Category Archives: DAVID LESTER ART

Normal History Vol. 371: 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.

A while back, I went down to Horses Records to see a couple of bands play. It was an early show, but it was already dark as I walked alone down a quiet side street. I saw a guy ahead of me who looked like he might be going to the show, too. Maybe it was the across-the-body strap of his bag and the set of his woolly hat—and I took into consideration that I was probably totally wrong because that whole area has had an influx of young people and it seemed more likely that he was just one of them going to a cafe along the same stretch of East Hastings that Horses occupies.

Before we got to the corner, he crossed the street and went into the bank to use the ATM. At that moment, a 1970s muscle car—an orange and black Charger—pulled up at the light with “Smoke On The Water” playing through a rolled-down window. It was great! And the guy driving looked a lot like Burt Reynolds. The light changed to green, the Charger drove on and the guy with the hat and bag came out of the bank not having seen or heard any of it. I thought to myself, “If that guy is at the show, I’ll tell him about the small incident that he missed.” You know, just for fun. I crossed the road and walked past a slew of sandwich boards outside restaurants and coffee shops that weren’t there five years ago when this was … what do you call a neighborhood before hipsters move in? Working class? I dunno. Unpretentious? Not that I actually have anything against pretension.

I go into Horses, wander to the back and talk to Dan of the fantastic band Lt. Frank Dickens. There are only a few people in the store, but the guy with the hat and bag is among them. Eventually, while we’re standing around waiting for the replacement PA to show up, I tell him my story. He immediately uses a sentence that has the phrase “my girlfriend” in it and I’m thinking, “Oh yes, I get that. Don’t worry young bearded man with glasses, I’m not hitting on you.” I continue talking, referencing changes in the neighborhood, and he responds by saying that his father brought him here in the ’90s—when he was a teenager. Yes, yes, I understand young man. You have a girlfriend, and I’m 30 years older than you, but don’t worry, I’m not hitting on you. Really really really, I’m not. I’m just talking to you. Good lord.

Later, while he’s engrossed in examining LPs in the bins, I notice his head snap around when someone I’m talking to asks about my music. Still holding up the LP, he’s staring at me as if his assumptions about an old lady hanging around a record store chatting up young dudes such as himself has been blown out of the water. Quite a lovely moment. Not nearly as lovely as the Burt Reynolds look-a-like cruising E. Hastings with “Smoke On The Water” blasting from his muscle car, but still quite good.

“In Canada” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 370: 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.

Back in late January, when I filled out my application for Home Depot I put “unstable owner” as my reason for leaving the Gourmet Warehouse. I’m sure they’d know what I was referring to.

I would have liked to contribute to a small business where my work ethic, skills and ideas were respected, but working at the Gourmet Warehouse was nothing like that at all. Working for Home Depot makes me realize what being involved with the lunatics at Gourmet Warehouse was doing to me. I am so much happier now even though it’s a dollar less an hour.

I’ve been told that some of the folks at Home Depot “bleed orange” but I think it’s going to be OK to come in, do the work and maintain a healthy work and art balance. I don’t want to “move up” or get too involved. It all starts to unravel when people want to play the game.

“Don’t Heel Me Like A Dog Just To Break Me Like A Horse” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 369: 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’m not sure if it was late last night or early this morning. Either way, it was dark and my eyes were closed when teeth popped into my head. Painted teeth.

This morning, before I saw the “memory” that Facebook was prompting me to “share,” I did a little sketch of an idea I had for a new series. Then I chatted with a couple of guitar players—both women—about the possibility of forming new bands. This was very exciting, but it was getting later and later and I wanted to have time to paint the first in what I hope will be a new series. The “Angry Woman In Rock” series: teeth and tongues in passionate mouths singing loudly, intense women with furrowed brows holding a Shure 58.

“OK Here We Go” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 368: 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.

My father has a character he draws for my mother, a beagle called Mild Dog. It’s a simple line drawing of a dog with a couple of spots on him, but I think he’s quite important in their relationship. I see evidence of Mild Dog when I visit them. Christmas cards from Mild Dog, little notes from Mild Dog on her breakfast tray. I don’t say too much about it, because it’s their private thing. Just like when my brother and I used to kill ourselves laughing when my dad called my mom by her maiden name initials. In a tender moment, he might for instance say: “I love you IC.” And this sent my brother and I scrambling off, covering our mouths, to the other end of the house where we could laugh without them hearing us. Imagine your father calling your mother ick! Oh, it was grand. As were the beautiful canned asparagus sandwiches on white bread with mayo that my mother made—rolled up sandwiches with the crusts cut off—that were left-over in the morning after whatever kind of party I’d basically slept through the night before. Seems to me the sandwiches were somewhat better for having sat out all night on the kitchen counter. My brother thought they were gross, so I got to eat them all.

This reminds me that I woke up this morning hearing a crow pecking at the roof above me and I thought I was back in my childhood bedroom. I lay there with my eyes closed and put everything into place—where my bed was, the color of the curtains—and I stayed there, in childhood. For quite a while this morning, I was 10 years old again.

“All About The Same Thing” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 367: 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’ve been posting old photos on Facebook, which has more to do with moving stuff around my apartment to make a bigger space to paint in than any sort of nostalgia. I found a box of old letters last night, including one addressed to me, sent from my dad in 1966 when he was in NYC working as an art director for a Vancouver ad agency.

The drawings (cartoons, really) were part of an ongoing situation while I lived at home. My dad would walk up to me and hand me these things, and I’d laugh. It seems like it happened all the time over the years. I should have saved them all. No idea why I didn’t, but I kept my favorites. In what other conditions is daily life turned into a personalized cartoon? He still makes things like this for my mother, but her reaction has never been as good as mine.

“The Way Of Love” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 366: 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.

Continued from Vol. 365

I shop in small grocery stores where the doors never close, and I’ve often wondered how those poor cashiers can stand it in the winter. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but the December wind did blow in from the street, and although I didn’t have my glasses on, it seemed to me like the guy on the sidewalk with his hand out asking for money from customers leaving the store, was staring straight at me, smirking. And, at that moment, it did seem like he had the better gig.

On day two, a supervisor told me he’d be moving me to another till.

“Thank god!” I muttered. I’d heard they took turns to avoid having one person stuck at the coldest till all day. I was ushered from till number one to till number two and told that the conveyor belt had broken, so I’d have to ask customers to push their groceries forward—and I’d have to reach for them. While reaching may seem like a simple enough action, doing it for six hours is not good. Plus my wrists were now hurting a lot from the twisting to scan the barcode action that the trainer had warned us about. I didn’t go back after Christmas. I sent them a farewell letter that included some recent news I’d received about an L.A.-based film producer who wanted to make a documentary about … well, my life. I told Whole Foods that I needed to go to L.A. immediately to begin working on the film. No reply. Since then, the L.A. filmmaker has stopped communicating entirely, and I’ve been hired at two other places. I left a kooky dress store with a terrible shoplifting problem after the first day, knowing I just didn’t have it in me to defend the garments with the same intensity the owner demonstrated. Furrowing my brow at crackheads with an unwavering glare that intended to prevent them from trying to slide hoodies down the front of their pants was not going to take me to retirement. On that same day, I was hired at Home Depot, but they weren’t offering me enough hours to live on. They’d only scheduled for between six and eight hours a week to work in the garden center. But none of this bothered me, because I was on an upswing with my real work. I was painting a lot, and some of it was selling!

“Step Into My Sphere” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 365: 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.

Continued from Vol. 364

The eight-hour shifts punctuated with strictly monitored breaks dragged on. My back ached, my wrists hurt and evidently, I wasn’t memorizing the 100-plus codes fast enough. This particular Whole Foods had previously been a quirky, neighborhood grocery store. It didn’t have a fancy conveyor belt for groceries after they’d been rung in. There was a walled-in area the size of a shoe box where the cashiers (who for some reason rang through groceries as fast as they possibly could, then stood there picking their fingernails or whatever) piled everything, meaning that baggers were constantly swamped.

We were periodically moved from till to till, and some cashiers ended up as baggers during the day, which I could see was how the staff conducted their socializing. Of course no one would want to do my bagging because they wanted to talk to their friends. Plus, I was new and a lot older and whenever anyone did bag for me, I asked them the produce codes rather than looking them up. I’d hold up a chunk of turmeric root or whatever and try to engage with them in a variety of ways.

“Any idea what the code is for this little baby?” I might ask. Or maybe I’d use an English accent. “Say old chap, in your vast experience, have you ever bumped into one of these little beggars?”

Yes, I can understand why I did my own bagging. And I can see why they put me on the till closest to the door that was almost never closed. I was new. To be fair, there was a small heater at by my feet, and I was allowed to wear my coat and hat.

Continued in Vol. 366

“The Orbit” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 364: 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.

“How did you come to be painting and selling $100 portraits hand over fist, Jean?” you may ask. Well, it had to do with desperation. Always an excellent motivator. After I quit my job at a gourmet grocery store where the staff walked on eggshells wondering who the owner would have her next meltdown all over, I applied for a customer-service position at Whole Foods. It was just before Christmas, and I’d finally turned in a revised manuscript of a novel about narcissism to my literary agent. It was time to focus on getting a better job.

Whole Foods called me in, and I was hired in such a way that I had to ask if I’d actually been hired, and what my job would be. The very distracted young guy conducting the interview said I’d be a cashier.

“Is that all right?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“I guess so,” I replied, wondering when I’d be moved to customer service, but, as it turns out, at Whole Foods, cashiers are customer service, and so I set out to learn all the produce codes and ring through overly expensive food from the hot bar that included almost everything for a traditional Christmas dinner.

One night, just before closing, a guy brought one of the large containers from the hot bar to my till, and I punched in the code.

“$23.09.” I said.

“That’s too much.”

“I agree.”

He apologized and decided not to take it. I called the supervisor over and we opened the container. It was mostly potatoes and gravy with some turkey and stuffing. It is Whole Foods’ policy to throw such things in the garbage. Evidently, nothing finds its way into the hands of their underpaid employees. Nope, not even at Christmas.

Continued in Vol. 365

“Excalibur” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 363: The Art Of David Lester

363

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.

“Who Shot Elvis?” is the title of both the song and the album.

“Who shot Elvis?
Who drowned the Kennedys?
Who climbed Mount Rushmore?
Who swam the Seven Seas?
My history’s gone.
The history’s all gone.”

I’ve only included the chorus because the rest of the song’s lyrics seem overly poetic. Looking back on 30 years of lyrics, I regret that I didn’t write more overtly political tangents, tirades and rants. I was originally inspired by a lot of the women-fronted punk bands from England in the late ’70s. Bands like CRASS, X-Ray Spex, the Slits and Poison Girls. Bands whose idiosyncratic lyrics fortified me to make changes in the somewhat conventional direction I’d taken in my life.

It was incredible to meet with and perform with Vi Subversa and Poison Girls when Mecca Normal toured in the U.K. in 1989. It was a total thrill to be staying at her house for her 54th birthday party, a splendid event held in her back garden. She was 80 years old when she died in late February, 2016, and she’d performed as recently as December. Vi proved that being a mother of two in her 40s didn’t mean she couldn’t take on the world with Poison Girls. It’s never too late! “What happens in the world is my business.”

Vi Subversa! A life well lived.

“Who Shot Elvis?” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 362: 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.

Medieval man tucks the gun
of a caliber I’m not familiar with
I’ve never heard of a 33 automatic weapon
Tucks the gun
into the waistband of his tights
and pulls his tunic down to stroll the room
 
If you know
what a gun can do for you
you know that the knee
can produce a reaction
in a jerk that wont shut up
 
Press the gun
on his knee and talk to him
When the candle flares
in a draftless room
I can only assume
it’s the gasoline
on your breath
 
Sammy, Dean and Brian
all became addicted to
the farm gas barrels
the fumes
How did they do it?
 
I like to stay outside myself
 
If you know
what a gun can do for you
you know that the knee
can produce a reaction
in a jerk who wont shut up
Medieval man knows when the bricks end
in a tourist town
you’re on the outs
and the pace just picked down
 
I like to stay outside myself

“Medieval Man” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):

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