- Jeffrey Alan Bright
Growing up in rural small town Ohio in the 1960s and 70s, coffee was something that came in a red or blue tin. It was either Folger’s or Maxwell House. And it was something that old folks drank after a meal. Young people drank soda pop. Learning to drink coffee was a right of passage. My initiation came out of a vending machine in the Moraine Frigidaire plant. It was HORRIBLE, but I learned to drink it. The world of European coffee and the “coffee house,” or even more strange, a café, was beyond the beyond. Then, in the early 1980s I visited New York City. Espresso, cappuccino, even iced coffee. Whoa! And the hip young people hanging out, reading interesting books. It didn't take long to realize there was way more to this coffee thing than my grandfather's freeze-dried instant Sanka.
Cut to 1986...
Songs can be completely fictitious, but the underlying themes find the pen through life experiences. And of course some are direct renderings of actual events. In the mid 80s I hadn’t seen much of the world, but enough to have a glimmer of what was out there. In one of our basement rehearsals at the Marcella house, Mitch Swann brought in a beautiful song idea, verse and chorus already worked out on the 12-string Rickenbacker. Louie Lerma and Jeff Keating quickly fell in with a killer bass line and straight ahead beat (though I recall some push back initially on the quirky snare play in the intro). I thumbed through my notebook of lyric ideas and settled on a few lines I’d scribbled about a particularly depressive, outside-looking-in, typical for me at the time, walk through the drunken Saturday night throngs on Oregon District 5th Street, Dayton’s nightlife corridor. After a few run-throughs and tweaks, it was obvious to all of us we had the makings of a very good, almost anthemic song.
“My Town Has No Cafés” was and continues to be one of my favorites from The Pleasures Pale catalog. To be most self-critical, it’s a somewhat trite personal comedy, but the band’s excellence carries it along to a moving crescendo made even more powerful by the bass piano notes at the very end.
Two interesting notes:
• I recall Mitch saying that he had actually envisioned the chorus or refrain sung in the first part and the verse in the second part. I believe he even had a melody in mind. I went about it completely backward and probably missed his target melody by a wide margin. My apologies and gratitude go out to Mitch for letting the song develop as it did.
• One could easily argue that “My Town Has No Cafés” and Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday” (released two years later in 1988, I should add) are brothers from another mother. Maybe we should have hired a string ensemble for our recording?
Oh, and by the way, “A Heavy Coat of Jokes” and “Monday Mourn” aren’t to be sneezed at. Both sound revived and refreshed in these new b-side editions. Together the three cuts make a tidy package of melancholy macchiato pop.
Go ahead, have a triple-shot with extra frothy steamed whole milk on me at: https://thepleasurespale.bandcamp.com/album/my-town-has-no-caf-s