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Book 4. Who Sez Huh? Who Sez? Book 3. Popeye and The Crystal Cathedral

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 4. Who Sez Huh? Who Sez?

 While I haven’t gotten “The Virgin Islands Songs” completed as a full cast recording, I have written it and can perform a one man version of it… so it does exist, and it does contain the silliness and emotion, the feelings and the fun that I wanted an audience to experience as “The Virgin Islands Songs”

 It looks as though the full cast recording may have to be done in another place, in another time. Too many things are getting backed up. Having finally attained “the age of reason” I am able to “reasonize” that I don’t have any time to waste.

One way or the other, I have to keep moving.

 There is a certain freedom around this question of creating so-called product now that one has next to no expectation of being paid for it. I confess that I (having been in the music business for forty-five years now) have developed a sort of built-in automatic “Biz Monitor” an “adult music business voice” that pops (uninvited) into many if not all internal creative dialogs, to say almost always “Scott, you can’t do that, nobody wants that, it’ll never sell” (I further confess that while there are a few things to which I’ve said “Yeah, you’re probably right” there are many more to which my response is “Oh yeah! Who sez, huh? Who sez?”  and “so what” This is one of those occasions.

I think that “my audience” will understand, if I can ever find them, they are the most elusive non group I’ve ever never known, I do have a few or perhaps multiples of a few solid “committables” although I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon of late. In those instances where I’ve come down from Olympus to answer “fan email” personally, I’ve some how managed to turn enthusiastic fans (some committible since South Atlantic Blues) into people I’ve never heard from again.

 Perhaps I’ve been too effusive, and their responses something like “Nah, a big time handsome mysterioso (did I say handsome?) recording artist dude like Scott Fagan wouldn’t, couldn’t, really write all that nice stuff to me all by himself could he?, it must be some kind of crazy psychedelico algorithmico generated form letter” Heck no, I’m not gonna put up with this on top of his obscurity, it too much hard work to be a big fan of somebody you’ve never even seen or never even heard (and if you did probably confused him with Lou Rawls or Lou Christy or Monty Rock the Third, heck no, it’s too much work. So I’m not gonna like him any more, cause after all I put up with for him.. HE SENT ME A FORM LETTER!.

 Anyway, as I said, there are (or were) perhaps fourteen or fifteen of them (my audience) scattered across the globe (in the most AMAZING places) there were an important few (including the head of the world-wide Scott Fagan Forever Fan club) in the Woman’s Detention Center in Greenwich Village, but unfortunately I don’t know where that “all important list of addresses” has gone, so now I’m going to have to wait for “The Fabulous Fourteen or Fifteen” to re-discover me all over again.

The fact is I’m a sixty-four year old singer whose train has left the station. Fortunately, I’ve got some fans, followers and friends who are still true believers, still willing to run alongside the tracks with me, in an attempt to flag the blood dragon down when “she’s comin’ round the mountain when she comes”, or shooting and raining sparks on the huffy puffel trail up the Big Rock Candy Mountain or somethin’

 So, with their help we will begin. (what the heck is it that’s beginning?)  It is the next phase of “The Virgin Islands Songs” more specifically, the beginning of promoting and performing the one man version, which began  very appropriately at the Cultural Institute, in the J. Antonio Jarvis Museum, on Polyberg Hill..just across from the Alton Adams Home. In St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

 Chico (Gus Edwards, Tutsie’s brother, the pre-eminent Afro-decended Playwright in America) said some important things..he said that trying to do it all (Write it, Fund it, Rewrite it, Cast it, Arrange it, Sing it, Rehearse it, Record it, Direct it, Produce it, and Promote it,) is too much for anyone to have on their plate. He suggested that it made sense to simplify the process by lessening the requirements for a production by doing it as a one man show.

This makes a lot of sense where moving it forward as a performance and production is concerned, however it confuses me at depth because I am inclined to think in musical terms. Towards enhancing the musicality of a thing as an automatic response. and always always, towards creating musical recordings.

 Additionally, there is the fact that I’m going to have to do different content for most stateside audiences because they probably are not going to get the spoken calypso humor of the Buckra De Paehae pieces. But we shall do and we shall see and it will be a fun and exciting element of the “Second Coming”.

 Once upon a time in the music business, if you were an artist armies of smarmies would swarm ya trying to steal you away from the oh so honest upstanding trustworthy and upright personal manager or agent you were already signed and committed to. It was awful. They would try to get at you through your wife or girl friend, promising them this that and the next thing. It was really anxiety producing, unpleasant and depressing.The truth is I would rather be rejected than smarmed  because ultimately, it’s up to me to find my way. I just hope me poor bent cogi-tater organ doesn’t snap crackle and pop under the strain! This is probably what that danged missing “executive center” in the brain is supposed to solve and resolve clickty clackity, lickty splito. We shall see…yes we shall.

 Book 3.  Popeye and The Crystal Cathedral

 In the context of all the above, the various difficulties of my life, are the consequences of my failure, this is a line of information that keeps coming to mind and with it, the opportunity to get more clear about the causes of my failure, and what to do about them.

I am getting mighty clear about the consequences of my failure, they are all around me all day and all night, they are everything I have and don’t have, everything I do and don’t do and they are debilitating and contributory to more and more and more failure.

 Well I ain’t a gonna take it!.. now effen ah kin jus figger out which button to punch which rock to roll up what hill, which road to take home.

I know that it’s drastically more subtle than that, rolling boulders up Everest is easy compared to getting a grip on these slippery invisibilities, many of which I’m confident, are comfortably anchored high above and behind me in the far confluence where cobweb, corner and ceiling gently conspire and quietly collude to collide.

Yep, an effen ah keep talking lak thet..it’s gonna be a cold day on rocky top before my blue moon turns to gold again. Yep, and If I keep talking like that, good ol’ Rocky top will be  sweetly tinkling sand on the bottom of the sea, by the time I make any sense to me.

 A while back I thought to my self “You’ve got to do better!” and I wondered “yeah but do what better?” and my answer was “everything.” And THAT made sense to me. Everything that I’m timid about, everything that I’m afraid of and try to avoid, everything that I dismiss as unimportant or beneath me, or square or… everything.

 This idea of accepting the term “failure” as useful and accurate is fairly new for me. I have absolutely failed at accomplishing what I set out to accomplish, and though I have accomplished other important things (which may after all be all that I get to accomplish) I have failed at what I set out to do.

 My father used to say “Fidel, I want you to watch Robert Schuller from the Crystal Cathedral, in fact we have a pane of glass there in our name, he’s positive and great, I watch him every Sunday” And I would feel a wave of pity and compassion for my father dear, living down in the friggin’ okeefeenokeeglades in an all but collapsed trailer. Breeding mosquitoes the size of humming birds and singing to his thirty or sixty or so leaping, barking, nonstop copulating Chihuahuas, having himself failed at what he set out to do. I would say not on your friggin’ life, thinking that the Robert Shuller Okeedooky was what allowed him to tolerate living the way he did, not realizing that it was the alcohol and likely his own dose of fetal alcohol effects that had melted his lofty dreams and burning ambitions into a warmish pool of Schlitzy piss.

Ah dear my fadder dear, your boy Fidel had a lot to learn… and is trying like hell to learn it.

Anyway, so last, (not this but last) January up in the states, I was watching Robert Shuller..when he mentioned one of my very favorite characters of all “New World” mythology “Popeye The Sailor Man”

 The Reverend Robert Shuller came on and introduced his guest speaker Bill Hybels, and Mr. Hybels introduced his Popeye inspired approach to changing one’s life.

Mr. Hybels launched right into his premise, which is that we all have an “I jus can’t stands it no more” and if we can identify it then we can change our lives. He asked the viewers to think about that and he asked.” What is your “I Just Can’t Stands It No More”?

I leapt to my feet and confessed aloud that my “I Just Can’t Stands it No More” is my failure.

 Now I know that some of you folks think that one of the more endearing things about me is my utter absence from the check out stand publications, and my quaint habit of laying so low that nobody knows a thing about me or my scandalous behaviors. Some of you have even gone so far as to track me down to ask for my obscurity formulae so that you can model your own business and life plans upon it, and while I don’t mind being able to come and go as I please with out the complications that so many others complain about, The fact and the truth, is I failed at what I set out to do. Which was/is to make a difference in the world and to provide financial freedom and security for my family and myself while doing it

 I thought that I could and would do it through my ability to sing and write and make records… I have been at it since July 2nd  1964 and although I am not a failure at singing and writing,or a number of other things, I have failed miserably at managing and promoting my abilities and the products of my abilities to produce financial freedom and security for my family and myself.

 Consequently, I have been materially “poor” and my Children have been materially “poor” all of our lives. Both parents, my sister and two of my three brothers have died materially “poor”. I was not successful at providing a breakthrough for any of them. Or any of the four mothers of my five children.

My Daughters Lelia and Holiday are still most vulnerable and the reality that I am not able to help them in spite of the fact that I am bright, inventive and more talented than many AND have given the past forty-five years to trying and trying and failing and failing,, brings me to where..  “I JUS CAN’T STANDS IT NO MORE!”

 So, with the help of the Higher Power I am going to change it. Here are elements of my Action Plan. I will assess my assets and my deficits and identify what I have to learn and do to reverse my failure and at long last… well, ahh …reverse my failure.

  1. I will keep a diary of the process. The diary will be helpful to folks and a valuable creative product in its own right…
  2. I will make an entry each morning (2 minutes) and each evening (4 minutes), the first stating what I intend to achieve that day, and the second, what I got done and did not get done and what I learned as a result and the remedy.

 January 25, 2009 AM

I intend to hold on to Popeye’s saying, “I Jus Can’t Stands It No More” write it down and see what if anything I can learn and do from that process. I intend to find a way or at least the beginning of a way to turn my failure into success, and to follow consistently the process that I outline or discover.

 January 25, 2009 PM

I have started the process of turning my failure into success. I have written my intentions down and have begun. I spent an hour and a half rehearsing songs from “South Atlantic Blues”. I will  out line the many ideas for potentially revenue producing projects, I will do the outlines in the morning.

 January 31, 2009

Listing the many projects that I started this week

 JULY 12, 2009 AM

Gosh, I had completely forgotten all about the daily diary entry aspect of this daily diary entry exercise, and have just rediscovered what I had written back in January! I am in St. Thomas recording “The Virgin Island Songs”. It has been interesting. but..good Lord.

 February 12, 2010

Gosh, I’d forgotten what I rediscovered I’d forgotten and rediscovered, in July! Good  Good  God  Amighty…

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Book 4. and Book 1.The Concert, and We From UPSTREET!

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 4 and Book 1. The Concert, and We From UPSTREET!

I’m writing from St.Thomas, having arrived yesterday, Sunday, January the 24th. (One of my very favorite days of the year, by virtue of the fact that it is the Birthingday of my beautiful twins Lelia and Archie)

I am here to do a concert performance of The Virgin Islands Songs, for “The Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute” and the “J. Antonio Jarvis Museum and Learning Center”.

Tuts and I have just returned from meeting with the Director, Myron Jackson and his extremely talented assistant Yvette Finch and taking a look at the performance area. 

The stage will be set up under a tent on the grounds and I will be looking south, directly at the hillside location of the “Bandmaster Alton Adams” family home. Alton Adams is the most highly regarded musician to have come from the Virgin Islands, he was the bandmaster of a local Virgin Islands Brass Band that was so good, that the Navy enlisted the whole Oompa kit and kaboddle, and sent them all around the world representing the USA. They were gentlemen of color each and every one, whose sense of possibility and self had not been saddled with the innumerable and onerous burdens of segregation. They represented themselves, the Islands and the Country well, and made beautiful music for many years.

Bandmaster Adams is considered second only to John Phillips Sousa in quantity and quality of Marches composed, and authored our own “Virgin Islands March” the Official Anthem of the Virgin Islands, which is a wonderful song. His Grand Daughter is the afore mentioned extremely talented Yvette Finch who on top of everything else, is a brilliant singer, and his Grandson is Cliff Finch the extraordinary Bass player on most of my album “Dreams Should Never Die” (The Virgin Islands Songs Vol. 2) which songs make up one third of the score of “The Virgin Islands Songs”. If ever I had occasion for inspiration it is certainly this coming Sunday. As I will be (from the stage) looking directly up at Bandmaster Adams familial home, with his granddaughter looking directly and me and his grandson’s wonderfully melodic bass leading us away from staggering off one musical precipice after another. Yes indeed, this ought to be stimulating and fun.

Since the Second Coming has not yet impressed any journalists (or for that matter anyone other than those still impressed by the first coming…well not true, some folks are saying some very nice things about my singing and treating me like I’m the greatest thing since freshwater, but they’re way back up in the states), I will probably have to review the concert for you myself.

Actually while I would have real difficulty reviewing the performance from the audience prospective while at the same time swacking the guitar and screechin’ on stage while saying nice things about how well and goodly handsome myself are, it probably couldn’t be much worse than what you may have read about me already. I suspect that some of you are aware that the lasting echoing journalistic statement of the entire forty five years of the first coming, is the oft (really oft, irritatingly oft) dismissal of me as “Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Field’s father, who did an album for ATCO in the 60’s, the obscure folk singer Scott Fagan ) 

If however (for reasons known only to me, until I finally spill the beans in perhaps book Twelve and a half) there are no post concert comments coming from yours truly, you may feel absolutely free to make up all kinds of stuff yourself…because even though I am with out question a real high ball, Ah, I mean a real high brow, ultra double artsy dude, there is no business like show business, and my dear dear friends, in spite of the best intentions of mice (“mike men”) and musicians, you just never never know.

P.S. Am I anxious? Yes I’m anxious…but I will do my best, to do my best, and then I will do my best. 

 We From UPSTREET

Yesterday after our meeting at the Jarvis museum, I pointed out to Morita (Morita is Tut’s ex-wife, the Mother of his fourth child, daughter Jamaine. She is also the Grand Mother of Tut’s Grandson “Nikell” who is the cheery little round headed fellow riding along in the truck with us. Morita is also a former class mate of mine to whom I carried sweet messages of young love from Tuts, at Charlotte Amalie High School) The “wall house” (concrete block) at the head of “pave street” (the century old name for Main Street) in which I used to live and which qualifies me to be accepted as a member of the “We from UPSTREET” organization. Whew!

 “We From UPSTREET” is a neighborhood organization very similar to the “We From DOWNSTREET”neighborhood organization in fact they are almost exactly alike except they are on opposite sides of Charlotte Amalie, UP on the East and, DOWN on the West. Each is convinced that their “We from” is best and better than all the rest (and there are many, ie. We From DOUNDEROAD, De SAVANEROS, We from ROUNDEFIELD, Dem from SILVAHDALLAH and so forth). Which is of course quite true in every case. Yep,

 When I pointed out the house and told her that I had lived there, and that that’s what made me a member of “We from UPSTREET”, she said “Man you live all over the place, you mus’ be a part of everyting” I said “Yes, that’s right, I did, I am” while Tuts chimed in “Yes, that’s why everybody know Scottie.” 

It was true and it was a very interesting reality, an interesting alternative to actually having a home and belonging somewhere. Was belonging (to a degree) everywhere. I am really grateful for that, as it allows me to feel at home just about everywhere I go, at home and all over the away.

 The “smoke truck” (a mosquito eradication truck, spraying what was commonly known to be DDT, out of a high pressure nozzle mounted at nose level for leaping, laughing, gyrating children) came to visit UPSTREET once or twice a week just after nightfall. When that high pitched hissing, the crazy flashing lights, and those billowing clouds of smoke arrived, it meant hysterical fun for all the children in the neighborhood. We would disappear into the thick white smoke, leaping and laughing dancing and carrying on to beat the band, for what seemed like hours on end.

More than once I realized a certain odd power as I emerged staggering, oiled to the bone, from the cloud and bystanders (who had no reason to suspect or way of knowing, that the pale apparition was one of two white children  (Gale and I) who had moved into their part of town), would cry out in shock upon seeing me “Oh GOD! Look a Jumbi! It was great fun.

 I learned or (began to learn) a great many things in our time living  “UPSTREET”. Among them, that even “good” children could be “taken away by the government” never to be seen or heard from again.

 When we first came to the house at the head of “Pave Street” I was befriended by two brothers, Tony and Joe, who appointed themselves as my protectors. They lived with their father in a very interesting old wooden structure on “The Beljan Road”. An actual “Sail loft” left over from the days of the massive canvas square riggers and the great Clipper Ships. Tony and Joe were bright, alert, friendly and kind boys (maybe nine and eleven years old) that for the most part, (when not taking care of me, seven going on eight) took care of themselves.

Their father was a large silent shambling man, who (in retrospect) was not able to properly care for them. One day they said goodbye by announcing that they were going to be sent to the dreaded Mandahl.

Gale and I had been in the Islands long enough to have heard one and another teacher, parent, or grumpy citizen threaten a child with “Ah gon sen yu ass Mandhal if yu don behave” We knew that being sent to Mandahl was akin to being delivered to de “Ol’ Man stinkin’ toe” who stuffed disrespectful and naughty children in his crocus (burlap) bag and took them away, most likely to cook and eat them for supper. Tony and Joe hadn’t done a thing to deserve such a fate…but the day came and they were gone. 

In reality, the dreaded Mandahl was the only resource that the system had for children without the benefit of parental or familial care givers. While I never saw them again, from time to time I would hear that they were fine and doing ok. I hope that their’s is a tale that ended well.

Years later, while still a minor myself, I watched helplessly as social services put my younger brothers Larry and Lonnie into foster care. But that, (and how I managed to avoid being snagged by the system myself), is another story… which soon come…