Do “The Ostrich” one last time…

29 10 2013

With the passing of an artist that one admires, one always returns to favorite works by that artist in order to commemorate him or her; in this case, Lou Reed.

Around 1963 or so, after graduating from college in Syracuse, where he played in frat bands, Lou Reed returned to New York City and tried to get into the music business. Apparently he fell in with some musicians who worked for Pickwick International, a super budget music business conglomerate; meaning it was a record company that needed product, and a music publisher that needed songs. No teen fad was too lame for this company to exploit. Dance crazes, surf music, British invasion—Pickwick would be right there, usually a dollar short and a day late.

Although it yearned to be a Tin Pan Alley-type player, Pickwick was more like the dollar store equivalent of the Brill Building. Who knows if a single song it generated ever became a hit record? One of Pickwick’s methods of doing business seemed to be this: Watch the chart for hit artists, license available recordings by said hit artists—usually tracks cut long before artists were popular—and issue them on new LPs. If there were not enough material to fill an album, Pickwick songwriters would write, produce and record to order in a similar vein.

Lou Reed was such a songwriter for Pickwick. He co-wrote and recorded such songs as “Little Cycle Annie,” “You’re Driving Me Insane” and “But I’ll Getcha” and the songs were released on these kinds of albums under the names The Beachnuts, The Roughnecks and The J Brothers, respectively.

In 1964, another “group” he recorded with, The Primitives, released a single on Pickwick called “The Ostrich.” It’s a ridiculous dance number that nobody could ever do with Lou Reed talk/singing (as he did his whole career) impossible directions: “everybody get down on your face!” However, it starts with a hot, stinging, one-note guitar riff before going into a full-on “Then He Kissed Me” groove, complete with party noises, wild screams, pounding tambourines and gibberish singing. About a minute and twenty seconds into the track, a very Velvet Underground-like, one-note vamp is hit and John Cale’s viola is clearly heard for a couple seconds before returning to the regular groove—about fifteen seconds featuring shapes of things to come. The record is futuristic minimalism disguised as a disposable, simplistic, teen-dance romp! For all intents and purposes, there is little difference between “The Ostrich” and “Sister Ray,” except for the length of the track. Less than a year later, Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker were in a studio with Nico and Andy Warhol cutting the first Velvet Underground album.

“The Ostrich” has been known to exchange hands for vast amounts of money.

with thanks to:

By Freddie Patterson, Senior Archivist

This is NOT the original Soundtrack

2 02 2011

In the early 80s I spent a lot of time in Jamaica, mostly in Kingston, twice on the north shore.  No matter where you were someone would point out that that villa over there was Goldeneye, home of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels.  As for the Bond music, I was more into the Desmond Dekker take on it all, but I did enjoy the big-burst horns (Stan Kenton, thank you), twangy guitars (Duane Eddy via Vic Flick, you’re welcome) and girly openings (frat boys I’m sure) of every 007 film.  So the death of composer John Barry sent me into the stacks for a quick lookaround.

Here at the ARC we have whole sections devoted to themes for intuitive finds, like ‘God’, ‘Black God’, ‘Southern God’, ‘Music To…’, ‘Music for…’, ‘Outer Space’ – ways to group the unsortable for the inevitable need.  Here are a few of our favorite, among the 100s, ‘Secret Agent’ LPs.

The above in honor the man who married Jane Birkin, now on to more serious matters…

Jerry Bock

11 11 2010

ARC friend and long time supporter Jerry Bock died. (Jerrold Lewis Bock, 11/ 23/1928 – 11/3/2010)

Back in 1999 Jerry donated his personal collection of over 9,000 Broadway and original cast albums.  Needless to say there were a great many odds and ends concerning his best-known work, Fiddler on the Roof.  Like…

Ever the gentleman, Jerry paid for the shipping and delivery, and was gracious when we visited his home.  Later that year he arranged for his local library upstate, Hiram Halle Memorial Library, to donate their multi-thousands of LPs to the ARC.

Professional obituaries can be found in the Times and on the Playbill site.

Amazingly, Jerry died a little more than a week after Joseph Stein, who wrote the book for Fiddler. But then again, and pardon me for this but I think he’d like it, Jerry did write, “Too Close for Comfort.”

It was a pleasure to know Mr. Bock, an honor to have his collection, and lucky we all are to be able to enjoy his wonderful music for all time.  He was hard to forget.  As Jerry usta say, “It rhymes with Bach.”

Friends, Encounters + Wished I Met

22 01 2010

Easing into the new year, slowly.

An old friend, Richard Fleming, aka DJ Richard Nixon, has worked his obsessions (music, hiking, the Caribbean, birding, photography) into a wonderful new book and photographic gallery show.   I first met Rich in Cartegena, Colombia in the early 90s at a music festival, and he has kept in touch, at one point cataloging many of his rarer reggae records for the ARC.  The book is a great read (Walking to Guantánamo, Commons, cloth, 351pp, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-9814579-1-8), and if you are anywhere near New Orleans you can see some of the pics he took on his trip.

Accompanying test :  “I met Dagoberto Manzo in Matanzas, sitting on a stool in front of his house, sanding the neck of an acoustic guitar. You can see the sawdust on the floor. As soon as I expressed an interest in music, he put that job down and rushed into the house to get one of his prize creations, a double-necked tres and acoustic-guitar combo that he claimed is the only one of its kind in Cuba.”

he show is at the Antenna Gallery 3161 Burgundy St. in the Bywater.   Runs until Feb 7.

An even older, more tenuous link to people and places in Louisiana was at a recent concert by Joel Savoy and David Greeley.   About the same time I met Rich I was writing a piece about the Festival de Louisiane in Lafayette for Billboard.  One side trip included a sit on the porch of musicians Mark and Ann Savoy,  Off to the side was lil’ Joel.  All grown up now, he was in New York doing workshops and concerts, the one Patrice and I saw them perform this January at  Scott Kettner‘s studio in Brooklyn.  This was a house concert, about twenty people in an intimate setting, pretty rare these days.  P. fiddles a bit, knows so much more than me about the music, and has taken a workshop with both Joel and David in the past.  Here’s some of her comments:

  • It’s rare to hear two Cajun fiddles without accordion…in the old style.  Each has a distinct personal style: David seemed the more traditional player, recounting how he had the privilege of learning tunes from old timers like Dennis McGee. Joel has a special knack for playing around with the chords, using the choppy Cajun bowing style to keep the beat in motion. In Savoy’s hands the fiddle almost sounds like it has bellows, which may come from growing up with the sound of his dad’s (Mark Savoy) accordion.
  • Another feature of the Greeley–Savoy duo is the perfection of their intonation…….especially in minor-key tunes like a waltz that was dedicated to a dead calf.  They mention how proud they were that they could end a tune on different notes…apparently not a common accomplishment among Cajun fiddlers.
  • Although today’s Cajun dances are usually a two-step and a waltz, they played a couple of Cajun polkas…quirky off-beat tunes that might have confused dancers at a bohemian beer-hall.  Originally, there were a lot more dances (Greely called it a “rond de danse” or round of dances), that the musicians would have to play for a dance night.

You can see Scott on Brasilian percussion with David Greeley here.

Lastly, Kate McGarrigle has died.  Never met her.  Last live listen about 10 ft away, a few summers ago when she and sister Anna, assorted kin and Emmylou Harris played a free concert in Tribeca.  Still remember their reluctantly offered-always asked to play, Heart Like A Wheel, the piercing voice and stabbing lyric.

“They say that death is a tragedy
It comes once and it’s over
But my only wish is for that deep dark abyss
‘Cause what’s the use of living with no true lover”

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