Category Archives: DAVID LESTER ART

Normal History Vol. 412: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Maybe I got it wrong. I thought the teenage albums list-making exercise on Facebook was designed to create a sense of tactile community through the act of sharing something quintessential about ourselves while considering that others had shared something about their origins and were contemplating ours. That it was based on music from our teenage years was smart because it diversified the input through different eras. Those who were teens a long time ago were confronted with lists made by people who were teens more recently, and that made “us” realize that our formative years were differently lived through in terms of music and the limitations that surrounded getting the actual music and finding more music. Perhaps people with bands like Fugazi, Hole and the Breeders on their lists were struck by something fundamental when they saw the lists of older people. I’m not sure about that. Maybe that part was more obvious.

I thought the list-making exercise intended to point out that the number of hours spent formulating lists could well be applied to future endeavors with other objectives that perhaps had more significant results. I thought that was a clever way to imply and expose a mobilization process and its potential.

“Fight For A Little” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 411: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Last month, when that Facebook list was going around, I worried about “spending my time” listing albums I had as a teenager that left an impression. After all, I’m a hard-nosed cultural activist, not a dabbler in internet games. I took the opportunity to show what the actual male-dominated lay of the land looked like. I listened to, and was impacted by, male rock bands (implying that there weren’t many women in rock, which is why I started a band some years later).

1. Led Zeppelin IV
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival Willy And The Poor Boys
3. Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced?
4. V.A. American Graffiti
5. Neil Young After The Gold Rush
6. Ethel Merman Annie Get Your Gun
7. Rush Rush
8. Nazareth Razamanaz
9. Deep Purple Machine Head
10. Bee Gees Best Of Bee Gees (1969)

I don’t see any women-fronted bands on the American Graffiti double album. I don’t recall noticing this as a young teen, seeing the movie and buying the album to then study how soundtrack material functioned within fictional storylines. Like, in the original trailer (and probably in the movie itself) when radio DJ Wolfman Jack asks, “Where were you in ’62?” and the answer comes 14 seconds into Danny And The Juniors’ single “At The Hop.” Somebody had thought to sync that up. That was worth thinking about. But then again, my dad was in advertising and I’d already been in a sound studio in Vancouver where jingles were recorded.

When you think about it, American Graffiti—both the movie and the songs on the double album—were largely about women and girls. The standard stalking, tricking and getting of them, set in the early ’60s, when cars were perhaps the equivalent of cell phones today. When a guy wanted to talk to another guy, he had to drive around town to find him. I have an idea that girls dominated the landlines.

Only one album on my list was made by a woman. I positioned her in the middle, surrounded, as it were, by the men, and she’s singing, “Anything you can do I can do better!” in the role of Annie, from “Annie Get Your Gun.” This is significant to who I was then and who I became. I’m not sure how I came to own that album, but I liked the competitive rivalries in the storyline. Annie the marksman and Ethel the singer: the weapon, the voice. Right in the middle of this song, Ethel proves she can hold a note longer than the man she’s sparring with who boastfully claimed he can hold a note longer than her. These things made an impression! That voice. For the win!

When I finally did hear female rock bands that I related to, I immediately wanted to be the band—or at least half a band! Having said that, when I was 10 or 11, the photo on the cover of CCR’s Willy And the Poor Boys inspired me to make and play a washtub bass that resulted in a short-lived CCR cover band with Heather and Leslie. I included that album on my teenage list because it was still a favorite into my teens and to this day. What’s not to like? Other than that there are no women in the band.

“Women Were King” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 410: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

More than 30 years later and my phone is still unplugged, and neither David nor I have ever had cell phones. Having said that, he and I have great phone conversations every week during which life and art are discussed with a heightened enthusiasm for all that has happened and for all that is yet to occur. Then, beyond that, we immerse ourselves in our projects without the derailment that telecommunication results in.

“Phone’s Unplugged” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 409: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In mid-December, I used an unreleased Mecca Normal song (one that we’d kind of forgotten about) as a soundtrack for my currently available $100 paintings. I’d been looking through random sound files when I came across “Critical,” which turned out to be from the same sessions as our most recent album, Empathy For The Evil, which we recorded with Kramer in Miami Beach in late 2012.

After editing and posting energetic live videos of our shows with the Julie Ruin in October, it was a great departure to find such warmth and clarity in Kramer studio production on a song we’d forgotten about. Also, after so much scrutiny and evaluation of the meaning of recently performed material, trying to keep the political and especially feminism front and center, “Critical” hangs on the one word with very few other lyrics involved, most of which I’m not sure what they are as it was totally improvised. The song features our recording engineer Frank Falestra (a.k.a. Rat Bastard) on guitar near the end.

We performed this week’s song “Beaten Down” in our set opening for the Julie Ruin in Portland, where we had a slightly longer set. It’s a strange sort of nose-thumbing poetic prophesy that I always find particularly satisfying to sing live. “Maybe some of us will and maybe some of us won’t all grow up to be beaten down.” —Jean Smith, 1984

“Beaten Down” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 408: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In December, Courtney Jaxon bought one of my paintings called No Hat #116 aka Shanny McIntosh. I don’t actually know Shanny, but there was something compelling about the photo I based the painting on.

Courtney is a musician and vintage clothing retailer in Arcata, Calif. Shanny is a curator and writer from Hudson, N.Y., who participated in a live art event at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in Portland, Ore., in October that included several of my paintings and a short documentary film I made about my work.

As far as I know, Courtney doesn’t know Shanny, but rather, the painting affected her in some way, which is what I intend to have happen. It is that response to the work—and not essentially the subject—that is very encouraging. Even when I take on commissions (which I rarely do), I am heartened by clients who express a particular point: The painting doesn’t need to look like the subject!

Most painters don’t connect with potential buyers as immediately as I do. I photograph paintings and post them on Facebook as soon as they’re dry. Response time is an integral part of the process. Some have sold within a few minutes, which is a phenomenon difficult to replicate in any pre-internet era.

Later in December, the Director of Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA (where the live art event took place) bought the second painting based on the same photo of Shanny.

These paintings are two of the more realistic ones I’ve done. When I started painting for a living almost a year ago, I assumed that the higher the degree of realism, the more popular a painting would be, but I have been very surprised to find out this isn’t true. Putting my paintings in front of what is primarily a Mecca Normal audience has allowed me to veer away from realism in the same way I make music. The degrees of divergence away from convention that the two disciplines maintain seem oddly hinged to each other. Maybe like two lines on a chart that reflects both daytime (audio) and nighttime (visual) temperatures (responses). They aren’t parallel lines, but they relate to each other.

“I Walk Alone” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 407: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I recently switched email programs. The new one gave me the option to upload audio notification, so I added part of a song I created a few years ago. As it turns out, this wee bit of audio fits into almost every film or whatever music I might be listening to when an email arrives.

It’s me telling me, “It’s OK,” a few times. I mean … I know it isn’t actually OK, but I feel better hearing it. If anyone wants it for their email program, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

“Sha La La La La” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 406: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I have to admit it was a bit difficult to settle back into the very quiet life of the painter after playing a few very exciting Mecca Normal shows in October. It always feels like a great luxury to be in front of an audience, especially ones that might know something about our history.

“Tolerate Me” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 405: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

It was a real thrill performing “I Walk Alone” at our recent shows opening for the Julie Ruin. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a big show or a small show, moving through the audience, singing at the top of my lungs, is a powerful and empowering experience.

We now have a handful of new, unrecorded songs that put forth similar sentiments. It feels great to have performed them in front of such appreciative audiences. Now we’re officially looking for a record label to release our next album!

“Not With You” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 404: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Are You Hungry Joe?


The guy said, “Are you hungry, Joe?”
And Joe said, “Yes sir, yes I am.”
The guy said, “When’s the last time you ate, Joe?”
And Joe said, “I don’t quite remember when.”
The guy said, “What’s the worst thing about being hungry, Joe?”
And Joe said, “Almost worse than the pain in my stomach, is knowing that nobody loves me. I could live or die and nobody loves me. Scares the hell out of me. Can’t talk no more. Can’t talk when I cry.”
“Are you hungry, Joe?”

“Are You Hungry?” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 403: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The first song on Mecca Normal’s first album (1986) questions where we get our information. At that time, Reagan had been in the White House since 1981. News sources were limited to TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.


Who Told You So?
What do you think?

What do you know?
Who told you that?

Who told you so?

“Who Told You So” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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