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Alvin Alexander

Wings On Your Heart

www.a.k.alexander.com

As Chris Owens’ guitarist, Alvin played muchissimo Latin music. While Owens is flashy and flamboyant, Alexander is subtle and smooth as "Silk Like Love" in the tradition of Tom Jobim and Baden Powell. Alvin has internalized Brazilian themes so well that these tunes are originally motivated, not obviously derivative, because there’s a New Orleans thing going on, too. "Bang Bang a Lang" has as much to do with the doo-wop scat of "Oop Oop a Doo" as the concrete poetry of Gilberto’s "Bim Bom." "Feelings, Wishes, Best of Love" and "I Like You, I Love You, I’m In Love With You" are exercises in understated repetition with articulate variation generating rhythms insisting we dance close to senoritas inspiring serenades such as "Ginger" or "Giselle.". Alvin’s acoustic fingerpicking is impeccable—clear, cool ripples on a pure pond of deepest blue. Conversational vocals are clean: no overproduction con queso. Nevertheless, a diva with a big band could make one of these melodies a super hit. Like Allen Toussaint albums, well-wrought songs are waiting for even greater interpretations—compositions as classy as the gems from Adler’s Alvin advertises with as much character as the many roles he has played on HBO. Go for it, ladies! "Eagles were meant to fly," so put "Wings On Your Heart."

Jak Rabit Feast - Autumnal Passage

Feast 1999

Harry Connick, Jr. isn't the only son of a New Orleans politician playing music. Reynard Rochon, Jr. spent decades on the underground scene and has finally released the first of 5 instrumental improv CDs recorded at a Solstice party "like it's 1999" in his parent's den near Jazz Fest fairgrounds. (He's got family at House of Blues, too--lovely Lilith, choreographer for Nipples of Isis.)

In the 80s, Reynard fronted Rosicrucians with funky bassist Lloyd Boisdore of Evil Nurse Shiela and psychic guitarist Jules Ford of Voodoo Jive and Soul Remedy. With "The Sparkle of Broken Glass," Reynard is joined by bass Mike Joseph of Black Problem, Lump and Egg Yolk Jubilee, where Mike plays alongside trumpet Eric Beletto, whose dad leads Al Beletto's Big Band.

Reynard plays strings and winds. Rochon learned lots of guitar licks from roommate Jimmy Bower of EYEHATEGOD, Mystic Krewe of Clearlight, and supergroup Down starring crunchers from Pantera, Crowbar, and Corrosion of Conformity. Reynard's sax is "John Coltrane via Jimi Hendrix." Exotic Middle Eastern flavor is influenced by Klezmer All Stars' sax Ben Ammon's recordings with Lump. Drum Andre Londgnes, bass Joel Webb, and keyboard Nicole Klose show high marks in New Orleans' outstanding jazz education system headed by UNO Prof Marsalis. Enjoy these organically inspired explorations to experience the future of postmodern jazz. (Most of these CDs available at Tower, but you've got to get Jak Rabit Feast from roo2new@hotmail.com)

Nth Life of Eartha Kitt

Cottonpicker, dancer, multilingual singer, not to mention stage, screen and TV star, who has established herself as a respected writer, educator and philanthropist--Eartha Kitt has the uncanny ability to recreate herself into an endless array of personalities. Eartha's Protean metamorphoses project diverse characterizations evolving into archetypal mythological avatars. This woman of a thousand faces is the incarnation of an indominable determination to thrive.

Eartha Kitt can be anything she wants to be. This crafty shapeshifter comes from rural South Carolina. "I found that to survive I had to learn to adapt." Eartha Mae experienced an epiphany at Easter when she first sang to an audience. "It was the first time anyone and everyone paid so much attention to me." The same thing happened when she read aloud at school. "It was like a spell over the room. I didn't understand it at all, but it seemed I had some power that made people pay attention."

Soon Eartha's fairy godmother from "Up-North" sent her a ticket to the Harlem Renaissance. Eartha's aunt was a strict churchlady who insisted on piano lessons and choir practice. "O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing" is the first song in the Methodist hymnal. This hymn shows equality of all who share in the congregational exaltation, but the prophetic words can also mean that one may be granted the talent to sing in several languages. (And bear the duty to develop that talent!) Meanwhile, Eartha caught up on eight years of school in five and successfully auditioned for NY School of Performing Arts at 13 and Katherine Dunham's Dance Troupe at 16. Dunham and Ballet Russe vet George Balanchine choreographed the movies Cabin in the Sky with Louis Armstrong and Stormy Weather with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Lena Horne in 1943. Five years later, Kitt and Dunham danced in Casbah starring Peter Lorre and Yvonne De Carlo. Marlon Brando also learned The Dunham Technique as we see in Guys and Dolls, Last Tango in Paris and Apocalypse Now.

Dunham studied anthropology at the University of Chicago. During field studies in Jamaica and Haiti, the researcher was able to get into voodoo rituals by telling the cult's godparents that her ancestors were summoning her to call home. During the ceremony, the dancer goes into a trance, emptying her own personality in order to be filled by that of an ancestral spirit through the gatekeeper Legba. "It is the loa that dances, not the individual. The person possessed has no recollection of his conduct or motor expression while under possession....The body of the possessed becomes a temporary abode of the god." The loa of the earth causes one to "bend low in movements of planting," while the water spirit makes "flowing movements." There is an "Interrelation of Form and Function" as "a constant circular flow acts as a mental narcotic and neural catharsis. The dance is decidedly soothing rather than exciting, and one is left in a state of complete receptivity." (Sounds like "Lilac Wine" to me!)

Structuralist Claude Levi-Strauss says in the preface to Dunham's 1947 Dances of Haiti that whether possession is authentic or faked, participation in the ritual strengthens social cohesion. "Katherine Dunham proposed not only to study a ritual but also to define the role of dance in the life of a society." The priestess determines the values of the individual members of the social matrix. "Mass hypnotism and catharsis might be said to be the strongest elements of organization." Thus Eartha offered a white cock to the god Shango in Dunham's Bal Negre touring Europe in 1948.

Kitt's performance won her an offer to headline at a chic Paris club. Soon Eartha as Helen of Troy was getting a crash course in method acting from Orson Wells as Faust. "Is this the face that launched a thousand ships? Helen, make me immortal with a kiss!" Time Runs combined Dante, Marlowe, Byron and puppets with help from surrealist Jean Cocteau and music by Duke Ellington. Eartha as Euphoria the homunculus protege sang, "Hungry little trouble, damned in a bubble, yearning to be, be or be free, all that you see is about me." Originally one of three women, when the play went on the road, Eartha became "all women...of all times." Another epiphany occurred as Eartha read Plato at the Acropolis. "I remained there for many hours, seeking a way to grasp the knowledge symbolized by these ruins of an ancient but never-forgotten world." In Istanbul, Eartha caused an uproar when she was mistaken for an Egyptian princess by milling Muslim masses. Finally, the secret policeman shadowing her blew his cover to quell the crowd.

"Learn to say Eartha Kitt" ran in the NY Times to herald her premier at La Vie En Rose. After a boffo run at Village Vanguard, Kitt joined Paul Lynde in New Faces of 1952 on Broadway scripted by young Melvin Brooks. Her hit song "C'est Si Bon" insured a movie version. Eartha soon filmed Mark of the Hawk with Sidney Potier and St. Louis Blues with Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson and Nat "King" Cole as W.C. Handy. Then an Oscar nomination for Anna Lucasta with Sammy Davis, Jr. After a Tony nomination for Mrs. Patterson, Eartha joined Mel Brooks again for Shinbone Alley based on Archie & Mehitabel by Don Marquis illustrated by Krazy Cat's New Orleans Creole creator George Herriman. Eartha played the alleycat Mehitabel, who insists that she was Cleopatra in a past life. Kitt would also ask Einstein what he thought about reincarnation.

Eartha's recordings have gotten renewed interest from new generations of fans. The most collectable Eartha Kitt single is her Afro-Cuban debut on Seeco as told in C&SM #. After that would be the four standards Kitt recorded with Doc Cheatam in 1950. Her RCA career is ably represented on Paul Williams' compilation purr-fect with stunning inner pic from a wild French photo session that brought chastisement from Ms. Dunham. Nevertheless, only an hour of Eartha can get as "Monotonous" as a bimbo's affected boredom--so a true fan will want the Bear Family's Eartha-quake! This box set contains quite a few of the Latin numbers that have always been a staple of Eartha's act and several down home blues tracks as well. Noteworthy RCA LPs include Down to Eartha (55) and Thursday's Child (56) produced by Hugo "Canadian Sunset" Winterhalter (worked with Ames Brothers, Count Basie, Perry Como, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Eddie Fisher, Mario Lanza, Raymond Scott, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Kay Starr) as well as St. Louis Blues (58) with trumpeter Shorty Rogers and His Giants (produced Herb Alpert and Sergio Mendes: See C&SM #20). Eartha attributes her Las Vegas success to arranger Bill Loose (scored Russ Meyer films: See C&SM #22).

In the 60s, Eartha cut several fine sides for MGM including "Love for Sale" and her interpretations of The Very Best of Cole Porter. As Catwoman on Batman, Kitt's popularity took off. Then she was henpecked by Lady Byrd Johnson for opposing the Vietnam War at a White House luncheon. Kitt was purged along with other controversial acts such as Eric Burdon and Frank Zappa when future Californa governor Mike Curb took over A&R for MGM after playing "Cycledelic" bass on biker movie soundtracks for Davie Allen and the Arrows (See C&SM #). That makes Eartha's MGM records almost as hard to find as an original Mothers of Invention. Luckily, Eartha Kitt In Person at the Plaza is still available on GNP Crescendo. In the 70s, Eartha crossed the color line in South Africa and the Carters invited the cast from Kismet adaptation Timbuktu! to the White House with a hearty "Welcome back, Eartha!" Carter also made Kitt's extensive CIA file available, which she promptly published as the appendix to Alone With Me.

The 80s marked Eartha's triumphal return to the pop charts with "Where Is My Man" and "I Love Men" by Georgio Moroder and "Cha-Cha Heels" with Bronski Beat. In 1988, Eartha recorded My Way, a tribute to Martin Luther King with a choir led by Billy Preston's sister Rodena. In the 90s, Eartha has paid homage to Billie Holliday and The Cotton Club with The Ink Spots. And Eartha just finished a stage tour as the godmother in Cinderella.

In her new book Rejuvenate, Eartha appears at chapter headings wearing the toque seen in portraits of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. The dancer is poised as human heiroglyphic for such symbolic concepts as Stretch (your mind), Bend (your will), Rock'n'Roll (social injustice), Release (material bonds), Balance (priorities) and the catchall portmanteau Etceterate, where Kitt is indeed an Egyptian hierophant.

Whereas Eartha's first three books were chronological memoirs, Rejuvenate is a transcendental choreography of life via symbolic gestures for self-reliance through civil disobedience. Autobiographical souvenirs illustrate principles of living in harmony with the planet, who will provide for us if we show her due respect.

"I strive to make the body love the mind, and the mind love the body, keeping the spirit vigorous as a consequence....I embrace the reality that life is a cycle....When we open ourselves to a situation we revitalize our minds, our spirits, absolving the hurt and thus becoming able to use it in a positive way....It is a way of centering myself in the where-I-am....we do well to do some bending so our minds and spirits do not become stiff and brittle by not allowing other thoughts to come in....sometimes we need to be flexible to find out where we really need to be rigid....This is bending to your own tide....Rocking against what is an outrage to your being and rolling with your flow...enable you to maintain your identity and individuality....When I have defied a rule, I have done so to shed light on the nonsensical." This is the way to rejuvenate!

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung says that the shaman has the ability the dissociate personality to allow possession by the bush spirit. Eartha is gifted with the rare talent to project whatever persona she wishes. She can leave behind introverted Eartha Mae who hid under the porch as a child because she was different and become Eartha Kitt the extrovert. In 1994, Eartha played James Joyce's Molly Bloom in the Penelope episode of Ulysses with tunes by Edith Piaf's songwriter Charles Aznavour such as "Yesterday When I Was Young." Eartha can warble with the vibrato of "The Little Sparrow" or stomp with the twang of Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty on a "Lovin' Spree." Eartha even changes characters within songs when she goes from "prim and proper" to "I Want To Be Evil" or the affected "Old-Fashioned Girl" is caught showing her roots in Las Vegas "at the spinnin' wheel!" What comes closest to home is her paean to vitamins and exercise "I Want You Around."

Eartha's best interpretations are often the Latin ballads she learned from the streetcorner singers of Spanish Harlem, who accompanied themselves with cans, boxes and bells. This class act is a good listener with a phonographic memory that can replay Turkish, Swedish or French as crisp and distinctly articulate as her Continental Standard English. Eartha could have been a blues singer, but it was easier to compete with Marilyn Monroe satirizing the golddiggers smirking and sneering in the ringside seats with "Mink, Schmink" or Cole Porter's sugarbaby standard "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think!" (T.S. Eliot wrote Cats for her.)

Eartha is constantly cast as highly archetypal mythological characters from exotic dancer Salome on Omnibus (52) and storyteller Scheherazade in Up the Chastity Belt (71) to the witches in Wizard of Oz, Earnest Scared Stupid and The Emperor's New Groove and even the Norse goddess Freya in Terry Jones' Eric the Viking. Eartha can depict wicked femmes fatale because she has experienced cruelty and injustice. Not only the Shadow knows what evil lies deep in our hearts. "Although a kitten cries tonight, a panther waits to claw and bite The Heel!" And discrimination is the Achilles' heel of society.

When Eartha does play realistic characters, the roles become identifyable types imbued with motivation from her own experience. We see this method acting in the dramatic application of personal reminiscences that earned Kitt the Tony nomination for Mrs. Patterson and the Emmy nomination for "The Loser" with Bill Cosby on I Spy. Eartha's experiences on the tough streets of New York actualized the horrors of heroin withdrawal in Synanon (aka Get Off My Back) and made Kitt an effective foil for Pam Grier as Friday Foster. Atavistic acting skills were further developed on stage in The Skin of Our Teeth, The Owl and the Pussycat, Bunny and The High Bid. As Dolores in The Wild Party says, "the second you think you know it all, life goes and takes a big bite outta your ass. And I've got the scars to prove it."

Eartha's forte is working a live audience where she can modulate the values of the social matrix through the various roles that she satirizes. Kitt's earliest comic influence was Imogene Coca, and she later admired Bea Lillie and Carol Burnette. The theater audience is a community of taste who respond to in-jokes that reinforce their social cohesion by sharing the sensibilities that make them able to wink at Eartha's references and innuendoes. Thus the scapegoat is sacrificed in the social ritual.

Yet joined to this inspiration is much perspiration. Good has never been good enough for Eartha. She has to be better than good. That is why Kitt keeps rewriting her autobiography. Thursday's Child in the 50s tells how she first met Josh White: "The sound of his music box twanged my womanliness." This awkward comparison that suggests a vulgar four-letter word beginning with "twa-" becomes the more ladylike "The sound of his guitar stirred me sensually." in Alone with Me from the 70s. Josh White was identified as a communist sympathizer in Eartha's CIA file because he had played at labor rallies. And this may be why Kitt was being shadowed in Istanbul. And that is also why she has to be better than good.

Eartha's never too old to rock'n'roll, and her critics from Lady Bird to William F. Buckley know it. Let them scoff, because there are millions who love Eartha. She's been honored several times from Honarary Fellowship of Carver Memorial Institute in 1960 and NANM's Woman of the Year in 1968 to her third Grammy nomination in 1996 for Back in Business. And she has always shared her skills with others as an educator with dance classes in Harlem in the 50s and at Kittsville in Watts beginning in the 60s. In the 70s, Eartha built schools in South Africa. In 1997, the prodigal returned home to endow a dance scholarship at Benedict College in South Carolina. Thus her talents are multiplied manifold in a cult of fans and a corps students.

You can catch her on cable reruns of Mission Impossible or Saint of Devil's Island (61), and may be lucky enough to catch the outlandish German Oncle Tom's Hutte (65). As Eartha sang in Stephen Sondheim's Follies, "I'm Still Here." And as Mehitabel said, "Cheerio, my deario! There's life in the old girl yet!" "Thursday's Child has far to go...."

The Ballad of Claudine Longet

Claudine Longet's albums should be on your Top Ten list if your tastes are similar to those of Gomez Addams. It's not just the French accent; there's something else about Claudine that's "very friendly."

Longet’s debut LP on A&M begins with Francis "Love Story" Lai's 1966 Academy Award winning theme to A Man and A Woman. If that doesn't get you hot, there's also another French song "Tu As Beau Sourire" ("Your Ace is a Pretty Smile"). This being Herb Alpert's label, there are a couple of bossa nova tunes from Antonio Carlos Jobim, her first single "Meditation" and "A Felicidade."

And don't forget the obligatory Lennon/McCartney cover "Here, There And Everywhere," which producer Tommy LiPuma and arranger Nick De Caro probably hoped would repeat the success of Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66's "Daytripper." Little did A&M A&R know that they were creating another Golden Throat who would follow up with "Something," "Goodday Sunshine," "When I'm Sixty-four," and "Jealous Guy." Longet's tasteful renditions of the Beatles are quite a relief from William Shatner's interpretation of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Beam me up!

The pop genre also includes Fillmore fave Sopwith Camel's ricky-ticky Rudi Vallee put-on "Hello, Hello." The folkies could groove to Smothers Brothers regular Mason Williams' "Wanderlove" and Native American Buffy Saint Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go." The sentimental standard "Sunrise, Sunset" would appeal to the lounge crowd to obtain a broad base of support to provide make-out music for would-be modern sophisticates.

Claudine would later add other pop covers to her repertoire including The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, The Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkle, Donovan, Nash & Young--the lighter side of what some would call protest music. Nevertheless she always maintained a base of standard nightclub material such as "Love is Blue" and "Falling in Love Again" familiar to her mainstream audience. (Don't forget "Sleep Safe and Warm," the theme from Rosemary's Baby.)

And as always, Longet worked rather well in the Latin mode on "Dindi" and "Manha de Carnival." No Carmen, yet always waving a cape to beguile us and in the end to help deliver that fatal final thrust.

It is the tension between the square and the mod that makes Claudine most interesting--tradition and the individual talent. Longet lies somewhere between the straight world and something beyond, lifting us into the uncertain interval.

But the most telling song is saved for last: the Motown hit "My Guy"--with special emphasis on the possessive pronoun, for Claudine seemed to be a very possessive woman. In 1976, Longet was charged with reckless manslaughter in the shooting death of her lover Vladimir "Spider" Sabich in Aspen, Colorado.

For fifteen years, Claudine had been Mrs. Andy Williams, and if you grew up in the 1960's, you probably remember their annual Christmas specials and Andy’s NBC variety series that ran from 1958 to 1971. Claudine's several TV appearances included 12 O'clock High, Combat, Rat Patrol and Hogan's Heroes where she personified what we are fighting for--imagine poor Frenchy molested by those nasty stormtroopers. (No Hogan, you may not assist in the interrogation.) Hey, she was even on Mr. Novak and Dr. Kildare as well as in the movie version of McHale's Navy.

There were also several crime dramas, but truth is stranger than The FBI, The Streets of San Francisco, Run For Your Life or Alias Smith & Jones. (One could learn to be an expert witness.)

That's cool, but who was she-- where did she come from?

On his way to the Louvre, Andy Williams had first seen Claudine sailing down the streets of postwar Paris on a single roller-skate when she was only 8 or 9 years old. A decade later, Williams would help Claudine with her stalled car in Las Vegas, where she was dancing with the Folies Bergere.

They married in 1961 and lived the charmed life of the Camelot era often skiing at Sun Valley with Ethel and Bobby Kennedy. Andy would play golf with Henry Fonda while Claudine would play tennis with the actor's son Peter. Jack Nicholson was also a good friend who would show up at her trial in Aspen.

By the mid-seventies, Andy and Claudine were divorced, and she had moved in with twice world pro ski champ Sabich, the model for Robert Redford in Downhill Racer, whom she had met at a 1972 Bear Valley, CA competition. Spider's brother Steve was dating H&R Block scion Candy and had been busted for 850 pounds of pot.

Local gossip had it that Claudine's jealousy had manifested itself in several violent scenes in the Aspen area. She is reported to have hit Spider over the head with a ski during a disagreement and pulled a chair out from him at a restaurant when she caught him talking to another woman. Publicist Jill Lillstrom says Claudine threw a glass at Spider when he was surrounded by admirers and ignored Longet at a Steamboat Springs bar.

Spider's friends said that he had told Claudine to move out because of her prohibitive behavior, and an Aspen real estate agent had records of her inquiry about rental property a couple of weeks before the fatal shooting.

According to Claudine's testimony, she had found Spider's .22 caliber Luger and was asking the skier how to operate it while he was washing his face in the bathroom.

"If the lever is on the spot, is it safe?" Claudine said in court that he had assured her that it was.

"I raised the gun and playfully went 'Boom Boom,' and it went off."

Sabich was shot in the abdomen and died ten minutes later according to Longet, who said she unsuccessfully tried to administer artificial respiration. She spent that night in grief with the John Denver family.

"I have too much respect and love for living things to be guilty of this crime," Claudine would tearfully tell the Aspen jury who may have been as much concerned about maintaining the reputation of this lucrative ski resort as those of its celebrity guests. DA Frank Tucker's test reportedly showing traces of cocaine in Longet's blood was ruled inadmissible. The seven men and five women convicted Claudine of the lesser charge of negligent homicide and District Judge George Lohr sentenced Longet to two years and a $5000 fine.

After serving only 30 days of her sentence in the Pitkin County clink with a couple of drunk drivers, Claudine went to Mexico with her lawyer Ron Austin, who would leave his wife to marry the melodramatic chanteuse. They still live in Aspen.

(Six months later, Ted Bundy would escape from the Pitkin County courthouse.)

Who says there are no happy endings?

* * * * *

Claudine Longet’s various performances may provide a clue to her enigmatic personality. Just a clue, not a key, for hers is not an open and shut case. Those who inhabit the realm of the exotic can make their own rules.

Thus the exotic fascinates and enthralls with the charm of its ultimate Otherness, an oblique spin occult in its origin. The exotic takes us away to a place outside our normal experience where we can stand outside ourselves and uninhibitedly experience ecstasy. Claudine was always already a mystery.

Longet’s most obvious element of the exotic is her Frenchness with its accumulated mythical baggage. And as Plutarch tells us, a myth is a representation that signifies something else. Semiotician Roland Barthes would agree. (Likewise, see Todorov on The Fantastic and just a dash of Gustav Flaubert, Theophile Gautier, and Prosper Merimee.)

From the French curl to the French kiss, French is the language of passion. It is the language of emotion, taste, sensation, aesthetics, and most of all S-E-X. If you thought soixante neuf was something, you should have seen Paris burning in 1968.

Yet Gallic icons can be familiarized into things we take as much for granted as French fries and mayonnaise which are usually made bland in the process of domestication. But still the soothing sounds of the broad vowels and soft consonants enchant us when Claudine tells us she is "een luff."

Longet’s charm is that of the faux naif—the child-woman popularized by Bebe Bardot and extended to Babydoll, Lolita, and Kitten with a Whip. This archetype goes at least as far back as the decadence of the Romantics with their nymphs luring sailors to watery doom or "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" entangling a knight in her silken tresses, as deadly a trap as a black widow has yet devised—the faux naif as the façade of the femme fatale. How French can you get?

Here is the puckish imp teasing the moths to the flame—when their wings burn, she knows she’s not to blame. This woman is really not as naïve as she would seem.

Contributing to the fatality of this charm is the tactic of deception. This woman wears many masks. She is elusive and evasive, telling stories that no one believes. But we want to believe because we don’t want to break the spell that thrills us into captivation.

Several of her songs tell stories ranging from the innocent flirtation of "Walk in the Park" to the more sinister "Man in a Raincoat" who took her money and ran. (Was he Bogie or Chester the Molester?) "Happy Talk" would never be the same until Captain Sensible turned it around.

The masks were provided by A&M’s expert A&R department that had already established a corporate personality growing from that of its founder Herb Alpert. This was the hip Hispanic label whose mellow moods could make us all into smooth and suave Latin lovers—at least for a night.

A&M was the label of Martin Denny sideman Julius Wechter whose Baja Marimba Band provided a rhythmic compliment to The Tijuana Brass. Here was Sergio Mendes, whose arrangements of pop standards brought Bossa Nova across the equator. Mendes' theme from Casino Royale, "The Look of Love" was a likely cover for Claudine.

Here were The Sandpipers, who could even turn "Louie Louie" into a romantic lullaby. Here we followed the Pied Piper of Crispian St. Peter and were lulled by the lushness of the Pozo Seco Singers. Longet's later LP's on Andy's Barnaby label would take her into further realms.

All these elements contributed to the creation of Claudine Longet’s public image--a persona made up of nuances suggested by the many roles she played. Not that Claudine was such a convincing performer. This can be especially observed when she had Peter Sellers as a foil in Blake Edward’s The Party, where she sang Mancini’s theme song "Nothing to Lose." Not on par with The Pink Panther, but definitely a step up from How to Steal an Airplane. But Claudine doesn’t have to be a great actress. We know it's only make believe, but we want to believe because we like playing the game--be it cat and mouse, hide and seek or peekaboo. We forgive her by extending our suspension of disbelief because she was more than a mere musician. She was a bona fide Celebrity: Mrs. "Moon River," godmother of The Osmonds.

How much more mythical can you get? Not since Medea rode off in a flying chariot after killing Jason’s sons in a jealous rage. The sorceress makes her own rules and can get away with murder. She’s an alien whose immunity to our social codes allows her to retreat to the land of the Golden Fleece.

It’s all in her smile. "Hello, hello. I like your smile." Her ace is a beautiful smile, and she plays it close to the vest, occasionally flashing forth her trump. And like the Cheshire Cat, it is only her soft voice and the shadow of her smile that remain after she has faded into obscurity. And if you have once caught that smile, you’ll want to see it again and get involved in an obsessive pursuit that is inevitably futile in trying to grasp the intangible secret of her charm.

Behind this smile is a worldliness that turns the expression into an urbane smirk, a grin as sardonic as any skull in the grip of rigor mortis. It’s this hint of fatality that spices the ecstasy with agony. We are pained by her reckless abandon casting fate to the wind while flying in the face of adversity. We can string together clichés incessantly, but the mystery still remains, the indefinable je ne sais quoi. We know not what she is, but that mystery adds to our curiosity.

Our impressions are ill defined, soft and vague in outline, and can only come together when we stand back and let them fuse together. Each song is a piece of the puzzle that we try to fit together into a portrait. But we find some parts missing and have to fill in the gaps with our imaginations. Somehow she won’t look us straight in the eyes. Coy and demure, Claudine remains an enigma.

Her favorite masque is the nostalgic quest to regain the paradise of innocence lost in the purgatory of experience. Thus the chorus of children reaffirming that she once believed it all. Images of childhood are undercut by the not-so-subtle suggestiveness of "Pussywillows/Cattails" and such. Images of snow now in hindsight bear witness to a fatally ironic foreshadowing.

This homesickness also involves the postwar dissociation of sensibility of a generation whose childhood was deprived of its innocence by the horrors of war and the exploitation of occupation. Was she trying to recapture a past she never had, an innocence she never experienced, skating through the rubble of reconstruction?

That’s what’s so cool about Claudine—her essential isolation and alienation. Whereas most soft pop of the 1960’s was done by squares pretending to be hip, Claudine was a flower child trying to act straight. Did she listen to Donovan with easyriding buddies Fonda and Nicholson? Maybe burn a little incense? Tennis anyone?

Can't get used to losing you

No matter what I try to do.

We can all sing along with Andy. We miss Claudine. Her charm is ageless, and a comeback is belated. She's paid her dues, let her sing the news and be her own touchstone.

Not only those of us who experienced her enchantment on the first go-around, but even more a whole new generation of fans. Netwise, Claudine is as popular as ever, if not more so. Her albums are being reissued in Japan. She has inspired not only her own webpage but also satires by Jagger, Dylan, and SNL as well as tributes from young devotees including Tori Amos, Geraldine Fibbers and Kim Fowley proteges The Rubbermaids. Somehow there is something lasting in what Longet had to say and especially the way that she expressed herself.

The legend continues, but where is Claudine? Has she finally faded into obscurity, or will she be seen and heard again? We want her, we need her, we love her. When will she return? That would be the happy end for which her fans ardently hope!

The Macgillicüddys

Paul "Switchblade" Wells-guitar, vocals

Jheri Laborde-bass, vocals

Jerry "Paradiddle" Paradis-drums

Originally wanting to call themselves "Gentilly Militia", these iconoclastic wise guys settled on the name of a bar owned by David Duke. Hence the umlaut that’s more ironic considering their original drummer was Jewish. However, The Macgillicüddys’ real mentors are the wrestling stars such as "Pork Chop Cash" and "Stylin’ and Profilin" Rick Flair. Jheri’s sister once walked in on him playing with his WWF action figures wearing nothing but jockey shorts and a wrestling mask.

Jheri used to front Gerry and The Bastardmakers, whose bass player Taj Cardona had recorded The Colostomy Bags tape with Paul Wells, a classmate at McMain Magnet School where Offbeat columnist Dale Ashmun taught. After The Bastardmakers lived up to their name, Jheri and Paul formed The Funny Boys with Joe "Pestilence" Phillips (Legion of Decency, Atomic Jefferson, Silver Kings) and "King" Louie Bankston (Clickums with Joe, Royal Pendletons, Bad Times).

After Joe moved to Seattle and Louie got more involved with The Royal Pendletons (produced by Alex Chilton of The Box Tops), Jheri and Paul decided they were tired of being The Funny Boys and wanted a tougher image. Beginning with drummers Sean Johnson, "Lord" George Elder and Shaggy from The Persuaders, The Macgillicüddys recruited Jerry Paradis from Lunch. Yeah, Diddle’s the one who jumped off the balcony into the crowd at the DRI show. Paradis also plays guitar in The Headwoundz with Laborde on vocals, King Louie on drums and Severin of Bonaparte LaGarde & the Conquerors on bass.

Then The Macgillicüddys got to recording. Turducken Records caught them live and features sound clips on line. Mr. Quintron recorded the "monster truck vocals" on "Don’t Shatter My World" for the Engine Number 9 compilation. "Sweet Cotton Drawers" and instrumental "Gentilly Stomp" are radio friendly and free of objectionable language. Much more was recorded at Tom’s House with a nice clean sound that allows you to hear all the dirty words. "The Macgillicüddys Live" video was produced by Peter George of Troma Films (Surf Nazis Must Die, Young Goodman Brown). This concert video played for a week at Movie Pitchers and was reviewed in Gambit and The Times-Picayune.

Several T-shirts feature cartoons by Paul, whose artistic influences run from Marvel to Zap thanks to Psychotronic Video magazine’s underground comics columnist, former teacher Dale Ashmun. It is this cartoon sensibility that makes The Macgillicüddys social satire so enjoyable. Here’s Paul as Mr. Fantastic, Diddle as The Human Torch and Jheri as The Thing, and there goes Captain America with a hammer and sickle on his shield. That’s what Paul gets for hanging out with Dale’s Mardi Gras guests like S. Clay Wilson, creator of The Checkered Demon. When it comes down to it, The Macgillicüddys are tricksters at heart. As cagy Cajun Jheri says, "It’s smarter to pretend you know less than you really do than to pretend you know more."

The Macgillicüddys received the key to the City of New Orleans from Mayor Morial for accompanying Ernie K-Doe at Rock’n’Bowl during Jazz Fest. The Macgillicüddys were the only New Orleans band on the Confederacy of Scum tour. The Macgillicüddys have brought down the houses from Los Angeles to Chicago. And now you can party with them, too!

MANGINA

At War with Black Metal

Jeth-Row Records

"Why Live When You Can Die?" and "Sorry About Da Mess" attack the roots of "Viking rock and Nordick power." As Judas Priest testified, it’s bad business to coax your customers into suicide.. These guys should be committed because they are a clear and present danger to themselves and others. Singer Matt Russell is foaming at the mouth after getting bit by a bulldog in the pit at Mangina’s Mardi Gras show. Opening act Dexter Romweber of Flat Duo Jets grimaced and left.

Former college radio DJ Russell looms over the audience while Holly from Hogjaw runs riot among the crowd. Unlike his other bands The Minions, The Headwoundz, The Scripts and Kajun SS, guitarist Chad Booth parodies Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Grishnacht of Mayhem, and Tom Warrior of Celtic Frost, who wrote the flip side "Dethroned Emperor." Although drummer Paul Webb usually plays guitar with Spickle, Dulac Swade, and Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, he got a good lesson in keeping a steady beat at slower tempos when Clearlight played with Dale Crower of The Melvins at Mushroom Records. The multitalented Webb also subs on bass for Hogjaw, works at a vintage music store, and produced these songs on a digital 8-track.

Despite the corpsepaint and Grim Reaper robes, Mangina is more than a theatrical band. Mangina is a Situationist prank meant to lure rednecks to conversion or their doom. As Woody Guthrie said, "This machine kills Fascists." Fans of the Confederacy of Scum tour go too far when they burn black churches. The KKK would like to coopt Southern Metal into collaborators, but we ain’t gonna take it because the new boss is just the same as the old boss. You should see Matt’s Mutt & Jeff routine with a black teenager who works with him at Juan’s Flying Burrito. Matt even offered to let the kid use his choice of weapons to equalize their difference in height. He chose a bass. Good call, young man! "I believe I can fly."

Join in the fun, but don’t take them too seriously. And stay away from Matt. He’s dangerous. He keeps hurting himself and may hurt you, too. When Mangina took "Violence" as their motto, they meant it.

Order this 7" vinyl atrocity for $5 from Chad and Stephanie at www.rocksoffrpm.com and download digital pix of Mangina by Gary Loverde at www.geocities.com/theunfriendly1.

Bossa Nova Ambassador

by Curtis Cottrell

Sergio Mendes is the best-selling Brazilian artist of the 20th Century challenged only recently by hot ticket Sepultura. Yet Sergio is far from hot. His cool transcends trends. What Sepultura tries to do with shock tactics, Sergio has accomplished with subtle strategy.

Let's take a look at his roots to see how Sergio has synthesized international influences into his own interpretations of modern jazz. First let's survey the cultural environment in which Mendes thrived. Then we'll see him grow through collaborations with established artists. Finally we'll be illuminated by the soft, yet steady glow of Sergio's fame.

Sergio Mendes, son of a successful physician, grew up in Niteroi, a fashionable suburb of Rio. Brazil's economy surged with WWII's demand for rubber and other rain forest resources. Waves of European refugees became music teachers bringing with them traditions of romantic impressionism and experimentation with modern atonality. Disney's cigar-chomping parrot Jose Carioca called the streamlined Pan-American lifestyle "Bossa Nova." Meanwhile back in the states, everybody from Mickey Rooney to Bugs Bunny spoofed Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda's stereotypical 10" heels and Tutti-Frutti hat. Soon Bob and Bing were off on "The Road to Rio." "Boom Chica Boom!"

Crooner Dick Farney toured the US with the theme song from Miranda's '46 film Copacabana. The Sinatra-Farney Fan Club included Bossa Nova's founding triumvirate: Tom Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Vinicius de Moraes, dramatist of Black Orpheus and lyricist of "The Girl from Ipanema." The success of Black Orpheus at the '59 Cannes Film Festival sparked further interest in Brazilian music already represented in the Hollywood scores of samba guitarist Laurindo Almeida, Sabicas student and war buddy of Django Reinhardt.

Johnny Alf pioneered innovative piano arrangements of traditional Brazilian rhythms with songs like '53's "Sky and Sea" and '67's "I and the Breeze." In the 60's, Alfredo played at Bottles Bar with Mendes and recorded with experimental percussionist Airto Moreira and multi-instrumental sorcerer Hermeto Pascoal. In a recent interview, Mendes acknowledged "El Bruxo" Pascoal as his "idol." Sergio also recognized the influence of Be-Bop hipsters Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. From these monumental innovators and personal favorites such as Art Blakey, Bud Powell and Horace Silver, Mendes learned the art of post-modern improvisational permutation of popular melodies.

Rio's weird beards rejected greasy kid stuff like "Rock'n'Roll 'Em Copacabana" preferring the cool style of Nat "King" Cole. No Celly Campello dolls for these cats. Bossa Nova was patronized by social sophisticates whose musical milieu lay somewhere between the salons of Paris and the saloons of Vegas. The Sinatra-Farney Fan Club also produced talented guitar academy alumna Nara Liao of TV's Opiniao--The Muse of Bossa Nova. Parties at her swank pad turned into late night "Bossa Gang" sessions frequented by Rio's rising impresarios.

Sergio got his start playing pocket shows in Rio's Bottle Alley--so called because of irate neighbors' response to late-night music sessions. Mendes' big break came when he accompanied Jobim and Gilberto to the historic 1960 Carnegie Hall concert. (Now on CD!) Jacqui-O even invited the Boys from Brazil to Camelot.

The Kennedys weren't the only powerful people at that show. Many recording executives and jazz musicians also caught the wave. Sergio was signed immediately by Philips and also became a popular studio artist on other labels. Funky flute Herbie Mann flew all the way from Memphis to Rio to Do the Bossa Nova with Sergio. Jazz Meets Bossa Nova when new age sax Paul Winter met Mendes. Most notably, Mendes' Bossa Rio Sextet backed up soul jazz saxman Cannonball Adderley, who had just played alongside John Coltrane on Miles Davis' ground-breaking Almost Blue sessions. The Cannibal's previous pianist was ultracool Horace Silver, an important mentor praised and emulated by Mendes. Sergio also cut Bossa Nova York and Brasil '65 featuring vocalist Wanda de Sah who would marry Mendes' favorite songwriter Edu Lobo.

Mendes' tenure at Atlantic included collaboration with Lionel Hampton's trumpet Art Farmer, Crusaders' flute Hubert Laws and Hi-Los' arranger Clare Fischer who had charted Ellington's swing for Gillespie. Although none of these outings seized the popular imagination as much as his concurrent works on A&M, Sergio's classical apprenticeship was now additionally well-grounded with a journeyman's appreciation of advanced jazz composition.

Mendes' masterpieces came when he signed with A&M. He found the right lyricist in Chicago native Lani Hall, the future Mrs. Herb Alpert. Alpert's arranger Shorty Rogers had a long relationship with Almeida as well as trumpeting alongside Sinatra in The Man with the Golden Arm and even transformed Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos into "The Brass Are Comin'!" At A&M, Sergio established the formula for international success.

Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 opens with Jorge Ben's idiomatically rhythm'n'bluesy "Mais Que Nada". Then there's the old one-two: a combination of Jobim's twelve-tone exercise "One Note Samba" fused with Julius Wechter's "Spanish Flea"--defamiliarizing a popular hit as the bridge in an imported innovation, balancing cool monotone with its bouncy melodic antithesis. Comfortable popular covers follow with "The Joker" from The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd by the gold fingers of Newley/Bricusse and the even more familiar "Going Out of My Head" taking a new twist. Then the first side finishes with the childishly nonsensical "Tim Dom Dom" taking us to the realm of pure musical joy. This is a hit recipe.

Side Two starts back strong with Lennon/McCartney's "Daytripper" featuring a wild bebop piano solo. Then we return to the cinematically exotic: Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" from Mr Lucky Goes Latin as well as more Jobim. "Berimbau," Baden Powell's tuneful interpretation of traditional martial arts rhythms, is the forceful finale.

Equinox with TJ Brass guitarist John Pisano followed formula mixing familiar songwriters Cole Porter and Johnny Mandel with more exotica from Jorge Ben and Tom Jobim. Mendes also introduced major influence Edu Lobo, who would have four songs on Sergio's next hit LP as well as providing the title tune for Crystal Illusions.

Brasil '66 climbed the charts: "Look Around" was #5 in '67 followed by '68's "Fool on the Hill" at #3. "Scarborough Fair" also went Top 20. Dusty Springfield sang "The Look of Love" in Casino Royale, but Mendes' version was on the radio. Sergio's talent is that of a master arranger who is able to translate pop standards into the Bossa Nova idiom. He is an interpreter who provides introductions while remaining discreetly in the background. Jazz solos are daring and inventive, but economical in elaboration.

As he progressed into the '70s, Sergio's tone got darker with more shades from the broad spectrum of Brazil's musical heritage. These later LPs are maturations of style featuring more Latin than Anglo material. Primal Roots is the eventual percussive expression of the Amazon's postcolonial ethnicity. Then Mendes moved on.

After leaving A&M, Sergio had no problem finding other opportunities. Fronted by Gracinia Leporace--Senora Mendes when she's at home--Brasil '77 cut a couple of LPs on Bell in the early '70s. But it was '77's workup of "The Real Thing" by Stevie Wonder on Elektra that would chart. Mendes followed up with the Pele soundtrack on Atlantic to inspire a generation of soccer moms. "Never Gonna Let You Go" and "Alibis" went Top 40 in the '80's. Brasiliero's hip-hop styling won a Grammy in '93. Brazil 2000 continues to tour with recent material from Oceano as well as old favorites--and not always the ones you would expect.

What is it about Sergio that has kept him going for over four decades? Whether the contemporary style is Jazz, Rock, Disco, New Romantic, or Hip-hop, Mendes seems to say, "I can do that," and he does it well indeed.

First there is the legacy of Romanticism. An Impressionistic composition necessarily transgresses generic boundaries. The Impressionist writes of the light of the moon--not in its silent illumination, but in its synaesthetic emotional impact on the beholder. An Impressionistic composition may also paraphrase an influential work in another format. Thus DeBussy/Deodato's musical adaptation of Mallarme's poem "Afternoon of a Fawn" where sensual images are clustered in constellations of ecstatic signification: the whole much greater than the sum of the parts.

The Romantic tone-poem can also be a programmatic evocation of forces of nature. Sun, sky, sea and sand all attain elemental iconographic status in the Bossa Nova landscape. These symbols are painted with artful nuance; spare strokes suggest more than they say. "Look Around," Sergio sings, and you will see auguries of innocence and intimations of immortality in every blade of grass or grain of sand. "So Many Stars," so many possibilities. The beach is the boundary between individual familiarity and the insistent throbbing of oceanic unity. Ride the crest of the wave. Hear the eternal murmur of the sea in the string arrangements of "Crystal Illusions"--"I'll go where no one will find me." One finally finds the authentic self by merging with the stillness of nature.

The purest perception of nature to the Romantic is that of the Noble Savage. Thus the thrust of the exotic. Somewhere in the rain forest is an altered state that can be attained through the pulse of a primal rhythm. We can all join in the second line of the samba crews at Carnival parades. Consequently, the Berimbau finale on Mendes' A&M debut is a martial cadence rousing the audience to action. ("For What It's Worth.")

The humanitarian commitment of Romanticism is its ethical dimension proceeding directly from Impressionistic art's primary assumptions. Freedom and equality are categorical imperatives for beings participating in an unmediated perceptual relationship with natural phenomena. Mendes goes to his primal roots to demonstrate that all are enfranchised citizens in the global ecostructure. Songwriter Carlos Lyra says "Bossa Nova isn't some rich 'little daddy's boy' thing. Quite to the contrary, it is the meeting of different socio-economic classes, races, political and religious ideologies, which are united around a single objective."

Mendes' greatest talent as a composer has been to incorporate folk elements into arrangements of the commercial music that has displaced traditional songs in popular consumption. These same native icons influenced cubists leading to the abstraction and minimalism of Modernism. Serial music is democratic in that no tone color is dominant over the others--one note, one vote. The montage technique of filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein also contributes to the "verbivocovisual" method of Brazil's vanguard concrete poetry. Compare adman Ronaldo Azeredo's '56 "tic tac":

ate' est est etc

i a i a

c ca ca c

with songs such as "Chove Chuva", "Lobo Bobo," "Bim Bom," and "Tim Dom Dom." Likewise, there is innovation in the homespun concrete music or "som de aura" of Pascoal the Sorcerer who wowed New Orleans at Jazz Fest squeezing a squealing piggy under his arm. How primal can you get?

The Lydian scale of jazz improvisation shares the democratization of serial atonality essential to the off-key harmonies of Bossa Nova. In the Lydian scale, notes of the melody are treated as a series that can undergo any number of variations. Yardbird Parker could drag this out for hours; Sergio works in seconds, the economics of pop. He finds a basic alternative permutation of the melody to bridge the rising and falling movements of a song. Often Sergio reduces melodic components into an insistent riff forming a walking rhythm as basic undercurrent upon which female vocals float. "The Look of Love" has such a beat that propels us into a cinematic synaesthesia, a multi-media sensorial amalgamation. Depth of appreciation relies on concentration of audience response to the suggestions in the music.

Consequently, these sounds carry enough cultural environment with them to invoke escapist fantasies. The urban industrial becomes fixated upon the primal tribal. When we listen to Sergio, we leave the workaday world for a reverie of repose. This daydream brings us to a happy place. Maybe it's out on the beach where we survey the boundary between flesh and floss. Perhaps it's deep inside the hermit's hut in which we await vistas of worlds beyond imagination. "The Fool on the Hill" dreams of a "Happy World for me and for you"--the fundamental existential compromise of the New Romantic. Does it matter that Agent Double-O Soul is a bobo like Peter Sellers or a boob like Woody Allen as long as he's got The Look of Love? Sergio knows that we can get "Lost in Paradise." He always has an urbane sense of self-awareness.

Along with cosmopolitan modern jazz, there is a lot of down home soul. Sergio brings several of his native African, Amazonian and Iberian influences into a complex fusion of cross-cultural dissemination melding North & South, Classical & Popular, Rock & Jazz, Urban & Rural, Industrial & Tribal, Anglo & Latino, White & Black. Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil, Edu Lobo and Caetano Veloso all benefited from Mendes' Americanized arrangements. So what if Baden Powell complains that overproduced Yankee versions of Bossa Nova are like file of sole smothered in ketchup?

What it all cooks down to is the aesthetics of understatement as the essence of cool. No hype here. Sergio's arrangements rise above the commercial production to attain the sublimity of suggestivity. Mendes' music is a minimized economy of nuance and inference. There's nothing heavyhanded in Sergio's smooth, sophisticated approach.

Each album is a strange-eyed constellation with "a dream for every star." Different moods are illuminated as we witness the unfamiliar celestial configurations of the southern hemisphere. With a little help from his friends, Mendes links global villages into cosmopolitan cooperation. Sergio's ambassadorship has established international networks of communication. The medium is the massage. The message is peace and love with freedom and equality for all.

We may have bought that Sergio disc for his covers of familiar favorites, but the Brazilian imports keep us coming back for more because these delicacies are served in the savory sauce of Sergio's personal interpretation. Beyond his many festive masks, we find the sincerity of Sergio's personality as he continues to sing the song of the fishermen. Somehow he is always out there on the beach just beyond the edge. The tide rises, and the tide falls, but Brazil 2000 floats buoyantly along sipping a chilly cocktail under that ubiquitous umbrella.

Ultimately it is Sergio's skill as an interpreter that has made him Brazil's foremost musical ambassador. Hermeto Pascoal never learned English, which has limited his status to a novelty act. But Mendes is right on the beat in any cultural medium. Whether African, Amazonian, American, European or Latin, Sergio fluently fuses all musical styles. He has applied both classical and modern compositional techniques to arrangements both impressionistic and atonal. He has created a mythology in a minor key.

Mendes is charming, friendly, accommodating. Yet he plays the familiar in an unfamiliar way that becomes accustomed through acquaintance. In that transformation, there are transpositions that compliment and counterpoint each other so well that we will never listen to anything in the same way again.

For Bossa Nova, check out on-line radio www.wwoz.org and www.wtul.fm

For Curtis, see http://cmcottrell.tripod.com/polygrammar/

BUXOTICA

RUSS MEYER SCORES

Everything is excessive in Russ Meyer's bombastic exploitation extravaganzas! The music is blasting, the colors are too bright, and the babes are oh-so Buxotic--bouncing out of tight bikinis as they Go-Baby-Go! Here's an interpretive survey of Meyer's career giving a Who's Who of his musical cohorts. Let's run down the pedigrees of this pack of Double D-movie mongrels!

Russ Meyer has been an action photographer from the age of 12. Russ hit the beach on D-Day with a 16mm camera. His Battle of the Bulge footage was used in Patton. Postwar Meyer was cameraman on Pete de Cenzie's French Peep Show, took stills for George Stevens' Giant and distinguished himself as a trend-setting glamour photographer with several popular centerspreads in Playboy. When it came to making his own films, Meyer was always able to attract top musical talent who share his enthusiasm for Buxotica.

The Immoral Mr. Teas exposed the sexual hang-ups of an uptight generation. This '59 skinflick was so low budget voice-over narrator Edward J. Lakso provided the soundtrack with a small combo. A transitional promenade links various vignettes portraying characteristic fantasies of Modern Man. Thus Lakso's composition takes the inherently voyeuristic form of Pictures At An Exhibition. Significantly the Bourbon Street beat of Dixieland jazz bumps and grinds with the sultry sway of seductive striptease. After this labor of love, Lakso scripted Combat, Mission Impossible, The Big Valley, Star Trek, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix and Starsky & Hutch.

Teas' most memorable landscape foregrounds a guitar strategically shielding a nude while echoing her hourglass figure. The lack of synchronization between the overdubbed audio track and the model's strumming is inadvertently funny. Later films would exploit such incongruity of sight and sound deliberately for intentional comic effects. Meyer's early experiments simply spliced together readymade musical components into makeshift montages.

Eroticon's music editor David Chudnow cut his fangs on The Mad Monster and Dead Men Walk with George Zucco and Dwight Frye. In 1950, Chudnow formed Mutel to provide canned music for television. When the American Federation of Musicians refused to play, Chudnow went to Europe to recycle music from Monogram, PRC and Eagle-Lion films. Eventually, these musical cues were used in Boston Blackie, Captain Midnight, Racket Squad, Ramar of the Jungle, Sky King, Space Patrol and--on CD--Superman!

Chudnow's colleague Tommy Morgan had arranged exotica for harmonica on his Tropicale album. Tommy later sessioned with the Bee Gees, Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley, The Simpsons and Frank Zappa among others. Now the veteran of over 200 films and commercials has gone gospel--Against the Grain.

Like Eve and the Handyman, Wild Gals of the Naked West is an episodic series of melodramatic vaudeville skits with appropriately horny music. Naked West's Marlin Skiles provided music for Lucille Ball in My Favorite Husband on CBS Radio. After Bomba, Lord of the Jungle and 10 Bowery Boys misadventures in the mid '50's, Marlin scored Man From God's Country and Cole Younger, Gunfighter. Meyer cuts the corn to the quick, so don't shoot the player piano!

Meyer then filmed his Southern Gothic thrillers Lorna and Mudhoney in black and white and invested the savings in live sound and original music. Heel we love to hate Hal Hopper provided the theme song for Lorna.

Hopper had harmonized with The Pied Pipers, top vocal group in Down Beat polls from '44 to '49. Originally formed to croon Irving Berlin standards in Zanuck's production of Alexander's Ragtime Band, The Pipers backed up Frank Sinatra on The Old Gold Radio Show (on CD), Tommy Dorsey on The Raleigh-Kool Radio Show and sang "Ac-Cent-Tchu-ate the Positive," "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," "Personality" and "Winter Wonderland" on Johnny Mercer's Music Shop. The '86 collection Good Deal McNeal compiles favorites such as "Mairzy Doats" and "The Trolley Song." The Pipers appear in several movies with Sinatra as well as joining Ann Miller's '44 Jam Session and howling "Too Darn Hot" in Kiss Me Kate.

In the '50's, Hopper wrote the theme songs for Rin Tin-Tin and Mickey Dolenz' Circus Boy and "There's No You" in Kubrick's Lolita. Ever the Beau Geste Maverick, Hal was the chauffeur in Kitten With a Whip and the vet in Perry Mason's "Case of the Startled Stallion."

Although Hopper extemporized a salty a cappella ditty to tease Lorna's husband into action, Bob Grabeau warbled the theme song. Now with the Bob Noval Orchestra, Grabeau sang "Exactly Like You" from The Eddy Duchin Story on the Pickwick CD Movie Memories, a reissue of '57's Johnny Williams Plays Sounds from Screen Spectaculars. Bob also acted out "Put Me In Your Pocket" with April Stevens in a Scopitone jukebox film loop.

After his Gothic period, Russ moved into a go-go phase to grab the teenage drive-in audience. Meyer's displaced young nomads grooved to the driving sounds of guitar rock. The capable hands of Shefter, Sawtell and Jarrard provided the throbbing, pulsing, and pounding musical motivation for Meyer's gyrating go-go girls.

Bert Shefter, now a trustee of the Film Music Society, directed Motorpsycho's music. In '39, Shefter and Peter de Rose spent 9 weeks on Hit Parade rising to #3 with "The Lamp Is Low." Lyrics were by Mitchell Parish who wrote "Stardust" with Hoagy Carmichael, and melody was adapted from Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess." Shefter performed as a piano duo with Morton Gould, but by '65 Bert had Curse of the Fly.

Paul Sawtell's catalog covers several popular genres. Paul composed music for modern myths Tarzan, Dick Tracy, Black Scorpion and Godzilla. Sawtell fetched Dog of Flanders, rode west with Lex Barker in The Deerslayer and Clint Eastwood in Ambush at Cimarron Pass, spaced out with Kronos: Ravager of Planets and accompanied Irwin Allen to The Lost World and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Sawtell even helped Jerry Goldsmith produce Frankie Avalon Sings.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! lyricist Rick Jarrard was a Nashville guitarist transferred to RCA's west coast studio to produce Jose Feliciano, John Hartford, and Harry Nilsson. Jefferson Airplane complained that Rick used too much reverb on Surrealistic Pillow, but his new collection of Love Songs is a bouquet of Balin's best ballads. Feliciano's '98 Senor Bolero continues the collaboration begun with "Light My Fire."

In Meyer's movies, we not only hear the music, but we often see its source as well--no matter how improbable that instrument may be. How can all that noise be coming from a sports car or transistor radio? This disparity has a disturbing effect in an ultraviolent film noir. Meyer uses incongruity of satirical absurdities for exhilarating comic relief.

Mondo Topless is wall-to-wall go-go eye candy often depicting a lone nude dancing with her tiny radio in the great outdoors. Russ inserted footage from '63's Europe in the Raw with whiny concertina a la fromage. Meyer had shot from the hip many of the Continent's hottest acts with his trusty Arriflex concealed in a suitcase. The Aladdins generate the mondo fuzztones motivating the movements of some of the Frisco Tenderloin's most outstanding strippers including Pat Barringer, star of Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead.

Another Wood alumnus arranged music for Meyer on his series of soap opera satires in the late Sixties. Igo Kantor learned his trade from Wood's Bride of the Monster and produced Hillbillys in a Haunted House with Ferlin Husky and Merle Haggard. Kantor's music direction is unmatched in spoofing Hollywood stereotypes as we hear in his soundtracks for The Monkees' Head and Kentucky Fried Movie.

Kantor's main satirical device is what Roger Ebert has called the "musical pun." These gags may be standard musical motives associated with characters: an industrial worker is accompanied by Handel's "Anvil Chorus" and exotic erotic encounters evoke the familiar refrain of "Stranger in Paradise." It's corny, but it works.

Another comic device is the aforementioned incongruity between music and its source. In Common Law Cabin, the teenage daughter puts a 78 on an ancient gramophone, and we are surprised when modern go-go music comes out of the antique. This non sequitur is a reflective scheme of envagination turning the medium inside out to make us aware that this is after all just show biz. So why take it so seriously?

At the end of a successful decade, 20th Century Fox signed Meyer and writer Roger Ebert to go "Beyond the Valley" of two popular themes in a soap opera plot about buxotic pop stars. The Carrie Nations were played by Dolly Read (Playboy's Miss May '66 bka Ms. Dick "Laugh In" Martin), Cynthia Myers (Miss December '68), and Marcia McBroom.

As good as they looked, the Playmates weren't singers, so their vocals were dubbed in by actor McDonald Carey's daughter Lynn. Her Mama Lion album has a nude centerfold nursing a lion cub and features the single "Give It Everything I've Got." Ivar Avenue Reunion rendesvouzed with harpist Charlie Musselwhite, Space Ranger Neil Merryweather, and Electric Flag's Barry Goldberg. Lynn sang with Eric Burdon in the '80s and is now known as the Mae West of The Los Angeles Jazz Choir.

Carey was lucky to have Stu Phillips at the control board. Stu produced "Blue Moon" for The Marcels adapting the intro from "Zoom" by The Cadillacs, "Goodbye Cruel World" for James Darren, and "Johnny Angel" for Shelley Fabares. Phillips also wrote many orchestral arrangements of pop tunes: 10 LPs with The Hollyridge Strings as well as Castaway Strings on Vee-Jay, Sunset Strings on Liberty, Fantabulous Strings on MGM and Music for Outer Space with Harry Revel. Phillips scored Angels from Hell, The Wild Angels, '72's Martin Sheen vehicle Pickup on 101 with Igo Kantor, Quincy, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Working with a major studio allowed Meyer to hire name talent. The Sandpipers of "Guantanamera"/"Kumbaya" fame swoon mood music, and Strawberry Alarm Clock are special guest stars at Z-Man's party. Always trendy, the Clock started as "Swamp Surfer" ho-dads The Irridescents and then went mod as Thee Sixpence. Later axman Ed King strengthened Al Kooper's first Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup.

The studio system cramped Meyer's style, and Ebert who began to use a pen name when Sneak Previews became successful. Meyer himself had long used pseudonyms in credits to make it look like he had a larger crew. Now he could get the best.

Meyer's later independent films were scored by William Loose who had administered the Hi-Q music library for Capital and worked with Kantor on Vixen as well as Cherry, Harry and Raquel. Bill's credits range from the squeaky clean Doris Day and Donna Reed shows to David Friedman's Trader Hornee. Loose even worked with Ozzie--on Love and Kisses starring Rick Nelson directed by his dad. Bill now composes for WQED's Planet Earth series on PBS.

The Hi-Q library was a top source of production themes featuring the "Structural Music" of Sandor Lazlo, a pioneering theorist and master practitioner. This program music elicits moods to indicate the rising and falling actions within a plot. Meyer brings the satirical use of stereotypical cues to hilarious climaxes by framing cliches within ironic contexts.

For Blacksnake, Bill Loose tottered with Al Teeter of The Three Ambassadors. This Coconut Grove vocal group cranked out country standards at a marathon session used for many Republic westerns. Then Teeter became a music editor at Disney for everyone from Alice to Zorro.

Loose rallied reinforcements Paul Ruhland and Syd Dale for Meyer's epic Up! Paul Ruhland is an arranger for the Vancouver Jazz Fest with a background in relaxed improvisation who arranged "I Will Play a Rhapsody" for Burton Cummings. Conductor Syd Dale spent decades with England's Amphonic music library and can be heard on the Scamp compilations Music for TV Dinners and The Sound Gallery.

Here we see Meyer coming full circle. His early low-budget productions used typical program music. After experimenting with original pop music, Meyer went back to using the much more strongly motivated structural music that is the basis of most movie and TV melodrama. This time, however, he was able to hire the musicians who had canned the music in the first place to synthesize original scores based on practical dramatic principles to deconstruct the entire genre. Meyer's masterful sendup of Wagner turns musical motives topsy-turvy.

With this radical agenda in mind, it is not such a great leap from Syd Dale to Sid Vicious. The Sex Pistols raved about Meyer's vision of Who Killed Bambi? in the "Big Tits Across America" radio interviews on Some Product. Julian Temple retains traces of Meyer's original concept in Tenpole Tudor's title tune and the ubiquitous Martin Bormann's return when Sid split with Nancy in the twilight of the gobs.

What Russ really couldn't stand was that stupid swastika Sid wore. Meyer hates Nazis. Russ stands for freedom and hopes to stamp out all the little Hitlers springing up in small town America. Those narrow minds with their tight assets took Meyer to court several times on obscenity charges. But he never gave up.

Meyer released many of his movies on video in the '80's. Immediately his irreverence inspired the punk and metal scenes to emulate his outrageous pricking of middle-class morality. Meyer continued to audition new talent for a magnum opus that has yet to appear. In the '90's, the soundtracks were wisely packaged with three scores on a disc mixing popular favorites with obscure delicacies. All products are available directly from Meyer's website.

Meyer's movies are the ultimate in burlesque. They travesty other genres by reducing self-important stuffed shirts to ridicule. Meyer's absurdity is effective because he's using the same music as the cheesy movies and TV series he's spoofing. And while they may sound the same, Meyer's showing things you'll never see on TV. He's pushing the limit in every way.

The breast man is expansive in his personal expression unlike the cramped anal retentives the extrovert prods. This expansion leads to overstatement as its most natural means of articulation. Hyperbole is Meyer's prime figure of speech: two complimentary conic sections mimicking the female form. These mirroring arcs approach yet never quite reach their limits. Sound echoes sight with the reverberation of thematic icons reaching a thundering climax of hysterically histrionic hilarity.

Do you come when you laugh or laugh when you come?

For Meyer, music is motivated by sex. That primal drive is the beat that pulses through every social transaction. Money, power, fame? These are only means to sexual fulfillment. Our pride leads us into diverse forms of denial, but eventually we have our dramatic comedown. And the music rises and falls with our fortunes. Those who determine their own destinies are triumphant, while those who deny are drowned in the riotous uproar of folly.

We have yet to see The Breast of Russ Meyer. Meanwhile check out his new deluxe illustrated autobiography. Hopefully he will release videos of his early experimental exploitation explorations and discover fresh flesh. Our appetite for delight is insatiable. There can never be enough Buxotica!

2001 Curtis Cottrell

http://cmcottrell.tripod.com/deconscription/

 

OUTLAW ORDER

Legalize Crime 7" EP

Southern Lord SUNN 27.5

southernnihilismfront@hotmail.com

"Byproduct of a Wrecked Society"

"Delinquent Reich"

"Illegal in 50 States"

"Double Barrel Solves Everything"

Singer Mike Williams is a really sharp guy, but most people think he is a moron when he presents them with enigmatic paradoxes that seem to contradict themselves. How do we attain "Peace Through War?" Let the morons in Washington explain that. Mike will explain himself when his book of lyrics and stories is published later this year. For now, we have Outlaw Order. EYEHATEGOD is on hold while Jimmy Bower follows the yellow brick road to Ozfest with Superjoint Ritual. Brian Patton and Joey Lacaze remain on guitar and drums and Mark Schultz from the first two EHG albums rejoins on bass. Guitarist Gary Mador of Hawgjaw knows EYEHATEGOD’s blend of Black Flag and Black Sabbath so well that he even sat in on vocals at a benefit for a friend’s funeral when Williams was living in New York. It’s Gary’s enthusiasm at finally being able to record with his pals that makes these songs so fresh and exciting. He’s not just imitating Jimmy Bower, but adding his own interpretations to conventions established in EYEHATEGOD’s previous compositions.

And Mike is on vocals. And that’s what makes the difference. Superstars make too much money to be really angry at society. If some rock god gets in trouble, he may have to perform some kind of community service. For the same offence, Mike would do hard time in Orleans Parish Prison. Outlaw Order is beyond teenage angst; this is a fullgrown "Dose of Hostility," because Mike really is "Inferior and Full of Anxiety" like his mentor Darby Crash. Never such nihilism since Nietzsche’s WILL TO POWER.

New Left critic Theodore Adorno interpreted heavy music as the individual overwhelmed by the machine. Jimmy Bower liked to think of the voice as just another instrument, itself distorted by growls just as guitars are distorted by fuzzboxes. "Every once in a while, you make out a few words like ‘Burn her!’" That’s enough to get the message across. Mike struggles to rise above the noise. Eventually it is the working man who is empowered, because he is the technician who operates the machines. What appeared to be conflict was just a fake fight meant to get you startled.

Mike has zero tolerance for the society that will not tolerate him. He floats on the fringe of the underground subculture. There is an order among outlaws when there is honor among thieves. This is why the rock band has become the archetypal paradigm of an anarchist syndicate. Outlaw Order also shows us how beautiful the ugly can be. That is because Mike is applying the full force of his creative energy to Outlaw Order. It’s not just a formula rock side project produced to satisfy contractual obligations like so many sorry solo albums of the seventies. This is the real deal with no artistic compromise. It’s brutal, bro’, but brutality with brains.

The Quintron Controversy

by Peter George & Curtis Cottrell

Just as my fingers on these keys

Make music, so the selfsame sounds

On my spirit make a music, too.

Music is feeling, then, not sound;

----Wallace Stevens

"Peter Quince at the Clavier"

What fools these mortals be!

----Robin Goodfellow Puck

"A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Is Quintron a quack or the quintessence of cool and strange? (Perhaps, a bit of both.) Seeking a solution to the Quintron mystique sometimes seems quite a quixotic quest. Who is this "'No quotes!'" quasi-stellar sex object receding ever faster as he constantly expands? When quizzed about a technical question, Quintron's credibility quotient is extremely high. But ask about his personal life, and be prepared to be misled by a querulous quarry of mischievous misinformation to a quagmire of quavering quicksand.

Can we quash and quell all criticism and quench your curiosity? Quintron is New Orleans' premier underground patentee, producer, performer and prankster. Sometimes this quaint and quirky subgenius sizzles in the spotlight, and sometimes the mysterious wizard behind the curtain pushes your buttons and pulls your strings--as well as your legs.

As a child, Quintron built Heathkit stereos at home learning electronics from hands-on practical experience. In high school, the budding icon fronted a cover band called Idol Chatter. Eventually the offbeat organist emerged in a Windy City ensemble called Math establishing his DIY lo-tech aesthetic. A Mardi Gras excursion to New Orleans changed Quintron's life when he met Miss Panacea Pussycat. After a brief flirtation with The Milk of Burgundy Love in Chicago, the glad scientist moved his laboratory to the Big Easy Crescent City and began to translate his dreams into reality.

The Drum Buddy is Quintron's first patented invention. This light-activated analog rhythm machine converts beams from a bulb within a perforated coffee can into four discreet layers of sound. As the can rotates, different patterns of holes activate a pair of rhythm sensors corresponding to bass and snare drums as well as two screaming scratch sensors, whose tonal qualities can be altered by toggling various switches. The brightness of both inner bulb and stage lighting affects Drum Buddy's tone as well. Quintron also orchestrates a pre-programmed digital drum machine, a Wurlitzer Sprite Funmaker, and antique Hammond and Gulbranson organs to create primal, sensual, bacchanalian techno-primitive frenzy.

Skeptics scoffed at Galileo, Tesla and the Wright Brothers, but history has vindicated their innovations. Some cynics even claim that Drum Buddy does not actually exist and that all those strange yet compelling sounds must come from a computer or other digital device. The interactive capacity of Drum Buddy--"a direct link between the human hand and sheer electronic voltage"--sets Quintron's invention a quantum leap ahead of soundalike digital drones. Several prototypes such as The Spit Machine and The Disco Light Machine have been purchased by savvy musicians and DJs. Many more of the perfected and patented devices have been reserved for the advanced guard. These opinion leaders will be in the front ranks of Quintron's allies. Greg Wildes of Gas Tank Orchestra agrees that Drum Buddy is like "Mardi Gras in a can!"

As Plato studied with Socrates in the groves of Academia and as Elvis learned from Liberace in the saloons of Las Vegas, so Quintron is mentored by rhythm'n'blues legend Ernie K-Doe, whose Mother-In-Law Lounge mural depicts a symphonic symposium of soul man and disciple. And as Plato's theory was applied by Aristotle, Quintron has inspired a testosterone-fueled jiver in polyester leisure suit and frizzy disco wighat. (ADRV alum Jay Poggi) When asked by a WTUL DJ if he sampled Black Sabbath, MC Trachiotomy retorted, "Yeah, their philosophy...mentality is what it's all about."

This iconoclastic tribal mentality is shared by Crash Worship guitarist Jeff Mattson, who helped build Quintron's basement studio where the Drum Buddy promo was shot. As "Studio Owner Randy Jackson," Mattson swears he loves Drum Buddy's "phat bottom." And if infomercial announcer "Bob Global" looks familiar, you may have seen Eric Pierson acting in Oscar-bound Eve's Bayou, hosting Tribe TV, styling in Barq's and Levis ads, or singing with Gimp or Dulac Swade. Ringside, we find Gentilly stomper Jheri MacGillicuddy and fabled French Quarter eccentric Ruthy the Duck Girl.

In the studio, "The Amazing Spellcaster" despises the pretensions of bad British pseudo-classical art rock appealing to aristocratic snobs and nouveau riche bourgeois upstarts. Quintron is a man of the people who admires the organ stylings of James Brown, Jimmy Smith and the gospel prophets honored on his collaboration with The Oblivians, stars of Memphis director (Damselvis, Apocalypse Meow) J.M. McCarthy's Sore Losers. And, of course, Quintron stands on the broad shoulders of Leon Theremin, Bob Moog, Raymond Scott and Silver Apples' oscillating Simeon. Then go watch "Ghost TV!"

Quintron's production skills can be heard extensively on the Bobby Redbeet CD and the Engine #9 compilation featuring Famous Monster Sean Iseult of White Zombie. The "monster truck" vocals on The MacGillicuddys' rasslin' rocker "Don't Shatter My World" may test the limits of your sound system. And Quintron isn't beyond picking streetcorner hiphoppers as new breed contenders to challenge the tough turf of Master P.

Since this elusive and enigmatic man of mystery categorically refuses interviews, you've got to see Quintron play to know what he is all about. How many concerts have signs prohibiting nudity? Quintron's music is so erotic that it's hard for the crowd to keep their clothes on! No wonder Crash Worship found Quintron's evangelical fervor the ideal fluffer to work up the masses for their infamous Dionysian tribal/industrial orgies. Every show is a carefree return to childhood experimentation.

Each performance begins with a puppet show. Quintron and Panacea are the Punch & Judy of the musical world. And the Pussycat Playhouse is an important frame of reference for understanding their mentality. Harlequin and Columbine outwit baggy pants buffoons with sound effects by Drum Buddy.

Miss Pussycat's contribution to the Quintron equation must not be underestimated. Whether accompanying on backup vocals and percussion or staging her eagerly anticipated puppet shows, Miss P is an integral part of the overall spectacle. Panacea is the storytelling Wendy to Quintron's flying Peter Pan. And it is Pussycat who invites the listener to "Meet Me at the Clubhouse" at the beginning of These Hands of Mine.

A force in her own right, Miss Pussycat is a card-carrying member of Puppeteers of America, who has released several segments of her story cycle beginning with Flossie and the Unicorns. Whereas Quintron was reared as a cosmopolitan, Panacea was raised in the hills of rural Oklahoma's Red River Valley--where the big town is Paris, Texas. Little Miss Pussycat started working with puppets in Bible school: "When you grow up in the country, you learn to entertain yourself."

With episodes like "Free Guitar Lessons for Animals" and characters like Miss Foxyface, DJ Cardboard and Princess Pandora Stardust, Panacea's puppet shows are marvels of irreverence and whimsy. Usually the animals' peaceful play is disrupted by an antagonistic monster whose anger becomes his own undoing--as when an intruder tries to steal the secret of honey from Queen Latifah and her sweet bees. Such mini-morality plays are hints to hostile onlookers to keep cool. Don't take yourself so seriously.

After the puppet show, Quintron hunches behind his vintage Hammond with one hand on the keyboard and the other manipulating the Drum Buddy with teeth clenching a wireless carioke microphone. Miss Pussycat joins in on maracas and harmony vocals--occasionally backed by a street urchin choir or a bottle blonde chorus. Often a bubble machine blows glistening opalescent orbs into the audience. The crowd goes wild! Usually a second line of true believers gyrates in front of the stage to display their ample charms--quivering and quaking, then climactically squeaking, squealing, squirming and squishing. The beat is throbbing and the melody mesmerizing. If you're not totally comatose, you've just got to dance! Quintron is ecstatic, enthusiastic and rhapsodic--standing outside himself while seized and carried away by feeling.

If you want to know your P's and Q's, it's all there in the music and the puppet shows. This odd couple's choice of themes is highly self-referential: The Champs' "Meet Me at the Clubhouse" (calling out a quorum of our posse) and K-Doe's "A Certain Girl" ("What's her name?"/"I can't tell you!") to Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me" (Third degree from Kim Fowley). All the songs and stories reflect Pussycat and Quintron's unique alternative lifestyle. "Satan is Dead," so "Do the Stomp!" The secret of making honey is to sing and dance. This humming interactivity is the underground community's Utopian bliss. And of course, the best way to meet Quintron & Pussycat is to see them yourself on tours of America, Europe and--wouldn't you know--they're big in Japan. And when you do, break down!

For more info check out--

http://listen.to/quintron

www.eccentricneworleans.com

www.skingraftrecords.com

www.netway.com/~bulb/quintron

www.southern.com

Peter George is the director of Surf Nazis Must Die, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown and The MacGillicuddys in Concert. (www.troma.com and www.surfnazismustdie.com)

Rotary Connection

Cadet Concept (Chess)

Rotary Connection, 1967

Aladdin, 1968

Peace, 1968

Songs, 1969

Dinner Music, 1970

Hey Love, 1971

Harmony was the by-word of pop in the 1960’s.  From the Beach boys through the Mamas & Papas to Three Dog Night, vocal groups personified the unification of the youth movement.  Finally, the “Me Decade” rolled around, and we got those self-indulgent 70’s solo albums.

Chess Records sought to cater to the flower children who were flocking to the Fillmore to see its blues legends since its core audience had shifted its tastes to what was perceived as the more sophisticated sounds of Motown and Memphis.  Marshall Chess persuaded his father Leonard to allow him to form his own label Cadet Concept—with emphasis on the Concept.

Chuck Berry’s soul had been psychedelicized on Concerto in B Goode in 1966, although we suspect that the duke of the duckwalk only had enough songs for one side of an LP and the effect-laden jam on side two was merely an expedient filler.  Marshall Chess would take this experiment further by producing a rock/soul fusion using all studio gimmicks available at the time.  Rotary Connection was the concept that would combine both racial and musical harmony to establish a broad consumer base.  After a half dozen attempts, the label realized that neither rock nor soul audience cared for the concept very much.

This is easy-listening music, but Rotary Connection shouldn’t be lumped with 1001 Strings Do Elevator Arrangements of British Invasion Hits.  This isn’t just smarmy exploitation; these people really believed in what they were doing, and if they flopped, at least they did it with style.  They were trying to subversively appeal to the radical chic, not preach to the converted like MC5.  And then there is all that herbal imagery on their album covers:  this group really smokes!

The first album begins with a pop arrangement of the old-time spiritual “Amen” and follows with Charles Stepney’s gospel arrangements of pop hits by Sam & Dave, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and The Loving Spoonful.  Whereas the original refrain of “Like a Rolling Stone” was a plaintive cry of alienation, RC converts the line into a full-blown chorus, “How does it feel!” to imply that we are not alone in our isolation and estrangement and just need to get together and love one another.  Power to the People.  Right On!

Leading this vocal attack was Minnie Riperton, a veteran of The Lovettes and The Gems who was also receptionist at the Chess office and sand backup for Etta James and Fontella Bass.  After a solo stint in 1966 as “Andrea Davis,” Minnie sang on Rotary Connection’s first five albums before leaving for a solo career bolstered by backing vocals for Stevie Wonder in 1973.  In 1975, Riperton scored the #1 single of the year “Loving You” and was a favorite on the disco scene until her death of cancer in 1979.

Besides the strength of the vocalists, Chess boosted the production values with electronic effects by Bill Bradley that foreshadow the industrial music movement.  Short transitional tracks on the first and fifth albums such as “Rapid Transit,” “Black Noise,” “Pointillism,” and “Pump Effect” point toward devices now common among rappers and ravers.

Whereas the first LP was mostly covers, 1966’s Aladdin had original tunes and explored the theme of transcending the materialism of a “Paper Castle.”  The message was to trade that new lamp for an old one.  In this case, a hookah with a tube that turned into a plug with members of the group as prongs.  Get the Connection?

This second foray was followed by a Christmas album Peace that may have been a bit rushed in execution to get it out on the shelves in time for the holiday season.  “Sidewalk Santa” does stand out in its ironic portrayal of commercialism.  And peace is given a topical interpretation in the repetition of the album’s title in Russian and Vietnamese.  And what is Santa smoking in that long, Oriental pipe?

By 1969, the group decided to do another album of covers, this time including arrangements of some of the heavier hitters of the Woodstock Generation.  Songs’ standout tracks include Cream’s “We’re Going Wrong” and Hendrix’ “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” and their treatment of “The Weight” hasn’t dated as much as some other versions.

1970’s Dinner Music has a few fine originals such as “Living Alone” and “Merry Prankster,” but their climax is “Stormy Monday Blues,” which had long been part of the group’s live repertoire.  By this time, Riperton was on her way out, and the last album without her was not widely distributed indicating little effort to promote it on the part of the label which was by then a division of GRT Corporation.  The earlier albums are worth looking for, especially the first two and Songs.

Will the circle be unbroken?  By and by, buy and buy.


Rotary Connection's Psychedelic Soul

Curtis Cottrell profiles the players, reviews the records and outlines the aftermath of the concept that turned into a band

 

Rotary Connection was an electric gospel group preaching the good news of liberty and equality for all regardless of race or creed.  In 1969 at the Milwaukee Arena, Rotary Connection performed the first Catholic rock mass.  How many angels can dance on a phonograph needle?

 

THE PLAYERS

 

MARSHALL CHESS

 

Like Al Kooper of Columbia and Artie Kornfeld of Capital, Marshall Chess was "the company freak."  The old record execs didn't appreciate rock music, but they knew there was money to be made, so they needed young go-getters to sign fresh talent.  When Marshall wanted to go to England, his father turned the trip into a grand tour of the European affiliates who had licensed Chess records for distribution.  Their English partner Pye Records had a reciprocal agreement that Marshall used when he licensed “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by The Status Quo for release on his new label Cadet Concept.  Good deal for $300!

 

When Daily Telegraph columnist Philip Larkin praised George Martin's fusion of classical and rock in Help!, other producers jumped on the bandwagon.  Marshall caught this trend and ran it all the way back to Chicago.  Some of the most avant garde musicians in town were his retainers.

Rotary Connection was a product of the studio system, but what a studio!  Sidemen included guitarists Phil Upchurch, whose combo charted in 1961 with “You Can’t Sit Down,” and Pete Cosey, who went on to play with Miles Davis and Bill Laswell.  Both guitarists contributed to Marshall Chess’ effects-laden concept sessions for Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud and The Howlin’ Wolf Album.  Howlin’ Wolf told Pete Cosey, “'Why don't you take them wah-wahs and all that other shit and go throw it off in the lake — on your way to the barber shop?” 

Rotary Connection used the best musicians in Chicago.  Drummer Maurice White and bassist Louis Satterfield from The Ramsey Lewis Trio were inspired to create Earth, Wind and Fire after their sessions with Rotary Connection.  Bobby Christian specialized in creating sound effects with percussion instruments.  Christian was a member of the NBC and CBS radio orchestras and played with Sophie Tucker, “The King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman and Arturo Toscannini.  Christian's albums include Mr. Percussion, Strings for a Space Age and Vibe-Rations.  A string section from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra buttressed the electric musicians.

Chess had crossover hits with “The In Crowd” and “Wade in the Water” by Ramsey Lewis and “Burning Spear” by The Soulful Strings.  Leonard Chess had acquired FM radio station WSDM in Chicago and was experimenting with a more sophisticated sound for an upscale audience.  Female "Den Pal" DJs such as Linda “Hush Puppy” Ellerbee were the radio equivalent of Hugh Hefner’s playmates.  Rotary Connection was tailored for this new FM format.

 

CHARLES STEPNEY

 

Stepney grew up singing gospel with The Stepney Five. He studied composition and orchestration at Chicago’s Roosevelt University and even read the texts used at the Juilliard School of Music.  He was in a jazz combo with guitarist Pete Cosey and played piano at The Playboy Club in Chicago.  Arranger Charles Evans brought in Stepney to play vibes on the Soulful Strings sessions.  Stepney updated the sound of The Dells and got a remake of their 1956 hit "Oh What a Night" back on the charts in 1969.

 

SIDNEY BARNES

 

Barnes grew up in Washington, DC.  In high school, he sang in The Embracers with Marvin Gaye, Van McCoy and Herb Feemster of Peaches and Herb.  He sang with The Serenaders on Motown and recorded solo on Red Bird records, where he wrote the Vietnam War ballad “Long Live Our Love” for The Shangri-Las.  In 1963, Barnes capitalized on the latest buzz word with "Talkin' 'Bout a Shindig."  After the Detroit riots, Andre Williams convinced Barnes to move to Chicago.  Greg Perry was originally supposed to be the songwriter for Rotary Connection, but he wasn't really into rock.  When Sidney Barnes showed that he could write in the style of the Beatles and the Stones, he got the job.  Barnes would continue his topical commentary on Muddy Water’s Electric Mud with "Herbert Harper's Free Press News," a favorite of Jimi Hendrix.  Chess even psychedelicized Bo Diddley with Barnes' song "I'm High Again" in 1968.

 

BOBBY SIMMS

 

Born Robert Siemiaskzo, Bobby sang for The Mus-twangs on Smash Records with Paul Cotton and Keith Anderson of Illinois Speed Press.  Anderson recalls, "Bobby and I were together with the Mus-Twangs maybe two more years from 1961 before we splintered off to form the Bobby Simms Trio...we opened for the Rolling Stones at the Aierie Crown Theater in Chicago, 1963."  Bobby recorded "And You're Mine"/"Do Things Right" in 1964 and "Big Mama"/"Please Please Believe" in 1966 as Bobby Simms and The Simmers.  Bobby Simms and The Proper Strangers had Bobby on guitar with Mitch Aliotta on bass and Kenny Venegas on drums.  This trio became the instrumental core of Rotary Connection's touring lineup.

MINNIE RIPERTON

“What is a coloratura soprano?”

“Madame, is special fancy breed, like blue Persian cat.  Come once in a lifetime, sing all a trill, a staccato ha-ha-ha, cadenza, a tough stuff…bring more dough to a grand opera house than big…tenor.”  James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce, 1941.

Minnie Riperton was a five and a half octave piccolo coloratura who could enunciate in the “whistle” range.  Riperton was trained as an operatic soprano at Chicago’s Lincoln Center and sang with The Hyde Park A Cappella Choir in high school.  At sixteen, she was signed by Chess Records to become a member of The Gems with blind pianist Raynard Miner.  The Gems sang backing vocals on several Chess Records, most notably Fontella Bass’ 1965 hit “Rescue Me,” written by Miner.  Chess even valued Riperton enough to keep her on the payroll as a receptionist.

THE RECORDS

The Rotary Connection, 1967 #37

 

The debut album links songs with transitional connectors. “Rapid Transit” is a fast tempo orchestration suggesting the hectic pace of urban life.  “Pink Noise” and “Black Noise” are electronic precursors of what we would now call industrial noise.  Sursum Mentes” combines medieval monasticism with exotic minor chords.  Finally, “Rotary Connection” reprises sample flashbacks from the songs that went before.

 

The Rotary Connection begins with “Amen,” the spiritual that Sidney Poitier taught German nuns in the 1963 movie Lilies of the Field.  The song became an ecumenical bond that connected black and white, Protestant and Catholic, Americans and Europeans.  Inspired by The Beatles, “Turn Me On” begins with an electrical metaphor, “You say you know all about life/And that you know why all the lights are turned on,” then goes into medieval imagery, “You claim your wisdom is wide as the key chain/That hangs on the breast of a king/Well I’m just a pilgrim, a lone knight errant/A good and a worthy young man.”  This Pre-Raphaelite style combining the sensual with the spiritual continues with “Lady Jane” by The Rolling Stones.  Side One concludes with the isolation and alienation of displacement expressed in the radical revision of “Like a Rolling Stone.”

 

Side Two opens with a cover of Isaac Hayes’ “Soul Man” that puts the emphasis on the spiritual aspect of “Soul.”  “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” is more faithful to the original by The Lovin’ Spoonful.  Dick Rudolph’s “Memory Band” experiments with the singers’ voices as instruments.  “Ruby Tuesday” alternates between the Gregorian chanting of verses and an anthem style chorus with what were then “state of the art” electronic effects.  "I really prefer what some might call the old-fashioned means, but what I consider the more resourceful and inventive means of producing the sounds we accept as electronic. I can get excellent effects by altering and distorting legitimate sounds with tapes and stuff."   Charles Stepney, Downbeat, 1970.

 

The Rotary Connection reached #37 on the US charts, but could have done better if Sears, Roebuck stores had not considered the album artwork inappropriate for a family audience.  Retail chain Montgomery Ward would likewise object to the artwork on Rotary Connection’s best selling Christmas album Peace.

 

Aladdin, 1968 #176

 

For the second album, Chess used engineer Ron Malo, a favorite of The Rolling Stones.  When we recorded at the Chess Studios in Chicago, we had Ron (Malo), the guy who engineered all the Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf records. He knew exactly what we wanted, and he got it almost instantly.”  Bill Wyman, 1972. 

 

Aladdin is a story told in songs, most of them by Bobby Simms.  The story begins with “Life Could,” an ironic resignation to commonplace reality.  Then the hero with a thousand faces gets the call to adventure with “Teach Me How To Fly.”  He wishes to be a “V.I.P.”--“To be respected/Looked up to.”  “Let Them Talk” shows his disdain for public opinion and peer pressure that would hold him back.  The quest for fame continues with “I Took A Ride (Caravan).” 

 

The title track is by Steve Duboff and "The Pied Piper of Woodstock" Artie Kornfeld:  "Anytime that you need a friend/ On whose love you can depend/Close your eyes and just pretend/ And I'll be there."  Then we journey to the “Magical World,” where the hero encounters the genius of imagination which is the source of creativity.  Then the hero has a vision of ecstatic sublimation in “I Must Be There” by Illinois Speed Press’ Keith Anderson.  This creative high cannot be maintained, so he comes back down with “I Feel Sorry” and Cash McCall’s warning, “We’re living in a paper castle/The wind is going to blow it down.”  The disillusioned hero is wiser than when he started his quest.

 

Peace, 1968 #24

 

Rotary Connection augmented their rotating lineup with Jim and Tom Donlinger and Jim Nyeholt of Aorta on guitar, drums and organ.  Minnie Riperton uses her voice as an instrument in a duel with Jim Donlinger’s guitar on “Silent Night.”  The guitar loses.

 

The songs on Peace proclaim the album's concept of "good will to all."  Sidney Barnes sends some “Christmas Love” to those who need it most.  Send somebody some love/Mayor Daley/Washington, DC needs love/In Mississippi/Give a little love to the Jew/Give a little love to your white brother/Give a little love to your Indian friends.”  In “Peace At Least,” Sidney asks why Santa comes down the chimney rather than in through the door.  The answer is, “Santa smokes mistletoe.”  “What would ever happen/If he gave some to the kids?”

 

Songs, 1969

 

After two albums of original songs, Rotary Connection came around full circle and recorded another album of innovative arrangements of popular songs.  The group also came full circle by covering rock songs influenced by Chess blues and even got Muddy Waters’ mojo working.

 

Once again the band took on new members in its rotating lineup.  Jon Stocklin and John Jeremiah had played guitar and keyboards for The Nite Owls, a Southern Illinois University band who eventually changed their name to Nickel Bag.  As The Nite Owls, the band had recorded a couple of New Orleans rhythm’n’blues covers at Chess Studios.  Songs by both The Nite Owls and Nickel Bag are included on Chicago Garage Band Greats: The Best of Rembrandt Records, 1966-1968. 

 

Dinner Music, 1970

 

Like the first album, Dinner Music uses transitional tracks between songs.  "Pointillism," "Lectrics," and "Pump Effect" are proto-industrial musique concrete.  

 

Jon Stocklin contributed several songs to Dinner Music.  The single "Want You To Know" barely made the charts at #96.  "Country Things" is the humorous story of a man who gets tomorrow's newspaper, which gives him the ability to make money at the racetrack and the stock market.  However, he dies of fright when he reads his own obituary.  All that money didn't do him much good.  "Amuse" is a simple but effective ballad featuring Minnie and acoustic guitar.  The theme of isolation in "Living Alone" is repeated, expanded and resolved.  Once again, love is the answer to empty and meaningless isolation.

Sidney Barnes summed up the Rotary Connection philosophy, May our Amens be true/May we be one and whole/One in the deeds of justice and of peace.”

Hey Love, 1971

 

By the time that he recorded the last Rotary Connection album, Charles Stepney was through experimenting because he had perfected his craft.  Because Hey Love uses less special effects, it has dated less than other Rotary Connection albums.

 

The New Rotary Connection included more talented Chicago musicians.  Jazz guitarist Pat Ferreri had played on Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions’ Check Out Your Mind and Mayfield’s first solo album Curtis.  Percussion Master Henry Gibson appears in the movie Superfly with The Curtis Mayfield Experience.

 

"If I Sing My Song" mixes bossa nova rhythm with Tijuana brass, "Like the sound of the wind in the trees/Like the thunder that calls to the sea."  "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun" starts off with a classical guitar intro joined by a chicken scratch guitar that eventually ejaculates the cock crow announcing the sunrise.  The scorching guitar sizzles in the background highlighting the vocals.  "I'm the tall oak tree/I'm the jungle stream/I am the morning sun/Shining on everyone/I'm the shining sea/I'm the mountain high /I'm a man so free."  The title song seems to speak for the uncertain situation of Rotary Connection, "Hey Love, what can I say to you/That's never been said before?/Where has that sparkle gone now?/It's hard to tell for sure./...I've got to go on trying."

 

"Song for Everyman" shows contempt for the world of "concrete canyons."  A spiritual awakening will bring us together.  "I don't know what is right for all the people./I wonder what is left of dreams that fade and die?...Maybe we can find the answer."  "Help your neighbor if you can/Show some patience for the dreamer/Sing a song for Everyman."  "We aren't much different from each other/Time makes dust and ashes of us all."  "Love Is" uses the Biblical device of repeating an initial phrase to define the many aspects of love.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.)  Ultimately, love is the Rotary Connection that binds us all together.  "The Vine of Happiness" connects all mankind, "Better take the time to get to know your fellow man/...Don't you know we need each other/...Can I help you on your way?/We've got to trust each other/...Just open your heart/It's not too late/...Don't you know that we could build a brand new day?"

 

AFTERMATH

 

"Chess Records didn't have the mechanism to deal with a rock act.  They were more geared toward the blues," says Sidney Barnes, "Lots of those other acts envied our success on the college circuit."  Maurice White invited Barnes and Riperton to sing for Earth, Wind and Fire after "he felt the energy of the live act," but they declined.  Barnes says Elton John's arrangements were inspired by Rotary Connection's orchestration.  Several artists have covered or sampled Rotary Connection songs including Crispian St. Peters, Chaka Khan, Nuyorican Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, DJ Shadow, Eric B and Rakim, Puff Daddy and Jay-Z.

 

Marshall Chess produced Godfathers and Sons for Martin Scorsese's PBS series The Blues featuring a recording session with Chuck D of Public Enemy and the Chess musicians who had played on Electric Mud and The Rotary Connection. 

 

Charles Stepney used the backing singers of The New Rotary Connection as studio chorus for Terry Callier's jazz albums.  Stepney signed with Columbia where he produced Earth, Wind and Fire, The Emotions, Ramsey Lewis, and Deneice Williams.  Stepney also scored commercials for Coca Cola, Macdonald's and Afro Sheen.  He died of a heart attack in 1976.

 

Mitch Aliotta and John Jeremiah released four albums as Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah.  Their 1971 song "Lake Shore Drive" got quite a bit of airplay in Chicago.  In 1978, A-H-J appeared as a band whose singer was electrocuted on stage in Sparrow, a TV movie by Larry Cohen, the director of Black Caesar, It's Alive, God Told Me To, and Q: The Winged Serpent. 

 

Bobby Simms writes songs for the Baha’i Faith, which promotes the unity of all humanity, the condemnation of all forms of prejudice and universal peace as the supreme goal.  New lamps for old?

 

Sidney Barnes began a long songwriting collaboration with George Clinton during their tenure at Motown.  The Supremes sang "Can't Shake It Loose" on their Love Child album, and The Jackson 5 sang “I’ll Bet You” on their ABC album.  Both songs were remade by Funkadelic.  Barnes co-wrote the 1966 Parliament single "That Was My Girl" which Clinton updated on 1972's America Eats Its Young, and Parliament's 1965 song "Heart Trouble" which was reworked as "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure," on 1973's Cosmic Slop.  Barnes was one of the "Extraterrestrial Voices" on Parliament's smash hit Mothership Connection.  He has recently reunited with George Clinton to record a CD of Motown hits.  Barnes has a new single "A Man in a Million" as follow up to his Northern Soul hit "Standing on Solid Ground" and sang for the studio jam band Big Ol' Nasty Getdown.

 

Minnie Riperton didn't just talk the talk about breaking down racial boundaries.  She walked the walk when she married songwriter Richard Rudolph.  Their musical interests had more in common than their social backgrounds differed.  Their daughter Maya Rudolph distinguished herself on NBC’s Saturday Night Live with comic impersonations of pop singers Beyoncé Knowles, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Charo, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera.

 

Riperton sang backing vocals for Stevie Wonder before her solo career peaked with the 1975 hit “Loving You.”  Her rise was cut short by breast cancer.  Not at all the stereotypically temperamental prima donna, her colleagues honored Riperton as a “Perfect Angel” with whom it was always a pleasure to work.

 

With warbling wah-wahs and scintillating sitars, Rotary Connection was so much of its time that it dated quickly.  Hopefully new listeners will accept the music on its own terms rather than as campy relics of a bygone era.

Royal Blood

An Inside View of What It Means To Be A Pendleton Man

by Curtis Cottrell

Once upon a time around ten years ago, I ran an audition notice for plaidophiles in Dale "Psychotronic" Ashmun's "Spare Parts" column in New Orleans' monthly entertainment rag Offbeat. (And to think that these stiffs would eventually share the cover of Offbeat with Frankie "Sea Cruise" Ford.) Explaining that Pendleton flannels were favored by The Beach Boys, I referred said sartorial cultists to Mike Hurtt, a man with a mission from beyond. Beyond what, I'm not sure.

Mike Hurtt cultivates more than a slight resemblance to Eddie "Summertime Blues" Cochran. He is always impeccably dressed in vintage threads with two-tone shoes and nary a hair of his blond ducktail out of place. No mousse or gel for this greaser; it's got to be either Brylcreme or Brilliantine. Mike and his brother Eric grew up in South Bend, Indiana where their father is an architecture professor at Notre Dame University. Little did the elder Hurtt know what gargoyles would loom in his sons' future.

An early incarnation of The Royal Pendletons included bassist Kevin O'Brien and the mysterious Dr. Wolf on drums. Like Hurtt himself, the former was an Indiana transplant trying to juggle another band called Bim Bom and a job as a librarian at LSU Medical Center while the latter was a successful surgeon. Such a lineup was bound to be doomed, but Sir Michael looked onward and upward for truly royal blood to fulfill the Pendletons' duly-appointed destiny.

His prayers were answered in the unlikely form of King Louie the 69th, whose lineage included thrashmongers Paralysis and The Clickums--the dumbest band in the land fronted by Joe "Pestilence" Phillips of Legion of Decency and Atomic Jefferson who now reigns as one of Portland's Silver Kings yclept after a Mexican wrestling team. How dumb were they? They even did a song called "Surfin' Dog"--can you imagine--"poppa oom bow wow!" And had the nerve to follow it up with "Clickum Nocturne" to a beat that would make even Mike Hammer cringe. Joe Pest also played with Hurtt on the incredible Emulsifiers session on Rampart Street next to Louis Armstrong Park produced by Alex Chilton of The Boxtops and Big Star. (OK, so what if Alex only pushed the button on the boombox!)

With him Louie Bankston brought bassist John West, erstwhile roadie for N'awlins New Wavers The Normals. That's right, kids, as in Your Punk Heritage--available from Airline 61 Records, POB 1265, Metairie, LA 70004. (As in "God told Abraham, 'Go kill me a son!' down on Highway 61.") John's songs included "Sex on Drugs"--uncannily foreshadowing his eventual demise. This lineup was billed as The Royal Pendletons when they played with another great Airline 61 artist Eugene "Shockabilly" Chadbourne at The Howlin' Wolf but continued as The Dirt Boys and finally recorded "Little Girl" and "Jailbait" ("I went to jail, but it was worth it/All they gave me was community service") as The Harahan Crack Combo. (For whose corny name, yours truly must take the blame.)

The Dirt Boys' brief moment of glory included headlining at The F&M Patio Bar block party, which was coincidentally across the street from the domain of none other than bassist West. This minor triumph could only be matched by their becoming house band at the notorious RC Bridge Lounge on Magazine Street next to The Bridge House rehab center and The Abstract halfway house. You had to be a diehard fan or stone cold reprobate to hear The Dirt Boys practice every night on a PA pieced together from five different amps and cabinets. But wail they did on numbers like "Saw Her in a Mustang (Whole Lotta Poontang)" to The Dictators' anthem "Stay with Me" from Bloodbrothers. John West proceeded to fall of the wagon after his marriage to mercurichrome-maned Leesa Browning, who made dolls for the Voodoo Museum down in the French Quarter. (I'm sorry I introduced them.) John had the kick, but he got the boot.

Time to regroup, and what a group! King Louie brought in former Clickum Barry Gubler on bass, a man with his ups and downs, well befitting an elevator operator at the Maison Blanche building on Canal Street. If that wasn't enough, lo! forth from Indiana came renowned Modoc axman Matt Uhlman. (Modoc's "Hot Rod Dissertation" is still on The Pendleton's playlist.) And from Michigan's Monarchs sojourned Tommy Oliver with his not-so-secret weapon, a Farfisa Compact with matching speaker cabinet. Yes, an organ legendary since Sir Douglas attempted to woo his long lost teenybopper back to Mendecino. Other influences include Sam the Sham, who is honored in "Sheep Suit," and Suzi Quatro's "What A Way To Die." The Pendletons even brought the composer of "Losing Hand" out of retirement for a special guest appearance.

Ah, what tales could be told of the debassed Sir Barry and his dark lady Melva, but that would require a diving helmet, a gorilla suit and the mandatory Billy Barty reference. ("I must, yet I cannot!") Ah, what tales of Sir Eric with The Hurtt Brothers and The Swamis. (Looks like a Shriner's fez to me, folks.) Ah, what tales of King Louie's alliance with what would become the MacGillicuddy clan in Gerry & the Bastardmakers and The Funny Boys. And don't forget The Persuaders and "Lick My Tattoo" by Christy's Padded Toilet Seat. (So drop the king a line at Ask King Louie @ Eric Oblivian's goner-records.com.)

Ah, what tales of The Royal Pendletons' shows with Impala at Checkpoint Charlie's, with Ready Teddy at Pepina's Cafe, with The Oblivians at Beachball Benny's, with Mr. Quintron in Las Vegas, with ? and the Mysterians at The House of Blues and annually at Estrus Records' GarageShock festivals.

Ah, what tales indeed of their several mighty seven inchers! The Smokin' EP, The "Melvin/Gloria" single

And what about those movie soundtracks? First, New Orleans' own Zombie vs. Mardi Gras produced at Anagram Studios by Mike Lyddon, Will Frank and Karl Demolay. Oh yeah baby, they're tapping kegs with the living dead. There's King Louie in Matt's red and white motocross jacket barely alive on stage at the RC Bridge Lounge with the usual gang of idiots front and center giving him the high sign.

Then The Royal Pendletons did the theme song and a cameo appearance in The Sore Losers. This saga of reckless rockabillies unstuck in time was produced by Tupelo-born and Memphis-based filmmaker J.M. McCarthy, director of Gorotica, Damselvis, Teenage Tupelo and Apocalypse Meow featuring Louie's ex-wife Ashley. The Sore Losers stars Jack Oblivian and features a special guest appearance by Japan's own lords of leather Guitar Wolf. Unfortunately, all Japanese dialogue had to be overdubbed, so this flick's got the kung fu factor, too. But the sonic dislocation is all right because the movie is about being out of sync with what everyone else is doing.

Their Sympathy for the Record Industry CD Oh Yeah Baby was produced by Alex Chilton with the same frantic fervor he put into The Cramps' first two records. The Pendletons also appear on the Blood Red Battle Royal compilation with The Fleshtones, The Woggles and Girl Trouble. King Louie has moved to Portland to join Joe Pest in The Silver Kings and has toured the US and Europe as King Louie One Man Band. Mike and Matt have reformed The Royal Pendletons with Jay "Big Daddy" Thomas on organ and Aron Culotta from The Ramparts on drums. You can catch Matt during Carnival season with his Mardi Gras side project The Rex Pistols or with The Darkest Hours featuring Chilton's girlfriend Peg O'Neill from The Gories on drums and WTUL DJ Art Boonparn from The Ramparts on guitar. The late John West finally learned what it means to "Pay the Chinaman."

And that is part of what it means to be a Pendleton man. It means to follow your own tastes rather than latching onto fads. These guys listen to obscure garage relics such as The Monks and Downliners Sect. Their suits come from Goodwill and Thrift City. They eat at Clover Grill on Bourbon Street and The Hummingbird Hotel on skid row. Royalty in exile, forsooth and/or for sure!

But not for long. Soon The Royal Pendletons may be coming to your town, and you will live happily ever after.

THE SONS OF HERCULES

A Different Kind of Ugly

Saustex CD

www.saustexmedia.com

 

Frank Pugliese is one of the founders of San Antonio’s punk scene.  His brother Joe brought The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, The Runaways and Squeeze to Randy’s Rodeo.  Their band Loose, later known as The Vamps, opened.  Frank continued to sing in the 80s with Mystery Dates and since the early 90s has fronted The Sons of Hercules.  Their fifth album has nine new originals, covers of The Saints and Lazy Cowgirls, and a reprise of Mystery Dates’ “Easy Action.”

 

The Sons of Hercules’ new album portrays la bruta figura, the brutal face of someone who doesn’t know how to act right, a man-destroying Deianira.  She is a woman who may be good looking, but because of her bad behavior has become “A Different Kind of Ugly.”  She lies and cheats waking up in a strange bed.  Most of her problems come from the excesses of substance abuse and “Too Much Fun.”  She is inconsiderate and unreliable, so her lover is “Still Waiting” in the cold rain.  He’s not as “Brain Dead” as she thinks, but has become “Numb” and can no longer help her:  “Don’t look to me for your salvation./I won’t be there to break your fall.”  Nor is he the “Rock of Gibraltar” that the ancients called The Gates of Hercules and moderns recognize as the trademark of Prudential Insurance.

 

Sons of Hercules stand for strength and endurance in the face of adversity.  Frank Pugliese has survived the hazards of the rock’n’roll lifestyle while others have bitten the dust.  He’s a tough guy who can cut off the heads of the Hydra, clean the Augian stables, and bear the weight of the world.

 

Sons of Hercules have contributed to the compilations Texas: A Collection Of Texas Garage Punkers, A Fistful Of Rock N Roll Vol. 12, Beginning of the End Again and John Michael McCarthy’s Broad Daylight soundtrack.  YouTube.com has videos of “Easy Action” and several songs from earlier albums by Sons of Hercules.  Sample audio tracks at www.myspace.com/sonsofhercules and www.sonsofhercules.com.

 

Curtis Cottrell

Susan Cowsill Tells On Her Brothers!

 

“Hair” Apparent of the Cowsill dynasty tells Curtis Cottrell how their music changed over the decades

 

TV

 

Dean Martin was a wonderfully sweet guy.  In my life and time, I was paired with a lot of older men, singing things with them.  Some of them were less savory than others.  Dean having the reputation of a ladies’ man, I was a little leery of him, but he turned out to be a really sweet grandpa kind of guy talking to me about his grandchildren and showing me pictures of his kids.  But when I went to rehearse with him, he did it with the Binaca, so that I would not suspect that he had been drinking.  But I was hip to what Binaca and Visine meant in the world, and I thought it was kind of funny.  I was saying to my Mom, “Look, Mommy, he doesn’t want me to know he had a drink.  He’s using Binaca!” 

 

Johnny Cash was awesome.  I can remember in rehearsals with Johnny, he wore one of those jump suits like the guys at gas stations wear and sitting on his knee, and I remember thinking it felt like what it might be like to sit on the Lincoln Memorial because he was so big to me, and his body was like stone.  He invited my brother Bob, who didn’t go—he’s kicking himself, of course, to this day—he invited my brother Bob to come over to his place because Carl Perkins and a few other of the guys were going to get together and going to jam and did Bob want to go.  And Bob was just too freaked out; he was like, “I can’t make it.”  He was a kid, and the thought of it overwhelmed him, but when he thinks back on it, he’s like, “Huh, I can’t believe I passed that up!”

 

Buddy Ebsen--hell--was Jed Clampett.  I watched a lot of Shirley Temple movies in my day.  I loved them, and I think he was in Captain January.  He played the sailor dude.  He was the original Tin Man, but was allergic to the silver paint.  We had our own prime time NBC variety special; it was fun. 

 

We were doing a lot of TV at that time, so I was getting used to it.  Do you remember The Kraft Music Hall?  We did several of those with Wayne Newton, Eddie Arnold, Jack Wild from Oliver! the movie.  He played The Artful Dodger.  We were on Ed Sullivan, American Band Stand, Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas--you name it, we were on it for the four years we were riding the wave.

 

A & R

 

Artie Kornfeld was our producer.  Between he and my two oldest brothers Bill and Bob, they came up with the material, sometimes co-wrote it together with Artie.  Other times, Artie had writers that he worked with:  Steve Duboff and Tony Romeo.  The arrangements vocally were all my brothers.  We were in the big New York system of New York musicians and that whole kind of 60s orchestrated thing, so musically, everybody had a hand in it.  But Artie was the driving force.

 

Woodstock came up after Artie left us.  I was watching the movie with my mother, and she almost had a heart attack because Artie looked so bad.  She was worried about him, “He doesn’t look well!”  “Well, Mom, he’s high.”  She didn’t understand that at the time.  We knew Artie from a young man.  Artie had moved along from there.  Artie got fired by my dad because he was teaching the boys the ways of the world.  So we weren’t in partnership with him any longer—sadly, because he was great, and it was a beautiful collaboration.  My dad made a lot of moves like that unfortunately.

 

My brother Bill, who was the oldest and was our leader was quite a musical genius in his own right.  He pretty much drove the band.  He was the captain.  My brother Bob was his second in command, and they were a co-writing team.  Bob was very instrumental in vocal arrangements.  My brother Barry was just the bass player, but ultimately a great singer.  He ultimately became a very fine songwriter and solo entertainer himself.  My brother Paul was absolutely just a singer along for the fun. John was the drummer.  As younger kids, you’re just following along what your brothers want, what your position is.  We were too little to be heading anything up.  John was the drummer and also sang, and me--I was just a singer and all around cute kid. 

 

You don’t want your Mom and your little sister in your rock band.  Originally it was the four guys, and Mom and I showed up in a myriad of different ways.  Now nothing happened until we did, until Mom was put in the band on the first record.  It wasn’t what they had in mind, though they understood, and they loved Mom’s singing, and Mom was cool and everything, but again, you don’t want your Mom in your rock band, and you really, really don’t want your little sister in your rock band, so you’re just going to hand her a tambourine and tell her to go stand in a corner and try not to act retarded.  And that’s what I did!

 

I love “The Rain and the Park,” but I prefer some of the cuts off the albums.  There was a song called “Newspaper Blanket” that was beautiful.  I liked “Gray Sunny Day.”  The songs written by Bill and Bob that are sprinkled within the first two albums are their messages.  My brother Bill wrote “In Need of a Friend.”  That speaks for itself; he was obviously feeling quite lonely.  My brothers were very reflective on the world around them. 

 

Another song called “Beautiful Beige”--which was actually used in a KIA commercial recently, which we got nothing for, of course—that’s about prejudice.  They were young men singing about their time.  The message of The Cowsills was “Happy Sunshine Peace Love” cotton candy.  “Everybody be happy and spread the love”--which is awesome.  But that was more of the time as opposed to what was the sentiment of these two young men—introspective, darker.  That’s the real them part of it. 

 

When MGM found us, what my dad brought to them--“That’s great!  That’s wonderful!  You guys are a family rock band!”--the machine mind started working:  “The First Family of Pop.”  Family, family, squeaky clean rock’n’roll people, and that’s how it started to evolve into something other than what it was, which was just four guys playing music, being in a band.  The whole family band evolved.  They were all brothers, but they weren’t selling it like that before it got to New York.  And with that persona came this kind of music, this happy family band music.  Which was also a part of who we were, but it wasn’t what my brothers were writing about. 

 

My brothers were a little R’n’B cover band at first.  Then they started writing songs after listening to The Beatles and The Byrds and The Stones and started writing pop music.  And through the 60s, that was prevailing.  Most of our hits--in fact all of them--were mostly co-written or written by somebody else, because we became part of a machine at MGM.  The idea that these kids could write and play their own stuff was great, but the first two albums, we didn’t play our own—I mean we did, but also because of the kind of music that it was, there was an orchestra around it, and they had session musicians coming in to play the drums, although John live—you see it was such a dichotomic reality here—you have these kids who can play the shit out of their instruments, but we’re not going to have them play on the records.  Although my brother Bill and Bob played guitar and my brother Barry played the bass, they would sync it in with added orchestration because that was the nature of the music back then.  So that’s 60s.  I love a good pop song and my first solo CD Just Believe It was leaning toward that 60s sensibility, vocally for sure.  I was insane—I made my own Wall of Sound on several of the songs.  Certainly being a child of the 60s--peace, love and understanding are themes in all my music.

 

In the 70s was when II x II came in, when On My Side came in.  As my brothers were growing, we had The Beatles, The Byrds and The Stones, and now it was the 70s, so we’ve got Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; we’ve got The Hollies, so as writers, they were morphing toward that music, and this I think is very evident in On My Side.  It’s just beautiful, what would probably be called Americana rock of the 70s.  They were definitely heading in that direction as opposed to the pop, sweet, simple, quick kind of a tune.  “II x II” is prophetic that my brother Barry passed away in Katrina.  He drowned.  My eldest brother Billy passed away on the very day of his memorial--at which point I did say to the guys, “The II x II,” because the opening line is “We’ll go two by two to open up the gate.”  They often wrote songs about the oneness of our civilization--or the lack thereof.

 

In concert, The Cowsills were primarily an amazing cover band.  If you see The Ed Sullivan Show, we sing “The Rain, The Park and Other Things,” but a lot of the songs on our albums we couldn’t play on stage.  We didn’t have the harp.  We didn’t have the strings.  And thinking back, of course, you can.  You just do your own version, but that’s just how our brains were working at the time.  So we’d play the hits, and then we’d do covers.  We did an amazing version of “Good Vibrations.”  I covered Melanie.  I covered Lulu.  I covered Carole King.  We’d do Beatles songs.  We’d do soul songs.  We did “Reach Out.”  We did “Good Golly Miss Molly.”  We were just a great cover band.  We sounded just like the records.  That’s what our shows consisted of:  our hits, sprinkled with covers of the day.  In fact, The Cowsills in Concert album was our best-selling album.  It was in the top ten.

 

Covered In Vinyl

 

I really unexpectedly enjoyed Born to Run.  I’m not a non-Bruce fan, but definitely not a Bruce fan.  I knew three songs on that record and ended up really enjoying his music, and singing his songs was a blast.  I really like the Band on the Run Covered in Vinyl.  That was the first one that we did after we came back after Katrina.  I loved doing Neil Young.  We did Harvest Moon and Harvest.  I loved doing David Bowie; we did Ziggy Stardust—that was a hoot!

 

Of course, Joni Mitchell was really fun because she was an inspiration musically as a kid.  The Court and Spark album was a coming of age album for me and my girlfriends.  We were in the 7th grade, and that was our record.  Joni’s amazing—she’s an amazing songwriter—a bit of a strange person, but aren’t we all?  It inspired me to write. 

 

Sometimes when doing Covered in Vinyl, I do it just like the record because it warrants it.  We are not a tribute band at all.  I am a singer first and foremost, and I have my own way of singing.  I have my own delivery if I am not purposely reiterating a song verbatim, which I have some Rainman ability to do.  I covered “Galveston” on my new CD Lighthouse because I’m a huge Jimmy Webb fan, and it’s my version. 

 

The Jackson 5 was total verbatim.  I lived and breathed that record.  Any Jackson 5 song should be done as a Jackson 5 song.  Although I did do that one song he did.  It was kind of a torch song.  I turned it into an Irma Thomas kind of thing.  I do think our Covered In Vinyl audience really enjoys it when we change it up a bit.  We did The Clash song “Lost in the Supermarket”—which is this punk, raucous—and I did it as a ballad, cause it’s a sad song—poor dude hasn’t got a clue who he is.  Then you have a line that says, “I wasn’t born, so much as I fell out.”  So sometimes a song, I’ll look at it in a different way.  If it’s a sad song, and they’re running through it at such a jolly jaunt, I like to reinvent it that way. 

 

On April 9th we’re playing Highway 61 with Bill Kirchen [Commander Cody], and then for Jazz Fest we’re playing Abbey Road with special guests!

 

Lighthouse

 

I was in a band called The Continental Drifters with Peter Holsapple [dBs], Vicki Peterson [Bangles], Mark Walton [Dream Syndicate], Robert Maché, and Russ Broussard [Bluerunners] for about ten years and then went solo about 2001 and made my first solo record.  It came out about a month after Katrina.  So she got more press than I did.  It’s taken all this time since the flood to pull it together to create another piece of work because it’s been a rough little road.  But I’m very happy with the results of it.  It’s called Lighthouse, and I would have to say it documents the road back from the water.   

 

“Lighthouse” came about almost by accident.  As Russ and I were pondering what would this be called, and not having finished a lot of the songs, there wasn’t one song.  In fact, the title cut “Lighthouse” came about at the very end of the project.  We were sitting around drinking at a bar pondering what the record was about, and the record was about finding our way home. That’s what it’s about, and the word ‘lighthouse’ came up, and that vision of a light to follow, to guide you safely back where you’re going made sense and then brought to mind for me an actual lighthouse or a light.  It wasn’t one of the big ones.  I’m from the East coast, and we lived on the water all the time.  So there was a beacon that was out in the bay at the bottom of the hill of the big mansion where we lived in Newport.  So it’s ironic that retrospectively we came up with that name.  I said, “Let’s hang on to that for right now, because I like that name whether we have a song that says ‘Lighthouse’ or not.”  Once you listen to the body of the work, you’ll get it. 

 

But then at the end of the recording session, I actually remembered a piano piece that I had written about fifteen years ago, and I don’t play the piano.  It was just this little piece that I started putting together, so that when I sat down at a piano, it sounded like I knew what I was doing.  And it was just this one little piece of music, and people go, “Oh, do you play?  Could you play something else?” and I’d be like, “I’m playing what I play.  This is all I know.”  I started thinking about that piece and then I just started thinking about that little lighthouse, that little thing, and this whole song came out of it at the end of the recording which became the title cut. 

 

I’m very proud of it.  It’s much different from the first record in that there are hardly any background vocals, which goes against my DNA frankly.  But it really felt that the music that just came out wasn’t written for a big tribal chorus or a gospel chorus.  It’s a very lonesome journey.  And therefore it didn’t musically make sense for several me’s trotting along in glorious song.  The Wall of Sound is my little singular voice with instruments I’ve never used before on my own:  violin, cello, piano and more mournful instruments, I suppose you might say, that this was calling out for--along with guitar, bass and drums, of course.       

 

There’s one song called “Oh, NOLA,” which is a “Dear John” letter to New Orleans.  At one point, a couple of years into the storm, Russ and I were thinking we needed a break from the city.  It was too much, so we were going to move for a year just to re-energize, because it was pretty draining and hard to be here that first year or two.  We were going to leave, and I was obviously feeling guilty about it, so I was really literally writing a “Dear John” letter explaining why I had to go, and we never did leave, obviously.  I think just saying we were going made us feel better, lifted some of the burden off.

 

There’s a song called “Dragonflies,” which is a little pop song that I wrote for my brother Barry, who passed away.  He kept showing up in the months after determining that he was gone.  He kept showing up everywhere as this dragonfly harassing me.  So that’s one for him.  It’s about loss and longing and recovery and always managing to find your way back because I do, and we all do, hopefully. 

 

A friend of mine listened to the record and at the end said, “OK, now I’m going to go slit my wrists!” which I though was really funny because it has some rather heavy moments, I guess, but there’s also hope and victory involved in the writing as well.  What keeps me here is the mystery of New Orleans that we all know about, but we can’t talk about.  We just know it does.  It’s the vortex.


Dancing in the Moonlight with Silver Apples by Curtis Cottrell Silver Apples is a one of a kind electronic music innovation. Let’s look at the rise of this pioneering band, read their lyrics closely and trace the influence of their oscillations on other generations of musicians. Simeon Oliver Coxe III was born on the 4th of June, 1938 in Knoxville, Tennessee. His grandmother tuned her kitchen radio to bluegrass pickers such as Cousin Emmy. Simeon grew up in New Orleans and sang at the Presbyterian Church, where he was “bored with hearing everybody singing just the melody lines, so I tried to sing only harmonies.” He played trumpet in a Mardi Gras parade, but his horn was crushed when he was struck by a car at age 12. I was coming home from school on my bicycle with the trumpet in the handlebar basket when a lady turned into me at an intersection. I flew one way, the trumpet another. It got crunched. I didn't get a scratch. In the Fifties, Crescent City DJs such as Poppa Stoppa and Dr. Daddy-O were spinning the rhythm’n’blues hits produced by Cosimo Matassa in his Rampart Street studio. Simeon was especially impressed by Little Richard and went to see Dave Bartholomew play trumpet with Fats Domino in black clubs on Rampart Street. Fats’ music taught Simeon how to create a danceable groove out of many simple rhythms whose impact is greater than the sum of their parts. “I have always admired the utter simplicity of his melodies and structures.” Simeon also saw Big Joe Turner and Big Mama Thornton and liked Bo Diddley's “shave and a haircut” Pentecostal Holy Ghost beat, too. So Silver Apples is part Domino, part dynamo. Young Simeon became so familiar with Romantic poetry, he could recite Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” At sixteen, he read W. B. Yeats’ “Song of the Wandering Aengus,” which gave him the name Silver Apples. In Yeats’ symbolic system, the reflected light of the silver moon represents the artist's subjective imagination in contrast to the Apollonian objectivity of the “golden apples of the sun.” Simeon also admired the inventive daring of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein--“The New Prometheus”--a creator who climbed a ladder of lightning to the sublime. During his teenage years, Simeon studied painting at John McCrady’s art school on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. “My art school training gave me respect for originality.” Being original takes rigorous concentration: “When writing, I try to shut all outside efforts out and find my raw self.” Like painting, Simeon’s musical compositions are the result of his personal creative process: All of my efforts, music or visual, involve trying to start with an innocent and honest platform of randomness, then bringing it to an orderly place without losing the essence of that original chaos. I have always loved the idea of bringing sense out of nonsense. Coxe ran away from New Orleans' confederacy of dunces to become a painter in New York around 1960. In his early twenties, he lived in his VW van and sang in Greenwich Village coffee houses passing his tambourine for tips. Eventually he fronted Random Concept singing r'n'b songs by Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones and Steve Winwood for a few years in NY clubs. When he sang for Overland Stage Electric Band with Danny Taylor on drums in 1966, he met a classical musician who played an oscillator along with Beethoven. One night after his friend had passed out drunk, Simeon played the oscillator along with a Stones record, and he was hooked. Then at Café Wha? Simeon tried playing electronic rhythms along with guitar solos. Eventually the guitarists quit, and Silver Apples was born. Simeon’s performance apparatus grew as he acquired war surplus Hewlett Packard oscillators from salvage shops. For the first album, Simeon assembled nine oscillators modulated through filters, wave distortion devices and effects boxes with eighty six controls. An oscillator has a very limited range of tones, just basic wave forms, so I was always looking for circuits that would change the sound. It was later, at The Record Plant studio, that Hendrix and I began comparing effects pedals. Danny had played drums in Jimmy James & The Blue Flames, so Hendrix would visit them when he was in New York. In the spring of 1969, a few months before the Woodstock festival, Hendrix recorded “The Star Spangled Banner” with Simeon on bass oscillators at The Record Plant. Simeon used to perform with his whole body, not just with his fingers. Early compositions were limited by the ergonomics of his choreography. Simeon told soundonsound.com: At the same time as I'm moving the dials with my right hand on the lead oscillator, I'm working my elbow up and down across a bank of telegraph keys so that my forearm is keying in two or three of the other oscillators that have been pre-tuned todifferent notes. So that way I'm creating a little rhythm section. At the same time I have some on/off switches underneath and so I'm playing a sort of repeating, rolling bass line with my feet. Simeon's songs were generated by a dance which was transmitted through oscillations to his audiences' kinetic interpretations. Simeon is a minimalist by necessity rather than theoretically. While Morton Subotnick composed the score of “Silver Apples of the Moon” in a laboratory, Silver Apples has always been a live band interacting with its audiences and adapting to accidental changes in tuning caused by factors as random as the weather. Simeon never even heard of Subotnick when he formed Silver Apples, but when he finally did, he liked him. Whereas “Whatever” Carlos insisted on a well-tempered synth on his millennial reissue of Switched-On Bach, Simeon embraces the dissonance of indeterminancy. Random concept indeed. Silver Apples was lucky enough to find an enterprising manager. Simeon recalls, Barry Bryant was a conceptual artist on the very vibrant New York art scene of the '60's who took on Silver Apples at first as sort of an art project. But as we caught on he played a bigger role handling contracts. First Barry advertised for lyrics. In 1967 we were so heavily involved with trying to put together a musical expression that the lyrics kind of took a back seat. So Barry Bryant, our manager, got the idea of putting a notice on the bulletin board at Max's saying "Rock band needs lyrics. Poets please call (phone #)". We got DOZENS of responses! They ended up choosing words by Stanley Warren and Eileen Lewellen. We ended up using mostly Warren's poems for the first record, but to this day the most requested songs by far are Eileen's. I always open with “Misty Mountain,” and “I Have Known Love” is the most requested encore. Of Stanley's, I still do “Oscillations” and “Velvet Cave.” Barry got Silver Apples high-profile gigs as well as lyrics. My manager, Barry Bryant, pestered the NYC cultural commission until they finally let us play a show in Central Park. The next day we got more press than any of the other bands, so we were invited back time and again. Mayor Lindsey even once introduced us as "the New York sound." Silver Apples played concerts with Jethro Tull, MC5, Blue Cheer, 1910 Fruitgum Co. and Tiny Tim. David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears berated them, but Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker told a Chicago radio interviewer that Silver Apples was the most important thing happening on the American music scene. On January 8, 1969, the dynamic duo played a Fillmore East benefit for the New York Free Press hosted by Ed Sanders and The Fugs with Nico, John Hammond and special guests Norman Mailer and Charles Mingus. In July, 1969, Silver Apples performed “Mune Toon” in Central Park with a live broadcast of the moon landing projected on large screens. We were commissioned by the City of New York to do the piece, and in a typical cover-your-ass bureaucracy fashion, we were required to submit a score for approval. I made up this silly score full of nonsense notations, and they approved it. Later Danny and I decided it would actually be fun to try and play what was written, so we did our best for about five minutes, then went into full improvise mode. Not only did Silver Apples have the patronage of the city fathers, but they also got the approval of fashionable opinion leaders when the duo got a residence at what would become one of the most important New York music venues of the 1970s. Mickey Ruskin, owner of Max's, was a fan. Again, Barry Bryant talked him into opening up the unused upstairs room a few nights a week for live music and dancing. For almost a year, Silver Apples was the only band Mickey would allow to play in the upstairs room. Marc Bolan of T Rex once sat in with Silver Apples at Max's Kansas City, and Simeon also met Andy Warhol “over a chicken wing.” Warhol tried to set up Dali's muse Ultraviolet as Silver Apples' singer for The Factory's “superstar” publicity machine, but Simeon and Danny did not like a third person in the band and became estranged from Warhol after rejecting her. “Nothing wrong with her personality!” exclaims Simeon. As house band at Max’s Kansas City in 1968, Silver Apples provided music for Cockstrong, John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous travesty climaxing with “Get It Up,” an exhortation for a giant phallus to squirt bursts from a urethral eyeball as the cross-dressed chorus chanted, “Come, come, come, come!” Later audiences came with umbrellas. Simeon says that music for the play “had to fit the playwright's and director's concepts as well as mine. A lot more politics and compromise.” Silver Apples has always worked best with just Simeon and Danny working as two poles arcing sparks off each other. Silver Apples released their first album on Kapp Records in 1968. Kapp was an independent label which had a reciprocal licensing agreement with Decca in England to release Kapp artists on London Records. Kapp had scored a #1 hit in 1964 with Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly,” but their roster of artists was so diverse that Kapp marketed them all as pop. Silver Apples' debut album spent ten weeks on the Billboard chart reaching #193. No bullet, but still a respectable run for a novelty. Their first album is a tribal industrial sex magic ritual. Oscillators set up hypnotic rhythms inducing the audience to dance in a trance as Simeon chants his mesmerizing incantations. Instead of the usual progressions of beats, Danny invented looping danceable waves. And dance they did like “whirly-dervishes from moon valleys,” says Simeon. Some songs are self-referential reflecting the creative process manipulating “Electronic evocations of sound’s reality.” In “Seagreen Serenades” Simeon sings that Things are what they seem to players of the pipe Who whistle gentle melodies and turn the world to ripe. “Lovefingers” are “weaving golden spells” as Foamy fingers seek out caves Where lovers lie upon the sand and “Program” proposes that The universe is nought but sound Sound is its own perfection Mind is the only truth I’ve found The flame is its own reflection! “I think the line was originally something like, 'flames have their own direction,' but I wanted something more abstract.” recalls Simeon. “Velvet Cave” is the central song of the cycle at the end of the record's first side. The cave is in the island paradise foreshadowed in “Lovefingers.” In the cave there’s no tomorrow, nor any yesterday. Just the hammer of her heartbeat as she draws you down beside her. No wonder this song has remained in their set. We can stay in that womb forever. Side 2 takes off with “Whirly-bird” and images of the machines which sing as Simeon whirls their dials. Then there is the narcissistic stagnation of “Dust” with “Self-made love as bare as bone.” The spell that had bound the spirit is exorcised by the lightning and the rainbow of “Dancing Gods.” Finally there is peace on “Misty Mountain,” another paradise told from a woman’s point of view. If the first album was a full moon rising, the second proved to be the dark side of the moon. Whereas the tone of their debut had been bright, Contact took a darker turn. Their sound had evolved with new effects widening Simeon’s sonic palette, and a more modern studio in Los Angeles provided state of the art production techniques. The most freedom happened when we moved up from a 4-track deck (1st album) to a 24-track (2nd album). Otherwise its pretty much the same methodology even today. Get a groove going, find a melody line, throw in some lyrics, call it a song. “You And I” is Simeon’s ironically understated complaint of unrequited love. You and I could touch each other But we don't have time for the little things. If it is such a “little” thing, then why are you making such a big thing about it? Our accumulated disappointment becomes an “Ocean” of sadness: “It's the tears that turn to years.” Then Simeon is picking his banjo and grinning sardonically to Cousin Emmy’s “Ruby, are you mad at your man?” Next comes “Gypsy Love,” Stanley Warren’s paean to pleasure and pain. Woven into misery I find Flames gushing ecstasy Men to women scorching pain to joy My lady New York City “You’re Not Foolin’ Me” is a frustrating phone call. You can stop playing games with me I can see right through your mask Nevertheless he gets no answer: Well, I'm gonna stay here all night Until you answer the phone But that phone keeps on ringing as the track fades out. “I Have Known Love” is the album’s most positive track. Eileen Lewellen's anaphoric repetition of “I have” holds together the beginnings of lines as rhymes bind the ends. After all “I have” done, “I've known love and love has won.” “A Pox on You” ends the album with a curse on a casual encounter. A pox on you; you love and you run. A pox on you; you spoil all my fun. A pox on you; you didn’t say goodbye. Did he foresee an epidemic? Quite dark indeed! What really killed the second album was its cover art. The front cover shows Simeon and Danny sitting in the pilots' seats of a Pan Am cockpit, but the back cover shows Simeon picking a banjo with a plane crash in the background. I named the album CONTACT and came up with the cover shot idea, but it was definitely a group concept for the crash on the back cover. We presented it to the record label who liked it, and they turned it over to their ad agency for execution. Everybody signed off on it, including Pan Am. It was only later that they went berserk. When a Pan Am exec saw this album, he insisted that the band cease and desist. Not only was the album taken off the market, but the lawsuit bankrupted their label. To add even more drama, marshals seized some of Danny’s drums at Max’s, but Simeon had already gotten his oscillator rack out of the building. This was the end of the band, but Simeon survived in the 70s as a TV reporter, and Danny became a phone technician. They played no music until Mike Diamond of The Beastie Boys told Simeon about a 1994 German bootleg. Then Simeon decided to reform the band in response to public demand. In 1996, a new lineup with Xian Hawkins on keys and Michael Lerner on drums recorded the CDs Beacon with Steve Albini and Decatur, produced by Tom Smith. Eventually, Danny Taylor heard “I Have Found Love” on WFMU, who put the drummer back in touch with Simeon. It's never been the same with anyone else but Danny. In 1997, Simeon convinced MCA to officially reissue the first two albums. Next the Silver Apples tribute album Electronic Evocations featured Windy & Carl, Flowchart, Third Eye Foundation and other indie electronic experimenters. By 1998, Silver Apples completed a tape of their third album. The Garden is a sonic pasta primavera of four original songs with Simeon's interpretations of Wilson Pickett's “Mustang Sally,” the Carter Family outlaw ballad “John Hardy,” and the traditional song “Again.” Plus Simeon added electronic melodies to seven drum tracks: The original Garden tracks were recorded at The Record Plant in 1969. Those 2 inch tracks were destroyed when the studio folded because KAPP Records had gone out of business and reneged on the payment for them. We thought all the work was lost, until 1/4 inch dubs were found in Danny's attic in a cardboard box years later in 1998. We felt there should be some representation of me and Danny circa 1998, so we created the little 1998 "noodles" to put in between the 1969 songs. “I Don't Care What The People Say” establishes the carefree attitude of The Garden. Simeon's lyrics express his independent individuality. Many times I wondered how I was gonna survive. The trials above was involved with keeping myself alive. Sometimes I wonder just what's gonna happen to me, So I woke up my apples until I've shaken my apple tree. Eventually, good times did come along. “Walkin'” is even more understated. First, Simeon sings of the middle class life from which he walks. Then he gets his stride. Kickin' on a beer can, clickity clack. Keepin' it bouncin' will keep it alive. Think of all the bubbles somebody must have drank. The bubbles turned to burps in somebody's insides While I'm walkin'. After some sonic effervescence, he looks around, I like to take my time and look in all the windows. Pretend that I got money to buy what's in the windows, Lookin' at the ladies, all dressed up in the windows, Watchin' the laundry comin' out of all the windows, Watchin' the cops puttin' tickets on the windows While I'm walkin'. “The Owl” is a wise, but taciturn avatar of the Whirlybird who sees everything in The Garden. Midnight beauty will testify "Hoot" will be his sole reply Once again, Simeon resorts to minimalistic understatement with whimsical accompaniment by his electronic gizmos. “Mad Man Blues” begins with distorted gibberish expanding into a rant on “demo-crazy.” Don't hide yourself behind a ton of useless conversation. There is something you should give first consideration. Then Silver Apples get us hopping when we land in a bed of fire ants! What a garden! Throw in a couple of bonus tracks, and call it an album. Simeon also released Beacon Remixed with mixmasters such as Loop Guru and Dave Callahan of The Wolfhounds whirling the knobs. The album ends with Alpha Stone's remix of “Misty Mountain” and Skylab's new version of “I Have Known Love.” In 1999, the band's van was run off the road, and Simeon broke his neck. In 2005, Danny died of a heart attack at age 56. Now Danny lives in a cybernetic cloud; Simeon samples beats from tapes of Danny drumming. Silver Apples has retained its rhythmic soul electronically. Nobody does it better than Danny. Silver Apples' influence has been significant. Kapp Records' European licensing deal with Decca had far-reaching consequences. John Lennon told BBC TV that Silver Apples were the next big thing. Faust has acknowledged that Simeon was an influence on Krautrock from the beginning. Likewise Devo. Simeon has collaborated with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Spectrum (Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3) on A Lake of Teardrops, Laika, Stereolab, Portishead, Beck, Matmos, Grails, and Beak>. The Alchemysts & Simeon of 1999 highlights his oscillations on “Hydrophobic,” which depicts the horror of drowning and “21st Century In-Car-Entertainment” chanting its minimalistic mantra to cars and guns. Simeon's Do It Yourself method of invention, composition and performance appeals to the ethos of postpunk electronic experimentalists. Are you experienced? Simeon has several recording and performing projects in the works. I have just finished 11 new tracks, and they have been mixed and produced in London by Graham Sutton. The new album is being managed by Jack Trevillion of Entaptured Records in London who is shopping it internationally. Meantime I did the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee, the Red Bull fest in Chicago, the Mission Creek Fest in Iowa and most recently a show at Trans-Pecos in New York and the Electric Eclectics Fest in Canada. So Silver Apples is busy. Doing a Halloween show in Austin. Every Silver Apples show is different, so see them now while we have the chance. And when we hear them, let's do that dance. Dancing in the Moonlight with Silver Apples by Curtis Cottrell Silver Apples is a one of a kind electronic music innovation. Let’s look at the rise of this pioneering band, read their lyrics closely and trace the influence of their oscillations on other generations of musicians. Simeon Oliver Coxe III was born on the 4th of June, 1938 in Knoxville, Tennessee. His grandmother tuned her kitchen radio to bluegrass pickers such as Cousin Emmy. Simeon grew up in New Orleans and sang at the Presbyterian Church, where he was “bored with hearing everybody singing just the melody lines, so I tried to sing only harmonies.” He played trumpet in a Mardi Gras parade, but his horn was crushed when he was struck by a car at age 12. I was coming home from school on my bicycle with the trumpet in the handlebar basket when a lady turned into me at an intersection. I flew one way, the trumpet another. It got crunched. I didn't get a scratch. In the Fifties, Crescent City DJs such as Poppa Stoppa and Dr. Daddy-O were spinning the rhythm’n’blues hits produced by Cosimo Matassa in his Rampart Street studio. Simeon was especially impressed by Little Richard and went to see Dave Bartholomew play trumpet with Fats Domino in black clubs on Rampart Street. Fats’ music taught Simeon how to create a danceable groove out of many simple rhythms whose impact is greater than the sum of their parts. “I have always admired the utter simplicity of his melodies and structures.” Simeon also saw Big Joe Turner and Big Mama Thornton and liked Bo Diddley's “shave and a haircut” Pentecostal Holy Ghost beat, too. So Silver Apples is part Domino, part dynamo. Young Simeon became so familiar with Romantic poetry, he could recite Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” At sixteen, he read W. B. Yeats’ “Song of the Wandering Aengus,” which gave him the name Silver Apples. In Yeats’ symbolic system, the reflected light of the silver moon represents the artist's subjective imagination in contrast to the Apollonian objectivity of the “golden apples of the sun.” Simeon also admired the inventive daring of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein--“The New Prometheus”--a creator who climbed a ladder of lightning to the sublime. During his teenage years, Simeon studied painting at John McCrady’s art school on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. “My art school training gave me respect for originality.” Being original takes rigorous concentration: “When writing, I try to shut all outside efforts out and find my raw self.” Like painting, Simeon’s musical compositions are the result of his personal creative process: All of my efforts, music or visual, involve trying to start with an innocent and honest platform of randomness, then bringing it to an orderly place without losing the essence of that original chaos. I have always loved the idea of bringing sense out of nonsense. Coxe ran away from New Orleans' confederacy of dunces to become a painter in New York around 1960. In his early twenties, he lived in his VW van and sang in Greenwich Village coffee houses passing his tambourine for tips. Eventually he fronted Random Concept singing r'n'b songs by Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones and Steve Winwood for a few years in NY clubs. When he sang for Overland Stage Electric Band with Danny Taylor on drums in 1966, he met a classical musician who played an oscillator along with Beethoven. One night after his friend had passed out drunk, Simeon played the oscillator along with a Stones record, and he was hooked. Then at Café Wha? Simeon tried playing electronic rhythms along with guitar solos. Eventually the guitarists quit, and Silver Apples was born. Simeon’s performance apparatus grew as he acquired war surplus Hewlett Packard oscillators from salvage shops. For the first album, Simeon assembled nine oscillators modulated through filters, wave distortion devices and effects boxes with eighty six controls. An oscillator has a very limited range of tones, just basic wave forms, so I was always looking for circuits that would change the sound. It was later, at The Record Plant studio, that Hendrix and I began comparing effects pedals. Danny had played drums in Jimmy James & The Blue Flames, so Hendrix would visit them when he was in New York. In the spring of 1969, a few months before the Woodstock festival, Hendrix recorded “The Star Spangled Banner” with Simeon on bass oscillators at The Record Plant. Simeon used to perform with his whole body, not just with his fingers. Early compositions were limited by the ergonomics of his choreography. Simeon told soundonsound.com: At the same time as I'm moving the dials with my right hand on the lead oscillator, I'm working my elbow up and down across a bank of telegraph keys so that my forearm is keying in two or three of the other oscillators that have been pre-tuned todifferent notes. So that way I'm creating a little rhythm section. At the same time I have some on/off switches underneath and so I'm playing a sort of repeating, rolling bass line with my feet. Simeon's songs were generated by a dance which was transmitted through oscillations to his audiences' kinetic interpretations. Simeon is a minimalist by necessity rather than theoretically. While Morton Subotnick composed the score of “Silver Apples of the Moon” in a laboratory, Silver Apples has always been a live band interacting with its audiences and adapting to accidental changes in tuning caused by factors as random as the weather. Simeon never even heard of Subotnick when he formed Silver Apples, but when he finally did, he liked him. Whereas “Whatever” Carlos insisted on a well-tempered synth on his millennial reissue of Switched-On Bach, Simeon embraces the dissonance of indeterminancy. Random concept indeed. Silver Apples was lucky enough to find an enterprising manager. Simeon recalls, Barry Bryant was a conceptual artist on the very vibrant New York art scene of the '60's who took on Silver Apples at first as sort of an art project. But as we caught on he played a bigger role handling contracts. First Barry advertised for lyrics. In 1967 we were so heavily involved with trying to put together a musical expression that the lyrics kind of took a back seat. So Barry Bryant, our manager, got the idea of putting a notice on the bulletin board at Max's saying "Rock band needs lyrics. Poets please call (phone #)". We got DOZENS of responses! They ended up choosing words by Stanley Warren and Eileen Lewellen. We ended up using mostly Warren's poems for the first record, but to this day the most requested songs by far are Eileen's. I always open with “Misty Mountain,” and “I Have Known Love” is the most requested encore. Of Stanley's, I still do “Oscillations” and “Velvet Cave.” Barry got Silver Apples high-profile gigs as well as lyrics. My manager, Barry Bryant, pestered the NYC cultural commission until they finally let us play a show in Central Park. The next day we got more press than any of the other bands, so we were invited back time and again. Mayor Lindsey even once introduced us as "the New York sound." Silver Apples played concerts with Jethro Tull, MC5, Blue Cheer, 1910 Fruitgum Co. and Tiny Tim. David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears berated them, but Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker told a Chicago radio interviewer that Silver Apples was the most important thing happening on the American music scene. On January 8, 1969, the dynamic duo played a Fillmore East benefit for the New York Free Press hosted by Ed Sanders and The Fugs with Nico, John Hammond and special guests Norman Mailer and Charles Mingus. In July, 1969, Silver Apples performed “Mune Toon” in Central Park with a live broadcast of the moon landing projected on large screens. We were commissioned by the City of New York to do the piece, and in a typical cover-your-ass bureaucracy fashion, we were required to submit a score for approval. I made up this silly score full of nonsense notations, and they approved it. Later Danny and I decided it would actually be fun to try and play what was written, so we did our best for about five minutes, then went into full improvise mode. Not only did Silver Apples have the patronage of the city fathers, but they also got the approval of fashionable opinion leaders when the duo got a residence at what would become one of the most important New York music venues of the 1970s. Mickey Ruskin, owner of Max's, was a fan. Again, Barry Bryant talked him into opening up the unused upstairs room a few nights a week for live music and dancing. For almost a year, Silver Apples was the only band Mickey would allow to play in the upstairs room. Marc Bolan of T Rex once sat in with Silver Apples at Max's Kansas City, and Simeon also met Andy Warhol “over a chicken wing.” Warhol tried to set up Dali's muse Ultraviolet as Silver Apples' singer for The Factory's “superstar” publicity machine, but Simeon and Danny did not like a third person in the band and became estranged from Warhol after rejecting her. “Nothing wrong with her personality!” exclaims Simeon. As house band at Max’s Kansas City in 1968, Silver Apples provided music for Cockstrong, John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous travesty climaxing with “Get It Up,” an exhortation for a giant phallus to squirt bursts from a urethral eyeball as the cross-dressed chorus chanted, “Come, come, come, come!” Later audiences came with umbrellas. Simeon says that music for the play “had to fit the playwright's and director's concepts as well as mine. A lot more politics and compromise.” Silver Apples has always worked best with just Simeon and Danny working as two poles arcing sparks off each other. Silver Apples released their first album on Kapp Records in 1968. Kapp was an independent label which had a reciprocal licensing agreement with Decca in England to release Kapp artists on London Records. Kapp had scored a #1 hit in 1964 with Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly,” but their roster of artists was so diverse that Kapp marketed them all as pop. Silver Apples' debut album spent ten weeks on the Billboard chart reaching #193. No bullet, but still a respectable run for a novelty. Their first album is a tribal industrial sex magic ritual. Oscillators set up hypnotic rhythms inducing the audience to dance in a trance as Simeon chants his mesmerizing incantations. Instead of the usual progressions of beats, Danny invented looping danceable waves. And dance they did like “whirly-dervishes from moon valleys,” says Simeon. Some songs are self-referential reflecting the creative process manipulating “Electronic evocations of sound’s reality.” In “Seagreen Serenades” Simeon sings that Things are what they seem to players of the pipe Who whistle gentle melodies and turn the world to ripe. “Lovefingers” are “weaving golden spells” as Foamy fingers seek out caves Where lovers lie upon the sand and “Program” proposes that The universe is nought but sound Sound is its own perfection Mind is the only truth I’ve found The flame is its own reflection! “I think the line was originally something like, 'flames have their own direction,' but I wanted something more abstract.” recalls Simeon. “Velvet Cave” is the central song of the cycle at the end of the record's first side. The cave is in the island paradise foreshadowed in “Lovefingers.” In the cave there’s no tomorrow, nor any yesterday. Just the hammer of her heartbeat as she draws you down beside her. No wonder this song has remained in their set. We can stay in that womb forever. Side 2 takes off with “Whirly-bird” and images of the machines which sing as Simeon whirls their dials. Then there is the narcissistic stagnation of “Dust” with “Self-made love as bare as bone.” The spell that had bound the spirit is exorcised by the lightning and the rainbow of “Dancing Gods.” Finally there is peace on “Misty Mountain,” another paradise told from a woman’s point of view. If the first album was a full moon rising, the second proved to be the dark side of the moon. Whereas the tone of their debut had been bright, Contact took a darker turn. Their sound had evolved with new effects widening Simeon’s sonic palette, and a more modern studio in Los Angeles provided state of the art production techniques. The most freedom happened when we moved up from a 4-track deck (1st album) to a 24-track (2nd album). Otherwise its pretty much the same methodology even today. Get a groove going, find a melody line, throw in some lyrics, call it a song. “You And I” is Simeon’s ironically understated complaint of unrequited love. You and I could touch each other But we don't have time for the little things. If it is such a “little” thing, then why are you making such a big thing about it? Our accumulated disappointment becomes an “Ocean” of sadness: “It's the tears that turn to years.” Then Simeon is picking his banjo and grinning sardonically to Cousin Emmy’s “Ruby, are you mad at your man?” Next comes “Gypsy Love,” Stanley Warren’s paean to pleasure and pain. Woven into misery I find Flames gushing ecstasy Men to women scorching pain to joy My lady New York City “You’re Not Foolin’ Me” is a frustrating phone call. You can stop playing games with me I can see right through your mask Nevertheless he gets no answer: Well, I'm gonna stay here all night Until you answer the phone But that phone keeps on ringing as the track fades out. “I Have Known Love” is the album’s most positive track. Eileen Lewellen's anaphoric repetition of “I have” holds together the beginnings of lines as rhymes bind the ends. After all “I have” done, “I've known love and love has won.” “A Pox on You” ends the album with a curse on a casual encounter. A pox on you; you love and you run. A pox on you; you spoil all my fun. A pox on you; you didn’t say goodbye. Did he foresee an epidemic? Quite dark indeed! What really killed the second album was its cover art. The front cover shows Simeon and Danny sitting in the pilots' seats of a Pan Am cockpit, but the back cover shows Simeon picking a banjo with a plane crash in the background. I named the album CONTACT and came up with the cover shot idea, but it was definitely a group concept for the crash on the back cover. We presented it to the record label who liked it, and they turned it over to their ad agency for execution. Everybody signed off on it, including Pan Am. It was only later that they went berserk. When a Pan Am exec saw this album, he insisted that the band cease and desist. Not only was the album taken off the market, but the lawsuit bankrupted their label. To add even more drama, marshals seized some of Danny’s drums at Max’s, but Simeon had already gotten his oscillator rack out of the building. This was the end of the band, but Simeon survived in the 70s as a TV reporter, and Danny became a phone technician. They played no music until Mike Diamond of The Beastie Boys told Simeon about a 1994 German bootleg. Then Simeon decided to reform the band in response to public demand. In 1996, a new lineup with Xian Hawkins on keys and Michael Lerner on drums recorded the CDs Beacon with Steve Albini and Decatur, produced by Tom Smith. Eventually, Danny Taylor heard “I Have Found Love” on WFMU, who put the drummer back in touch with Simeon. It's never been the same with anyone else but Danny. In 1997, Simeon convinced MCA to officially reissue the first two albums. Next the Silver Apples tribute album Electronic Evocations featured Windy & Carl, Flowchart, Third Eye Foundation and other indie electronic experimenters. By 1998, Silver Apples completed a tape of their third album. The Garden is a sonic pasta primavera of four original songs with Simeon's interpretations of Wilson Pickett's “Mustang Sally,” the Carter Family outlaw ballad “John Hardy,” and the traditional song “Again.” Plus Simeon added electronic melodies to seven drum tracks: The original Garden tracks were recorded at The Record Plant in 1969. Those 2 inch tracks were destroyed when the studio folded because KAPP Records had gone out of business and reneged on the payment for them. We thought all the work was lost, until 1/4 inch dubs were found in Danny's attic in a cardboard box years later in 1998. We felt there should be some representation of me and Danny circa 1998, so we created the little 1998 "noodles" to put in between the 1969 songs. “I Don't Care What The People Say” establishes the carefree attitude of The Garden. Simeon's lyrics express his independent individuality. Many times I wondered how I was gonna survive. The trials above was involved with keeping myself alive. Sometimes I wonder just what's gonna happen to me, So I woke up my apples until I've shaken my apple tree. Eventually, good times did come along. “Walkin'” is even more understated. First, Simeon sings of the middle class life from which he walks. Then he gets his stride. Kickin' on a beer can, clickity clack. Keepin' it bouncin' will keep it alive. Think of all the bubbles somebody must have drank. The bubbles turned to burps in somebody's insides While I'm walkin'. After some sonic effervescence, he looks around, I like to take my time and look in all the windows. Pretend that I got money to buy what's in the windows, Lookin' at the ladies, all dressed up in the windows, Watchin' the laundry comin' out of all the windows, Watchin' the cops puttin' tickets on the windows While I'm walkin'. “The Owl” is a wise, but taciturn avatar of the Whirlybird who sees everything in The Garden. Midnight beauty will testify "Hoot" will be his sole reply Once again, Simeon resorts to minimalistic understatement with whimsical accompaniment by his electronic gizmos. “Mad Man Blues” begins with distorted gibberish expanding into a rant on “demo-crazy.” Don't hide yourself behind a ton of useless conversation. There is something you should give first consideration. Then Silver Apples get us hopping when we land in a bed of fire ants! What a garden! Throw in a couple of bonus tracks, and call it an album. Simeon also released Beacon Remixed with mixmasters such as Loop Guru and Dave Callahan of The Wolfhounds whirling the knobs. The album ends with Alpha Stone's remix of “Misty Mountain” and Skylab's new version of “I Have Known Love.” In 1999, the band's van was run off the road, and Simeon broke his neck. In 2005, Danny died of a heart attack at age 56. Now Danny lives in a cybernetic cloud; Simeon samples beats from tapes of Danny drumming. Silver Apples has retained its rhythmic soul electronically. Nobody does it better than Danny. Silver Apples' influence has been significant. Kapp Records' European licensing deal with Decca had far-reaching consequences. John Lennon told BBC TV that Silver Apples were the next big thing. Faust has acknowledged that Simeon was an influence on Krautrock from the beginning. Likewise Devo. Simeon has collaborated with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Spectrum (Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3) on A Lake of Teardrops, Laika, Stereolab, Portishead, Beck, Matmos, Grails, and Beak>. The Alchemysts & Simeon of 1999 highlights his oscillations on “Hydrophobic,” which depicts the horror of drowning and “21st Century In-Car-Entertainment” chanting its minimalistic mantra to cars and guns. Simeon's Do It Yourself method of invention, composition and performance appeals to the ethos of postpunk electronic experimentalists. Are you experienced? Simeon has several recording and performing projects in the works. I have just finished 11 new tracks, and they have been mixed and produced in London by Graham Sutton. The new album is being managed by Jack Trevillion of Entaptured Records in London who is shopping it internationally. Meantime I did the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee, the Red Bull fest in Chicago, the Mission Creek Fest in Iowa and most recently a show at Trans-Pecos in New York and the Electric Eclectics Fest in Canada. So Silver Apples is busy. Doing a Halloween show in Austin. Every Silver Apples show is different, so see them now while we have the chance. And when we hear them, let's do that dance. Dancing in the Moonlight with Silver Apples by Curtis Cottrell Silver Apples is a one of a kind electronic music innovation. Let’s look at the rise of this pioneering band, read their lyrics closely and trace the influence of their oscillations on other generations of musicians. Simeon Oliver Coxe III was born on the 4th of June, 1938 in Knoxville, Tennessee. His grandmother tuned her kitchen radio to bluegrass pickers such as Cousin Emmy. Simeon grew up in New Orleans and sang at the Presbyterian Church, where he was “bored with hearing everybody singing just the melody lines, so I tried to sing only harmonies.” He played trumpet in a Mardi Gras parade, but his horn was crushed when he was struck by a car at age 12. I was coming home from school on my bicycle with the trumpet in the handlebar basket when a lady turned into me at an intersection. I flew one way, the trumpet another. It got crunched. I didn't get a scratch. In the Fifties, Crescent City DJs such as Poppa Stoppa and Dr. Daddy-O were spinning the rhythm’n’blues hits produced by Cosimo Matassa in his Rampart Street studio. Simeon was especially impressed by Little Richard and went to see Dave Bartholomew play trumpet with Fats Domino in black clubs on Rampart Street. Fats’ music taught Simeon how to create a danceable groove out of many simple rhythms whose impact is greater than the sum of their parts. “I have always admired the utter simplicity of his melodies and structures.” Simeon also saw Big Joe Turner and Big Mama Thornton and liked Bo Diddley's “shave and a haircut” Pentecostal Holy Ghost beat, too. So Silver Apples is part Domino, part dynamo. Young Simeon became so familiar with Romantic poetry, he could recite Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” At sixteen, he read W. B. Yeats’ “Song of the Wandering Aengus,” which gave him the name Silver Apples. In Yeats’ symbolic system, the reflected light of the silver moon represents the artist's subjective imagination in contrast to the Apollonian objectivity of the “golden apples of the sun.” Simeon also admired the inventive daring of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein--“The New Prometheus”--a creator who climbed a ladder of lightning to the sublime. During his teenage years, Simeon studied painting at John McCrady’s art school on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. “My art school training gave me respect for originality.” Being original takes rigorous concentration: “When writing, I try to shut all outside efforts out and find my raw self.” Like painting, Simeon’s musical compositions are the result of his personal creative process: All of my efforts, music or visual, involve trying to start with an innocent and honest platform of randomness, then bringing it to an orderly place without losing the essence of that original chaos. I have always loved the idea of bringing sense out of nonsense. Coxe ran away from New Orleans' confederacy of dunces to become a painter in New York around 1960. In his early twenties, he lived in his VW van and sang in Greenwich Village coffee houses passing his tambourine for tips. Eventually he fronted Random Concept singing r'n'b songs by Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones and Steve Winwood for a few years in NY clubs. When he sang for Overland Stage Electric Band with Danny Taylor on drums in 1966, he met a classical musician who played an oscillator along with Beethoven. One night after his friend had passed out drunk, Simeon played the oscillator along with a Stones record, and he was hooked. Then at Café Wha? Simeon tried playing electronic rhythms along with guitar solos. Eventually the guitarists quit, and Silver Apples was born. Simeon’s performance apparatus grew as he acquired war surplus Hewlett Packard oscillators from salvage shops. For the first album, Simeon assembled nine oscillators modulated through filters, wave distortion devices and effects boxes with eighty six controls. An oscillator has a very limited range of tones, just basic wave forms, so I was always looking for circuits that would change the sound. It was later, at The Record Plant studio, that Hendrix and I began comparing effects pedals. Danny had played drums in Jimmy James & The Blue Flames, so Hendrix would visit them when he was in New York. In the spring of 1969, a few months before the Woodstock festival, Hendrix recorded “The Star Spangled Banner” with Simeon on bass oscillators at The Record Plant. Simeon used to perform with his whole body, not just with his fingers. Early compositions were limited by the ergonomics of his choreography. Simeon told soundonsound.com: At the same time as I'm moving the dials with my right hand on the lead oscillator, I'm working my elbow up and down across a bank of telegraph keys so that my forearm is keying in two or three of the other oscillators that have been pre-tuned todifferent notes. So that way I'm creating a little rhythm section. At the same time I have some on/off switches underneath and so I'm playing a sort of repeating, rolling bass line with my feet. Simeon's songs were generated by a dance which was transmitted through oscillations to his audiences' kinetic interpretations. Simeon is a minimalist by necessity rather than theoretically. While Morton Subotnick composed the score of “Silver Apples of the Moon” in a laboratory, Silver Apples has always been a live band interacting with its audiences and adapting to accidental changes in tuning caused by factors as random as the weather. Simeon never even heard of Subotnick when he formed Silver Apples, but when he finally did, he liked him. Whereas “Whatever” Carlos insisted on a well-tempered synth on his millennial reissue of Switched-On Bach, Simeon embraces the dissonance of indeterminancy. Random concept indeed. Silver Apples was lucky enough to find an enterprising manager. Simeon recalls, Barry Bryant was a conceptual artist on the very vibrant New York art scene of the '60's who took on Silver Apples at first as sort of an art project. But as we caught on he played a bigger role handling contracts. First Barry advertised for lyrics. In 1967 we were so heavily involved with trying to put together a musical expression that the lyrics kind of took a back seat. So Barry Bryant, our manager, got the idea of putting a notice on the bulletin board at Max's saying "Rock band needs lyrics. Poets please call (phone #)". We got DOZENS of responses! They ended up choosing words by Stanley Warren and Eileen Lewellen. We ended up using mostly Warren's poems for the first record, but to this day the most requested songs by far are Eileen's. I always open with “Misty Mountain,” and “I Have Known Love” is the most requested encore. Of Stanley's, I still do “Oscillations” and “Velvet Cave.” Barry got Silver Apples high-profile gigs as well as lyrics. My manager, Barry Bryant, pestered the NYC cultural commission until they finally let us play a show in Central Park. The next day we got more press than any of the other bands, so we were invited back time and again. Mayor Lindsey even once introduced us as "the New York sound." Silver Apples played concerts with Jethro Tull, MC5, Blue Cheer, 1910 Fruitgum Co. and Tiny Tim. David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears berated them, but Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker told a Chicago radio interviewer that Silver Apples was the most important thing happening on the American music scene. On January 8, 1969, the dynamic duo played a Fillmore East benefit for the New York Free Press hosted by Ed Sanders and The Fugs with Nico, John Hammond and special guests Norman Mailer and Charles Mingus. In July, 1969, Silver Apples performed “Mune Toon” in Central Park with a live broadcast of the moon landing projected on large screens. We were commissioned by the City of New York to do the piece, and in a typical cover-your-ass bureaucracy fashion, we were required to submit a score for approval. I made up this silly score full of nonsense notations, and they approved it. Later Danny and I decided it would actually be fun to try and play what was written, so we did our best for about five minutes, then went into full improvise mode. Not only did Silver Apples have the patronage of the city fathers, but they also got the approval of fashionable opinion leaders when the duo got a residence at what would become one of the most important New York music venues of the 1970s. Mickey Ruskin, owner of Max's, was a fan. Again, Barry Bryant talked him into opening up the unused upstairs room a few nights a week for live music and dancing. For almost a year, Silver Apples was the only band Mickey would allow to play in the upstairs room. Marc Bolan of T Rex once sat in with Silver Apples at Max's Kansas City, and Simeon also met Andy Warhol “over a chicken wing.” Warhol tried to set up Dali's muse Ultraviolet as Silver Apples' singer for The Factory's “superstar” publicity machine, but Simeon and Danny did not like a third person in the band and became estranged from Warhol after rejecting her. “Nothing wrong with her personality!” exclaims Simeon. As house band at Max’s Kansas City in 1968, Silver Apples provided music for Cockstrong, John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous travesty climaxing with “Get It Up,” an exhortation for a giant phallus to squirt bursts from a urethral eyeball as the cross-dressed chorus chanted, “Come, come, come, come!” Later audiences came with umbrellas. Simeon says that music for the play “had to fit the playwright's and director's concepts as well as mine. A lot more politics and compromise.” Silver Apples has always worked best with just Simeon and Danny working as two poles arcing sparks off each other. Silver Apples released their first album on Kapp Records in 1968. Kapp was an independent label which had a reciprocal licensing agreement with Decca in England to release Kapp artists on London Records. Kapp had scored a #1 hit in 1964 with Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly,” but their roster of artists was so diverse that Kapp marketed them all as pop. Silver Apples' debut album spent ten weeks on the Billboard chart reaching #193. No bullet, but still a respectable run for a novelty. Their first album is a tribal industrial sex magic ritual. Oscillators set up hypnotic rhythms inducing the audience to dance in a trance as Simeon chants his mesmerizing incantations. Instead of the usual progressions of beats, Danny invented looping danceable waves. And dance they did like “whirly-dervishes from moon valleys,” says Simeon. Some songs are self-referential reflecting the creative process manipulating “Electronic evocations of sound’s reality.” In “Seagreen Serenades” Simeon sings that Things are what they seem to players of the pipe Who whistle gentle melodies and turn the world to ripe. “Lovefingers” are “weaving golden spells” as Foamy fingers seek out caves Where lovers lie upon the sand and “Program” proposes that The universe is nought but sound Sound is its own perfection Mind is the only truth I’ve found The flame is its own reflection! “I think the line was originally something like, 'flames have their own direction,' but I wanted something more abstract.” recalls Simeon. “Velvet Cave” is the central song of the cycle at the end of the record's first side. The cave is in the island paradise foreshadowed in “Lovefingers.” In the cave there’s no tomorrow, nor any yesterday. Just the hammer of her heartbeat as she draws you down beside her. No wonder this song has remained in their set. We can stay in that womb forever. Side 2 takes off with “Whirly-bird” and images of the machines which sing as Simeon whirls their dials. Then there is the narcissistic stagnation of “Dust” with “Self-made love as bare as bone.” The spell that had bound the spirit is exorcised by the lightning and the rainbow of “Dancing Gods.” Finally there is peace on “Misty Mountain,” another paradise told from a woman’s point of view. If the first album was a full moon rising, the second proved to be the dark side of the moon. Whereas the tone of their debut had been bright, Contact took a darker turn. Their sound had evolved with new effects widening Simeon’s sonic palette, and a more modern studio in Los Angeles provided state of the art production techniques. The most freedom happened when we moved up from a 4-track deck (1st album) to a 24-track (2nd album). Otherwise its pretty much the same methodology even today. Get a groove going, find a melody line, throw in some lyrics, call it a song. “You And I” is Simeon’s ironically understated complaint of unrequited love. You and I could touch each other But we don't have time for the little things. If it is such a “little” thing, then why are you making such a big thing about it? Our accumulated disappointment becomes an “Ocean” of sadness: “It's the tears that turn to years.” Then Simeon is picking his banjo and grinning sardonically to Cousin Emmy’s “Ruby, are you mad at your man?” Next comes “Gypsy Love,” Stanley Warren’s paean to pleasure and pain. Woven into misery I find Flames gushing ecstasy Men to women scorching pain to joy My lady New York City “You’re Not Foolin’ Me” is a frustrating phone call. You can stop playing games with me I can see right through your mask Nevertheless he gets no answer: Well, I'm gonna stay here all night Until you answer the phone But that phone keeps on ringing as the track fades out. “I Have Known Love” is the album’s most positive track. Eileen Lewellen's anaphoric repetition of “I have” holds together the beginnings of lines as rhymes bind the ends. After all “I have” done, “I've known love and love has won.” “A Pox on You” ends the album with a curse on a casual encounter. A pox on you; you love and you run. A pox on you; you spoil all my fun. A pox on you; you didn’t say goodbye. Did he foresee an epidemic? Quite dark indeed! What really killed the second album was its cover art. The front cover shows Simeon and Danny sitting in the pilots' seats of a Pan Am cockpit, but the back cover shows Simeon picking a banjo with a plane crash in the background. I named the album CONTACT and came up with the cover shot idea, but it was definitely a group concept for the crash on the back cover. We presented it to the record label who liked it, and they turned it over to their ad agency for execution. Everybody signed off on it, including Pan Am. It was only later that they went berserk. When a Pan Am exec saw this album, he insisted that the band cease and desist. Not only was the album taken off the market, but the lawsuit bankrupted their label. To add even more drama, marshals seized some of Danny’s drums at Max’s, but Simeon had already gotten his oscillator rack out of the building. This was the end of the band, but Simeon survived in the 70s as a TV reporter, and Danny became a phone technician. They played no music until Mike Diamond of The Beastie Boys told Simeon about a 1994 German bootleg. Then Simeon decided to reform the band in response to public demand. In 1996, a new lineup with Xian Hawkins on keys and Michael Lerner on drums recorded the CDs Beacon with Steve Albini and Decatur, produced by Tom Smith. Eventually, Danny Taylor heard “I Have Found Love” on WFMU, who put the drummer back in touch with Simeon. It's never been the same with anyone else but Danny. In 1997, Simeon convinced MCA to officially reissue the first two albums. Next the Silver Apples tribute album Electronic Evocations featured Windy & Carl, Flowchart, Third Eye Foundation and other indie electronic experimenters. By 1998, Silver Apples completed a tape of their third album. The Garden is a sonic pasta primavera of four original songs with Simeon's interpretations of Wilson Pickett's “Mustang Sally,” the Carter Family outlaw ballad “John Hardy,” and the traditional song “Again.” Plus Simeon added electronic melodies to seven drum tracks: The original Garden tracks were recorded at The Record Plant in 1969. Those 2 inch tracks were destroyed when the studio folded because KAPP Records had gone out of business and reneged on the payment for them. We thought all the work was lost, until 1/4 inch dubs were found in Danny's attic in a cardboard box years later in 1998. We felt there should be some representation of me and Danny circa 1998, so we created the little 1998 "noodles" to put in between the 1969 songs. “I Don't Care What The People Say” establishes the carefree attitude of The Garden. Simeon's lyrics express his independent individuality. Many times I wondered how I was gonna survive. The trials above was involved with keeping myself alive. Sometimes I wonder just what's gonna happen to me, So I woke up my apples until I've shaken my apple tree. Eventually, good times did come along. “Walkin'” is even more understated. First, Simeon sings of the middle class life from which he walks. Then he gets his stride. Kickin' on a beer can, clickity clack. Keepin' it bouncin' will keep it alive. Think of all the bubbles somebody must have drank. The bubbles turned to burps in somebody's insides While I'm walkin'. After some sonic effervescence, he looks around, I like to take my time and look in all the windows. Pretend that I got money to buy what's in the windows, Lookin' at the ladies, all dressed up in the windows, Watchin' the laundry comin' out of all the windows, Watchin' the cops puttin' tickets on the windows While I'm walkin'. “The Owl” is a wise, but taciturn avatar of the Whirlybird who sees everything in The Garden. Midnight beauty will testify "Hoot" will be his sole reply Once again, Simeon resorts to minimalistic understatement with whimsical accompaniment by his electronic gizmos. “Mad Man Blues” begins with distorted gibberish expanding into a rant on “demo-crazy.” Don't hide yourself behind a ton of useless conversation. There is something you should give first consideration. Then Silver Apples get us hopping when we land in a bed of fire ants! What a garden! Throw in a couple of bonus tracks, and call it an album. Simeon also released Beacon Remixed with mixmasters such as Loop Guru and Dave Callahan of The Wolfhounds whirling the knobs. The album ends with Alpha Stone's remix of “Misty Mountain” and Skylab's new version of “I Have Known Love.” In 1999, the band's van was run off the road, and Simeon broke his neck. In 2005, Danny died of a heart attack at age 56. Now Danny lives in a cybernetic cloud; Simeon samples beats from tapes of Danny drumming. Silver Apples has retained its rhythmic soul electronically. Nobody does it better than Danny. Silver Apples' influence has been significant. Kapp Records' European licensing deal with Decca had far-reaching consequences. John Lennon told BBC TV that Silver Apples were the next big thing. Faust has acknowledged that Simeon was an influence on Krautrock from the beginning. Likewise Devo. Simeon has collaborated with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Spectrum (Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3) on A Lake of Teardrops, Laika, Stereolab, Portishead, Beck, Matmos, Grails, and Beak>. The Alchemysts & Simeon of 1999 highlights his oscillations on “Hydrophobic,” which depicts the horror of drowning and “21st Century In-Car-Entertainment” chanting its minimalistic mantra to cars and guns. Simeon's Do It Yourself method of invention, composition and performance appeals to the ethos of postpunk electronic experimentalists. Are you experienced? Simeon has several recording and performing projects in the works. I have just finished 11 new tracks, and they have been mixed and produced in London by Graham Sutton. The new album is being managed by Jack Trevillion of Entaptured Records in London who is shopping it internationally. Meantime I did the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee, the Red Bull fest in Chicago, the Mission Creek Fest in Iowa and most recently a show at Trans-Pecos in New York and the Electric Eclectics Fest in Canada. So Silver Apples is busy. Doing a Halloween show in Austin. Every Silver Apples show is different, so see them now while we have the chance. And when we hear them, let's do that dance.