Posts Tagged ‘Jost Van Dyke’

Book 4. On Nicky Russell, Sad Beyond Words…Continued

August 1, 2010 3 comments

Book  4. On Nicky Russell, Sad Beyond Words…Continued

 The fact of Nicky’s demise has been too sad for words for me, for many days now, and has precluded my posting to the Memwa?

 I have to move beyond that sad preclusion, I will save  my wild ranting  for another time., and I will instead, keep it simple..

It rained like hell at Nicky’s memorial and the grand assemblage under the striped circus tent at Magen’s Bay got soaked from above, aside (actually both sides) and flooded up from below.

 Sensible people, which included the bands and sound system folks (I know that it sounds like an oxymoron) concluded that playing with electricity while standing in water up to your ankles was not wise. Many if not most  packed up and split. I did not, (but only because I have  never and never do, known or know when to go) consequently when Mssr. Pat Bailey and “Bongo Man Bar none”, Richard Spencly suggested that we “just play” regardless of the juicy water and lack of amplification, it felt like a mighty fine flashback to days of old. Days (and nights) of old wherein young men (flung about the waterfront across from Trader Dan’s)  literally sang the sun up out of the sea.

We sang the sunrise welcoming many a mad morning.  Mad mornings of the very best/worst kind. The kind  that our friend Nicky elevated in memory and celebrated fight down to the end. So we did…

We played a rousing set of calypso caraho that included Nicky’s (and his straggler fans) favorites, “La Biega Carousel”,


and “Captain Creole”

As sweet sad a raucous rhapsody, as can be imagined.

As we moved from song to song we were joined by others who refused to let the music and the moment go. Morgan Rael on the mighty jaw bone, an unknown (to me) bell swacker and a mighty fine mystery conga man.

Someone was kind/foolish enough to plug in a microphone and guitar amp, the volume jumped and the joint got jumping.

Our little oddchestra was fronted by the ever enthusiastic prantastic dancing of the afore-mentioned Pat Bailey, who revved to wild, right off the bat.

You (in the audience) may not always be aware that we (on the band stand) see you and feel you and receive intense infusions of emotion and energy from you.

This “speed of light” zappage is a primary driving factor in the degree of intensity that charges the back and forth energy/passion/love/exchange between us.

The double polarity ultra zapbomb was in full force on this occasion.

The sad eyed ladies down front, were well past early spring but their energy and emotion for the moment and what the moment meant, was as strong as any ever.

We were all once young together and these songs were the sound track of that time, and all the time between, and of course our friend, who represented well, was gone and each and all of us knew that we are soon to follow. Ah Yes. Stuff like that will strum up a feeling or two.

To watch the girls of yesterday, dancing yesterday away, is enough to bring a fellow like me to his weeping knees.

Instead we jumped back into a reprise of Nicky’s “Theme Song” “La Biega Carousel /Tutsie” to close out these magic moments of this magical memorial.

When I originally wrote it back in 1964 the third chorus ines were, “And I wish I were like Tutsie and could do as I please, then I’d be barefoot at the Foxes Tamerindo”(Foxie’s bar in Jost Van Dyke) but through the years Nicky began to insert his own updated line “Then I’d be dancing naked at the Fox’s Tamerindo.” I thought it appropriate to sing Nicky’s line for this occasion (and will in remembrance from this point forward)  as the line rang out good brother Pat, tore all his clothes off and really started  prancing the light fandango.  The dance fantastic.

We are trying to find the fellow who filmed the whole thing so that we can share this extraordinary fare-the-well to show the world how it was once upon a time down in the bongo Isles.

There could not have been a more fitting finale for our brother Nicky Russell. Thank you to all who made it so.

Nicky was a great eager and optimistic kid and stayed that way ‘til the day he died. We should all be so beautifully blessed. Three beautiful sisters, two beautiful sons, and one no matter what, steadfast wife. He was  loved and accepted and loved (did I mention loved?) all the way through life, right down to the very end. God Blessed and Bless you Little Brother Nicky, we love you long time…

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


 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


 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!