the Nuggets fallacy

aka “we coulda been ‘The Definite Article.'”

whatdorothysaid

The second part of my ramblings about how to classify The Heaps.  This week: “garage rock”, with trenchant analysis of the “Nuggets” box set.

SONGS: new recordings of the most popular Heaps originals, “Casual Encounters” and “Old Palo Verde”–now hosted at our myspace page

‘Punk’ and ‘Garage rock’ are both genres of music “for the people”; the difference is that with ‘punk’, “the people” are the musicians (who don’t care what the guitar instructors or audience think) and with ‘Garage’ “the people” is anyone reading this who isn’t in the band.  In the crowd-pleasing Garage spirit, here’s the new Heaps line-up (Matt on keyboards, Erin on flute, AJ on electric guitar, Ben on drums, and me on bass & vocals) playing the band’s biggest hit so-far, “Casual Encounters”: [now at our myspace page]

Erin and I have even played this song at our friends’ wedding (as part of “The Heaven’s Gates” featuring “Pearly” Gates on bass).

With Erin’s flute as the last orchestral instrument in the band, it’s getting harder to call The Heaps a ‘chamber punk’ band, but with Matt now playing virtual Farfisa organ on half of our current songs, we may be only a half-dozen sunglasses away from being a postmillenial ? and the Mysterians.  But of course, Garage rock is about more than just chosing organ over piano.  Many people only know about ‘Garage rock’ through the Nuggets box set which lines up an impressive hit parade of songs with an instantly familiar early 60s British Invasion sound–full of youthful frenzy, adapted R&B licks, boyish harmonies, and occasional knee-jerk psychedelica–played by a collection of colorfully-named, definitely-articled none-hit wonder bands.  The problem is that, by presenting itself a collection of ‘missed hits’, Nuggets ends up reducing the bands to merely disposable wrappers around their own products.  By distilling the genre down to its the radio-ready high-notes, the collection leaves out ‘the sweat’ that is the soul of Garage rock.

MORE ON GARAGE ROCK + THE HEAPS ORIGIN STORY (and a new recording of our first ever “hit”) AFTER THE JUMP!

LAST WEEK’S BONUS POINT: That’s Fritz the cat, hero of Ralph Bakshi’s 1972 movie of the same name about a snotty college student (who is a cat)  searching for authenticity and kicks.  Instead he finds a heroin-addicted biker bunny anarchist.

(Here’s the new line-up (minus AJ) playing “Old Palo Verde”, (which was the only original song we played at that toga party), complete with melodica and Farfisa:

[now at our myspace page]

You can read in the BONUS section how this song secretly reveals the Heaps origin story!)

One reason most 60s Garage rock bands aren’t widely known is that most concentrated their energy in entertaining  local audiences at bars and parties instead of touring extensively.  I’d like to think that the Heaps have shared this commitment to pleasing the people from the beginning.  The first ever Heaps show was an absurdist public service: a toga party for a town designed to dissipate cultural heat.  Amazingly, at least half of the people showed up in home-made togas, marking a victory of the people over planned blandness.

‘Garage rock’ bands played a lot of covers (and the few full-length albums they made are stuffed with them) but they were not “cover bands”–they did not subsume their group identity to that of another established band.  Sure, they may have picked up some things from The Animals and The Stones, but those bands were their contemporaries, not their idols–in the dim lights of the Cavern Club 1962 it would have been hard to tell The Beatles from any of a number of  other Garage bands.  The reason Garage rock bands played so many covers (beyond not having enough songs of their own) was that was what the people wanted to hear.  And that’s why the Heaps have done it, too.  But we’ve got a lot of originals (many of them new since Suitcase!) and we’re now focused more on pleasing you with songs you don’t know yet that you’re going to love.

BONUS: The song “Old Palo Verde” describes a series of real incidents that happened to Mike back when he lived in the tituar grad student housing neighborhood, but it also inadvertently describes the beginning of the Heaps as a band; the “fleas” mentioned in verse 1 (unrelated to Jude’s stuff or niece) were from Mike’s roommate’s cat, and Mike was forced to stay on fellow-MFA Sarah’s couch for a few days while his apartment was fumigated.  Sarah (who plays cello) and I had agreed at a party that we’d play music together some time, and when we surprisingly succeeded in following through, we included Mike who was there anyway.  (Who knew that a poet could also write good lyrics?)  Mike called up Vernon to come play some violin, and thus the Heaps were born.

I’ve got plenty more to say about Garage rock, but I think I’m done waxing rock-subgenre-theory for a while.  NEXT WEEK: less talk, same amount of music.

Bonus point if you can give me the relevant quote from the Simpsons regarding the straw-filled gentleman up there.

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2 Responses to “the Nuggets fallacy”

  1. […] Self Promotion (by way of promoting others…) 6 02 2009 Head on over to Zombie Public Speaking for a couple of quality Heaps recordings featuring yours truly on the keyboard/virtual Farfisa […]

  2. […] Glamour” [collecting all the recordings 70s UK punk lost gems The Homosexuals], and the previous discussed garage bible The Nuggets Box […]

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