Heavy Mental Music

Posted by on Sep 30, 2009 | Comments (4)

This week’s Bohemian feature is on Heavy Mental Music, a very amazing, strange record made in 1981 by David Petri and the developmentally disabled clients of the Manual Skills Training Center in Santa Rosa. Pictured above is the “deluxe edition,” with a T-shirt, two posters, three stickers, a photocopied booklet, a notepad and two copies of the record, all housed in a hand-designed box. According to Petri, only 50 of these “kits” were made (most copies of the record were sold alone, or given out to strangers on the bus), and at one point, what you see above actually sat on the desk in the Oval Office.

What strikes me most about this record is that it’s completely ahead of its time, both in concept and presentation. Colored-vinyl 7″s, stenciled T-shirts, photocopied lyric booklets and paper Kinko’s stickers didn’t start showing up en masse until around 1991, and the acceptance of incorporating the developmentally disabled into pop culture—the Kids of Widney High, or How’s Your News?—was years away.

The heartbreaking part of the story, for me, is Petri being accused of using the mentally retarded clients of the Manual Skills Training Center to advance his own agenda. In the time I spent with Petri, he seemed like a sincere, caring person who patiently taught the clients how to play drums and keyboards and who happened to be attracted to the aesthetic of artists like Todd Rundgren and Salvador Dalí. Shades of that aesthetic color Heavy Mental Music, and something tells me that if Petri had recorded campfire folk songs like “This Land is Your Land” instead, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s “Heavy Mental Music,” written by Jim Weber and performed by the developmentally disabled clients of the Manual Skills Training Center on Lomitas Ave. in Santa Rosa in 1981:

Click the second file above to hear the obscure but no less compelling B-side,”Tour.”

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  1. erin
    November 20, 2009

    I love “I love you.” I love Becoming Independent. What a shame for David Petri. I hope Becoming Independent makes it right for David.

  2. Sandie
    December 4, 2009

    I’m so happy to see some good vibes being written about David’s music. This guy has been ahead of his time for years and his intensity deserves some appreciation for sure.

  3. Bonnie
    August 6, 2012

    I keep bidding on this album on eBay but everybody’s richer than me because I never get to be the highest bidder. I heard it once and it’s a really cool album. Wish I had it. 1981 and he’s still ahead of this time.

  4. Adrian
    May 12, 2014

    It’s a 7in ep, not an album.
    I’ve had quantity of this record before; the overall results are the same: brilliant, odd, and I have to have this. A great piece of wax to have and hopefully David has more material to share with the world that had not been yet documented. Thanks for the insight.


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