Foreign Affairs

18 10 2010

A fresh post (the overseas kind) has brought the latest issue of the Japanese edition of WaxPoetics and a reprint of a story they saw on one of our posts (the blog kind).  I added some images to Dan Neely’s original story that you can see here if your Japanese is a bit rusty.  Regardless, study the image of each 45 insert carefully, and send along any you have that are impressively different.  We’re an archive you know, saving minutia so you don’t have to…

You can click to enlarge said minutia, and enlarge you must if you’re ever going to read the details on how you can sew up a complete new stereo system!  This bit of fluff was culled from an old British teen magazine, Jackie Annual ’86, adding a whole new dimension to choosing the right needle to get the best sound.  I expect quite a few of the LPillows as gifts this Christmas (hint, hint).  What no toile tune tote?

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Size (speed, amplitude) matters

15 10 2010

How to permanently preserve audio materials is a major concern of archives around the world.  Us included.  After all, isn’t that why we’re here?

But ARC does not migrate, i.e; make a copy of an audio object in another medium, ideally more stable, in order to preserve it.  Increasingly archives are abandoning this route, as large collections would be barely started before a new, better, improved preservation system would supplant it.  The daunting problems of saving our audio heritage are the subject of an important recent report via the Library of Congress, The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age. If that’s daunting there’s a pop summary via the AP wire.

We’ve often joked that we should be taking our CDs and cutting vinyl albums in order to preserve them – a sort of audio reverse osmosis – on the order of a dub plate, that Jamaican genius system of direct cut vinyl one offs.

Lo, the sky’s have parted.  The path has been shown to us.  Vinylrecorder.

This platter cuisinart is available from German vinyl cutting specialists and manufacturers, Fritz & Souri Sourisseau.  Their site is only somewhat illuminating, but hints at wondrous potential.  I learned about it from the WOMEX folks, who will have their annual get together next month in Copenhagen. Now the home enthusiast or indie archivist can work out of the basement, cranking out the latest Lady Gaga MP3s on a disc of their own.  Hey, we could even do it as a 10” 78rpm!

The only logical conclusion is that an ARCangel comes forward with the $10K to donate the machine to the library!  That way when batteries for i-everythings are no longer made, and silicone chips have turned back to sand, we’ll be churning out archival copies of the latest hits in all their vinylized splendor.





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)





But You Need An Electron Microscope…

17 08 2010

There are some great things to see in Ohio.

Having eschewed a junket to see Cleveland’s Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened (knee-jerk reaction when I heard that they used funds from the Ohio school system.  Nice summary here ) I finally took the plunge.  It’s only an hour from the ancestral homestead (Poland, the first city of the Western Reserve), so why not?  Best thing was in the Springsteen exhibit, seeing all the handbill and fliers and promo activities it took to get his early band, The Castiles, off the ground.

The main reason for my CLE visit was to see the new Rock Hall Archive being set up by Andy Leach, the Director of Library and Archives. The new 22,500-square-foot facility is housed at Cuyahoga Community College, set to open in May 2011.   Andy had visited ARC last fall, so it was my turn.  I wasn’t the only one anxious to get in, as recently a passerby fired a few bullets into the glass façade.  Have a look at this swell building Columbia University – see what a Community College can do!  Inspired?

The Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives at Bowling Green State University occupies a Soviet era building on a bleak campus, across from a new arts building, with hopes of some architectural largess coming their way soon.  The man in charge since the late 60s is Bill Schurk, a good soul.  He’s still enthusiastic, curious, engaged.  Amid the manageable piles are trash and treasures, souvenirs and curiosities, in one of America’s great popular music collections.  The hall-walls are lined with paper ephemera and the main room a constellation of 45s dangling from the ceiling. They’ve managed to make an institutional space fun, while remaining on good terms with the fire marshal.  I got a tour and ARC donated a book we knew they didn’t have, about channeling wisdom from Gerry Garcia.

Other hotspots on my summer tour included Youngstown, OH and Ann Arbor, MI.

I attended Michigan (12 credits short – still waiting for the honorary degree) and had not been back for more than 20 years.  We visited friends and had wonderful food @ The Earl Restaurant. When last in AA the Earl was just starting up, Dominoes Pizza and Borders Books were small local businesses and the football stadium held a mere 100,000.  Lets just say it’s more of a party school these days, but it’s no longer the Rainbow People’s Party.  Pre-Earl party dining meant a visit to the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery for a heralded Belgian style ale, which they were out of.  Drove 500 miles and told to try the local supermarket – nice marketing savvy!  Always in stock is the annual bumper crop of helpful interns from the University of Michigan School of Information. For the past few years these students have come to the ARC in NYC as part of their alternative Spring Break Program.

As a student my breaks were rarely alternative, and one job I had in AA was setting up chairs at Canterbury House, a way to hear music for free.  Canterbury House was/is run by the Episcopal Church, and beyond its value as an important venue for more than 50 years, they also co-sponsored the very first Ann Arbor Blues Festival.  Big on Canadians (work cheap? Nearby? Great artists?) meant that I was lucky enough to see early gigs by Neil Young (Sugar Mountain set) and Joni Mitchell.

My tenuous Youngstown (Poland is a suburb) music connections were explored in an earlier blog, so lets just mention Charlie Staples Bar-B-Q.   Ribs here are as good as anyplace out East, and many down South. I stock up on their unmarked, quart size, Ball-jarred hot sauce.  But it means going to downtown Y-Town, a region few from my burb have ever visited.  This is the lone speaker in the beautiful formica-ed back room they will never see…

But YOU can see the room, and sample the Q, when you visit Y-Town next September for the opening of “Ronnie Wood: Paintings, Drawings and Prints.” at the Butler Institute of American Art. Mrs. Butler once lived in Poland and taught me to draw.





Polish Music

30 07 2010

As I’m heading back to Poland (Ohio) see me Mum, a flurry of old friends have surfaced.  Turns out it’s about the same time as a reunion of my elder brother’s high school class.  You may think that Poland Seminary High School is only famous for an assassinated president (McKinley) or the advertising genius who bought the world, “I Love New York,” “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz.” and “‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing’ (Mary Wells, née Berg, of Wells, Rich & Green) but it’s also homeroom to a few bits of odd musical history.

An old galpal’s older bro once touched the stars in his summer of fun…

Doug Braun recently sent this pic and and few words: “Forgot the details.  I took this photo of Mike Love & Dennis Wilson while working with their tour back in the summer of 1968.  We did 14 U.S. cities with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and the Human Bienz from Youngstown, Ohio.  We enjoyed short friendships while all working together.  There where two large tour buses for the lighting and sound crews. The performers traveled by air and limo’s.  We had one of the first Winnabago motor homes and a large Ford van.  We drove city to city seeing the country often driving non-stop to the next gig.  I helped with the driving and stage responsibilities. It was GREAT!!!  Got to know everyone on a first name basis.  Enjoy.”

Now the drummer for the, “Nobody but Me,” Human Beinz was Mike Tatman (perfect name for a drummer), who went to Poland, and later married Christie (won’t be in Poland, because she had so many children she didn’t know what to do – so she went to England) who was Poland’s Prom Queen (…and I, ahem, uh, was King).  They were the reigning local heroes.  Live music was rare, mostly Bowling Alley dances, The Roller Rink and nights at the Carousel Teen Club.

“Beinz.” “Georgan.”  Nobody can spell in Ohio.

Then there was the Record Rendezvous, a rich mahogany paneled record store in downtown Youngstown (“Murder City USA” headlined the Saturday Evening Post!).  It had booths with glass at the top, and wood below, and you could slide down and sit on the floor, and no one could see you.  The perfect Sat was taking a bus downtown, bowling or shooting pool, shopping for junk and used clothing and food in the Black section of town, or maybe lunch with my Pop who had his business there, then a movie (at the original Warner’s Theater) and then about an hour or two waiting for a ride home at the Rendezvous.   Sadly, musically it was slim pickens.  About my strongest memory was digging into the C&W section and playing Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter record.  Well, at least until they kicked me out after about six runthroughs.  I’ve since learned that the “Vous” was a chain out of Cleveland, and the owner, Leo Mintz, convinced Alan Freed to play race records on the air, hand-fed him what Black kids were buying from his store, and may have coined the term, “rock’n’roll”.

One of the records I actually bought at this store, turns out to one of the rarest at the ARChive.  Here it is with the original price tag.  Last auction price over $12,000.  Better than stocks!

You see when Capitol US was offered the first Beatles album, they passed.  Hated the look.  Hated the music.  So a small Black label out of Gary, Indiana, Vee-Jay, took a chance.  The Beatleboys did OK, and Capitol said they were just kidding.

Interviewers often ask, “What was the first record you ever bought?”  Well, I have no idea.  But I do remember the first LP I ever stole.  It was World Without Love by Peter and Gordon.  I had about a 3 month run as an amateur booster (“Please lock me away…”), and my partner in crime was Sverre Falck-Pedersen (he’ll be in Poland this weekend, and mispronouncing his name was endless fun).  He says he stole it, not me, but he’s wrong.  We had decided to start stealing LPs one August.  Not so much because we were music lovers, but that they were big and difficult to hide under summer clothes…





Tour d’Arc

7 07 2010

A nice lil’ film by the good folks @ Goldmine Magazine and filmmaker Michael Cumella who have been documenting great collections – and of course, ARC’s included.





SATISFIED MINDS…

23 06 2010

Here a lil’ film + a thanks from an ARC supporter who bought one of our many turntables we had up for grabs at our Summer Record and CD Sale.  Play on, AR-XA








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