Saturday, March 24, 2018

Certain Songs #1166: The Miss Alans – “Coke With Fatty (Wild Blue 03-30-1991)” | Medialoper

Album: All Hail Discordia
Year: 1991

All Hail Discordia was released on Duck Butter records, a local Fresno label run by Tim Biskup, then the drummer with long-time Miss Alans friends Capitol Punishment, as well as an artist who was already beginning to get some renown.

Kirk mentioned that they were recording a live album to Tim, and he immediately volunteered to release it, as well as design and hand screen the album covers to boot. Scott recalls working with Tim on those covers during the typically hot Fresno summer and Kirk still marvels at how simply it fell into place. Of course, the only reason they were able to do it was that they’d been released from their contract with Genius.

And that required the legal talents of John Hayes.

So while the original deal with Genius was for two albums, there were issues from almost the start, especially in terms of communication. When Kirk gave them the Hollywood Demos, the A&R people didn’t like the newer, darker direction, but wouldn’t enter into any kind of dialog with the band — actively dodging Kirk’s daily phone calls — to the point where when I asked Kirk how many copies of Smack The Horse they sold, he told me that they never got any data from Genius.

Let’s not forget that 1991 was the height of the “major labels are evil / indie labels rule” mentality, but here’s an indie label totally fucking over a band.

In any event, Kirk asked John Hayes if he could help out, and after John read it, he realized that Genius had done none of the promotional work for Smack The Horse that they were contractually obligated to do, and because of that, and some other things they were therefore in Breach of Contract.

That got their attention, especially after they realized that if it went to court, they would definitely lose. But while The Miss Alans would have gotten their day in court, it would have taken two or three soul-sucking, career-shortening years, and by that time, any other labels interested in the band would have moved onto other things. And since there was a very desirable label courting the band — Zoo Records, then on the verge of releasing Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend — in was in everybody’s best interest to cut their losses and move on.

Problem was, sometimes people don’t always do things in their best interest, and there was a higher up in Genius who took the whole thing personally, and refused to sign the simple release form that John had drawn up, drawing the process out even further, and once again, jeopardizing the band’s career, if not existence.

This story has always been one of the reasons I scoff at indie label purity. Major labels don’t have a monopoly on treating artists like shit, they just have a longer history and perhaps a more streamlined methodology. But not a monopoly. And in this case, it just took a single person to put a spanner in the works.

Luckily, after more than one heated phone call, the executive signed the release, and for his trouble, John received a briefcase that was the exact replica of a Fender guitar case, complete with the plush interior, that he still has to this day.

And the Miss Alans were free to record and release their live album, one of the highlights of which was “Coke With Fatty,” which rode in on an extra catchy Jay Fung bass line, and no matter when it went, it always dove back into that awesome bass line, which was acting like a security blanket against a world gone mad.

Mr hand swollen from poor
Stolen from petals fallen off the earth
How was I to know age would come?
Riding on hip bones and it’s only just begun

I don’t think I can do that, no I don’t think I can
Saw her on the belly and sew her up back whole
I don’t think I can do that

If “Her Drug” was about worrying about other people’s issues, and “Otis Plum” was a look in the mirror, than “Coke With Fatty” is about seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes, and not being happy at what you think they’re seeing.

Cause in the sawdust of your bleeding mind
How could I trouble ya
To walk four miles for me
Be more healthy for me
Bit your tongue, pinch your cheeks
And embarrass me so gently

Not paying any attention to the lyrics is Manny, who is instead auditioning a veritable arsenal of horrible noises: if he’s not funkily surfing on top of Jay’s bassline, he’s sliding up and down his guitar neck making it moan like a demented spirit, or tossing out little curlicues of notes round the edges of the song..

Almost like he’s trying to distract you from Scott’s lyrics and Jay’s bassline, on every single moment of “Coke With Fatty,” Manny is trying out something new and interesting, giving the song a fuzzy, almost unknowable quality.

“Coke With Fatty (Wild Blue 03-30-1991)”

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