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Archive for May, 2010

Book 1 “A Nueva York” And Book 2. “South Atlantic Blues” aka “Scott Fagan Record”

Book 1 “A Nueva York”

So Howard got a gig. Spirits rose, Mud was happier than we had seen her be in years. However, it would be a month before Howard would get his first paycheck. So we were still too broke for (among other things) Gale and I to go to school. Gale and I spent our days in anticipation of Saturdays at Radio Station WHOA. What a liberating blast we had there, it was as if Saturday was a parallel universe in which Rock and Roll and it’s desperate devotees were legitimized and ruled in joyous rebellion and right there towards the head of the conga line were big sister Gale and her little brudder bonehead.

This is not to say that Gale and I were full-fledged pimply faced, greasy haired, switch blade wielding delinquents in denim, we weren’t, but we sure aspired to be. (Just a joke, in fact we were remarkably “good” kids) Nevertheless, as time and circumstance sometimes conspire to collide, collude and create the unexpected, the good kids that we had been, were  now on their way to the odd and lonely freedom of the chronic defiant outsider.

There were four things going on at WHOA on Saturdays, First and Foremost was the Rock And Roll dance party, (that was really something to see, so exciting it was all but unbelievable to me).then there were two big “Fan Club Meetings” on the air and a Kids “talking about the news” Show.

When we first appeared at WHOA, I was drafted for the talk show, (because I almost always sound like I know what I’m talking about whether or not I really do) and to fill a seat in the fan club that was sort of fading fast (and that because I was only eleven). Fading fast because most new kids would spend a week in it and then immediately jumped ship for the other)

 The existence of the “rival” Clubs set up a kind of “call to, and crisis in consciousness”, which produced an “imperative moment of decision” in our young lives, a sort of “Korean Peninsula demarcation line” ran between the clubs, a line  which one would cross only in one direction and certainly once crossed, could never be crossed back again. It was the demarcation line or line of consciousness that separated The Pat Boone and The Elvis Presley Fan Clubs.

Now friends, I have (at this point in my life) spent over fifty-four years on the defiant rather than the okee dokee side of the line, and forty-seven years as an honest to God axe carrying true believer artist warrior in the well-intentioned but often delirious liberation army of the Rock and Roll revolution. And…though I know first hand perhaps better than some, a thing or two about the artifice and cynical cultural manipulations of the music (and other capitalist) marketers and the Tom Parkers of the world, I am still a true believer.

That said, there was (and is for me still), a sadness in the split. It was (for me and perhaps many others) the beginning of an us against them attitude that cut us (which ever side of the line the us was on) off from the humanity and camaraderie of those on the other side.

When I was ten, I read an article in Time or Boys Life magazine announcing that at that moment in history, there were more ten-year old baby boomers in the world than people of any other age. I felt really empowered by that fact.  It seemed to me that we (in spite of our national, racial and cultural differences), were connected in a unique and special way an I was quietly but deeply, very deeply very happy to be one of them/us. A feeling that has persisted all my life.

 If you had asked me through the years which I loved more, the music or the people on the other side I would likely have struck a righteous pose supportive of” the music” and dismissive of the boondoggled,

But as I’ve  (excuse the term) “matured” as an artist. and a human bean, I realize that I love the source of the sound, the whole lumpy  proletariat, the well sprung well spring of expression as much as the steam, the Calliope along with it’s echo, the drum as well as the boom (believe me I LOVE the boom AND the echoes of the chamber, still it’s the heart that beats,  and in retrospect, I am sorry to have been divided and so separated from “the others” for so much of our all too short time together.

I am afraid that the artificial hype contributed to the super segmentation of music and society at every level that we are experiencing in the present and can see even more of in the future. I think we very much need to be more together, to share more experiences across the board, rather than less there is already too much social segmentation. I will do what I can to unify folks, if only for the moment. To provide occasions for mutuality, experiences to be shared.

 Anyway,  a bit of mindless grooving can be great fun, AND drinking countless little bottles of a most splendid Puerto Rican Coconut Soda (which at the time contained something like seven percent alcohol) and then winning five “smackeros” at the big big WHOA drawing, (and buying my first pair of penny loafers with it) was strong reinforcement for the idea that we were on not only the righteous, but the right track.

 At more or less that point, Howard got paid and Mud had what must have been one of her most bitter and hurtful nights ever, waiting for him to come home.. First thing next morning, she roused us and took us to their bedroom. I remember to this moment the powerful mixed smell of alcohol and perfume and the red lipstick all over Howard’s unconscious face. Mud said “Howard got drunk and spent his whole paycheck  on whores,  get ready to go, we’re leaving”. For the second time in three years, we had to leave everything behind. We (Mud, Little Larry, Gale and I) went to Isla Verde Airport, where we  had to convince the airline, that Gale (who was 13 and developing fast), was only nine. It was February 1957, and we were going to New York…

 Book 2. “South Atlantic Blues” aka “Scott Fagan Record”

.People from all over the world write to me about South Atlantic Blues. They tell me how much the music has meant to them. They want to know when I’m coming to Czechoslovakia or Hungry or the UK to play (Please know that I am coming just as soon as I can) Their kindness is much appreciated I can’t tell them (and you) how much it means to me when someone is touched and moved by my singing and my songs, That was/is/ after all the whole point of the whole thing.

ultimately, there is all kinds of crazy much to say about South Atlantic Blues. So, in and out of  context, I offer the following, (this excerpt ranks high on my list of favorite reviews/writings about me and my work,) I saw it online.

“Hard-to-find LP from Scott Fagan titled “South Atlantic Blues” released by Atco Records in 1968. Not a blues record at all. Impoverished white boy living in the Virgin Islands writing completely unique songs on 10 tracks. Poetic lyrics and a distinctive vocal style. Songs get some studio treatment but not too much…some island flavoring and light psychedelic touches on a few. Labels are in EXCELLENT condition. Vinyl record is VG++ with some very light surface flaws and plays with very little extraneous noise. Cover is VG++ with very slight ring mark on front and a small punch-hole in top left corner. Backside has a bit more ring wear. Very nice glossy laminate on front cover. Please do not bid if you cannot send payment within 10 days after auction has ended”

I recounted in a previous post how the record wound up at ATCO and how it got buried there, in spite of all that “schupidness” thank goodness South Atlantic Blues  seems to have a life of its own. For example…

One afternoon in 1970 my writing partner Jose Silvio Martinez AKA Joe Kookoolis and I were hard at work in our office at 711 Fifth Avenue, NYC,  finishing up the score for SOON. We were young and “important” staff writers at Screen Gems, writers with the first Rock Opera to be produced on Broadway in the works, very important stuff yep, yep, when the telephone rang.

The secretary said someone was calling to talk to me about “my record”

I was recording for EPIC records at the time and had a beautiful single “I AM” coming out, perhaps this related to that, so I took the call.

 A cheery voice at the other end of the line launched into telling me that an artist friend of his had done a lithograph of my record “South Atlantic Blues” and that his friend would be honored if I would attend an opening scheduled for the next week.

My Mother Dear, God Bless her, had tought me to be polite. I confess I struggled with that a bit during the call, but managed to behave myself. Next, the caller wanted a mailing address, I knew by now (as the result of some particularly hair raising fan letters) to be very protective of information that could lead potentially dangerous people to pop up unexpectedly at my front door. However, remembering me dear Mudder dear, I gave the cheery fellow my address.

and filed the call away as a mildly annoying interruption. 

I thought that some tripped out “Chicken bone and Watermelon seeds glued on canvas, paint sniffin’ psychedelic causality artsy doodle type” had had his friend call me, and  pursuing the invitation would iand me and my sweetie in some east Village crash pad/gallery wherein we would discover that some fixated soul had invested heart and treasure, in some flipped out homage. I would then be expected, obligated even to purchase the chicken bone, watermelon seed and gluey day glow mashtague, or be murdered on the spot. (yes I know it’s called projection, but my Lord,) I had been all but ruined for fan mail for life, by desperate  life and death coded communiqués originating with a scattered (or shattered) flock of paranoid delusional warp skipping wackaduck monkeys from the 13th dimension that claimed to know exactly what I was thinking and..wern’t so sure that they liked it. I was wary… 

Meanwhile, Kookoolis and his bridey Gail (no not my sister, but a delight nevertheless) thought it sounded interesting and like it might be fun. They suggested that they would come along with my us. (us would be my beautiful sweetie Patty and me), A week later, the invite arrived with a street address which we gave to the Taxi driver, and off we went. Imagine our surprise when the Taxi Cab pulled up to The MOMA,

The cheery voiced friend turned out to be the wonderful Bill Katz, and the artist turned out to be Jasper Johns.

The truth was Patty and I were two  young uneducated children from very gritty and difficult circumstances, high school dropouts (she has since earned two Masters Degrees) from a tough harbor town in the far off Virgin Islands.  We had no idea who Jasper Johns and his crew (John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and so forth) were. No idea what Jasper saw in South Atlantic Blues, (we discovered that they had even gone to St. Thomas looking for me) , and perhaps most importantly, what in the world they expected of us.

We were shy around stateside people, especially adults, however, Jasper and his friends were among the kindest and most gentle souls that we had ever met; What an interesting world they opened up for us. What fun we had with them. Their extraordinary kindness has been appreciated from that day to this.

I loved my beautiful Island girl childhood sweetheart  Patricia and a number of songs on  “South Atlantic Blues” or “Scott Fagan Record” are very much about her and our times together. Many of the songs on the album were written while we lived in a third floor apartment in a tenement on the N.E. corner of 49th  Street and 10th Avenue, in the very dangerous “Hells Kitchen” in the Summer of 1965.

Here are some of Patty’s songs; I hope you might enjoy them.

Nothing But Love                  Scott Fagan/Joe Kookoolis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

I can’t give you nothin’, nothin’ nothin’ but love

 You know that I am satisfied sleeping in the sun

With a raggy band of urchins, with searchins to be done

Drinking rum and water when the holidays have come

And dancing for the tourists see ‘im laughing one by one

’til every man is happy and it’s all in fun

See the ship I go on its red with yellow sails.

We’re up and down Pillsbury Sound deliverin the mail

We got a box of nails for Foxie, sugar cane for Joe and Gale

The “Seaweed” will be flying ’til the winds have failed

And every one is happy, plus I’ve been in jail, so…

 I can’t give you nothin’, nothin’ nothin’ but love

 Love me if you like me, we can live on Island air

Wouldn’t you dare cause I’d sure care to take you everywhere

With a raggy band of urchins and an orange rocking chair to

A tamarind cathedral Frangi Pangi in your hair

I know that you’d be happy still I must be fair

 I can’t give you nothin’, nothin’ nothin’ but love

The “Box of Nails for Foxie” in the second verse refers to the first iteration of “The Foxes Tamarind” (Foxy’s Bar in Jost Van Dyke) Tutsie took them up for him along with the Bar’s first bottle or two of Don Q. The orange rocking chair was a fixture for Patty and me; there was a photograph of her sitting on it next to the lake in Central Park in a feature story on me in an expatriate paper in 1968 published in New York for people from the Islands. Also, he instrumental section was a take off on “Shuffle Along” which was the theme for Addie Ottley’s afternoon Rock And Roll show on WSTA radio in the Virgin Islands very early sixties. I put it in to honor him and home.

 CRYING                                           Fagan/Kookoolis

Crying, look at me I’m crying

After all these years of trying

Soft and slowly go the tears

Crying, lover look at me I’m crying

Did you know I’d been dying

Soft and slowly go the tears

Chase away all my fears

All the broken glass in me

 Inst

 Chase away the why and how

I can stay here and now

 Crying, lover look at me I’m crying

Did you know I’d been dying

Soft and slowly go the tears

 Crying, look at me I’m crying

After all these years of trying

Soft and slowly go the tears

 

South Atlantic Blues                          Scott Fagan

 

You know the Islands are the perfect place for going away

Life’s so easy there you live from day to day to day to day

 The father of missions, he once walked proud and tall

He must had seen too many Christians, cause now he’s very small

The poor man’s got no Gods at all

Not counting alcohol, not counting alcohol

 You say that’s dues, I’ve got news for you

It’s South Atlantic Blues, South Atlantic Blues

She lives in the alley, the hope gone from her eyes

Her dress is torn and dirty, loving lips are cracked and dried

She sits and cries, my life’s a lie

Her children think she’s died, her children think she’s died

You say that’s dues, I’ve got news for you

It’s South Atlantic Blues, South Atlantic Blues

She stands by the seaside, my love, she waits for me

And I can’t help her as she wonders, how long will it be

I told her once, we would be free, from Charlotte Amalie

Charlotte Amalie, Charlotte Amalie Charlotte Amalie

You say that’s dues, I’ve got news for you

It’s South Atlantic Blues, South Atlantic Blues

You know the Islands are the perfect place for going away

Life’s so easy there you live from day to day to day to day

day to day to day to day…

 

In My Head                                       Scott Fagan

 

Black and white passed the grass for the last endless glass of wine

Somebodys eyeman is watching the high man, walk down the line

And his reflection and his shadow do seem to be mine

Is it something, something, something I’ve said? Oh no,

It’s something, something, something, in my head

The city street show cracks like a storm so I wonder

Why is it so strange to rearrange the clouds over and under

My self and I have always seen the sea as secret lover

But does she, does she, does she want the sky in stead? Oh no,

It’s something, something, something, in my head

Or something I’ve read

 

This winter mornings so cold for her in her cotton dress

Things went her way when they used to say, all you child’s are blessed

But lately you see she’s been counting on me, and I must confess

Something, something, something, is dead, and I know

It’s something, something, something, in my head

In my head…In my head…

 

 Nickels And Dimes                                  Scott Fagan

 

Too many mirrors reflecting the lying of too many people I find

Some time I feel like I’m not really trying, that’s too easily answered with why

Too many shadows down by the ocean too many screams for the eye

Too much believing to through the motions of  living and just getting by

Too much wine, too many times, too many nickels and dimes

Too much believing to go with the notion that living is just getting high

 If she hadn’t come calling my name I’d still be asleep in the corner,It was a growing affair, I had to be there you know

I was the dead and I was the mourner

 Too many mirrors reflecting the lying of too many people I find

But the night’s too long to spend it all crying bout too many nickels and dimes too many nickels and dimes…

 

 Carnival’s Ended                                                      Scott Fagan

 

Christmas loving in the light of summer

Softly to a new calypso strummer

Holding hearts and diamonds for a life line

See the steel band drummers in the sunshine

Oh maybe,

 Is dancing with the Moko Jumbie dead?

Pain goes through and through me baby

Carnival’s over

 I love to say I love you yes me

Now the dream means nothing you see baby

Carnival’s ended

 It was so good dancing at the airport

Jump up trash back bacchanal’s a good sport

All is well when God is your umbrella

And Island stories all end like Cinderella

Maybe

 Find us all a room to cry in

love has gone life is dying baby

Carnival’s over

 I used to love to say I love you yes me

Now the dream means nothing you see baby

Carnival’s ended, carnival’s over

 To be continued…Yep!

 

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Book.4 When Buckra De Paehae Went To Go To De States

“When Buckra De Paehae Went To Go To De States”

Man one day I look around ana realize all me fren dem, every las one a alla dem boy, done gan to de states..an so I sae to me self, ah sae “Buckra you bettah go see wha goin on up in de states to see if yu want to join up wid dem up dae an become one a dem  freshwater Yankee jus like de res a dem boy.”

 Well me boy, de trouble start, when ah went down to de travel office to buy me plane ticket,  De white woman sittin doun in dare sae “May I help yu?”Ah say yes Mum,  ah wan to go to de states. De woman say, “where would you like to go?” Ah say, ah say, ah would likes to go to de states, de woman say fine, where do you want to go, Ah say wha wrang wid yu you keeyan undahstan English? Yu bettah don frig me up, Ah sae ah wants tu go tu the states S.T.A.T.S. de states, de states! Wha wrang wid yu? Is yu schupid o sumtin?

 Wid dat de woman went in de back an come back out wid a big strang bighead jackass of a island man. He say..yu wan me bilge in yu ass fo yu? Wha yu come in here tu frigg up de people dem fa,.. yu bettah scat yu ass befo ah broke it up in splinters!

Wha? ah say wa? Yu kno who yu talking to like dat? Ah say I is a man wha come in here to pay Kole keash to go tu de states an yu going on like a jack ass wid me? Wha wrang wid yu, ah say ah wan to go tu de states, yu nevah heard a de place?

 Jus den de woman squeaky lil voice pipe up from in de back, she sae “ask the Idiot where  he wants to go to, you’ll see” So de Islan man say “Whey ‘tis  yu wan tu go” Now de Buckra starting tu ge frigup, yu know ha ah mean?

How many times ah gat u tell dese schupiddy people whae it is ah wan tu go? Ah say ah wan to go tu de states! De man come up close close and he say “look yu schupid buckra, Don’t you know that there is more than one state in de states?” Ah say more dan one state? more dan one state? of course I kno dares more dan one state. wha wrang wid yu, yu tink I don kno about  Englan and France? but I wan tu go see dem boy in de united state.

 De woman in de back call out, “call the cops, Renwick, nobody can’t be that stupid”

Ah sae who de hell yu callin schupid.. is yu don’t know how to sell a  plane ticket tu go to de states, Ahh yu cou kiss me royal red bate me boy, I gan frum here!

An wid dat ah leave ou de place, ana went straight ovah to de seaplane. De fus man wha ah see ovah dae ah sae, tell me something my good fellow,  does ah yu know how to fin de states? De man sae of course, but dis plane goin Sain Croix, ah sae but if ah gon ge yu me good money tu go tu de states, yu can’t tun around de plane an go to de states? De man sae, wha wrang wid yu, yu drunk o something? Ah sae no man it too early fo dat, I only had bout tree or four..tu start off de day…de man sae “My dear fellow,.. yu bettah go down tu de airport and tell dem people whae yu wan tu go..ah tink dey gon know exactly wha to do fo yu.

 So ah pick up me suitcase, ana wen doun de road lookin fo de airpoat, Boy when ah reach up tu de top a China Man Hill, ah cou see how de ting dem change up, almost alla China Man Hill,.. gan from China man Hill,

 Ah stop a fellow ana say “Hey meson, Wha happen to de whole a doun de road, wha happen tu de China Man dem? whey all dey people dem fum Nisky gane?, An “OhGodee”, ah sae, look wha happen tu Sara Hill!

 De whole a Sara Hill what was dare since de Island get belch up from de bottom of de deep blue sea, is gan, ah sae Tell me man, ah gotta know, wha goin on doun here?

 De man sae, “No habla engles” Ah SaeWha? I mubbe gan Poto Rico.

 When ah did finally arrive at whea de Harry S. Truman airport suppose tu be, ah see all kina ting, but what I don see is de Harry S. Truman airport,

Ah see a kina fatty woman livin in a smally smally lil house right in de middle a de road, de woman stannin up wid she hand out side de door beggin money from de car dem, an every onea dem stopping to ge she some, Ladee me boy, Oy ain nevah see noting like dat an look a joke, I ain even reach close to de states yet

 But de ting wha ah keean see is de terminal, de big ol hangah  place whey de steelban dem used to be bawlin blood for we cu dance an wuk up wid dem Puerto Rican Gurl when de come  fo Carnival! Ah hol ah man ana sae “Hey, wha goin an here meson, wha dey hidin’ de airport?” He sae  Abdoul Ab Salamm, Abdoul Ab Salamm..

De fatty woman sae, look ovah de hill man, look ovah de hill.

 Lemme tell yu something, all I wan tu du is gemme plane ticket tu go tu de states tu see dem boy an fine out if I wantu join up wid de fresh watah yankee dem, but not only doan nobody know how tu sell a plane ticket tu de states, but now dey gan an change up de name and move de airport. Yu sure dis is dey way every body does get tu de states? Lard if is so had tu go, imagin how hard it mus be tu come back, wha yu tink?

 Meson when ah finally reach dung, tu de place wha dey suppose tu be selling de ticket dem, ah sae “ah wan tu buy a plane ticket tu de states” de woman sae “Ok where are yu goin” Ah sae Oh lard don’t tell me dis is dat again, ah sae Ah wan tu go tu de states! Wha wrang wid alyu people, ah wan yu go tu de states!  Den de woman sae, ok which state. Now dis is  one Islan woman wha mussa had good states side training because das de fus time any body ask me dat question, ana wan yu know I were ready wid me ansah,

Ah sae ah wan tu go to de place wha name Miami Atlanta Florida New Yawk, because das whea alla dem boy is.

 She sae I’m sorry, that’s impossible, there is no such place. I sae Yu lie, Yu Lie, Yu big bum ting yu, ah catch yu now, yu lie, das whea alaldem boy gan, wha wrang wid allyu crazy people, Ah sae, gimme me plane ticket an don frig me up no mo o I’ll broke off me foot in yu Batey!!

 When she hear dat De woman eye dem open wide wide and she say “of course Mr. Buckra De Paehae, just one moment please, wait here, I know exactly who can help you. Ah sae now yu talking, dis is de way yu suppose tu treat a man who is all dress up an goin to de states.

Jus den two man hooks me up from behine, dey grab on tu de back a me pants an lif me up straight up in de air, me pants went up in me bum til ah had tu bawl out “Oh God Ah Dead, ah give up, ah give up! Den dey grab me han an me foot an thro me in de back like two hundred poun a wet sal fish.

All dis time all de touris dem laughing me  boy, ana hear one a de chrerenn dem sae “Mommy whats the matter with that man?” De muddah sae “Nothin dear that’s just what too much rum and hot sun’ll do to ya, an thats exactly what’ll happen to your blasted Father if we don’t get ‘im back to Baltimore right away”

 When De man dem thro me doun, de bigges one sae  “C’mon now Buckrat boy, let’s hear some more of your noisy big lip about what you’re gonna do wid yer foot, an who your gonna do it to”

Ah sae Oh God, Oh God ah give up, ah give up, ah change me moine sah, ah change me moine, I ain want tu go tu de states, ah change me moine, ah wan tu go home.

 Walll… De man sae “It’s too late fer that  Buckrat, ya crazy little weasel, you’re goin ta Guantanamo wid the rest a dem terrorists.

Ah sae “Oh Godee Oh Godee!, Ah give up Sah Ah Give up Sah!

Man, ah had tu beg dem, an beg dem, an beg dem boy tu loose me, an when de finally lemme getaway, Lord me boy, ah pick up me suitcase an Iain  stop runnin’ til ah pass Demarara.

 Wen ah catch meself, ah sae “Buckra, It look like yu bettah tell one a dem boy in de states tu sen doun a ticket fo yu, if dey wan yu come up tu play fresh watah yankee wid dem.

 An when dey sen doun me ticket, das how de Buckra finally get tu go tu de states,.. but das a whole uddah story meson, believe me..das a whole uddah story, Laa-dy, me bouy… whata trelele!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book 1. Isla Grande #7, El Ultimo Trolley And Book 4. Juxtapositions…

Book 1. Isla Grande #7,  El Ultimo Trolley

In the Dark Age just before Gale found our salvation in Rock and Roll, one day out of the blue our Pop or, the man we knew as “Frankie” showed up ah… came to visit. He peeked in on Howard, in bed with a bottle of Don Q, spoke “be-bop jargon” to Mother (Gale and I had some sort of linguistic flashback, we hadn’t heard “be bop” since we were babes in arms, all in all, considering the wild and varied verbilations that we sprang from and were steeped in, it’s  wonderly that we speak any Angleish ‘tall. “Fee is uk and foo is ock mon! No?”

Frankie wasted no time in showing us how much fun that we’d been missing, Laughing, joking, singing, punch ball, stoop ball, stick ball. Hey ya want some ice cream? Sure, why not! He spent two days with us and when he left, we were so frigging turned inside out, bummed and depressed that it was beyond words. What the frig are adults thinking?

It wasn’t that Howard was a bad guy it’s just that he was chronically disabled by the rum, he was a drunk guy that stayed in bed drinking and throwing up, Mud scrambled all over the place juggling Howard, Little Larry (who was home from the hospital and sleeping in a drawer) Gale and me and whatever freelance typing jobs she could find in Puerto Rico for secretaries who don’t speak the language, and God help us,  her own wants, needs and dreams.

I accept the possibility that I may have been somewhat pre-occupied with self  at ten, nevertheless, I loved my Mudder and even I knew that this life was not what she had in mind when she and her beautiful twin sister Lea, skipped blithely away from the life they knew, to the Frangipangi scented trade winds, blue seas and blue skies of the Bonny Bongo Isles. Mud was a Jazz baby (in fact Baby was her nickname) and music was a central part of her heart and soul. Her most prized possession by far was a steamer trunk filled with her “Jazz baby” collection of 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s 78’s. This is Billie Holiday, Early Sarah Vaughan, Ella, Julie Christy, Dakota Staton, Billy Eckstein, Mr. Five by Five, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan, Gale’s own God Father Dizzy Gillespie, and many many others.

To any hip music lover, the trunk was worth ten times its weight in gold. A local department store agreed and allowed her to use her collection as collateral for a loan, a loan which she eventually could not repay and one day in the dark ages they came and took Mother’s mother lode of music and happiness away.

I will never be able to explain to you what that means if you don’t already know, and if you know, you know.

I was not able to understand how Howard would allow that to happen. Why he didn’t stick up a Muelberia, or a Lechonirea,  or ultra leverage heaven and hell somehow, someway, anyway, to get it back. That is until years later, in St. Thomas, all grown up and talking with him about music, he proudly announced to me that his favorite musical artist/singer of all time, was Edie Gorme.

Anyway, shortly after Frankie’s visit and the loss of Mother’s most centrally important possession, we lost the pad on Ashford Avenue and moved to a part of Santurce called Ocean Park.

Ocean Park was a “working class” neighborhood very light on anglish and very heavy on macho. And, to tell you the truth, (even though it was always maximo stressful to maintain) macho worked for me. Although I was significantly undersized and underweight, I could run and leap and field and throw and bat and all around play ball with the best. We were going to “Santa Terisita” (I had just started the sixth grade) and los Guapos (the tough guys) in the neighborhood  were amazed and proud that “Ocean Park” had a “little Gringito”  who seemed fearless and could and would catch “all the fuego” that they or anybody else could throw. Ocean Park had a little Guapito Gringito to call it’s own.

As a little white boy in the West Indies, my basic defense mechanism was an absolute commitment to death over dishonor, to dying rather than to be thought of and treated as less than. The boys from Ocean Park and I had good times playing ball in the school yard at Santa Teresita (where even though I was the smallest, I was one of very few who could hit the ball over the wall) and at a poetically named place that resides in my imagination still, like some perfect Spanish three word  haiku “El Ultimo Trolley”.

This field of dreams was a sandlot large enough for a traditional baseball diamond, along the right field line was an actual old trolley car (the last trolley car in PR, or El Ultimo Trolley). Why a thing like that would stimulate such romantic feelings in me even as a boy, is a fine mystery. (My imaginings relating to it run more to Panama hats and Pan Am Clippers,  than to baseball caps and the Yankee Clipper), in spite of the fact that it was the first place that I had ever actually played on a baseball diamond. I, up to that time had great and highly developed skills for alley ball or coconut trees in the middle ball or a sock with a rock in the middle ball, but…diamonds? Fortunately my skills as a stone throwing ragamuffin were transferable, and the baseball diamond was grooveland for me.

I had a great arm, (trained and fine tuned in St. Thomas “teefin” mangos by knocking them out of the tops of trees)  so I was a Center fielder and a pitcher. (Frankie was a great pitcher too and tried out for the “New Yawk G’ints”, his dream of dreams was to be the boy in his poem “Now Pitching For New York!” (a poem unfortunately lost to the depredations and natural disassemblage of life and the things of life in beer can ridden rusty trailers on the skeeter riddled edge of the western Everglades). Were it not for Jazz, ball might have been Frankie’s thing, And were it not for “just around the corner Rock and Roll”, ball might have been my thing also.

Around that time Gale and I were put out of school for the family’s inability to pay the tuition. Mud tried kitchen table school  but with the afore-mentioned set of responsibilities that she had, good old book larnin’  went the way of the wind.

Meanwhile, Shortly after Father’s visit, he sent us a smiling photograph of himself standing next to an almost new car with a beautiful Blonde woman and a brand new little baby in his arms. Gale and I felt pretty much completely abandoned.

 A couple of things occurred to cheer things up, one was me smacking the neighborhood bully in the face so hard that he burst into tears, and the other was Howard finally landing the Civil Engineering job that had been the carrot that had brought us all to La Isla Grande two and a half years earlier, in the first place. Continued…..

 Book 4. Juxtapositions…

 Last night a young man brought a pristine copy of “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” to the Saturday night gig at the Collective (The Middletown Area Arts Collective or MAAC), for me to sign. Digital Dave took an interesting photograph of the young gent and me holding the record between us and shaking hands.

What a frigging “Plur-iverse” of thought and emotion the occasion stimulates and unleashes in me.

The young man was interested in talking about what happened with “SOON” (My January 1971 Broadway produced Rock Opera and the backlash that it created in the music business towards my writing partner Joe  and I) You can be sure that in time I will exhaust all there is to say about SOON, but in the meantime, “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” in itself was a good illustration of how wide the chasm between “show” (meaning the art of show and the show of art) and “Business” was and is.

 In 1967, Jerry Shoenbaum was the head of Verve-Forecast, the hottest “Folk-Rock” label in the world, My manager at the time, Herb Gart (who I had signed with in hopes of rubbing noses with his client Buffy Saint Marie,) shopped SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES to Jerry, he loved it and was about to sign me and the album to Verve-Forecast, when ATCO (who wanted to get in on the Folk-Rock market), offered Jerry the presidency of ATCO and Bo-coup fazools if he would leave Verve and come there. Jerry said Ok, but I’m bringing Scott Fagan and “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” along to be my first release on ATCO, so… while Jerry negotiated his deal, it was decided that I should go ahead and sign with ATCO, which I did. However, ATCO never came to terms with Jerry, Jerry Schoenbaum never signed with ATCO. And there I was. It happens that I loved ATCO because Ben E. King and The Drifters, who had been my favorites for years were there, but ATCO, basically Ahmed Ertigun, was not well inclined towards me, or my album (To Ahmed I was “the kid who sings with a lisp”), and on the other hand, I considered him a jiveass racist thief) and naturally, the new incoming head of ATCO Jerry Greenberg, (one of Ahmed’s protégés) was not at all inclined to elevate and promote Jerry Schoenbaum’s pet project. In short, “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” got buried at ATCO.

Folks can argue the reletive merits and quality of the lisping, the songs and the recording back and forth all they want (and they do) but Jasper Johns discovered “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” in a cutout bin, listened and fell in love with it. Jasper did a lithograph of the A Side of the album and immortalized it as “SCOTT FAGAN RECORD” a lithograph that wound up in the permanent collection of the National Gallery, MOMA, The Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, The Israeli Museum in Tel Aviv, and many others, among them perhaps most ironically, the personal collection of Ahmed Ertigun himself.

 In my view, “SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES” is a good and interesting, first album or “record” by and of a sincere and fairly unusual artist at a particular time and place. The follow-up album was to have been the Rock Opera “SOON” (which we will finally be able to release this year, better a little late than never)

I am in it for the music, the impact that it may have for the good, and the hope for positive change in the lives of my little ones and the worlds that they live in. That’s how it was, that’s how it is and that’s how it will be…   

Book 4. Zoom! and Book 1. Isla Grande.6

Book 4. Zoom!!

Zoom..We finished the first run of the new CD just in time for me to  get to the airport and back to St. Thomas for the French Man’s Reef Concert, The concert is a fundraiser for COAST, the local affiliate of The National Council On Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. The event honors The Reverend Ray Joseph and local businessman and COAST Board member Ronnie Lockhart.

Zoom Zip Zoom

The need for recovery services is very acute in The Virgin Islands and is dramatically illustrated by the following bit of information (reported to me by Nancy Waite O’Brian former director of COAST and Clinical Director at The Betty Ford Center) from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency: “The incidence of alcohol related deaths in Texas is twice tha of the other contiguous states, The incidence of alcohol related deaths in Alaska is twice that of Texas, and The incidence of alcohol related deaths in The U.S. Virgin Islands is twice that of Alaska.”

Zap…

In other words, The Virgin Islands have the highest incidence of alcohol related deaths under the American Flag, and possibly the least number of recovery support services under the American Flag as well. I am doing this fundraiser in an attempt to help COAST do something about that.

Zoom, When I get back to the states, we will do a CD release/Launch Party and focus on “The Virgin Islands Songs, The Musical, in Concert, and the single from the album, the new recording of “Surrender To The Sun” and..  Zoom, I am in St. Thomas. Tomorrow morning I start doing radio interviews to promote the Concert event.

Unfortunately, someone set the ticket price @ $75.00 per, which I’m afraid is way too high for most working people. In fact, I’m tempted to say “hey wait, if you are coming to see me, come and see me somewhere else at a price that you can afford”, but, as I am clearly the living embodiment of the “anti moolah” and obviously, not the best authority on manifesting the glittery green goulash,  perhaps I ought to defer my own lah de dah and concentrate instead on the fact that we are  doing a much-needed fundraiser for a good and necessary cause.. Zip

I will do my best, and hope that my people will understand. (Hey waitaminnit, “my people” are the very people most likely to benefit from the very services that we are raising funds for the agency to be able to provide to…hmmm, Oh yeeeahhh…) Ok.

 Double Zoom… today is the 22nd of April,and it is Sula’s 108th birthday, She will have her Birthday party on Saturday, we will gather at her little very old “wood house”, on the hill above Neltejburg Bay and sing and laugh and celebrate the love of a young girl, who at one hundred and eight, has maintained her enthusiastic innocence in spite of having seen it all. What an extraordinary gift she is.

Zoom Zoom and Zoom I did three radio shows at three different radio stations for three completely different demographical groups today and another yesterday, each one an interesting host and personalities and conversations and settings

Zoom, yesterday at 8 AM was with a very interesting and energized activist member of our community Ms. Lesly Commisiong, host of her own show on talk radio 1000. We had a great time and may have enlisted her as a potential board member for COAST. She is a great resource for this community and we shall see if time will allow het to join the board.

Now this morning at 9:00 AM the first  show was with “Sisi” a real fast talking happy talk rockin’ chick on “HITS 100”, Sisi is a young local rocker of color woman, whose parade of addresses and places lived in the states, reminds me of no one more than my self, we had a great time together, and it was beautiful to watch her interact with the young local college student interning with her.  Zam! Next was radio station “WGOD” (really) at the very tippy top of Crown Mountain. Not much to say other than it was the closest thing to Heaven since “Calwin’s Caribilly Bar” and we had great fun (really) with those good folks also. Third was “Zim Zam Zoom” WSTA and “Brownie” always fun, always wonderful. Brownie (and WSTA) have been a primary support for my music and me for over forty-five years. Their kindness is always very much appreciated, and Brownie is one very funny man. 

 Zoom to Saturday! What a good time we had at Sula’s 108th Brithday party today. Old Island recipe birthday cakes galore, warm wonderful family friendships, the Nisky Congregation out in force, and the power of love in evidence and evident everywhere. And…”Food ke-an done, me bouy wha!”

 Zib, Zubb! Tomorrow is the big Concert and I will sing my heart out,. I have prep work to do in the morning so I am going to go to bed… Good night,  it’s been a great day! God bless you each and every one!

 incidently, I was talking with Tut’s wife Mary last evening while a stateside TV show was “noisifying” in the background. In the story, some awfully self-righteous prosecuting attorney with the most insultingly superior attitude, (supposedly representing “The people” ah…that would be us) was prosecuting a case by harassing and haranguing a Rock and Roll Band’s sound man on the stand, in a most diminishing, disrespectful and demeaning way.

It was crazy! The tv writers seem to think that the viewers will swing right along with them, and co-sign anything. Don’t they know that everybody knows, that any good sound man is worth double his weight in law degrees and ten times his weight in condescending, arrogant and square lawyers? What kind of crazy reverseled up value system are they promoting? How could the producers and networks broadcast such a cockeyed premise? How could the advertisers support it? Gol dang, Sometimes I wonder if the people in TV land think the rest of us out here in the free world, are still back in the 1950’s, or just plain stupid er whut.

 On the other hand, it’s a fact that no one would believe the real adventures of “Life In The Bongo Isles” either..I guess you just have to suspend belief…

We did the concert, I’m happy to report that I was in fine voice and our sound preparations were sufficient (the sound man is Marcellus Edwards, Tut’s son who is also the owner operator of ZIP car rentals in St. Thomas) Marcellus is a fine lad, a dread-locked jewish gent of the “Lion Of Judeah” lost tribe school of Hebrish history, and so my friends we see again the grand combinations of flavors in the God Soup of life doen in the Bongo Isles 

Marcellus’s Great Grand Mother (on his father’s side) was a full blooded Carib from the reserve in Dominica, but his Great- Great Grand Father (still on his Fater’s side) was a black, black smith from Ethiopia (that’s the lost tribe part, but lost tribe as filtered through and  from The New York City penal system’s cauldron of salvatory spirituality. most specifically, the Rikers Island rabbinical school of this that and the next thing, as proselytized and evangelized to and through  our very own “Terry The Pirate” AKA “Crossbones” AKA “The Rabbi” The long and short of it all is.. Marcellus is a grand and good fellow, and in large part because of his loving kindness,and skill, the Concert went well

Zoom, Carnival village for one night and then Zoom, back to the states. I’m so Zoomed out I’m downright dizzified.

Book 1. Isla Grande.6

That thing about Rock And Roll that I wrote about earlier, that thing made all the difference. The music moved me. Not just emotionally or in terms of excitement, but it moved me up from a sense of almost complete vulnerability (aka childhood), to a kind of independence.

That was the effect that it had on both of us, both Gale and I. Man, do I love my sister Gale. She was the leader, she led us carefully (or as carefully as an 11 1/2 half-year old girl could) ou of dependent childhood into an wonderneverland of “boppers” the land of “electric Rock And Roll  Pan”  a land which I inhabit to this day.

God bless that Gale, after our time on our own, (once Mud and Howard had come back into the scene), she  decided that we (she and I) would start going to church on Sundays. We did that for a few Sundays..we woild get up early and put on our best clothes, and head out to one or another Catholic Church in Santurce, it was a bit odd I suppose for the regulars to thy and grok what the heck two little dressed up but raggedy white kids were doing coming to their Church all by them selves, but whatever their concerns, they were kind. However, what ever “scent in the air” Gale was following or looking for, it wasn’t there at Church.

Eventually the scent led us to English-speaking Radio Station WHOA and it’s Saturday afternoon “on the air” Elvis Presley Fan Club and “Rock And Roll” dance party. Only the Lord (and Gale) knows how she managed to find the bus fare and then the station, but she did and there we went, on the bus, on our own, away from the snooty rich kids, across Santurce to Rio Piedras and beyond. Our excitement building every parada of the way. Gale had found and followed the scent that led to the great fountain of life, the Fountain Of Youth, only instead of making us younger, it brought us to the immensely joyful spirit of youth eternal, of youth in rebellion, the bottomless pool of timeless energy that empowers and informs and reinforces the impregnable and impervious optimism that transforms a child into timeless youth. We were instantly  older and instantly hipper, and ever so much forever more free. The vehicle was Rock And Roll and the casteless, classless  collective consciousness that it invited and created everywhere it went. And boy I’ll tell ya, my sister Gale and I were ready. Continued…