Album: Bar Guest
. . .
The first thing you should probably know about the very early Who-like “Lebanon, IN” was that Victor Sotelo has never been to Lebanon, Indiana.
What happened was that Victor was working at B.Dalton’s — a mom-and-pop killing bookstore chain that was itself killed by Barnes & Noble which was then killed by Amazon — when the melody for the song popped into the head. And because it was a long melody, he needed to write some words it stat, and since many of the books that that B.Dalton’s received were from Lebanon, Indiana, he wrote a temporary opening line — “This song’s for “Lebanon, Indiana” — in order to remember the song so he could eventually write a real lyric.
You can probably guess what happened next: he couldn’t find any other words he liked better. So, with the help of the world wide web — yes, Virginia, there was a time when physical chain bookstores and the internet existed together, like the cavemen and the astronauts — he leaned into his dilemma.
This song’s for Lebanon, Indiana
That strong and iron-willed constitution
This song for living upright
A song for living upright
Also leaning in was drummer Wade Krause, who alternated tremendous rolls, subtle builds and outright straight-up bashing from the very start, as Victor yaggerdanged his guitar and left massive spaces throughout for both the drums and his exceptionally catchy melody.
Right off Interstate 65
Right off Interstate 65
Here in Lebanon we begin
Here in Lebanon we begin
Here in Lebanon we begin to know yourself
What I love about that chorus — outside of the the singalong qualities and insane drumming — in how it alternates the factoid “right off Interstate 65” with the the more philosophical “Here in Lebanon you begin to know yourself.” That last turn of phrase also posits Lebanon, Indiana — about which Victor points out has “the strongest hickory you will find” — as a place you need to make a pilgrimage to, whistling all the way.
Which wasn’t why Victor eschewed a guitar solo, and instead put in a whistling solo, a la Future Certain Song “Generals and Majors,” — in fact he thought that the whistling solo would add to the Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet ambience he was going for — which was the final touch as far as I was concerned.
“Lebanon, IN” was one of a great run of songs that concluded Bar Guest — along with yesterday’s barn-burner “4×60 A/C“, there was also the contemplative “Silence of The Day” and the gorgeously roiling “Cast From The Seed,” — which was why it was one of the CDs I listened to obsessively in the fall of 2001 during my exile in Arcadia.
It was October, 2001 was living by myself for in an Extended Stay America in Arcadia — no sign of god there — as I’d gotten a job offer at IndyMac Bank in Pasadena while Rox & I were still living in Oakland. And since I’d been unemployed for nearly six months, I took the job and moved into the hotel while Rox wrapped up our lives in Oakland, coming down on weekends so we could apartment hunt. In the evenings, I would listen to music while reading one of the insane amount of books & magazines I brought with me, or Rox brought down on her visits. And while a lot of great records came out around then: Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft,” Ryan Adams’ Gold and The Strokes Is This It to name just three, the records I most associate with that specific experience were The Velvet Underground’s Bootleg Series Vol I: The Quine Tapes, Preston School of Industry’s All This Sounds Gas and, of course, Bar Guest.
I think part of it was that I subconsciously — unless he told me at the time and I forgot — picked up on the Fresno-based vibes of the whole project, most evident in song titles like “Dog Riot” and “Discordia,” the former of which was going to be the original name of the mythical never-recorded first Sedan Delivery album and the latter of which was a shout-out the Miss Alans All Hail Discordia live album.
All of this put together ended up making Bar Guest my favorite album to come out of our Fresno scene that wasn’t by the Miss Alans.
“Lebanon, IN” live in Sacramento, 2018
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Ron Sotelo says
I don’t have many regrets in my life, but one of them was having to quit this band. I played bass on most if this record. We layed the tracks live on stage at a club called The Starline in Fresno. ‘Cast from the Seed’ was already recorded with Mike on bass; Wade and Victor didn’t want to re-record because they loved the existing track. I sure love playing that tune live.
I suggested to them jokingly (not really) that the next record should have the songs done with all the different bassists they’ve had over the years. That would be a hoot.