Archives and updates from an early 90's St. Louis folk/pop/punk band

Archives and updates from an early '90's St. Louis folk/pop/punk band

Friday, June 25, 2010

This just in...Selections from "Enormous Richard's Almanac", remastered for your listening pleasure!

Use player in the upper right to hear 3 songs, freshly remastered, from the forthcoming reissue of our 1990 cassette! Notes on these 3 as well as some others, and individual song links below.

Enormous Richard, a throwback from the early days of the St. Louis indie rock and alternative country scenes, will have a reunion weekend this summer, with gigs Friday, July 23 at Jacobsmeyers Tavern, 2401 Edwardsville Rd. in Granite City (trading sets with the house string band, early to late); and Saturday, July 24 at The Duck Room (8 pm Lettuceheads, 9:15 pm Karate Bikini, 10:30 pm Enormous Richard).

The occasion: the first-ever reissue on CD of Enormous Richard's first recording, Why It's Enormous Richard's Almanac, originally released as a 90-minute cassette in 1990 - the same summer Uncle Tupelo released its first record on LP, No Depression.

Enjoy these songs and stories.

This is the only song where we actually figured out something that other people can use. Countless people have told us over the years that they helplessly hear this song in their heads whenever they see the limit case of experiential freedom that is a dog with its head out the window of a car.

River of sadness

Another Big Toe hand-me-down, that takes a rather tired metaphor on a float trip down the Missouri scenic riverways.

True story from the headlines of the day. Brian Henneman, formerly of Chicken Truck, used to open for ER when he was being a guitar tech for Uncle Tupelo, before he started The Bottlerockets. He is from Crystal City, very near Festus, Mo. (home of Mr. Todd). After sitting through a performance of this song that had been prefaced by saying Timmy Todd was from Brian Henneman's hometown, Brian provided a detailed lecture on the differences between the two neighboring Jefferson County towns.

Little Hiawatha

And another one grabbed from the headlines, about a Navajo boy sold black-market to a Mormon family whose custody got tied up in court. The poet Scott Niklaus took The Almanac with him on a teaching sojourn in Navajo country and loved this song in particular, but never felt comfortable playing it to people on the res, because "Little Hiawatha," unbeknownst to us, is an insult in Indian country, along the lines of "Little Black Sambo".

I'm not religious

In many respects, this song launched the band. Richard Skubish had come home to Granite City, Illinois, after getting a chemistry degree at an expensive East Coast private university, and instead of getting right on the job market as a chemist, he took his acoustic guitar to Laclede's Landing with his old grade school buddy Chris King. At one point Skubish began pronging into the air, slashing his guitar, and singing, "Hare Krishna!" The rest of this song popped right out of King, and their fate was sealed.

We're not R.E.M.

Camper Van Beethoven sent up the early twang revivalists with "Cowboys from Hollywood"; we took a swipe at the countless REM clones. The shout-out to other local bands, however, was pure affection; they were not included in the intended satire (as I had to explain once to Tony Margherita, then manager of the name-checked Uncle Tupelo, and now of the world-famous Wilco).

Tribal Rachel

Rachel Leibowitz was a passionate music fan and friend to all of the good campus bands of our era at Washington University. This song was written by the campus band Big Toe, one of the musical tributaries that became Enormous Richard. Steve Pick, music critic (see below), once quoted admiringly the lyric, "Her record collection, or so they say, is as big as her heart / She'll loan to you from either if you respect the borrowed part".

Steve Pick; music critic

Steve Pick caught the first ER show at a Rock for Reproductive Rights benefit and promptly wrote up the band in the daily paper. During the interview, our first, upstairs at the old Cicero's, he noticed that we had a number of portrait songs, like "Tribal Rachel" (see above). We told him we would write a song about anyone, upon request; he requested, and we cobbled this song together from the very few things we knew about him.

All the greatest matadors were fascists

Enormous Richard would evolve into the band Eleanor Roosevelt, then the band Three Fried Men, then the field recording collective Hoobellatoo, and now the arts organization Poetry Scores, which translates poetry into other media, starting with music. "Matadors" is the deep pre-history of the Poetry Scores concept. It sets to music both a scrap of language from George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia (the hook/title) and one of William Blake's Proverbs from Hell (the outro).

(I'm gonna) kill Mr. Bill

Utility multi-instrumentalist Elijah "Lij" Shaw, a rich kid studying at an expensive, elite university, was at the mercy of a rather unpleasant manager whenever he went to work at a local movie theater. The manager's name was Bill - that's Mr. Bill, to you. No relation whatsoever to the Saturday Night Live puppet character. Fernando Pinto, who booked ER into The Moon (R.I.P.) in New Haven, Connecticut, rushed to the stage after one set, gushing with his expository insight into the song structure: "The solo! That is when you are actually killing Mr. Bill!"

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