So yesterday after taking a short holiday schedule at work, I went to the city to have my new Dahon Vitesse 5 speed tuned up at Rapid Transit Bikes, where I bought it. This was in preparation for the last Critical Mass of 2006.
I used the new Bolsa bike bag to carry the folder on the Metra commuter train to the city. The ride to the Clybourn stop was uneventful.
We got off the train, folded the bikes up and headed down the bike lane on Cortland through the yuppie borough of Bucktown. As I was pedaling amongst the city dweller hoopties and the yupster whips like Mini Coopers and Range Rovers, I detected a major clicking and vagueness coming from the Sturmey and Archer rear hub. This was not a cool feeling coming from any bike much less one that was a week and half old.
We get to the shop and they put the Vitesse on the rack. There was a mood of familiarity that permeated the room as if they had seen problems with this ride in the past.
Apparently Sturmey Archer is now owned by another company and is NOT known for the quality that I am familiar with from vintage Raleigh 3 speed transmissions.
The mechanic replaced the gear selector cable, ground down the adjustment barrel, replaced the cable again, and when I took the Vitesse on a test ride the same problem was evident. The bike couldn't find gears in the rear end and when it could, it could not stay in gear for long. Bogus.
Things were not looking good to use the bike for the final Critical Mass of 06.
After another agonizing hour, I said that it didn't look like the bike could be fixed, as the mechanic had tried everything. He seemed releived, then he shared with me that they had taken back 5 of this model due to similar issues. Dahon had even made a mod that was supposed to rectify the situation.
Strike #1 Dahon company.
I still kept my cool, but I was very determined to have a bike to ride in the Mass, especially since I took time from work and planned to meet a few people from both out of town as well as from the surrounding area.
They are determined to keep customers happy at Rapid Transit, so they let me pick out another Dahon in even exchange. The one that I selected was the Speed 8, which is much more of a performance bike as opposed to the 16" Piccolo and the D5 Vitesse, which are commuters. Also the Speed 8 has a derailleur instead of an internal hub tranny.
While this bike is off the floor, and could still use a few adjustments, I can say that it honestly hauls. The SRAM shifter moves the chain over the cogs pretty consistently with nary a skip.
So after getting a quick felafel at Sultans Market, (in Wicker Park at North and Hoyne), we flew down Milwaukee and enjoyed the bike lane all the way to Lake Street. We were able to see a tall bike and a stereo equipped trailer bike as we stopped for the requisite Old Style 6 pack.
So yesterday after taking a short holiday schedule at work, I went to the city to have my new Dahon Vitesse 5 speed tuned up at Rapid Transit Bikes, where I bought it. This was in preparation for the last Critical Mass of 2006.
Here is another winner (loser?) from the CD archives, 1974's Abby. This is a Blaxpolitation version of The Exorcist.
Being an American International picture, it hits on many points in the Blax genre. Also, this is a cratedigger vault member that appears to never have recieved a dvd release. The vhs copy is a multi generational copy from a scratched film print. Some of the scenes are pretty washed out. I would imagine that this is from both the film source as well as the old tape on which the signal is stored, but I digress.
William "Blacula" Marshall co stars in this film and plays a critical part in the plot as well as the resolution. The actor can emote. Not hard to imagine him as Lord Vader in the place of James Earl Jones. He plays Abby's father in law. He is trained in the ways of the Eshu spirits and knows how to deal with them.
This is a real freaky film as it starts all happy and positive with Abby (Carol Speed) moving into a new house with her husband who also happens to be a pastor. Spirits come to visit on the first night and Abby is never the same.
Once she starts to get her posessed freak on, first in a hot shower and then notably while cutting some bloody chicken, the positive tone of the film goes south. I guess this is much like the tone of the US during the early Ford Presidency circa 74.
When she freaks out and gets evil, the reverb used and the spooky green face flashed in really freaked out the youthful members of the audience. Sidenote, when I scored this video 10 years ago, a co worker named G 2 tha E said that he saw it on the West Side and had nightmares for the rest of the year. The combination of sound and visual effects remind me of the 70s anti drug film Angel Dust the Wack Attack!
Abby diverts from her training as a marriage counselor mighty quickly as she becomes the soul shaking hootchy mama enticing the brothers with the soul glow with her evil ways. The bar scene where this occurs will make any crate digger of soul quite happy. There are at least two cool shots of an old jukebox spinning the dusties, and afros and wild threads all over the place.
Marshall ends up saving the day and in so doing gives a positive resolution to the film. This is somewhat unconvential for movies from the blax era.
While being a cheapy, I enjoyed viewing this film again for the first time in years. The acting is not too bad for a blax movie and there is a basic plot that is not hard to follow. This would be great for a beer or cocktail fueled viewing party. Find a copy of this and dig it.
Posted by rb at 1:07 PM
With the Holiday season in full effect, I received a dvd recorder as a gift. As part of the process of learning to use the machine and the related technology, I am digging into the cratedigger movie vaults (boxes and crates) to find movies that are trapped in the vhs domain. Many of these gems are way out of print, (if they were ever in print) on vhs, and certainly do not have a proper dvd release. I am wrong-- look here.
So that said, the first film that I pulled out of the basement video vault was Weekend with The Babysitter from 1970.
This Crown International picture opens with a cool scene at the CA / Mexico border that shows the border security in place in 69/70. Great mid 60s cars are all over the place. A hippie-aged young person gets taken down after he tries to run after being selected for a search. As I watch the film, I wonder what this has to do with the plot. I guess it is an attempt to have a teaching concept to this mild explotative time killer. "Sex and Betrayal," I guess...
George E. Carey seems to have done just about everything in this film (write, direct, produce) and Susan Romen stars as the teenaged, Honda Dream riding, gogo boot wearing babysitter named appropriately enough- Candy Wilson.
The babysitter randomly shows up one evening, apparently univited, The dad, Jim, is surprised to see her. The doped out wife, Mona, is "going to see her parents" with Mike, the wee laddie son. That leaves dad and the babysitter alone for youthful shenanigans.
The question remains, did Mona really invite Candy over to husband sit as a distraction?
Candy is soon making Tanqueray martinis ("on the rocks") and taking Jim to Sunset Strip, for some beer drinking/acid rock/lightshow/dancing mayhem.
Really, Mona is going to hang out with Rich, to get some drugs while her mom takes care of Mike. After a bit, Rich entices Mona to use Jim's cabin cruiser to sail to Mexico on a drug run.
Meanwhile, Jim takes Candy to the mountain house in his airplane.
This movie has it all, drugs, sex, some violence, motorcycles, motocross, youth rebellion, "rock" music, and hip lingo. The plot is pretty snore inducing. But the exploitative nature of this film tries to cover all bases. Some of the coolest footage is of the early motocross action.
Posted by rb at 6:33 AM
I don't know if this is for real or not, but pretty amazing nonetheless.
It appears that James Brown might have locked his wife out of his GA house after his death.
There must be something to the story based on USA Today's coverage:
"It's not a reflection on her as an individual," lawyer Buddy Dallas told The Associated Press. "I have not even been in the house, nor will I until appropriate protocol is followed."
Brown's partner, backup dancer Tomi Rae Hynie, was already married to a Texas man in 2001 when she married Brown, thus making her marriage to Brown null, Dallas said. He said Hynie later annulled the previous marriage, but she and Brown never remarried.
"I suppose it would mean she was, from time to time, a guest in Mr. Brown's home," Dallas said.
On Monday, after the 73-year-old "Godfather of Soul" died at an Atlanta hospital, Hynie, 36, found the gates to Brown's Beech Island, S.C., home padlocked and said she was denied access."Ouch, JB. You are still pushing people around, even though you are gone. The world is a much less interesting place without you.
Posted by rb at 12:11 PM
This will be a lot less funky Christmas this year.
I just got word that James Brown has passed away.
Rest in piece Soul Brother Number One.
You will be missed.
James Brown dies aged 73
By Telegraph staff and agencies
James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul", whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco, died today in Atlanta, aged 73.
Brown, whose career spanned six decades, was taken to hospital yesterday with pneumonia, said his agent, Frank Copsidas, and died with longtime friend Charles Bobbit at his side.
Brown’s music was a major influence on modern music, and his work has been sampled by rap artists from the 1980s to this day, his famous 1960s and 1970s break beats becoming the basis of hip hop.
"The music out there is only as good as my last record," Brown joked in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. In 2003, he reaffirmed his impact: "Disco is James Brown, hip hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I’m saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 per cent of their music is me."
His hit singles include classics such as Out of Sight, Funky Drummer and Say It Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud, a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.
"I clearly remember we were calling ourselves coloured, and after the song, we were calling ourselves black," Brown said in a 2003 interview. "The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song can change society."
Brown won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (best R&B recording) and for Living In America in 1987 (best male R&B vocal performance.)
He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.
He triumphed despite an often unhappy personal life. Brown spent more than two years in a South Carolina prison for assault and failing to stop for a police officer.
Brown, who had his first hit, Please, Please, Please in 1956, earned the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" for his tour schedule and number of performances. He was still touring this year, with concerts as far flung as Auckland, New Zealand.
"James presented obviously the best grooves," Chuck D of Public Enemy once said. "To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close."
Born in poverty in Barnwell, South Carolina, in 1933, he was abandoned as a four-year-old to the care of relatives and friends and grew up on the streets of Augusta, Georgia, in an "ill-repute area", as he once called it. There he learned to wheel and deal. "I wanted to be somebody," Brown said.
His troubled childhood saw him duck in and out of reform school, and it was there that he met Bobby Byrd, a major early influence. While most of Brown’s life was glitz and glitter, he was plagued with charges of abusing drugs and alcohol and of hitting his third wife, Adrienne.
In September 1988, Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants if they were using his private toilet.
Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia.
The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck. Brown received a six-year prison sentence.
He spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991. In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.
Posted by rb at 5:24 AM
This reissue CD from 68 arrived in the mail the other day. Tonight, being all black and inklike outside seemed to be the perfect time to warm the vacuum tubes and give this CD a spin on the reference system.
Sonically, this record appears to be in early stereo. It is a bit disconcerting, but I guess is part of the trip here. Track 2, Shadows of Your Mind exemplifies the fizz riffing, scale running and balls out jamming appears in the left channel while the plantive vocal attempts to balance coming out of the right channel. A backup vocal appears in the left channel later in the song.
The guitar appears to favor the left channel on Art's A Happy Man as well, the hippy vocal stylings can be a bit trying, but you can feel the build of the song by using multi channel mixing of the various vocals.
Fuzz face or some other cool old pedal appears to be modifying the signal of the guitar at the beginning of the focal point of the LP, You Don't Care. The guitar is mixed into the lower depths here. It moves back and forth. The drums roll and the cymbals are used mercilessly.
"You Don't Care for the morning, you dont care for the sumer rain." Then the guitar takes off. Maybe like a much speeded young Jorma... Everything chills the weird Indian sounding drum tone appears in the right channel, and the master volume of the guitar is somewhat squelched.
Finally the bass moves into an area of the mix where it can be heard.
Bridge Under the Sky, seems like way light after You Don't Care. "Everybody knows, everybody says... might as well be dead." Have to love anti happy hippy lyrics like that. There are some odd tones and hums that leak from various areas of the sound pallette. It is hard for me to tell if it is tape hiss, or what, but it certainly does seem that the system is appropriately grounded.
Dainty General Blues moves the vocals more in the center of the mix. There is a hefty ladel of plate reverb added to the vocals as well. The bass really stomps in the right channel and may bleed a bit into the left. The marching beat matches well with the lyrical matter.
The lp does not end on an easy listening note as they trot to a near sludge beat on Civization Machine. "Finest you've ever seen."
This is a bit off the beaten path, but fans of psych like Love or perhaps West Coast Pop Art Experimental band should dig this. While the fuzz is the element that sticks with the listener, The Plastic Cloud is much more in the psych realm that in garage. This record may contain the highest possible level of fuzz.
In fact, other than the raw production there is nothing garage about this record. The packaging goes to lengths to provide all the material from the original vinyl release. It includes complete lyrics and oddball liner notes that give the feeling that these kids dug their Hobbit.
Plastic Cloud shot a bit of light out of the loudspeakers on this the most dark of nights.
Posted by rb at 4:44 PM
I have always been into scooters, and I even have a pic of this Vespa on the CD listening room wall, but I did not have the full story... until now.
"After World War II, there was little money for defense spending while the nations of Europe rebuilt their industry and society. When there was some cash to spend, one had to be creative to stretch it as far as possible. The French probably accomplished the most astounding example of that with the ACMA Troupes Aeról Portées Mle. 56. Deployed with their airborne forces, this was essentially a militarized Vespa scooter outfitted with a 75mm recoilless rifle. Five parachutes would carry the two-man gun crew, weapon, ammunition, and two scooters safely to earth, and the men would load the weapon on one scooter and the ammo on the other, then ride away. More impressively, the recoilless rifle could be fired effectively on the move by the best of the gun crews. Total cost? About $500 for the scooter and the recoilless rifle was war surplus. Were they successful military machines? Well, the French Army deployed about 800 armed scooters in wars conducted in both Algeria and Indochina."
Kind of like the story of the Vespa scooter itself. Piaggio, was a supplier to the Italian aerospace field, this helps to explain some of the defining features of the Vespa, such as the stub axle and the monococoque integral frame and body structure. The Vespa was very key to the moblization of Europe after the devastation of WWII.
Thanks to Scott for sending the link.
Posted by rb at 6:24 AM
Captain Beefheart - Ice Cream for Crow (HIgh Resolution)
Since it is raining tonight, it is time for some desert bound Capn'
No Drumbo, but dig the Capn's command "Dont shake my hand Gimme' a Claw."
Are you listening, friends? You know that I am a fan of the claw.
Posted by rb at 6:28 PM
I have heard about this series of compilations over the years, but it is only in the past week that I have scored a "copy" of sorts. Chocolate Soup is a series of comps that explore British Psyche, similar to the Rubble series.
I am listening to a CDR of the tracks. Looking at an online database, I see that the CDR to which I am rumbling the HQ, is a comp of the Chocolate Soup comps.
One of the tracks that seems new to me, The Nutchez' Open Up Your Mind has a sort of fey, baroque sound , that has a pretty tasty fuzz riff, over a really booming electric bass line.
One In A Million sings about death, "He won't come back... he's dead now, " in the Fredereek Hernando track. Nice backward coda. Odd song with an odd ending. I have to say that as far as psych goes, I appreciate the spooky, creepy, grey skies, twisted, leafless oak tree sound as opposed to the sunny West Coast sound.
Tinturn Abbey in Vacuum Cleaner conjures some moaning tones from their guitar, some sort of electronic sustain that sounds like it is melting both the tubes of the amplifier driving the speaker cabinet as well as the tape stock running across the magnetic recording head. Perhaps it is just my pre amp tubes melting...
The Misunderstood, from Riverside CA, take up 4 tracks on this. While the tracks are great, I have them on other comps as well as on the Ugly Things CD and the other Cherry Red Before The Dream Faded release from the 90s. John Peel really dug them and played The 'Stood a bunch on his radio shows way back then. I Can Take You To The Sun, please do.
Dantalian's Chariot Madman Running Through a Field has a weird vocal, sort of whiny, with an odd slow break that features some backwards sound effects. Instead of a flute solo, a Hammond jam would have been better in my book. There is also a persistent high pitched tone from a Farfisa or something that is turning the dog's ears for pretty much the entire track. Bizarreness.
The Flies (also on Rubble) bust their jamming version of Steppin' Stone. Great power intro riff that leads into the killer bass line and pounding percussion. Are these dudes Brummies? Double tracked vocals add to the general tough sound. The guitar tone rules and just weaves its' way throughout the mix. "Didn't have no shoes- now you're walking around like you was front page news." Indeed.
In my book, Fresh Windows' Summer Sun Shines should jump through the closest one, and end it, please. But they redeem themselves somewhat with the very next track, Fashion Conscious.
Your boot will definitely tap the carpet to My Father's Name is Dad by The Fire. I have heard this one a bunch, but it has a great simple riff that is punctuated by a pulsing bass. Sappy pop lyrics only help this one.
This comp of comps would be an excellent intro to some of these British psych sounds, akin to an ongoing in the similar Rubble series. The sound on this CDR has a pretty decent range. The (minimal) vinyl surface noise only adds to the listening experience.
Posted by rb at 4:49 PM
THE CREATION - Painter Man +2 (1966)
More Killer Mod Stuff, the quality here is also excellent. The camera work seems to shy away from Eddie Phillips, for this viewer, but we get to see the late, great Kim Gardner hit the bass and the back up vox. Thanks klemtoon for posting these.
Posted by rb at 2:53 PM
The Electric Prunes - A Long Day's Flight
This is a massively cool clip. While it is lip synched, it is is great quality. Rock The Prunes Brothers and Sisters!!!
Posted by rb at 2:44 PM
Wot a great cd... Got a cdr of this 99 reissue in the past week. It seems that our musical friends from Sverige were very contemporary with the styles from the UK, and pull it off extremely well.
The reference system really seems to dig on the monophonic glory of the 45s on this. One wonders where Benny Andersson appears on this release. A trip over there a few years back suggested that he is still fairly integral with music and even current bands. I wish I had this cd when I was there as I think that the beer and wine fueled singalongs would have been even more fun with these sounds as source material.
The Namelosers start strong with Do-Ao. Much fuzz leads this moody howler, where the vocalist emits quite a howl among the guitar feedback screech and sustain. Strong.
Early fave is track 3 At The Club, where the T-Boones put on their best English r&b strut. A wonderful reverb ladened push moves this song. "You're my secret-- love at the club."
My fave track is The Tages with their freakbeatish The Man You are Looking For. Swirls of sound spit off the disc here. I am not sure if they put their Norsk brethren The Diworced to shame with their sound, but this one does it for theses ears. Nice strong drums that Mitch Mitchell could be jealous of.
The Lee Kings do a massive Whoesque feedback drenched break as part of the coda in On My Way. Darn impressive is the mood that they dish here.
Steampacket II in Take Her Anytime, assemble awesome Hammond under a sustained guitar distortion wash, more please. I love the clearly stated vocal. Even reverb on the snare. She'll be yours, you gotta be the one for her. This one borders on the psychedelic. I can put this in heavy rotation.
Ah hell, most of this stuff is totally correct for your next aquavit session accompanied with the requisite fiske. These groups also understood that if you can't make it happen in under 3:30, son't bother, as most of these songs are in the 1:50 to 2:20 range as it should be.
Posted by rb at 5:18 PM
Picked this one up yesterday. Not sure what to think... Took a risk and reap the rewards...
Sonically, this cd makes the tubes hum.
The lead track No Baixo Do Separtiero, by Meirelles, pushes with a mad analog synth. Can you sat Moogathon??? The bass percolates and moves the track into symphony territory. I can see a lot of asses shakin to thisn.
Kick the cowbell on track 3, Homenagem A Mongo, into an arrangement that a Mancini on acid would dig. Funkety, funkety, funkety. Great brass accents and killer percussion. I can see someone grabbing some snippets and doing something different with this one.
Cala Boca Menino, has a definitely funky godfather of soul riff to it. The liners say that this had been sampled a ton and I believe it. The bassline is the stuff to lose your brain to, perhaps one could even lose his cool to this track.
The 3rd time through the release, I find myself really starting to get it, and tapping my foot excessively. This is a great way to get immersion into funky Brazilian sounds. The liner notes will even give you some background to help you find more, because we all know that comps are only there to whet your appetite to find more stuff.
Posted by rb at 5:28 PM
Cratedigger HQ has been a flurry of activity as of late.
The reference system has undergone a revision and an upgrade. The B&O turntable is now gone, sold at a 330% profit.
Here is the low down on the current setup. Rega Planar 43 turntable, Audio technica cartridge, Dynaco PAS2 preamp, and the Yamaha CR500 bridged, running as an amp. I have upgraded the interconnect between the pre and the amp by going with a Canare interconnect. The loudspeakers are still the AR 2 Axs, running on stands that are 20" off the hardwood floor. For cds, I am still using the AMC CD 8b.
I have also ditched the old vertical format of the stand for the system. The Ikea rack is now in the vault. I now have everything stretched out on an old coffee table between the loudspeakers.
I can detect a definite improvement on the mids and the bass with this new set up. Some of the new tunez have been really shaking the walls.
Baby Huey, esp. Every time the track "Listen To Me" busts out of the break-- the AMC cd8b skips...
Posted by rb at 5:13 PM
I have been wanting to hear this LP forever, well at least since I read about it in Ugly Things 23 from a couple of years back. And what did I find in my mailbox this afterlunch, but a copy on CDR from Mockba, no less.
Scott Seward wrote an excellent piece on this record in UT 23, which happens to be Chubby's acid rock album. I know that it sounds crazy, but this is a solid effort, featuring tons of soulful Hammond and acid tinged guitar. His vocal delivery is awesome.
He even uses turned on lyrics- "How does it feel when you smoke by yourself, How does it feel when you trip with someone else?" from the song "How Does it Feel," obviously not anything to do with the Creation track.
The details on how this LP, which Chubby doesn't want to speak about or really acknowledge, are somewhat sketchy. A record company scammer from he 60s, named Ed Chalpin, who also was behind the Hendrix / Curtis Knight chitlin circuit records, released this in Europe and in a cutout version in North America. Money was made on this, but one suspects The Chubbinator did not reap any of the monetary reward.
1971 is listed as the year of release, but since the Moon is such a large part of the lyrical subject matter suggests a possible earlier release (or composition) timeframe.
Wild! The LP leads off with "Goodbye Victoria" a real scorcher. The build of the piano into his haunting acid vocal moves it along.
The pacing of the album ebbs and flows after that, but really "peaks" with the track "Love Tunnel." It is like a more speeded out Arthur Lee with a more heavy acid backing group. "Don't get hung up in the Love Tunnel," Indeed. The drums just pound under the vocals. Just wait until you get to the crazy track that ends it all-- "Gypsy," Chubby sounds like he is really losing it, fast tempo, yelling vocals.
I can't recommend something higher, this is both a novelty and psychotronically entertaining, but also quite good. I can see listening at least to "Goodbye Victoria" and "Love Tunnel" in the future. I am looking for a vinyl version of this one!
Posted by rb at 4:54 PM
Damn. Quite the wet winter wonderland out there. Above see a shot looking south out of my front door. I am snowed in. I think that I have an hour of shoveling after the snow stops before I will be able to get out the old honda.
There is maybe a foot of wet snow, and the air temp is about 30. Need to clear it as soon as it stops, so that I don't get ice.
The dog, of course, loves it. I will love it, if I get a chance to get out on the XC skis.
Posted by rb at 6:53 AM
I am not a huge fan of the VU, but this ePay auction has a great story.
For the sake of simplicity, I am going to do a simple copy and paste of the back story:
Following is excerpted and adapted (with the author's approval) from the article written by Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records in Portland Oregon which is featured in the December 8, 2006 issue of Goldmine Magazine currently on newsstands through mid December:
THE MYSTERY OF THE VELVET UNDERGROUND'S "REAL FIRST RECORD" (AND HOW THE ONLY EXISTING COPY WAS BOUGHT FOR 75 CENTS)
In September of 2002 Warren Hill of Montreal Canada was perusing a box of records at a Chelsea, New York street sale when he happened upon a nice Leadbelly 10" on Folkways, a water damaged copy of the first Modern Lovers LP on Beserkely, and a brittle 12" piece of acetone-covered aluminum with the words "Velvet Underground. 4-25-66. Att N. Dolph" written on the label. He purchased the three records for 75 cents each.
As I have a small knowledge of records and am an old friend of Warren's, I got a call from him the next day in which he described the acetate. Because of the date and the unique type of pressing, we both agreed that it was probably an in-studio acetate made during the recording of the first Velvet Underground LP back in 1966 (I had heard that they occasionally would have
a vinyl cutting lathe in the studio to cut records of the day's recordings for the artists and/or producers to take home for review). Warren didn't want to play the mysterious platter due to the fragile nature of acetates, and the cheap nature of his record needle, so we agreed that the next time he was visiting me in Portland we would check it out together. If it turned out to be what we thought it was, maybe we could sell it at Mississippi Records, the small neighborhood record store in Portland that I work at. Sight unseen and sound unheard, I assumed that it was likely an acetate pressing of the recording which would be eventually be released as
the group's first album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico".
It took awhile for Warren to visit, but when he did he brought along the acetate. We cued it up and were stunned -- the first song was not "Sunday Morning" as on the "Velvet Underground & Nico" Verve LP, but rather it was "European Son"- the song that is last on that LP, and it was a version neither of us had ever heard before! It was less bombastic and more bluesy
than the released version, and it clocked in at a full two minutes longer. I immediately took the needle off the record, and realized that we had something special. Between the two of us we had heard many Velvets outtakes on both official and less than official releases, but the present material had never been heard by either of us.
The next few days found us scrambling for clues and information about what to make of this find; calling every record collector/historian we knew and reading everything we could find concerning the early recordings of the VU. We pieced together that this was probably a surviving copy of the legendary Scepter studios recordings which had been regarded as lost (hence the epic moniker "the lost scepter studios recordings" applied to these unheard sessions over the years). The recording is comprised of the primitive first "finished" version of the LP that Andy Warhol had shopped to Columbia as a ready-to-release debut album by his protege collective "The Velvet Underground".
This acetate, which is possibly the only surviving copy, represents the first Velvet Underground album as Andy Warhol intended it to be released.
Though the same compositions and even a few of the same "takes" (albeit in different mixes) were used on the subsequent commercial release, that which was eventually issued as their debut album on Verve, "The Velvet Underground & Nico", was a significantly different creation. I had heard of these nascent recordings before... it was said by some that the master
tapes had burned in a fire, by others that all of those recordings ended up being on the released album, and still by others that the only existing copy of that material was on an acetate owned by David Bowie, and that he was known to tout it as his most prized possession.
The truth about what we held was fuzzy until Warren managed to track down the N. Dolph referred to on the label for an interview.
Norman Dolph was a perennial in the New York art & music scene of the 1960's. He worked as a sales representative at Columbia Records through 1967, and was deeply involved with different facets of the independent music world on the side. Andy Warhol, who was managing the Velvets at the time, contacted Dolph & offered him a painting in exchange for services as
"ghost" (uncredited) producer for the Velvet's first recording session. Warhol wanted to record a Velvets album before they had a record company behind them as this would tend to minimize meddling label executives' mobility in compromising the musical arrangement's distraught primal force, not to mention the unprecedented taboo lyrics which openly address sex, drugs, and depravity. Warhol's plan was to have Dolph record it and then shop it around to labels (first & foremost Columbia) as a finished recording.
...and so Dolph rented out Scepter studios, and with an engineer named John Licata by his side, they recorded the Velvets for four days. At the time Scepter studios was between reconstruction and demolition with walls falling over and holes in the floor. Velvets' bass & viola player John Cale would later recall the environment as "Post-Apocalyptic".
Dolph took the master tapes made during this session to the Columbia building, which still had an in-house pressing plant, and cut the acetate "after hours" with people he knew on the inside. Dolph then sent the acetate to Columbia to see if they were interested in releasing it. It was returned promptly with a note that said something akin to "do you think we're out of our f**king minds?" Dolph then gave the acetate to Andy Warhol or John Cale, he cannot remember which.
Six of the songs recorded during the Scepter session made it on to the "Velvet Underground & Nico" LP, albeit with radically different mixes. The other four songs were re-recorded in LA by Tom Wilson. As far as we know, the only listenable copy of the original versions of Heroin, Venus In Furs, I'm Waiting For The Man, and European Son exist on the acetate that Warren
found. (A Japanese bootleg of the same material did appear, but in poor, arguably ‘unlistenable' sound quality. It is possible that the source tape for the Japanese bootleg was made from this very acetate decades ago when it was in different hands. Who knows?) We have since realized that we are in possession of a likely one of a kind artifact - the first recordings by one of the most influential rock bands of all time!
After establishing the authenticity of Warren's find we photographed the item and made a high quality digital back-up copy of the material. A media frenzy ensued, with articles appearing in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Record Collector, The Globe & Mail, and many other news sources. Calls started flooding in from people interested in buying the acetate, as well as record companies interested in releasing the songs on it. After much consideration, we decided that it would be best to release it to the highest bidder through an auction facilitated by our good friends at Saturn Records in Oakland, California (a store that has a well-established presence in the international vinyl collecting community, and an excellent reputation on the internet).
As to the most interesting mystery brought up by the appearance of this item - how did such an important artifact disappear for 37 years & end up at a Chelsea New York yard sale priced at 75 cents? ...We have no answer.
The track differences between the acetate versions and the commercial recordings on "The Velvet Underground & Nico" are detailed as follows:
1.European Son- completely different version,. Guitar solo is much bluesier. Less noisy and experimental. Longer by 2 minutes or so.
2.Black Angel's Death Song-Same take as released version. Different mix.
3.All Tomorrow's Parties- Same take as released version. Different mix.
4.I'll Be Your Mirror-Same take as released version. Radically different mix. No echo on Nico's vocals. Background vocals on end of song are more subdued.
5.Heroin-Completely different take than released version. Guitar line is different. Vocal inflections different, and a few different lyrics. Drumming is more primitive & off kilter. There is a tambourine dragging throughout the song.
6.Femme Fatale- Same take as released version. Radically different mix. Percussion more prominent. Alternate take on background vocals. Much more "poppy".
7.Venus In Furs- Different take than released version. Vocal inflections completely different. Instrumentation more based around Cales' violin than the guitar as in the released version.
8.I'm Waiting For The Man- Different take than released version. Guitar line is completely different. Vocal inflections different, and a few different lyrics. No drums, just tambourine. Bluesy guitar solo.
9.Run Run Run- Same take as released version. Different mix.The weirdest stuff can show up in a pile of junk. It reminds me of a piece of advice that a wise (and very poor) friend gave me once. He reminded me to look down when entering a bar, and from time to time while in the bar. Drunk people have a way of dropping things- money, jewelry, wallets, etc. He would hardly ever go out on the town with any money. His glass was never half empty.
You are not going to see "it" unless your eyes are open.
Posted by rb at 12:34 AM