Rock Gods #9: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

By Artie Capshaw

Peter Orsoni, cultured frontman of local legends Orson and the Welles, has a funny relationship to wine. “My father was an importer, a real wine connoisseur. He’d have these collectors over for tastings, and when I was a kid all our summer vacations were based around visiting vineyards, all around the world.” So Peter’s rock/roll rebellion took a different shape than most. “I was part of this cultured crowd—little bowls of fruit to cleanse the palate, lounge music on the hi-fi. I heard all these early rock songs about wine and thought, “it sounds different, but I know this world. I didn’t realize that they had just, you know, found a word that rhymes with ‘fine,” and all they probably knew about wine was, you know, two-dollar-a-bottle house reds from diners. I didn’t know cheapo wines existed. I honestly thought these songs were about my laugh.” He laughs so hard he nearly knocks over his goblet of—gosh, we forgot to ask, but something white and dry and fancy.

Orsoni’s first attempts at rock songwriting were therefore comical. “And then I wrote… ‘California Cabernet,’ which everybody thought was ‘Cabin A,’ like it was a joke on some song about a hotel I’d never heard. I probably used the word ‘chateau’ more times than any songwriter ever. But, you know, some people write about love and some people write about, what, overcoming adversity or something. I wrote about wine.”

He finally scored with one of those “chateau” songs, “Chateau Neuf du Pape.” The title’s pronounced like “nerve do pop,” which is what many people thought it was about, and it became one of those insensible garage-band standards. Orsoni acts surprised when he’s told that phrase, “my nerves do pop,” has found its way into at least a couple of songs by other bands, without attribution.

“*I guess you could say it was a regional hit, like what used to happen in the old days. I’d get a lot of play on college radio stations that were 500 miles away from each other, and nothing in between.”

An acquired taste, then. Vintage. For connoisseurs. Of pop! What nerve.

Orsoni replants some of his old cuttings for a rare solo show (he rarely plays out in any configuration, actually) Thursday at the Bullfinch. He’s been uncorked by his old friend and erstwhile bandmate Joe Mank (aka Jomank, aka J. Mankiewicz), better known as half of the Mank Brothers. No Orsoni/Mank collabs are currently planned, but who knows? Maybe they’ll drink a lot of wine and get, uh, inspired.

Fresher vines:

Goodyear has had one, getting their home pressed debut album rereleased on an actual (albeit small) label. They play the old songs Tuesday (Tuesday? Yes, Tuesday) at the Finch, with Wrangler, SR-a and The White Walls, who have their own album release to celebrate. You might remember the Walls as The Rims– someone finally explained to them what that name meant in sexual parlance, and singer Lippy Lisa (we know, we know) made the rest of the band reconsider. You know a punk band will have picked up the old moniker by Tuesday, so remember: Walls.

The university campus cavorts Sunday–a school night, but do you think they care?– to a metal spectacular (locally speaking) of V8, Endurance and Off Road. The first fan to collect 27 red booze cups will be… Average.