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Book 4. Up Coming Gigs And Book 2. SOON .2

June 17, 2011 1 comment

Book 4. Up Coming Gigs And Book 2.  SOON .2

We are busy and traveling a fair amount, and of course, it’s all interesting. This Saturday (June 18th) we are in Harrisburg, PA doing MODE Magazine’s Big LUAU on City Island, from 6 – 10 PM then We Travel up to New York City for Tuesday June 21st to participate in the big City Wide “Make Music New York” Festival.

We (Scott Fagan And The MAAC Island Band) will be playing at  Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 1st Ave between 46th and 47th Streets (right across from the UN) from4 to 5 PM.

Folks are saying that we were assigned to the UN because I “sing in tongues” but it’s not “tongues” it’s just how we sing (and speak) down in the Virgin Isles. We are looking forward to both gigs; the band and I are rarin’ to go. We will be back in Harrisburg for “Music Fest” on Sunday, July 3rd and in Lebanon, PA. on August 6th for the “Pablo Emilio Memorial Music Festival”.

The band is excited to play in the Islands, and the European Festivals, it’s all in the works…we will do our absolute best, and we shall see.

 Book 2.  SOON .2 continued…

 This whole  mem.wa? thing started out in large part as a response to a gent who had contacted me because of his interest in writing a book about the “SOON” Story.

He asked me about it and in the process of emailing back and forth he concluded that perhaps I ought to be the one writing about it. Mostly because (I suspect) he realized what kind of nut he was dealing with (the kind of nut that doesn’t want anybody changing his words) and because not only do I insist on holding on to all of my “old” words but I can (and do) make up perfectly good new ones at the drop of a hat, or skip of a synapse. 

In any case he (not unreasonably) hoped that I would get right to it (the SOON part) but instead, I have spent the better part of the last two years writing 240 pages about half of everything under the sun with very little mention of “SOON” There are reasons for that. 

First of all. while some folks see SOON as the end all be all of my work and life, I don’t. (However, I see it as an important piece of music. I love Music and I love people who love music and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it go until I know the people who would dig hearing it have heard it).

Interestingly, there are a number of self-important people who have consulted themselves and then had the gall to publicly proclaim that “Scott Fagan peaked early with “South Atlantic Blues” and never did anything meaningful after that.”  I certainly  don’t think that’s true either.

In an attempt at orderliness I conceptualized the mem.wa? as four sections each encapsulating one chronological segment of the life (if you knew how many different things occur to me almost all at once, almost all the time, you might appreciate the attempt to bring order, however, for lack of better experience or “other” experience, this “blizzardito” of ideas and images, is one of the things that makes it ever interesting to me, to be me.) It may be symptomatic of FAE, but “dems the symptoms I got” and thank God I find them interesting and amusing.

Anyway, or rather, further, I imagined the mem.wa? as (thanks to modern technology) a hybrid of words and music (yes I know that’s what a song is) meaning a book with music (yes I know that’s what a Musical is) a combo platter of lit and music, a book that you could listen to (yes I know..) but or rather, a book that allowed you to hear the music in the muse. A mix of book and blog able to organically include music in the experience, a,a,a, Blook!

Anyway when chronologically It was time  to write about the teenage years, I felt as if I would need to tread very lightly to avoid hurting other people, not a one of which needs any more pain in their life and I simply don’t have the time to spend zig zagging between truth and consequences, or turning ragweed to roses and so I slowed down a bit to plex on it.

After plenty of good plexateing (and because of the recent SOON activity), I’ve decided to revisit that stuff later, a quick synopsis will suffice and help to put things in context. Here it is.

 “Lots of singing, lots of juicing, lots of trouble with the law, lots of love, lots of jealousy, lots of trouble with the law, homeless, violence, lots of trouble with the law, singing in the dungeon, juicing in the dungeon, lots of ah..difficulty in dealing with authority.

All in all, interesting and unusual (by virtue of the people and the settings, down in the Bongo Isles, the deep South in the early 1960’s) worth revisiting, and without question, a set up scenario for lots of trouble with the music business.

So, as noted elsewhere, as a homeless teenager living on a piece of cardboard, on a hillside (Sara Hill)  at the end of the airport runway in St. Thomas, I signed on as crew on a fifty foot ketch called “The Success” she was on the last leg of a  round the world cruise and bound for Miami. We sailed out of the harbor at Charlotte Amalie at dawn on July 2nd 1964.

My mission was simple and clear, save my beautiful alcoholic mother from herself and get my younger brothers back from social services’s foster care system, set my sister up, get my Pop an Irish Bar in a good drinking locale, eradicate racial prejudice and social injustice  by singing my heart out and making a million dollars. Ah… right away.

And..if at all possible, somehow rescue my own 15-year-old sweetie from the guy she had gotten pregnant for and married and gone away to the states with so she could get out of the house ‘cause (the rumor was) she was being molested.  

The content and emotion of those days may have been captured somewhat  in my song “South Atlantic Blues” written in 1965.

Here are two recordings of it. The first recorded in 1967, is on the ATCO Album “South Atlantic Blues” and the secondrecording that I’ve posted here, is from the LIVE album ” Shake A Bum” recorded in 2010

                                   ” 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

 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…

After many adventures and poetical ruminations, a month later we arrived in the states, and I got a singing gig at a folk Club on US 1 in Ft.Lauderdale called “The House Of Pegasus”. A month after that I arrived in New York City with 11 cents to my name. I called the only phone number I had which had been given to my Mother by a friend of a friend of a songwriter.  

The name with the number was Doc Pomus.

 I called him and he set a time for me to come sing for him the next day. I did and Doc was kind enough to sign me on the spot.

What’s this have to do with SOON? It’s what they call “backstory” or setting the context, it was also the beginning of my exposure to the for real and serious music business.

Doc was a very successful song writer, with hits galore. Among them; Lonely Avenue, Young Boy Blues, Teenager In Love, Hushabye, This Magic Moment, His Latest Flame, Little Sister, Return To Sender, Go Jimmy Go, Save The Last Dance For Me, and Viva Las Vegas, we lived at the Forrest Hotel on 49th between Broadway and 8th, the Brill Building was right across the street where Doc’s Music publisher Hill And Range Music had their offices.

I of course thought (and my recent three song audition and instant signing reinforced the idea) that music (and by extension the business around it), was  magical and made up of people appropriate to populating the magical musical land. I thought that Doc and his partner Mort Shuman, (and the other professional songwriters in and around the Brill Building) had it made in the shade. 

I was very surprised (and unhappy) to hear Doc’s descriptions and characterizations of music publishers and record companies as exploitive and  dishonest (my fluffity and flautin’ words not his, Doc was more colorfully direct and to the point).

 My initial reactive defense was something like “well that’s too bad for the people who get hurt, they probably did something wrong, and anyway, I’m here to make a million and rescue my family.

I don’t want to or have time to, get caught up in stuff like that”  

However, Doc was trying to educate me to the reality of the people and the business that we as artists (writers, singers, musicians) were in and had to  deal with.

I really didn’t want to hear that stuff or believe it, I much preferred my own  magical thinking. Only weeks before I was “sad glad good bad happy mad dreamy lad” swimming in rum and coke  delusions down in the beautiful Virgin Islands and suddenly I was a signed and (at least expected to be) grownup professional recording artist (although I wasn’t old enough to sign my own contracts, my Mudder dear had to come to New York to sign them for me) in what was turning out to be a cut throat snake, scorpion and piranha infested reality.

I had seen all kinds of blood spilled in crazy drunken violence, had come face to face with the deepest kinds of hatred, knew all about suffering, deprivation and sadness, but really nothing at all about manicured  men in tailored suits whose ambitions for money (yours, mine and everybody else’s) appeared to supersede every other human value  and concern.

Though I knew scads about ‘life’s other side” I knew very little about this one and I honestly had never imagined that such people actually existed. And, I really didn’t want to know. 

I was at thrilled and excited to see all of Doc and Morty’s  BMIwriter awards along the hall ways at Hill and Range, and the awards to song writers Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley for “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up” songs that represented the “liberation theology of Rock And Roll” songs or rather “energy and intention” that inspired and sustained me through a fairly challenging childhood.

Back at the Forrest I said “Doc, I saw all the BMI awards at  Hill and Range, I didn’t know that Elvis was a song writer, that he wrote “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up” Doc said “Scotty, Elvis didn’t write those songs, Col. Tom Parker said  Elvis had to have half of the song or he wouldn’t record them.” I was dumbstruck..I couldn’t believe that Elvis would do something like that, I couldn’t believe that someone would make Otis give away half of what was his.

Doc explained that Elvis had nothing to do with it, it was all Tom Parker, and Tom Parker was all about the money.

Morty took me to a song writers bar on 50th Street just off  Broadway and introduced me to a parade of writers (primarily African American) responsible for many of the great Doo Wop hits who had either been cheated out of their royalties or manipulated into actually selling the rights to their songs lock stock and barrel. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

 I can’t tell you how much of a true believer I was, music meant the world to me, gave me (and millions of others), hope. Had unified my generation, pulled my sister and me through hell and high water, To discover that slick “business men” had been hurting and cheating and stealing from the people who actually made the music, and that the people, the public didn’t know a thing about it, and therefore no one would do anything to stop it, was soul searing and outrageous to me. And frankly, that was only the beginning.

 So there we see part of the genesis of SOON.

This  belief/ idea that if “people only knew they would do some thing” was an old one for me.

In 1954 my step father Howard and my Mother, fleeing bills in St. Thomas, moved us into an apartment at Parada 25 and Aveneda Fernandez Juncos, in Santurce, Puerto Rico, next to what was at that time considered the largest and worst shanty slum in all of Latin America, “El Fangito”. When I first saw naked little children, feeding themselves out of garbage cans,  I said to my self “If the people in America knew about this they would do something about it” and I decided that “I’m going to learn to write songs and tell im’ cause if they knew about it, they would surely do something about it”

This was an earlier element in the Genesis of “SOON”

I still believe. The only difference now is the realization that writing the song and even singing it at the top of your lungs is no guarantee that anyone will hear it, or that the information will get to the people, or if in fact the song is heard, that the people who hear it will care enough or can afford to care enough to do something. Things simply aren’t as simple as they once seemed. However if one cares, then you’ve got to keep trying.

Continues…

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Book 2. SOON .1

June 7, 2011 1 comment

Book 2.  SOON .1

 Not long ago (two to three months) a young man involved with a small theater Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, contacted me for permission to do a production of my Rock Opera “SOON”.

We have since exchanged a number of emails, and I have given him my permission to go forward. 

We will be meeting some time in the near future to go over the script and to discuss the specifics of the production in terms of content. He originally found (and downloaded) the Los Angeles Recordings of SOON and wondered if I had any leads on any recordings of the Broadway production. I told him that I might and would take a look.

It happens that fairly recently (with in the past two years) I had been contacted by someone from the mysterious shadow world of “Broadway Musical Collectors” who “knew someone” who “might know” someone who “knew someone” who “might know” someone who “had information’ that could lead to a copy of a bootlegged tape of SOON, illegally recorded one night in 1971, live at the RITZ Theater. 

Believe it or not, the trail ultimately led to the United States Library Of Congress, whose librarians and kind customer service people were good enough (for a substantial but not unreasonable fee) to make and send along a copy of the bootleg recording of my opera for me.

The thing arrived on two of the shiniest golden discs this side of prophecy, I gazed upon them in dazzled wonder and amazed-eye for a long while, then stuck  Act One in the player to see what I could hear.

I tore it out quickly when I heard the beginnings of  a cockamamie mishmash “overture” and realized in horror that the recording residing in The Library Of Congress, and representing SOON to the ages in perp..perp..perpetuity, had been made after I (along with my partner Joe (Jose Silvio Martinez) Kookoolis and co author and director Robert Greenwald) had been fired and barred from the theater.

Fired and barred as part of a sequence of preposterous events and changes designed by Producers Bruce Stark and Sagittarius Productions (Edgar Bronfman Sr.) along with new Director Gerald Freedman, “adapter” Martin Duberman and Musical Director Louis St. Louis to “commercialize SOON”.

 Attitudes, events and changes that in a most sublimy apex of reverberant self reverential irony, perfectly paralleled the very story that we were telling in SOON. Actually doing in the production of  SOON the exact kinds of actions that SOON had been written to illuminate and protest.

A story about how tragically and unnecessarily destructive the dollar driven establishment music business could be to artists, to their  music and to the society most affected by their music.  

I will write in much  greater detail about SOON and the super crazy reality surrounding it, in the course of this memwa? but for the moment..

 I put the CD back in and listening to the voices, was transported to a time (January 1971), and a place, (backstage at The Ritz Theater, 48th street, New York City). Peopled by young and  beautiful hopefilled faces.

We were a cast of casts, absolutely bursting with the brightest promise and potential. Marta Heflin, Peter Allen, Nell Carter, Vicki Sue Robinson, Dennis Belline, Richard Gere, Leata Galloway, Marian Ramsey, Joe Butler, Michael Jason, Pendelton Brown, Pamela Pentony, Tony Middleton, John C. Nelson and Singer Williams. I don’t think that there has ever been a cast with more promise on a Broadway Stage.

 The whole of it and us, now only young and beautiful voices floating in my head. Peter Allen, Nell Carter, Vicki Sue Robinson, Dennis Belline, and who knows how many others, gone from this world.

Listening to the recording was a seesaw tsunami of happiness and horror.

Happiness at the heart and vocal performances demonstrated by the performers as (I suspect) they realized the ship was sinking but, by God, taking full advantage of their moment to shine. 

Peter Allen doing “Soon”, Nell Carter doing “To Touch The Sky”, Marta Heflin’s rendition of  “Annie’s Thing”, Tony Middleton’s ”One More Time”, Marian Ramsey killing them with “On The Charts”, Vicki Sue Robinson all but stopping the show in her duet with Richard Gere in “What’s Gonna Happen To Me When I’m Fifty”, Leata Galloway stopping the show with “Child Of Sympathy” 

The horror at how “Music Music” “Country Store Living” “It Won’t Be Long” “In Your Hands” and the bulk of the score were misunderstood and massacred, the scaldingly embarrassing snippets of dialog, and “showbiz” restructuring of sequence and scene.

 Anyway…

Here is a copy of the note that I emailed to the young man in Johnstown yesterday.

June, 6, 2011

Dear Michael,                                                             

Here are the Broadway recordings along with the noise reduced L.A. Recordings.

I have just heard the B’way production for the first time in forty years.

As you may know, the director, Robert Greenwald and I were fired and barred from the theatre, and “entertainment” type changes were made to our script against our wishes. I have just been listening to those changes and frankly, I am extremely embarrassed by them. I am also upset by how wrong for our style of music Louis St.Louis (the Musical Director) was, our musical phrasing is very much out of synch,

I would not choose to have the Broadway recordings of SOON represent me and my work to any one any where. I am only sending them to you because they may be contextually helpful as we go forward.

Please do not draw upon Louis St. Louis’s musical phrasing or the cockamamie dialog Martin Duberman inserted as something to emulate or reproduce, as I have absolutely no interest in doing that

Louis St. Louis was wonderful and right for Grease, but very much wrong for SOON.

You and I will, script in hand, talk through SOON some time in the near future and absolutely arrive at the best possible iteration of SOON ever presented.

Michael Meketa’s Johnstown Production of SOON will be the best ever.

It would behoove us to make sure that it is recorded at the best quality available.  

Sincerely,

Scott Fagan

 To be continued…