Monday, January 4, 2010

Nurse the Hate: The History of Leo P. Love's Tattoos

Leo took his shirt off while playing a show the other day, and afterwards someone commented to me, "Geez, I didn't know Leo had so many tattoos. When did he get those?". To answer your question, may I present to you The History of Leo's Tattoos (as I know them).

Leo's first tattoo was that of a leopard on his bicep. Normally this is the sort of tattoo seen exclusively on gas station attendants or bass players in Foghat. I'm not sure what the significance was of this tattoo. I'm pretty sure he just got it to look cool among his friends at Chuckie Cheese (where he was actually in the Chuckie suit and smoked more weed than at least Ziggy Marley if not Bob himself). A common first tattoo mistake, he went way too conventional. The good news is that he did not get a Tazmanian Devil, Ohio State logo, or barbed wire.

Leo's second tattoo was designed by Tony, the old Cowslinger bass player and gifted visual artist that gave The Cowslingers their look in the early days of bitter struggle. It's of a Cowgirl sitting on a bass drum on his other bicep. Makes sense, no? Leo was playing drums in The Cowslingers and it actually looks like one of our show fliers from 1994 or so. As I recall, he got it early in the morning in Pittsburgh after a full night of partying up with the locals (including the artist himself). This was followed up shortly afterwards with the matching "Lady Luck" piece on the left side of his chest. This one has that similar 50s pin up look, so we can see a theme beginning to emerge. This may have also been done by the same artist in Pittsburgh under the same circumstances about a year later. Picture the sun coming up, 516 empty beer bottles, over flowing ashtrays, and drunk guys getting permanent designs on their skin by an equally drunk guy with a needle.

Leo then made a departure with the controversial "Celtic Dragon" on his forearm. Always on the look out for a bargain, Leo attended a "tattoo party" with his step daughter's squirrely boyfriend at the time. The basic idea of the tattoo party is that someone hosts a party at their house where everyone gets a new tattoo from the artist at a massively discounted bulk rate. The way this one went down was Leo hit the house party pretty hard, and was passed out on the couch late that night. At about 3:45 am someone shook him awake to let him know the tattoo artist would work on him now. Not the best set of circumstances... You would think if you were going to put something on your forearm for life, you would give it a great deal of thought. Well, in this particular case, Leo just sort of flipped through the example book after he woke up while the tattoo artist guy smoked another joint/drank another beer and a "Celtic Dragon" caught his eye. Leo has always maintained a shaky Irish heritage (at least around St Patrick's Day), so he thought this Irish dragon design would look badass.

The next time the band got together, Leo was very proud to show off his "Celtic Dragon". We were about 5 songs in when Leo stopped us, and said "Greg, check it out! This is my new Celtic Dragon". I looked down on his forearm and saw what looked to me to be a dragon like you would see on a Chinese restaurant menu. "Lee...What the fuck are you talking about? That's a Chinese Dragon!". Leo came back hard at me, and said I "didn't know what the fuck I was talking about". (I mean, is there even any tradition of dragons in Celtic folklore at all? Isn't it all leprechauns and gnomes?) He then appealed to Ken for his opinion. "Well, what do you think? Pretty cool, right?" Ken looked at it blankly for a minute and said, "Well, Lee it looks pretty good, but when I look at it I feel like I should order some won-ton soup." Momentarily shaken, but ultimately undaunted, I believe he still regards this obviously Asian design as "Celtic". I tried to hammer out an agreement that he would always check with me before committing to a design in the future, but as you will soon see, that policy never came into fruition.

The next piece he decided on was when we were in the industrial German city of Bielefeld in 2008. We ran into a well known tattoo artist we had met the previous year, most notable to me for the ink spelling out "B-u-d-a-p-e-s-t" on his knuckles. For years I had been drawing Leo heads on our set lists. These are like stick figure heads with whatever facial hair configuration Leo has going at the time. After our show in Bielefeld (where we destroyed the tiny PA and struggled to get through the gig), we attacked the free flowing local beer with the vengeance known only to musicians seeking to distance themselves from a performance not up to snuff. It was after my 17th beer that Leo cornered me and wanted to know if I could draw a whole collection of Leo heads on a scrap of paper, a history of Leo's facial hair if you will, for a tattoo that would be administered that evening. I tried to talk Leo out of getting them across his wrist like a watch band, especially since the plan was to go out with the Hungarian guy and his friends to "make party" until the sun came up. I think he got that one finished up at 730 am the next morning. The guy did a great job in re-creating the "art" he was given. It actually looks like I drew them on his wrist with a black ball point pen. Whether you would want me to draw something permanent on you is another matter entirely. Yet another departure in the overall look of the designs...

That brings us to the Spring of 2009 when Leo, Christoph, and The Squirrel made the legendary Bilbao Spain to Frankfurt Germany Hell Drive. It took 26 hours, about $124 in tolls in France, and a case of "Mr. Brown" chilled coffee drink to get across Europe. Let's not even bring up when they made a wrong turn a ran flush into the futbal riot, shall we? The good news was Leo arrived to make his morning rendezvous with the Argentine artist that is such a fan he gave Leo a free tattoo, and referred to The Cowslingers "Americana A Go Go" as "The Bible". Early that morning Leo paid tribute the his mother the only way a grown man really can: By having a heart with "mutter" (German for "mother") placed on his chest by a South American stranger early in the morning by the Frankfurt airport.

Always thrifty, Leo found another opportunity to get a tattoo with no cash exchanging hands this summer. I think he laid a tile floor for some guy in exchange for a full color tattoo of a train on his forearm. Why a train? Well, Leo's father had worked on the railroad for his career, and Leo wanted to honor his deceased father's memory. My only beef is that opposed to a cool 1960's locomotive, he decided on an 1860s steam engine. If we're going to pay tribute, shouldn't we have some historical accuracy to live up to? His Dad may have been a railroad man, but there were no cow catchers on those trains. A 1960s train would have been much more unique. A missed opportunity... There has been big talk of filling in the train design with color. This will move Leo much closer to the "unemployable by others" or "TV celebrity chef" line with his tattoos. However, I think we can all agree the window of opportunity for him to become CEO of General Motors has probably past.

That should bring you pretty much up to speed with Leo's ink. For further study and inspection, feel free to approach Leo directly and ask for the complimentary tour. As you can see by his ready willingness to take his shirt off at the drop of a hat, he'll be more than happy to show you around. As far as I know he doesn't have anything like a barber shop pole tattooed on his cock, so it should be a pretty painless tour.


At January 6, 2010 at 12:44:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At January 25, 2010 at 1:19:00 AM EST , Blogger Brandonio! said...

I have that same T-shirt.Tell Leo to put back on his shirt, pleeeeaaaasse!


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