivors? No label adequately captures the four-decade journey of Zion, Ill.’s Shoes, who have released their first new studio material in 17 years. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Shoes is that this ethic and attitude prevails despite a collection of music-biz bumps and bruises that could rival Charlie Brown in terms of sheer career futility. In some ways, they’re the Forrest Gumps of rock. Shoes essentially presaged punk’s DIY movement by recording its first, early-’70s albums in the living room before garnering enough critical acclaim to merit a major-label contract. Shoes will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature on the band.

Jeff Murphy: I’m sitting with my morning coffee, contemplating my next meal in the daily dilemma of choosing what to eat. It’s truly something that I am not very good at doing. I never learned how to cook, aside from microwave popcorn, Kraft macaroni and cheese or peanut butter on toast. During the early days of our band, these were staples in the main food groups of my daily routine. Despite my culinary handicap, I love good food and have had the privilege of eating some really fantastic food prepared by some fabulous chefs. When we were looking for a studio to record our first major-label album, one very big influence on our decision to record at The Manor in Oxfordshire, England (besides the great gear and all-female staff, was that each evening’s meal extraordinaire was prepared by a resident Cordon Bleu chef. We Shoes boys sure love to eat! As a musician, whether in the studio or on the road, one of the high points of everyday is to have a good meal. Some, if not most days, this can be a difficult proposition.

Financial considerations aside, just finding the time to relax and enjoy a real dinner can be elusive. But there are few greater satisfactions in life than a well-prepared meal and a good bottle of wine. Napoleon famously said that an army travels on its stomach, and the same can be said for the working band. The French have got it figured out, with their ritual of long, leisurely dinners, lasting hours and slowly and methodically finessing the meal at hand. Almost as a religious experience. I bow down at the alter of culinary delights, where the high priests and deities of fine-food preparation reign over this wretched commoner, who waits for this heavenly manna to be delivered. Even the simplest of meal preparation confounds and astounds me, as I worship anyone who knows what and how to prepare a meal. My wife belongs among these Papal ranks and like some magical wizard, can conjure up a meal with the simple wave of her hand. Well, at least that’s how it seems to me.

Having tried my hand at cooking, I can honestly say that I failed miserably. My ignorance in foodstuffs was perhaps most apparent the time I attempted to prepare a chicken meal with a recipe that called for cornstarch. Not having a clue what cornstarch was or did, I reasoned that corn syrup would suffice. Suffice it to say, it did not! There’s also the time that I mistakenly purchased a head of cabbage, instead of the head of lettuce that I had been sent to fetch. Perhaps this is why my adulation of good food and the people who prepare it is so deeply rooted. I appreciate those that can do what I cannot. I celebrate their mastery of the palate-pleasing delights and desserts they produce and await each sermon of sustenance like Pavlov’s dog. I may not know how they do it, but I’m eternally grateful that they do. Amen!

Video after the jump.