Q: What do you get when you put a teenage Jakob Dylan in a band with Luther Russell, Tobi Miller and Aaron A. Brooks?
A: Well, you get all the makings of a future supergroup — Dylan and Miller went on to form The Wallflowers, Brooks has drummed for everyone from Moby to Lana Del Rey, and Russell led The Freewheelers and had a lengthy solo career before forming Those Pretty Wrongs with Big Star’s Jody Stephens. But more importantly, you get 1988: The Original Demos, a raw-boned, raucous and rambunctious rehearsal-space recording that sounds like the second coming of The Replacements topped with the occasional dash of Rank & File guitar twang — and sounds absolutely nothing like any of the music these guys have made since. Go figure. And go check it out; you won’t be sorry. (For more on The Bootheels, check the site this weekend: I’ll be posting a Zoom interview with Russell.)
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The Bootheels sprang to life for a few glorious months during the first half of 1988. Their brief existence was noted by a fortunate handful of friends and fans who happened to be in the right place and time to experience the youthful L.A. foursome’s meteoric creative surge and their equally swift dissolution. In between, the band developed a raw, distinctive rock ’n’ roll sensibility and a repertoire of catchy, funny, introspective songs that never had a chance to become records.
The members of The Bootheels were frontman/songwriter/bassist Luther Russell, who would later lead The Freewheelers before emerging as a prolific solo artist and half of Those Pretty Wrongs (with Big Star’s Jody Stephens); guitarist Jakob Dylan, who would soon achieve stardom as leader of The Wallflowers; future Wallflowers guitarist Tobi Miller, whose instrumental interplay with Dylan provided one of The Bootheels’ most notable sonic features; and drummer Aaron A. Brooks, who would go on to work with Moby, Lana Del Rey and others).
These tracks (13 on LP plus 3 bonus tracks on CD / Digital) provide a glimpse into the origins of teenage musicians who would rise to greater heights than they could ever have imagined. The packaging contains photos and an aural history of the band — with interviews with all four members conducted and assembled by noted writer Scott Schinder.
Luther Russell: We only played two shows outside of the garage, bottom-of-the-bill Tuesday night gigs at The Troubadour and at Madame Wong’s West. But otherwise, it was really hard for us to get gigs. That may have been because of our ages, since three of us were under 18. But it was also sketchy just being an unknown band playing this kind of music.
Jakob Dylan: The band ended when I moved to New York to attend art college. The Bootheels was really Luther’s band, and I knew I’d eventually need one of my own. But it was truly an incredible beginning to learning all the things a band might include. We had a great one for a really short time.
Tobi Miller: I can only imagine how The Bootheels would have evolved had we stayed together. When we formed the band, Luther was already a fully developed singer-songwriter. Although Jakob wasn’t singing in The Bootheels at that time, he was writing songs and already showing signs that he could be a brilliant songwriter as well. So it’s really daunting to think how strong The Bootheels would have been had we given it enough time for all the songwriting talent in the band to develop together.
Aaron A. Brooks: “Had we stayed together, I think we would have accomplished extremely great things musically. All the pieces were in place. I’ve absolutely no regrets, as we’ve all had amazing careers, but I know it would have been a wonderful trip, had the stars aligned. We didn’t really break up. We just quietly dissipated, like the debris and dust settling after a massive explosion.”
Produced for release b Russell and Grammy winner Cheryl Pawelski, it’s not a story of what might have been, but of a powerful one that was. However briefly The Bootheels’ light shined, 1988: The Original Demos shows that it indeed shone bright.”