“silence is a riddim’ too…”

23 10 2010

With a mixed cultural heritage (German/British), mixed-up cultural focus (noise/reggae) and a mixmastered public persona (art school/wild child), Ari Up brought a disjointed beauty to her vocals that remain haunting.  I had seen her perform with the Slits @ Tier3 in 1980 (?), the foot-off-the-ground stage adding to the intimacy surrounding a band that never seemed all that distant.  I had met her a few times at the Rough Trade office in London also, back in the Rasta distribution area, a permanent cloud of weedsmoke hovering over the shipping desk, a time when it seemed the label, the people, the scene would go on forever.

Ari (Ariane Forster) died a few days ago.  She is survived by three children, a more than interesting extend family (publishing scions, Johnny Rotten),  jungle homes (Indonesia, Belize) and a very satisfying body of work.

My favorite (above) is the eponymous twelve-inch single containing “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm.”  Using a range of Jamaican musics as a jumping off point, the songs dispense with the heavy-on-the-upstroke Reggae guitar, replaced with a more than satisfying sharp No New York minimalist sound and solid base work.  It’s difficult for me to describe a music that was both discordant and charming.  But I’m not a critic.  But I never stopped listening to this stuff.

You can still get versions of the Slits’ “Cut” on CD, on Island.  When it was released it caused a bit of a stir because of the skin.  More importantly the name was similar to overusing ‘nigger’ by rappers, taking a pejorative and making it their own.  So while the stance and the cover produced some sales,  the band never charted in the US, only reaching #30 on the UK charts in Sept 1979.  No other single or LP charted here or there.  But the influences flowed into and from a variety of kindred spirits; The Raincoats, UT, Blurt, Flowers of Romance, The Pop Group, The New Age Steppers.

Ari’s Slits recordings were mostly produced by Dennis Bovell, but my favorite things were with the New Age Steppers and producer Adrian Sherwood.  Here Ari’s joined by second-gen Slitmate, Viv Albertine.  These two LPs are treasures, meandering deeply atmospheric dub, still clearly British.

You can get pieces of Action Battlefield on iTunes, but even the CD of the self titled LP is going for more than $30 used these days.  It contains one of the bands gems, “Fade Away.”  Nice records to be remembered by.

Here’s an alpha list of the Slits vinyl recordings @ the ARChive:

• “Animal Space”//”Man Next Door”/”In the Beginning There Was Rhythm” (Human Records, USA, YUS-1, 12″ 45rpm, vinyl disc single, 1980).

• “Animal Space”/“Animal Spacier” (Human Records, USA, HUM-4, 7” 45rpm, vinyl disc single, 1980).

• Cut (Island Records, UK, ILPS-9573, 12″ 33 1/3 rpm, vinyl disc LP, 1979).  One version here has a special custom label with a silhouette of the girls.

• Cut (Antilles Records, US, AN-7077, 12″, 33 1/3 rpm, vinyl disc LP, 1979).

• “Earthbeat”/“Begin Again Rhythm” (CBS, UK, CBS-A1498, 7” 45rpm, vinyl disc single, 1981).

• “Earthbeat And Earthdub”/“Begin Again Rhythm” (CBS, UK, CBS-A 13 1498, 12” 45rpm, vinyl disc single, 1981).

• “Earthbeat And Earthdub”/”Or What Is It” (Epic, USA, 49-02576, 12” 33-1/3rpm, vinyl disc single, 1981).

• ”In the Beginning There Was Rhythm” (Slits)/”Where There’s A Will There’s a way” (Pop Group) (Rough Trade/Y Records, UK, RT 039/Y-1, 12″ vinyl disc single, 1980).

“Man Next Door”/ “Man Next Door Dub” (Rough Trade/Y Records, UK, RT 004/Y-4, 7″ 45rpm, vinyl disc single, 1980).

• Return of the Giant Slits  (Urgent Records/CBS, UK, 85269, 12” vinyl disc LP with single containing an extra cut and interview, 1981)

• “Typical Girls”/”I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (Antilles, ANS-102, with a folded poster sleeve, 7″ 45rpm, vinyl disc single, 198?).

• “Typical Girls”/ “Typical Girls – Brink Style”//”I Heard It Through the Grapevine”/”Liebe And Romance” (Island Records, UK, 12WIP-6505, 12″ 45rpm, vinyl disc EP, 1979).

• Typical Girls Won’t Pay More Than $8.00 So Why Should You? (Basic Records, USA, BASE-1, 12″, vinyl disc-Lp, Bootleg, 19??)

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.

Silly Summer Record + CD Sale

1 06 2009

Join your pals @ ARC for our Summer Record + CD Sale   JUNE 13 – 21 !!!

And NOW, with Virgin closing, ARC is the largest record store in New York!  (at least for the next week).  So come on down and support ARC.

Picture 3


Admission is free!                  New items daily.               Over 20,000 items for sale

At our ground floor office: 54 White St.
3 short blocks south of Canal, between Broadway & Church in Tribeca.
Take the 1 train to Franklin, or any train to Canal.

CDs are NEW donations from record companies, NOT used, returns or defects!
Mostly pop and rock recordings.  Collectible LPs are priced below book value.
Hundreds of CDs are priced at $1 to $5 each.    Cassettes  are 4 for $1.00
Just released NEW & HOT CDs are $5 – $10.

7” singles  •  many desirable and hard to find   •   Shelves of new music books   •   100s of sealed/unopened LPs   •   African, Reggae & world-music releases   •  Classical LPs 50¢ or LESS  •  laserdiscs  •  videos
For the dis-en-vinyled our Astroturf Yardsale of 50s kitchen stuff and clothing!!!

COCKTAIL PARTY   –   ARChive Members are invited to a cocktail party on
Thursday, JUNE 11  Members shop before the general public.
JOIN / call for details : 212-226-6967    Champagne supplied by the Bubble Lounge

Our Times has come…

8 05 2009

Today ARC was featured in the NY Times, in the NY/Regional section, with a nice story by David Gonzales.  There were two electronic versions, and these featured cover art and sound files – you can go to  here 2 hear.


I was asked to dig through the ARChive for some unusual things I liked, and ignored new things that the Times might have reviewed.  But they didn’t publish my comments or the discography to the story,  so here goes…

Anna Domino
“Land Of My Dreams” on East and West (Les Disques Du Crepuscule, Belgium, TWI 187, 12″, vinyl disc Ep, 1984)    This is an early effort.  Equally swell is Anna’s take on the American folksong via her latest band, Snakefarm.

Big Miller
“Did You Ever Hear the Blues?”  on Did You Ever Hear the Blues?”, (United Artists, USA, YAS 6047, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1959)  Big = Clarence Horatio, a Kansas City Blues shouter, doing a pile of songs penned by Langston Hughes.

Twilight Zoners
“Twister” on  Zerø Zerø Øne  (ZIP (Zoners In Plastic) Records, UK, 7” 45 rpm, Ep, 1979).
We have 12 different handmade Xerox covers of this DIY crackly UK single out of the 45 different ones crafted, the whole run was 1000 copies.  Vocals in the background by my pal, Tilly Tilson.  Gordon/Glen is still rockin’ here.

Admiral Dele Abiodun And His Top Hitters
(Olumo, Nigeria, Orps 79, 12″, vinyl disc Lp, 1978)
Out on a limb here, but this is the greatest side of Juju music ever recorded. And it is the only one I know of that about ¾ through shifts into a Fela-esque Afrobeat layered in psychedelic guitar ecstasy.  Here’s that bit of this 19 min. masterpiece.

“The American in Me” on the Avengers EP (White Noise, USA, WNR 002, 12″, 45 rpm vinyl disc, Ep, 1979)  Raw SF punk + vocalist Penelope Houston.    Only a snippet here as we had no rights.

Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney and the Hi-Lo’s
“Music to Shave By”   (Auravision/Columbia, USA, 6” paper/flexidisk, 33rpm,  196?)
Back of the disc says “ This is the first Hi-Fi recording ever to be included in a national magazine,” probably Life.   This is cloying music at the service of industry, and Bing, by the way, once started a paper ad record business.   There’s a great webthing on paper + flexies, hosted by WFMU, @  http://www.wfmu.org/MACrec/

The Buddah Box
I found this in a religious store, between a Buddhist and Hindu temple in the Little India section of Singapore.  Chips deliver a lively series of religious chants and songs, in a variety of languages, in endless repetition –  change partners by slapping a top button.  Works on batteries too, as you never know when your chant challenged.

Los York’s
“No Puedo Amar” on El Viaje: 1966-1974  (Munster, Spain, MR 285, 12″, vinyl disc-2Lp, 2008)
Out of Lima Peru, this quintet personified the organ loving Latino rock, when you could actually hear the electronic click triggering the sound.  Wonderful stuff, called garage now, part of the lovingly resurrected South and Central American obscurities by Spain based Munster Records.

Dave Clark – Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay

10 03 2009

We know the world has lost its moral compass when Gandhi chotskis hit the auction block.  Further proof is when former rockstars ask for a favor, on a quick turnaround, and than stiff you.  No we won’t go into ALL the folks who don’t pay their bills, knowing that ARC is too small to ever sue anyone, but here’s the latest.   We were asked to send a scan the cover of “Coast to Coast” (Epic, USA, LN 24128, Mono, [1965]) by Dave’s office.  We did it in a few hours, sent the scan, sent the bill.  A month later, nada.  We recontact and they say they sent by wire transfer.  We send them a copy of our banks transactions, proving it was never received.  They say well, it’s OUR problem.


So Dave.  I know times are tough.  You may not have the $100.  Sad.  Buy hey, when you wanted the scan we did it quickly, expertly, on faith.  That was our responsibility.  Your responsibility is to pay.  So despite the brazen stance in front of the US map, Dave Clark is no friend of America!  From the Stamp Act to the Dave Clark unpaid bill, it’s the same old story…

Nigerian Musician Sonny Okosuns Dies

25 06 2008

Nigerian composer, singer and activist Sonny Okosuns died May 24 in Washington DC of Cancer.

Not well known in the States, Sonny’s great voice (the only African voice) may have been noticed on Sun City, the anti-apartheid album from 1985 or on the soundtrack of Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. I had the privilege of doing a remix of the song from the film Highlife for Shanachie Records.  I remember the difficulty we had editing, as the drummer moved the song along as only a human could, somewhat at odds with producing a dance track.

Here’s a profile I wrote in the late 90s and a listing of the recordings we have at the ARC.

Sonny Okosuns
b: 4/3/1947.Enugu or Benin City, Nigeria

In his teens Sonny studied as an actor with the Eastern Nigerian Theater, couching a desire to become a playwright within a Hollywood obsession. He often spent a day at the cinema, and the occasional night after falling asleep in his seat.  Elvis Presley’s Loving You, Cliff Richard’s Expresso Bongo and The Tommy Steele Story made a lasting impression. Misreading the large numbers of adoring on-screen fans as friends, the young Okosun was attracted to this idealized lifestyle. The gift of a guitar in 1964 led to the formation of his first band, the Postmen, in 1966.

The Postmen specialized in straight ahead rock and pop, playing Elvis songs and earning a local reputation for Beatles covers.  With the advent of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, Sonny moved to Lagos to do design work for a TV station. There, along with everyone else in the capital, he went crazy for American soul and sang in amateur soul groups. 1969 marks the beginning of his professional career with a move to Benin City to play second guitar with Sir Victor Uwaifo’s Melody Maestros, a prominent Highlife band. Uwaifo taught him composition and provided practical experience on the ins and outs of earning a living as a musician. Flying back from a Japanese tour in 1970, Sonny purchased instruments at a London stopover – gear necessary to form his own band being prohibitively expensive and difficult to come by in Africa. He also picked up a new set of Western influences while in the UK, launching Paperback Limited in ‘72, a mix of Eastern (Bendel) Highlife and the underground sound of Santana, Hendrix, Creem and Traffic.

While Sonny was successful, he felt that his music is still not very distinctive. He returned home to Enugu and came up with a roots music based on his Esan (Ishan) culture. He renamed the band Ozziddi after an Ijaw river God and christened his sound “Ozziddzm”.  His first song in Ozziddi style, “No More War”, was a hit, as were his next three albums, Ozzidi, Living Music and Ozzidi for Sale, all of which sold over 100,000 copies. His fourth LP, Papa’s Land (1977), did even better. The title cut, a funky Highlife number sung in English, preached a militant gospel of African rule “from Cape Town to Cairo”. The LP also contains one strong Afro-reggae song, “Rain”, attesting to a blossoming interest in reggae, and a back cover quoting the Old Testament, an affirmation of his born again Christianity.

EMI, impressed with Papa’s Land, sent the band to London in 1978 where Sonny recorded his next two LPs at Abbey Road studios, the home of his boyhood idols, the Beatles. (Sonny claimed to have used nearly half the Beatles titles for his own compositions, one of which, “Help” was a big hit). “Fire In Soweto” is a well produced Afro reggae title cut that showcased Sonny’s warm, rootsy voice. The English lyrics allowed the message of freedom to reach beyond Nigeria’s borders and made Sonny a star throughout the continent. In 1980 “Fire” flooded West African airwaves providing the soundtrack for Samuel K. Doe’s Liberian coup. That same year Sonny was the first artist to take the stage at Zimbabwe’s independence celebration.

Exploring the language-oriented calypso form, he next cut an LP with Explainer, calling the style Afro-Carnival. Shifting gears again, Sonny flirted with a disco sound on “No More War” on his 1980 Third World LP, with many of the songs again incorporating reggae stylings. The title cut stressed the Afro over the reggae to produce his most satisfying effort to date. Sonny delights in the airiness of reggae – the large empty spaces that allow room for the words – as attractive as it’s religious and political tendencies. Okosuns’ gift is hearing Africa’s perfect pitch on it’s return trip to the motherland; in New World rock, reggae, funk, black American dance and Caribbean music. The follow-up, The Gospel According to Ozziddi, was a shaky disco effort. Okosuns has toured the world, including a visit to Cuba and a sold out concert at New York’s Apollo theater in 1984.

Sonny Okosun’s Ozziddi. 3rd World (Makossa, USA, M 2397, 12, vinyl disc-Lp, [1980])
Sonny Okosun’s Ozziddi. 3rd World (Oti, UK, M 2397*, 12, vinyl disc-Lp, [1980])
Sonny Okosuns. African Soldiers (Profile, USA, PCD-1414, 5, compact disc, 1991)
Sonny Okosun. Fire In Soweto (EMI, Nigeria, NEMI 0330, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1978 )
Sonny Okosun. Happy Days (, HMV 058, 12, , 1980s)
Sonny Okosun. Highlife (Shanachie, USA, SH-5011, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, n.d. {1984]). This is the one B.George and Goran Andersson remixed.
Sonny Okosun. Liberation (Shanachie, USA, 43019, 12, vinyl disc-Lp, 1984)
Sonny Okosun. Liberation (Shanachie, USA, 43019*, 5, compact disc, 1991)
Sonny Okosun. Message (MFR 120714, 12, 1980s)
Sonny Okosun. Message (Melanie, USA, JRF-1009, 12, vinyl disc-LP, 1980s)
Sonny Okosun. Mother and Child (EMI, Nigeria, HMV 030, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1982)
Sonny Okosuns. Over The Years (Celebrity, 1001, 5, compact disc, )
Sonny Okosun’s Ozziddi. Papa’s Land (EMI, Nigeria, NEMI 0232, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1977)
Sonny Okosun. Sonny Okosun (OTI, UK, OTI (LP) 058-82447, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1978 )
Sonny Okosun’s Ozziddi. The Gospel of Ozziddi (EMI, NEMI (LP) 0530, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, n.d.)
Sonny Okosun’s Ozziddi. Third World (OTI, OTI (LP) 0500, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1980)
Sonny Okosun. Togetherness (EMI, Nigeria, HMV 033, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1983)
Sonny Okosun. Which Way Nigeria? (Jive Afrika, USA, HIP 18, 12, vinyl disc-Single or Ep, 1984)
Sonny Okosun. Which Way Nigeria? (EMI, Nigeria, HMV(N) 036, 12, vinyl disc-Lp, 1984)
Sonny Okosun. Wind of Change (Ivory Music, Nigeria, IVR 001, 12, 1990)

Songs of Praise from 1994 (we don’t have) was sort of a comeback that sold nearly a million copies. It heralded a Christian twist.

A nice discography is at:

You can get a great assortment of the releases on CD from our pals at Sterns, so visit them at http://www.sternsmusic.com/discography/6411

We Knew That

7 03 2008

Sarah Lyall, in The New York Times, 3/4/08, reported:

“A plot by the Hells Angels, … in 1969, to kill Mr. Jagger nearly 40 years ago failed when the would-be assassins, traveling by boat, encountered a storm and were thrown overboard, according to a new BBC radio series. In one episode of the series, ‘The F.B.I. at 100,’ a former F.B.I. agent, Mark Young, said that Angels became enraged in the aftermath of the Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont. During the concert a fan was stabbed and killed by the Angels, who had been providing security for the Stones. The Stones then distanced themselves from the Angels, which made the Angels angry with Mr. Jagger, the program said. “They were going to kill him in retribution for his firing their security forces,” Mr. Young said in the program, the BBC reported on its Web site. “Their plan involved making entry into his Long Island property, going by boat. As they gathered the weaponry and their forces to go out on Long Island Sound, a storm rolled up, which nearly sunk the watercraft they were in, and they escaped with their own lives.” Mr. Young told the program that the botched plot came to life much later, in the course of a wider investigation into the Angels’ activities… A spokesman for Mr. Jagger said he would have no comment.”

We could have saved them a lot of trouble in uncovering this plot, if only they had done some research at the ARC first!


One of the many rock pulp paperbacks, this from 1977, at the ARC.

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