Primus: Jerry Was A Race Car Driver

"Truly a wonder of nature this urban predator..."

1991, 1992... In the midst of a skateboarding obsession, bad grades and a slew of cassette-borne musical epiphanies, Primus's "Tommy The Cat" came into my life and kicked my bloodstream up about ten notches. There was excitement pouring out of Les Claypool's fingers as he coerced that four-string into thunderous and obnoxious pandemonium while rooster-stepping to Tim Alexander's double-bass peddled percussive brilliance and Larry LaLonde's picked howl.

"Say, baby, do ya wanna lay down with me/Say, baby, do wanna lay down by my side/Ah, baby, do you wanna lay down with me/Say baby, SAY BABY!"

And, even though I'd listened to him my entire life, my mother and father both being fans, "Tommy The Cat" was really the first time I'd acknowledged Tom Waits, which only furthered my musical curiosity and led me to his many profound and essential albums.

As much as "Tommy The Cat" altered my adolescent headspace, "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" sold me on Primus as funk-based art rock almost, more than just a pronounced rhythm section with goofy content enhancing its lunacy.


"Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" is as simple as a song as Primus was capable, which, if you've heard that groove, says a lot about the band's abilities. There isn't much deviation from structure, aside from two occurrences of grinding low end and splash cymbal percussive tumult. The song is mostly understated, a lot of its nuance falling behind the obviousness of Claypool's presence. LaLonde smoothly incorporates some slick guitar solos, almost jazz worthy like a subtle flute whistle, but never really grabs all the attention. Tim "Herb" Alexander, probably the 90s take on Stewart Copeland, exhibits a lot of attention to detail and demonstrates his somehow overlooked contribution to Primus's sound. The elements fuse together so perfectly.

It was upon hearing this song that I pulled together what little money I had at the time and bought Sailing The Seas Of Cheese on cassette during a summer vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey. One of those milestone albums.

Years later, my teenage cassette sacrificed its innards to my tape deck while I was behind the wheel of my first car.

Sincerely,
Letters From A Tapehead
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