Las Loss – The Sweet Beat in Bronze

20 09 2010

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas will close on October 18, 2010.

In the 50s Liberace was on our TV, the candelabra was on the Steinway, and my family took delight in the fact that his brother was named, “George.”  (Then again there was an equal affinity for wrestler, Gorgeous George).  Libby died in 1987.

The museum opened in 1979.  Since then fishy economics and a diminishing fan base have led to its demise.  Or maybe his subtle musical approach and plain demeanor were no match for today’s Vegas.  So they’ll pack away the world’s largest rhinestone, and de-neon his humble Tropicana Avenue stripmall tchotchke forever.   Rumor has it that Lady GaGa is eying up the space. (every clothes horse deserves a stable…)

Of course glamorous women have always gravitated to the desert; here’s me Mum, (on your right), who never missed a chance to pose with a slightly tarnished maestro on one of her various jaunts in the desert.  Here it’s the “Champagne Music Maker,” Lawrence Welk” at his last Resort and Museum in Escondido.

Edifice lost and inexplicable wardrobes remind me that on Weds (Sept 22, 2010) Caribbean artist Arrow died.  He had been living in Puerto Rico because in the mid 90s the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano wiped out his home and his clothing shop, Arrow’s Manshop Boutique on the island of Montserrat.  We all know and love the hit, “hot, Hot, Hot,” but there was a whole lot more.

I’ve attached a profile I wrote on Arrow in 2007, so pardon the lack of updates in this hast to post.  Uh, somehow, we lost our database of Liberace recordings, and, umm, the dog ate our Welk material, but we’ll end with a discography of the 31 Arrow recordings we have here at the ARChive.

Arrow Montserrat, Lesser Antilles, Caribbean
Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell.      ‘Phonsie’ b: 11/16/54 

Creator of the most recognizable song ever to emigrate to the “West”, Arrow’s party anthem “Hot, Hot, Hot” is the Carib equivalent of “Louis Louis”, but with even fewer words.  Since Bob Marley, and prior to the recent success of rap/dancehall acts, Arrow is the only artist from the English speaking Caribbean ever to rack up the multi-million sales figures to rival American pop stars.

Raised on the tiny Leeward Island of Montserrat, Arrow was the youngest of nine children.  Like most kids he was exposed to pop, rock and soul over the radio, while the local music scene was dominated by Trinidadian calypso.  He performed his first calypso’s when as a 10 year old he began competing in his school’s talent contests, delighting in improvised ‘picong’, or ‘stinging insult’, a form of derision leveled at a rival to disillusion him and delight the audience.  When a teacher remarked that his barbs went ‘stinging like an arrow”, the name stuck.  After finishing school Arrow displayed great business acumen and financed his career through a series of ventures like breeding pigeons (the 300-400 birds earning him a new nickname, “The Pigeon King”) and rabbits, working as a barber, making rubber stamps, selling insurance and eventually opening his own clothing store, Arrow’s Manshop Boutique.  All this enterprise proved necessary, because although he had won his island’s Calypso King contest in 1971 and for the next 3 years running, a recording contract failed to materialize.

His world view was forever changed on a visit to Trinidad in 1971 when he went to see top Calypsonian the Mighty Sparrow for advice.  Pointing to a room full of unsold records, it boiled down to a few words, “Be different”.  Originality aside, there were other problems with nearly every aspect of the music business surrounding Calypso.  First, the short marketing season from Christmas to Carnival limited air play and sales.  Lyrics while often brilliant, were much too topical or sexual to reach beyond the island, filled with local reference and slang.  On the performance end the artists seldom had the money to rehearse or keep a band together, leading to house bands, lowered standards, and endlessly recycled melodies.  Lastly, few artists owned their own compositions or collected royalties.

Arrow’s first singles appeared in ‘72 and the first LP, On Target in ‘75.  He published his own music and financed his recordings, making the producer a wage earner rather than the owner of the master tape.  Since Montserrat was closer to the French Antilles than it was to Trinidad, Arrow began incorporating cadence into his music and toying with ways to distinguish himself in the crowded yet insular world of calypso.  This was more a conscious attempt at a mini-internationalism and universality than merely adding flavor by incorporating exotica.  In ‘75 his theories paid off when “Monique” became a modest hit in Martinique and Guadeloupe.  From now on each LP would have a few songs infused with the rhythm and spirit of another territory – something for everyone that would increase the chance for sales in a variety of markets.  “Monique” was also his first non political/non topical song, reinforcing the notion that local themes were seldom exportable.  Another jolt of reality hit in 1977.  Prior to this time the Calypso King and Road March competitions in Trinidad were open to all – that is until it looked as if someone from another island was about to win!  When Arrow’s :”Roll Back” and “Tourist Leggo” by Antigua’s Short Shirt went head to head for top Road March honors, the Carnival Committee changed the rules to exclude ‘foreigners’.

Exasperated, Arrow made an even stronger commitment to forging a hybrid that would work throughout the Caribbean.  Using soca as a starting point, Arrow emphasized the bass and tassa bell driven rhythm section even more, and in a shameless bit of dated modernism added a disco feel and longhaired rock guitar solos.  On tour he would travel with Clarence ‘Oungku’ Edwards, (leader of the once and future Burning Flames) who played bass and guitar player, Christopher “Columbus” Newland (one of the few White musician in calypso/soca), adding local brass for shows.  In the studio he enlisted the best arrangers, originally Ed Watson (of Brass Circle) and in ‘83 Leston Paul, and rehearsed a tight band that often included Frankie Macintosh.  The result was a party act that was always ready to tour, reliable and professional.  This rock soca functioned like any dance music with diminished lyrical content, repetitive phrases, call and response choruses, and as many gimmicks as needs be to get an audience moving.  Arrow himself worked the crowd by constantly crisscrossing the stage with rock star involvement, setting himself apart from most calypso singers who still stood stage-center, singing to the microphone.  While Arrow was criticized for downgrading calypso by abandoning language for rhythm, disco soca beats and simplistic anthem songs are now an established part of Mas in Trinidad.

Fewer songs have been as long-lived and internationally recognizable as “Hot Hot Hot”.  When it first hit in ‘83 it became an instant classic – a chant that any sweaty crowd regardless of geography could claim as their own.  It moved beyond the world of Caribbean DJs and into college dorms when former NY Doll Buster Poindexter released the note-for-note cover version on RCA, and later sang it on an episode of “Miami Vice”.  The song has been recorded in 12 languages, made the charts in the UK and Holland, featured in the films “My Stepmother Is An Alien” and “Man From Africa”(1983), was the World Cup theme song in Mexico (1986), staged as the opening production number to the 1989 Miss Universe Pageant, provided the theme for CBS TV’s “new season”, and used to market Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Miller Beer, Tropicana orange juice and ‘94 Toyota’s on TV.  While “Hot Hot Hot” was originally released in Europe on Chrysalis in ‘83, and as a single by them in the US in ‘84, Arrow’s debut LP on a major American label did not happen until sales of 4 million and Buster’s version inspired Mango to take a chance in 1988.  A cover still resonated enough to hit #3 on the UK dance charts in 1993.  It would be safe to low ball sales at 8 million.

The success of “Hot Hot Hot” allowed Arrow to put together a touring show and band called the Multi-National Force in ‘89, expanded to include a full brass section and still featuring guitarist Newland.  That same year he was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire), a high civilian honor just short of Knighthood by the Queen of England.  Other accomplishments include being the first soca, let alone calypso artist on “Soul Train”, the UK’s Top of the Pops and Terry Wogan Show (UK personality host similar to Johnny Carson), and at Reggae Sunsplash.  Arrow is one of the few soca or calypso artists to maintain an active, worldwide touring schedule.  Recently he has performed in Ghana, Morocco and Japan.  Dividing his time between Montserrat and Brooklyn, he’s been given the “Key to New York City” for his contribution to the city’s cultural wealth.  He’s not the only member of his family to compose and perform, his brother Justin (“Hero”) wrote one of the Caribbean’s biggest hits “Tiney Winey”, and another brother Lorenzo, once performed as ‘Young Challenger”.  Gearing up for the next generation is Arrow’s six year old son who’s already appeared on Broadway and in TV commercials.  With the volcanic action on tiny Montserrat in the late 90s, Arrow, like most of his Islandmates, lost everything he has built there and may never be able to return.

• Classics plus  (Arrow, 042, 5″, compact disc, 1994)

• Deadly  (Arrow, 025*, 12” , vinyl disc-Lp, 1985)

• “Groove Master”  (Mango, USA, MLPS 7822, 12″, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1988)

• Heavy Energy  (Blue Moon, France, BM 113, 12”, vinyl disc-Lp, 1987)

• Heavy Energy  (Arrow, 028, 12” , vinyl disc-Lp, 1986)

• Hot Hot Hot  (CNR, Netherlands, 656 044, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1983)

• Hot Hot Hot  (Chrysalis, USA, CHR 1434, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1983)

• Hot Hot Hot  (Arrow, 019, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1982)

• “Hot Hot Hot”  (Hotter Mix ‘84) // “Hot Hot Hot”  (Soca Dub Mix) / ╥Hot Hot Hot”    (Chrysalis, USA, 4V9 42701, 12″, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1984)

• “Hot Hot Hot”  / “Hot Hot Hot”  (Instrumental)  (Air / Chrysalis, UK, ARROX-1, 12″, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1984)

• Instant Knockout  (Charlie’s, 017, 12” , vinyl disc-Lp, 1981)

• “Jam Fierce Remix” / “Jam Fierce Dub” // “ Afro Soca Acid Dub” / “Techno Dub”  (Mango, USA, MLPS 7829 DJ, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp , 1989)

• “Jam Fierce” / “Afro Soca Acid Dub” / “Techno Dub”  (Mango, USA, MLPS 7829 DJ, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1989)

• Knock Dem Dead  (Mango, USA, MLPS 9809, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1988)

• Knock Dem Dead  (Arrow, 029, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp     , 1987)

• Massive  (Arrow, 031, 12”, vinyl disc-Lp, 1988)

• Model de Bam Bam  (Arrow, 039 , 5”, compact disc, 1992)

• O’ La Soca  (Mango, USA, MLPS 9835, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp     , 1989)

• “O’ La Soca”  (Mango, USA, MLPS 7829, 12″, vinyl disc-single, 1989)

• Outrageous  (Arrow, 040, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1993)

• Ride de Riddim  (Arrow, 0045 CD, 5”, compact disc, 1996)

• Rush Hour  (B’s, USA, BSR-AR-021, 12”, vinyl disc-Lp, 1984)

• Soca Dance Party  (Mango, USA, 539 878-1, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1990)

• Soca Dance Party  (Mango, USA, 539878-2, 5″, compact disc, 1990)

• Soca Savage  (Arrow, 023 , 12” , vinyl disc-Lp, 1984)

• Soca Savage  (London, UK, LON 113, 12” , vinyl disc-Lp, 1984)

• Soca-Rocka  (Charlie’s, USA, 016, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, 1979)

• Sweet Beat  (Charlie’s, CR 015, 12” , vinyl disc-Lp, 1978)   Illustrated above.

• The Best of Arrow – King of Soca Vol. 2  (Arrow, 038-CD, 5″, compact disc, 1992)

• Turbulence  (Arrow, 0047, 5″, compact disc, 1998)

• Zombie Soca (Re-mixes)  (Arrow, 037-CA,  cassette, 1991)





We Built This City On…

8 10 2009

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It is a little known fact that the ancient Nabataeans were early adaptors of new sound recording technologies.  They began with cylinder discs (called columns) but found them awkward.  Later, around 70 BC, they sliced the cylinders into wafer thin segments, well thin for the time, and began recording on the flat side.  Thwarted by a region-only spindle size and fierce competition from the Hittites (every tune a Hitt!) and the Phoenicians (the original Purple Reign), they were soon forced out of the market.  Not to mention the freight, as these babies were 33 1/3 tons.  Alas, here at Petra, unshipped goods, in a format that defies migration, linger still.

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But, I may be mistaken about all this.  What I do know is that the walk through Al-Siq, and the first glimpse of the Treasury through the slice of rock, luminous pink curtained black, is a remarkable thing and well worth a trip through time.

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All I can think of is our last administration, and the inability to tackle any problem successfully, and how everything was ‘hard work”   Please.  Have a look at Ajunta, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Petra.  Imagine signing off on 40 years to carve a rock facade and we can’t rebuild twenty rows of wooden shotgun houses in New Orleans!   Disgrace, I mean I digress.

I’ve spent the last 10 days here in Amman Jordan setting up the first stages of Muslim World Music Day (formerly the Muslim Music Crash Course) at Columbia Universities Middle Eastern Research Center.  It has been a whirlwind of meetings, show-and tells, planning, report writing and visits to archives, schools, libraries, embassies, musicians and government offices.  The project director handling things from Jordan – the man with ALL the contacts – is Kareem Talhouni.

If you don’t know, Muslim World Music Day is an attempt to catalog all the relevant recording in the world, in one day, and surround this core database with informational and entertaining content, online.  Read all about it at our pre-website blog  www.arcmmcc.wordpress.com

Dr+cassettes_smlOne nice find was a thesis, written in English, but only published in Arabic, on Jordanian music, written by Prof Abdel Hamid Hamam the Dean of the College of Art and Design, University of Jordan.  Written in Wales no less.  We will excerpt it in both languages on the Muslim World Music Day website.

Equally amazing is the work of Dr. Mohammed Taha Ghawanmeh , Music professor and Dean of fine art @ Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan.  Dr Ghawanmeh has spent his life collecting the traditional music of Jordan, and the result is a 500 cassette edition, each cassette one hour long and accompanied by a booklet of lyrics, notation and explanatory notes.  This is hard work at its very best.  Only two sets of the series now exist and I can only hope that some scholars or universities that read this could find this work useful for their institution of scholarly pursuits.   Here’s the contact for the fine arts dept :  fac_finart@yu.edu.jo and Arabic speakers can call +962 79 574 3535

By the way on the road to Petra I has coffee, and after a 800 step climb rested in a rock solid tea room overlooking the rose red monestary.  Life used to be so hard…

roadside_coffemaker_smlMon_tea_rock_room>_sml

My favorite reaction to the project was from a woman at the Center who wanted to know if every whore and slut who parades nearly naked on the TV, shaking her stuff, and singing in Arabic would be a part of the website.  She then showed me a few of Nancy Ajram’s videos (mild by my standards) and then exclaimed with a smile, “This is my favorite!”  And shaking her shoulders, “I love to dance to this one.”   Hey, Nancy was on Ophra last month!

With downloading so prevalent and pirating commonplace, music shops have all but disappeared in Jordan – one small chain, The Music Box, holding its own.  Plus the visual versions are very seductive as DVDs and music on TV predominates.  Live music is scarce in formal performance.  This photo is from a concert at Al Hussein Cultural Center taken by Robert Reeder, an ex pro photographer visiting Amman.   Musically, it was the kanoon playing of Tewfik Mirkham (sp?) that was luminous.

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My endless search for actual music collections was finally rewarded on the last day of my visit to Amman with a trip to The Jordan Radio and Television Corp.   Our animated host, Ms. Hala Zureiqat, Director of Jordan Television, listened to our pitch, conferred with her Director, then nearly shouted, “We’re in!”   What has made this trip rewarding is that so many people in the region are willing to support the Muslim World Music Day –  a new idea, on first hearing – so enthusiastically.

In one of the rehearsal rooms we were treated to a short concert by 73 year old singer Mohammed Wahib – sweet, toothless and energetic.  The song is, “Slaima.”

The station has saved nearly its entire history since the 60s on reel to reel tape, and it is mostly catalogued.  The recent past is digitized and can be called up inhouse, electronically.   But for me the real fun was to finally see some real vinyl – 45s, LPs and a full shelf unit of approx 4,300 seventy-eights.

Amman45s1better sml

We will work to make sure this material is cataloged for the project and who knows what trash or treasures we will unearth.  Maybe an early Nabataean disc?





ARC Partners with Columbia University

10 04 2009

It’s taken a while, but here’s the text of the official press release from Columbia University.  Yes, were changing the face (facade) of academic study!

cu_partnership_hall_closeup

Columbia Forges Partnership with ARChive of Contemporary Music
Collection of be-bop, bluegrass, blues, country, jazz, rap, reggae, rock, zydeco
and other forms to be made available for research and education

NEW YORK, April 6, 2009 — Columbia University has joined in a cooperative agreement with the ARChive of Contemporary Music, the largest collection of popular music in the world, to integrate the resources of the archive into arts programming at the university and other educational and scholarly activities.

The partnership is between the archive, Columbia University Libraries and the Arts Initiative at Columbia. Holdings of the archive include the Keith Richards Blues Collection, endowed by Richards, and the 50,000 disc World Music collection.

“The ARChive is excited to partner with Columbia to create innovative academic initiatives and online content to help with the study, understanding and enjoyment of popular music from all over the world,” said Bob George, director of the archive. “One of the first projects under this new partnership will mount the ARChive’s catalog online, for both students and the general public to access. This initial database, the International Discography, will provide data on a half-million recordings in the collection of over 2 million sound recordings.”

The New York-based archive is supported by a remarkable board of advisors which includes David Bowie, Jellybean Benitez, Jonathan Demme, Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Leiber, Youssou N’Dour, Lou Reed, Keith Richards, Nile Rodgers, Todd Rundgren, Fred Schneider, Martin Scorsese, Paul Simon and Mike Stoller.

“The archive is an extraordinary resource and it is an honor for Columbia to make the collection available for education and scholarship,” said Jim Neal, vice president for information services and University Librarian. “We welcome this opportunity to advance wider availability and use of the archive.”
As part of its continuing commitment to engagement in the city, University Libraries and the Arts Initiative will work with the archive to reach out to interested communities to develop programs and projects that support the work of the partnership. The Arts Initiative will work to develop and implement public programming which highlights the work of the collaboration and brings visibility to the archive.

“The Arts Initiative is especially happy to have collaborated with Jim Neal in the expanded access to this remarkable collection,” said Gregory Mosher, director of the Arts Initiative and adjunct assistant professor of theatre arts. “Connecting the arts with other ways of understanding the world is central to the Arts Initiative’s work, and Bob George’s collection is a unique way of understanding the American, not to mention international, experience as expressed through its most popular art form. We look forward to working with Bob, the library, Columbia’s scholars and artists, and artists from around the world to create unique and compelling programming in the coming years.”

The ARChive of Contemporary Music is a not-for-profit archive, music library and research center located in New York City. It collects, preserves and provides information on the popular music of all cultures and races throughout the world from 1950 to the present. Now in its 24th year, the archive consists of 2 million sound recordings and approximately 3 million photographs, books, press kits, videos, memorabilia and related ephemera.

The Arts Initiative was launched by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger in February 2004 to re-examine the role of the arts in the university and the university’s role in the arts. Under the direction of Gregory Mosher, the Arts Initiative strives to enliven the arts on campus, connect the campus to the city’s culture, and link the arts with other ways of understanding the world. It collaborates with student and faculty partners across the campus, unconstrained by academic field, and works regularly with the city and national and international cultural partners to make the arts a part of every Columbian’s education and life.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top 5 academic research library systems in North America. Its collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 25 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff.

About Columbia University
A leading academic and research university, Columbia University continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations and community partnerships help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.





Record Hound of Barcelona

7 11 2007

As you all know that Spanish visionary, A. Gaudi, loved his music. Some insists he was a serious trance + techno fan, sneaking off to rave the Balerics between concrete pours.

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But I’m convinced it was the fandango that fueled his modernist visions. Regardless, images of records, LPs mostly, began to shade his architectural landscape. Here are examples from around the 1900s at the Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and the Park Guell in Barcelona.

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Years ago we had asked Gaudi to help us out and try his hand at an ARC logo. Pretty good, but we had to pass. Like Charles Dickens; a great mind, but his spelling was not quite up to snuff.

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B. = Barcelona








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