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The Authorized History and
Evolution of the Real LMNOP
or . . . A Tiny Cupcake Directive
I normally never look back at what has happened because my main concerns are the present and the future. But let's go back in time briefly to set a few facts in place about all of my pointless little projects, just for the record.
I started life as one of the happiest kids on the planet. I loved school and got along with almost everyone. It was kinda like living in a neverending colorful dream where nothing bad ever happened. I loved records and rock bands more than anything. By the time I was in kindergarden I was already a full-blown musicaholic. But when I turned nine my parents moved and suddenly everything went downhill fast.
The new home was horribly isolated and the new school was a nightmare. High school was the most terrible period of my entire life. Almost everyone hated me. And to be honest, I don't blame them now because I was such a little shit. Because I couldn't relate to people in my new school I became more and more focused on bands and musical artists. As I became increasingly alienated, I started putting most of my energies into recording fake albums on cassettes using anything I could find for instruments. Each tape had its own band name and album title and each even had its own cover and label art. There was only one copy of each album because I did not have the funds or equipment to reproduce the tapes. So I loaned each individual cassette out to anyone who would listen. The music was embarrassingly terrible and primitive. But at the time these crummy little homemade cassette albums were an outlet that made it possible to survive. Some of my fake bands were Spot, Glimpse, Haze, Texture Creation and E7 Lunacy.
After escaping the horror of high school, the one thing that gave me hope for the future was a short poem I wrote called The Tiny Cupcake Dilemma. It was just four lines: "I like tiny cupcakes. I like tiny cupcakes. I like tiny cupcakes. I don't like tiny cupcakes." The poem was prominently featured in two different college literary magazines and was immediately controversial. Was it really good? Or was it really bad? Was it intelligent? Or was it stupid? Everyone seemed to have a strong and different reaction which was strange since the poem itself was about a dilemma (!). I did not know it at the time but that poem set the stage for much of what would happen during my adult life.
Entering young adulthood I suffered from extreme inferiority complexes and self-hatred. The self-hatred was warranted because in many ways I had become a worthless jerk. Early suicide attempts unfortunately failed. I joined a couple of bands but they didn't really go anywhere. But I had the nagging feeling that making music was my real calling in life. I thought that if people liked my music they would also like me and therefore give me some feeling of self-worth. It's naive and crazy but that was the way my mind worked then.
I finally decided to go it alone but at a slightly more professional level, attempting to follow in the footsteps of people like Todd Rundgren, Emitt Rhodes and, in particular, Roy Wood (in my mind all three were gods). Now that I was going for it with my own 'real' band, the name had to be right. I spent a great deal of time and energy coming up with the perfect band name. I wanted something short so it would appear big on posters and albums (inspired by bands like XTC and T. Rex). Around this time there were letter bands all over the place but in almost every case the letters stood for something. I finally came up with LMNOP in 1982 because it was nonsensical and it had a familiar musical ring to it. From the beginning I made it clear to everyone that the letters did not stand for anything. Before locking the name in, I did as much research as possible to make sure no one else was using it. Days and weeks were spent searching through microfiche in libraries (there was no internet at the time) before I concluded that this exact name had not yet been used by anyone in any field.
In 1983 while finishing college I released the first LMNOP album on cassettes that I reproduced in my living room. Titled simply LMNOP, it was kinda sloppy and halfway there. But for the first time ever I thought the songs were pretty good. It came as a huge surprise when the album got some good reviews and a few people actually purchased my little homemade tapes. I started playing teeny tiny shows in Atlanta, Georgia using backing tapes. The shows received mixed reactions. In the early 1980s most people around Atlanta just didn't seem impressed by a man spitting fake blood and destroying toys and records while singing what sounded like happy bubblegummy pop. Either that...or I just wasn't very good at playing live shows. In any event, getting my music in some local record shops was a real blast. And a few folks even started purchasing my homemade cassettes by mail.
LMNOP Concert Programs were given out at each show. They included the songs to be played that evening along with various comics, poems and stories. I went overboard with marketing, using t-shirts, stickers, posters and everything I could afford for maximum visual effect everywhere I went. Not long into the venture several people warned me I would never be successful playing solo with backing tapes. So I added additional musicians for the live band while continuing to record solo at home (with occasional guest musicians).
It wasn't long before the concert programs had transformed into mini-booklets which were much more like little magazines than programs. They were mainly given out at live shows, but I was also now sending them to people who ordered the cassette by mail.
A great deal more time, energy and thought went into the second album LMNOP LMNOP (confusing title) which was released in 1984, also as an independent cassette. The second album fared better than the first, but shows remained hit and miss because I could never achieve the recorded sound live. Plus the occasional controlled chaos and destructive nature of live shows did not help. (I was trying to express myself as an artiste, y'know...) Meanwhile the concert programs were becoming an integral part of my schtick. Each was bigger and more involved than the previous one.
I did lots of comic strips from the start, but there was no continuity because each would feature entirely new characters. A friend urged me to create an ongoing comic strip character that people could follow along with from strip to strip. The babysue character (originally spelled as two words -- baby sue) was created on the spot with very little thought in a few seconds. The first tiny four panel strip took about five minutes to create and is the only one in which the 'narrator' or 'father figure' (or whatever you want to call him) actually appears. It appeared in one of the concert programs and quickly received the biggest reaction to anything I had ever done (outside of the poem mentioned earlier). So I just kept doing the comic strip over and over and over and over. I originally drew each and every character in every frame and it was very slow and time consuming. To speed things up I finally made a xeroxed form that allowed me to just insert text and background art.
I was spending more and more time trying to get the right band line up (difficult) as the concert programs kept getting thicker. In 1984 I decided it was time to take push the little publications to the next level and started LMNOP Magazine. Four issues were published before it morphed into babysue Magazine. The last LMNOP Magazine was entitled LMNOP Magazine Single and it contained the band's first vinyl single "Forever Through the Sun" b/w "Three Colon Oh Oh" which was released in 1985.
Thanks to help from one of the best PR guys in the business, the single did very well. But live shows were still hit and miss. I continued recording at home and released the third album LMNO3 in 1985 as an independent cassette. An incredible live drummer playing on some of the songs pushed the music to a new level. Some exceptionally talented musicians shifted in and out of the live band during this period but I was unable to recognize it at the time. Being the self-centered little dictator that I was, all I wanted was for everyone to play exactly what I wanted them to play and nothing else.
At this point I was still convinced that being a professional musician was my calling so I kept trying to do what seemed necessary. The live band kept playing more and more shows. At the urging of others, several songs were re-recorded in a professional studio for a more polished sound. Released in 1986, elemen opee elpee received mixed reactions -- some very positive and some very negative. But as the band was becoming more well-known I was becoming more depressed and suicidal as I came to the conclusion that trying to make a living as a rock musician wasn't so cool and fun after all. One final attempt to end it all unfortunately failed. But that dark period was instrumental in prompting me to make some major changes in my life and move forward. For the first time in my life I no longer felt confused. I dropped bad habits and focused on getting my act together. I simultaneously switched jobs, vehicles and houses and joined a health club. I knew exactly what I wanted to do so I immediately thrust myself forward into a world where I felt like I could do just about...anything.
For months I had been constantly running around in circles juggling too many activities (marketing, publicity, distribution, etc.) just about everything except making music. That had to change. In fact, lots of things had to change. babysue became the star of her own little miniature magazine. Her first two publications The babysue Book & The babysue Philosophy Book paved the way for what would be a very long and confusing career/hobby in underground publishing.
Because the idea of music as a career no longer had any appeal whatsoever, I had dissolved the live band in order to focus more on recording. Meanwhile even stronger reactions to The babysue Recipe Book (the third in the series) made me feel like my little oddball projects were still worth the effort.
I kept publishing my magazines/comic books which were becoming more and more like a form of personal therapy. At this point most people seemed to prefer the magazines to the music, so my magazine output was surpassing my musical output.
Focusing on recordings again was just what the doctor ordered. I became more productive and creative because I was no longer overwhelmed with outside crap. My revamped home recording setup allowed me to record and release Pony (1988), Numbles (1990) and Mnemonic (1993). Although all three have since been reissued on CD-R, when I originally released these on my own label in the United States they were cassette albums. A welcome surprise came when an ultra cool writer overseas hooked me up with New Rose Records that resulted in three of my albums being released in France. As usual it didn't mean much money, but in the eyes of some folks my band somehow mattered now (?) because it had been validated by a third party in another country.
People started supporting babysue Magazine more and more and I even started selling subscriptions. She/it finally transformed into a full-size magazine with national distribution. Around this time in the 1990s the whole Zine explosion thing had begun. I was grateful that it provided a forum for all the little underground magazines out there (like myself). But some people incorrectly labeled me as part of that movement when in reality I had already been publishing for years.
Music reviews entered into the equation by accident. My comic book/magazine address inadvertently found itself onto a couple of record company mailing lists (?). Loving the free stuff, I quickly realized that it wouldn't keep coming if some reviews didn't pop up. So I invented a tiny fake magazine called babysue Music Review (which later morphed into babysue Review). There were only ten copies of the first issue, and those were only sent to publicists who had sent music. Strangely, the idea caught on and before I knew it I was receiving way too much music in the mail every week. It wasn't long before my career as a fake music reviewer became real and I started publishing a full-size magazine that was given away free to anyone who wanted it.
The regular babysue print magazine/comic book went further than I would have ever thought possible. It wasn't successful monetarily, but in terms of getting my material out there to people...it did wonders. That was the good part. The bad part was that I was almost receiving too much attention. I started to feel uncomfortable with this so I made the conscious decision to go behind the curtains to do my work. I wasn't seeking personal success or recognition anyway, so it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Meanwhile I was recording album after album, but they were heard by very few people because I did not have the money or the time to properly promote and distribute them. But the music continued to receive some incredible reactions from some really amazing people. Without this support I probably would never have continued. The Tiny Cupake Dilemma came out in 1993 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the band. Camera-Sized Life was released in 1996. But, as usual, without any marketing and distribution, the albums were commercial failures.
The magazines were growing by leaps and bounds and taking up more and more of my time. But as my creations became more and more widely known, more and more folks began stealing my words and ideas. The one that gave me the most headaches was the Missing Dog Head Poster (which was hugely popular on the FAX machine circuit just before the internet hit). I did lots of other prank posters and flyers at that time as well, and each has its own individual strange stories. But the Dog Head thing really stuck with folks. The strange interest and hysteria surrounding it was initially really funny. But it took a bad turn for me personally when a few self-centered desperate people started claiming they had created the poster. I will never understand why anyone would want to falsely claim they created something that they did not. I guess some people are just willing to do anything for some attention and notoriety. Sad. In any event, over time (and thanks to some people who actually cared) the truth won out and I was given proper credit for my weird little poster. Sheesh.
Over time LMNOP evolved into more than a band name. By this time I was also using it as a trademark and a pen name. I removed the space between the words 'baby' and 'sue' which made it a unique word and therefore could be a trademark. Now that I had both of my .com domain names I was ready to take things to the next level.
My website appeared in the very early stages of the internet when you had to use coding to create the damn things. Having a website was the answer to many of my distribution problems so I embraced it immediately. The good part was that I was instantly reaching more people. The bad part is that some were completely misinterpreting what I was doing (apparently failing to realize much of it was satire). A few clueless individuals began branding me all kinds of things that I really was not, and they were really hateful and aggressive about it. I reacted by taking down the more controversial stuff.
When I originally put out an article (and brochure) called Jesus Hates Homosexuals Like You it seemed so ridiculous that I didn't think anyone could possibly take such an absurd idea seriously. Years later I was completely baffled when websites and groups emerged all over the place using the slogan God Hates Fags. But their material wasn't satire. They were serious about it (huh...??). It was so troubling that I finally deleted my own Jesus piece entirely from the internet, concerned that others might think I was part of the new and growing God Hates Fags movement.
In the early days of the internet when you searched for LMNOP I was the only one, period. Again, this had its pluses and its minuses. I liked the fact that my stuff could be easily located. But over time more and more people saw and liked my name...and then started trying to make my name their name. I now refer to these folks as creatively-challenged individuals. I will never understand why anyone would want to use someone else's name as their own.
By this time I was really hating Atlanta, Georgia in a big way. Greed had caused the city to grow beyond its capacity and traffic was a constant nightmare. So many people seemed to be constantly on edge. I was out of shape again which made me start feeling bad about myself all over again. My disillusionment with the world and where I lived started spilling into my songs in a big way. Severe detachment and anger were fueling the music. Songs had become obscure weird therapy and also an experiment to see how far I could push the whole idea of song lyrics. The original monkey who modeled for the artwork is holding Pound (my most difficult album, released in 1997). Some of the lyrics are so bizarre that I still don't understand what they're about. I was so focused on expressing myself in extreme ways that, for better or for worse, I was also alienating almost everyone who heard my music. The heads on my tape recorder were also wearing down so the sound wasn't so good. Too many short songs with lyrics that were far too strange for everyone combined with a total lack of marketing and distribution meant the music remained even more obscure than before. But the recording process was still extremely fun and entertaining.
At this point in my life I found that I was no longer having fun doing the things I once enjoyed. I briefly considered ditching all of my projects because I was too frustrated with all the annoying side effects involved with creating things. I continued doing some stuff but at a reduced pace. I stopped doing print magazines because they were too expensive to produce. From that point forward they would just have to be online magazines because that seemed to be what most people wanted anyway.
Once again I needed to make changes in order to survive. Juggling too many activities had slowly caused me to deteriorate both mentally and physically. So instead of being beaten down, I took matters into my own hands.
Leaving Atlanta, Georgia was possibly the best thing I ever did in my entire life. Until I left I didn't totally realize how miserable I was living there. For many years Atlanta was a great place where you could have lots of fun. But over time money and greed pretty much ruined that city for good.
Now that I was living somewhere I could breathe I decided to focus my energies where I wanted to, regardless of the consequences. It was like the sun coming out from behind dark clouds. Everything started happening all over again in new and different ways. The first thing I did was get back in shape and ditch all bad habits once and for all. The effort paid off. Within two years I felt better than ever physically and mentally than I had in years.
Now that I finally had time to devote to it, I digitized most of my previous albums and put them up on the internet for streaming, downloads and purchase.
The babysue comic strip went entirely digital in order to be more streamlined and have a slicker look. After being black and white for so many years, it transformed into color. Photographs began entering the frames.
But now I found I was spending way too much time writing about music, which was never meant to be the main focus. What started out as a joke had become almost too real.
Writing about music is fun and getting all the free stuff is a gas. But people were beginning to assume that I was mainly a music writer. I loved getting all the free stuff (and still do) but I was also getting kinda burned out because some folks were being really pushy and demanding. Music writing unfortunately becomes political over time which is a real turn off. So that activity got pushed into the backseat while I started focusing on other things that were more creative and fun. I will probably always write about music to some degree because it opens up certain doors that would otherwise not be present.
I started producing more and more comic strips as well as poetry, stories, recipes, articles, jokes, questions and answers, unused pet names and more. But I realized that I missed having something physical and tangible to toss around so I started printing color postcards, magnets and stickers to give away free to anyone who wanted 'em.
Comics and creative writing had taken center stage again. But all the while I was recording hundreds and hundreds of song snippets. Song snippets are short song ideas thrown on tapes and memory cards to refer back to when composing new songs. They are essential because they allow me to remember moments of inspiration that would otherwise be totally lost. Sometimes I get out of bed in the middle of the night and have to quickly record a song snippet because I can't get a melody line out of my head.
I continued doing all kinds of harmless pranks because they were a silly and ridiculous way to have some chuckles. But because smartphones and cameras were everywhere, I was no longer free to do things out in the open. Fortunately the internet allowed me to do all kinds of crazy stuff anonymously. For a couple of years I was out of control with these damn pranks. One had so many people in one city so worked up and confused that it freaked me out way too much. What if my totally innocent prank somehow landed me in the national spotlight? That would not be good at all. So at that point I put the pranks back on the shelf because they had just gotten too far out of hand. I have so many stories about these oddball pranks that they could fill an entire book. One of my favorites is the gay guy who felt compelled to divulge his sexual orientation before giving away his free puppies because he was concerned the puppies might somehow transmit his 'disease' to their new owners. The bleeding heart responses on this one were hilarious ("You shouldn't feel bad about who you are, you should be proud!" -- barffff!!!) Many of these silly pranks still make me laugh uncontrollably.
I had a hard time understanding digital recording technology in the twenty-first century because it seemed way too complicated. I was constantly trying to understand how it all worked which was frustrating. Meanwhile the internet was becoming more and more littered with people and businesses who had begun using my band name for anything and everything under the sun. This was extremely tedious and bothersome...and disappointing. Why would anyone want to use a name that they didn't come up with...? I guess it says a lot about who or what they are. Cuz if they can't come up with their own name they probably can't come up with anything else that matters either.
In order to differentiate myself from all the creatively-challenged fake LMNOPs I also started using the upside down version of the name which is dONW7. (I had already been using the spelled-out version of the name many years earlier which some folks still know me as -- Don W. Seven, the imaginary man who produces my albums.) I also added the dONW7.com website to my arsenal. I bought as many of the appropriate domain names in my fields as possible. After finding ways to separate myself from the fakers, I once again turned my attention to what I love most...recording songs at home.
When I recorded stuff in my analog studio I never really understood what I was doing. I finally decided to approach digital recording the same way I did in the analog world and the idea worked. When I stopped giving a damn about understanding what I was doing, I immediately began embracing digital audio. It's quicker. It's more efficient. It sounds better. And it's just better, period.
For years technology and more specifically the internet was a great thing that made things more interesting and improved our lives. Things have now taken a severe downturn. In 2021 there are too many opinions, too many websites, too many unnecessary domain extensions, too many confusing names, too much social media, too many ways of distributing music and too many conflicting ideas. Trying to keep up with so many operating systems and technical issues that are constantly changing has become an ongoing headache for everyone I know. The original idea was that the internet would bring us all closer together. But the truth is that we are not being drawn together. We are being forced further and further apart into separate groups who all tend to think alike. The mass explosion of information and connections has made most people way too serious about everything. Such a drag.
Ultimately my reaction to all of this is snore and yawn. If I let crap like that bring me down I will always be down. So I just ignore most of it and keep doing stuff.
There are all kinds of specific stories and anecdotes that go along with this condensed history which may or may not be dealt with at a later time. For now, this is the short version. But who knows? This just may be the final and only version.
This story is really about readjusting priorities and overcoming obstacles in order to move ahead with things.
I somehow managed to achieve a couple of key goals along the way. These creative projects have allowed me to connect with some of the most interesting and intelligent people out there. Communicating with cool people I respect and admire is one of the greatest benefits of this whole thing. And second, the days of self-hatred finally faded into the sunset.
This dusty little guitar amplifier with broken knobs inspired me to record whatNOP dONW7 which was releaed in 2021. It is now my favorite guitar amp of all time. I bought it from a super cool fellow at a yard sale for just $15 (his price). Just goes to show that money isn't everything to everyone. Playing around with the amp made me realize that it doesn't matter if equipment gets dusty or broken. As long as I get the sounds I want, that's all that matters.
The album marked several 'firsts.' It is the first album to be mastered, thanks to the focused expertise of a recording genius who lives in Athens, Georgia. It is the first album with real promotion behind it, thanks to an incredibly talented PR professional in New York City. It is the first to feature full color artwork. And it is also the first to feature a bar code (blech!).
I'm so glad I changed my life around so that I could continue doing what I enjoy. Just like when I was a kid, I am once again one of the happiest guys on the planet.
So perhaps all of these pointless little projects aren't really so pointless after all.
My name is Stephen Fievet and I am the real LMNOP.
[Other names were intentionally left out of this piece because (a) I did not want to risk naming some while forgetting to name others and (b) I did not want to include any names of individuals who would prefer to remain anonymous. Those referenced will already know who they are anyway.]
©2021 LMNOP (aka dONW7)