Monday, October 01, 2007

Musical Rosetta Stone: Heavy Vegetable’s “Radio”

In West Lafayette, IN there is a pretty cool record store called Von's. It's kind of a miracle that it's there. It is actually probably a little bit too cool for Lafayette, I wonder why it's there. Anyway, my brother and I would go there and buy CDs and records (Greg would actually later go on to work there, only to get dismissed for "being bad at math," but that is a sore subject so I won't go on about that). One day we were in there and there was a 7" by a band called Heavy Vegetable. Even at that time I think we both realized that a band name like that sounds like the name of a band that kids on a sitcom would make up, like what parents think that bands should be called, or what Kevin Arnold's band was called on The Wonder Years.* Despite the apparent minus point of their name, it seemed like a cool record because it was a picture disc, and on one side there was a picture of someone sticking their foot out the window of a car. We noticed that it was put out by Headhunter records, the label that put out albums by Creedle, a band from San Diego that we really liked. So one of us bought the 7" and we went home and listened to it. It contained the contagious song "Head Rush" on one side and some acoustic songs on the other. Being officially hooked, we then went and tried to find other music by Heavy Vegetable. We found the CD called Frisbee that had a dog catching a Frisbee on the cover. It was a really great CD, and not just because the songs were good. What was really genius about this album was that there was a song on the album called "Radio" and in the song the words talked about how they never listen to the radio because they don't play bands that they like. This song turned out to be a musical Rosetta Stone for my brother and I. Here we were, a couple of dudes living in the Midwest, looking for the next cool thing, and then this band gives us a really great song that basically maps out the best of music not played on the radio. It was as if an angel ascended from and heaven and hooked Bill and Ted up with some most bodacious tunes. Some of the artists we had heard of, but those that we hadn't heard of yet we sought out like gold prospectors who were looking for golden gold during the gold craze of the gold rush. Even ten years later, the bands included in this song have stood the test of time and are some of my favorites. We had just experienced a meta-song, a song about other songs. Bill and Ted were hooked up with a bunch of new stuff to check out.

But this wasn't the end of our musical recommendations from Heavy Vegetable.

You see, on one of their CDs, they listed their drummer's phone number. My brother has never really been afraid to talk to people who he has perceived as being "famous." So one night when I was gone Greg called up Manolo Turner of Heavy Vegetable and from the way he described it, had a very long, involved, and pleasant conversation. Invariably, Greg asked Manolo if there were any other suggestions that he might have for cool new music to listen to. Manolo said that on their last tour there was a tape that ruled their stereo, and that it was the new album by a band called Built to Spill. What kind of tape could possibly rule the stereo on a Heavy Vegetable tour? Did this mean that they didn't just sit around and listen to how awesome their own band is? What kind of album could this be? Well, we immediately went out and bought this album, which was curiously titled There's Nothing Wrong With Love. If you have heard this album, then you know that it is pure magic. We listened to it all summer and Greg even made up an additional vocal harmony to go with that part "I wanna see movies of my dreams" (you gotta hear it). It was truly a great album to listen to at the time. Still is. It was also around this time that we started hanging out with Mike Anderson, and we were surprised that he had already heard of Built to Spill and liked them a lot. Coincidentally, Mike Anderson would make us a mix tape that had the song "His Indie World" by Mary Lou Lord, a song that followed a similar band name-dropping format in which the character in the song bemoans her boyfriend's obsession with indie rock bands. She must have mentioned like one hundred bands, leaving the song as a sort of who's who of the indie world in 1996.

So back to Heavy Vegetable. Where are they now? An unstoppable talent, the singer for Heavy Vegetable,
Rob Crow
has gone on to play a major part in various musical projects including indie darlings Pinback and meta-metal maestros Goblin Cock. No word on Manolo Turner, I could try his number and see if he answers.


I never listen to the radio,
But if they want to play our stuff
that's o.k. with me.
and if they want to play my stuff
that's o.k. with me.
They don't play Slint on the radio
They don't play Sentridoh
They don't play Zappa
They don't play Beefheart
They don't play Can
They don't play The Residents
They don't even play
Renaldo and the Loaf
Velvet Underground
Bongo's Bass and Bob,
Wesley Willis, Stuccato Reeds,
The Shags
Sometimes they will play Devo. (Devo)

"Indie World"

I don't think I fit into his Indie world
Guided By Voices and Velocity Girl
Eric's Trip and Rocket Ship, Rancid and Rocket from The Crypt
Bikini Kill and Built to Spill, it's plain to see that I don't fit
He says my songs are too deep and gloomy
He wishes that I could be more like Jenny Toomey
Just give me my Joni my Nick Neil and Bob
You can keep your Tsunami, your Slant 6 and Smog

What's the story he says Butterglory
I say what's the news he says the Silver Jews
His heavenly hang-up is getting me down
And it's making me wonder why he's hanging around

Cause I don't fit into his Indie scene
Huggy Bear and Helium and Half-Japanese
Sebadoh and Sentridoh and Superchunk and I don't know
Doug and Lou and Calvin too and Kim and Kim and Kim and Kim
Yeah I'm stuck in the past and he's stuck on his four-track
But I can't get through to his one-track mind
I push play and record and a major chord
Maybe I'll win his heart this time
Maybe I'll win his heart this time

* My parents always thought I should be in a band called Crude Fiber. That name was just sooooooo clever to them.

** $4 to the person who can tell me who each of the four Kim's in "His Indie World" are. No cheating.

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