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Book 4. Concert Review From the Artists Point of View, Continued…

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 4. Concert Review From the Artists Point of View, Continued…

 Did I say no hanky panky at all? Well perhaps I’d better re-examine that policy. Because early “come le we goers” are arriving like crazy and they each seem to have the same idea as the first early bird. Apparently numbers of ladies have heard one or another of my recordings on the radio during the promotional blitz of this past week, and have confused me with Engelbert Humperdinck or something. Ladies  are  batting their eyes  and asking if I have any CD’s for sale and before you know it, the sound check is no more, and I am signing CD’s instead. Now, in my view, all things considered, this is not a bad start.

 The trick will be to keep the whole thing from going down hill from this point on…

Here come a number of ladies from the class of “64” who (although I did not graduate from high school) have claimed me as a member because we were classmates up to the point that I left High School, went to New York, and signed with Doc Pomus and Columbia Records.

 I was just telling the great Marcellus (Tutsie’s son and volunteer sound man for the evening) that I have to get a new pair of glasses because recently everyone beyond the second row has fuzz where their faces used to be. When folks that I know or knew, show up. some, (as people often do, ) start with “whats my name? do you remember me?” If you remember me, then whats my name?” The last thing I want to say is “no, I’m sorry I don’t because in reality, I half remember everyone. But the deeper truth is, a number of these ladies look exactly like the irate parents that used to show up at school, raising triple heck about the science teacher who was regularly found passed out at the Normandy Bar at 2:30 in the afternoon when in fact he was supposed to be in the classroom tryin’ to larn us sumpin’.

 It’s extraordinary to see the close camaraderie that still exists between these school girl lady girls, that they want me to be a part of what they share is exciting and really touching for me. However, I do wish that they had squeezed me as closely and for as long, when we were sixteen. But that’s another story.

 The place is filling up and it’s  just past five thirty, the show is scheduled to start at six. The Director of the Museum says to me, “Let’s get started” I say wait! Wait! Lee Carl is coming to film us, starting at six, and he isn’t here yet. We are spared an adrenalin fueled discussion because just then Lee pulls into the loading zone with his equipment.

 We are now moments away from face the freakin’ music and dance time (which, on the chance that it hasn’t occurred to you, is certainly among the most stressful series of moments imaginable, moments in which the question “what in the flaming hell am I doing here”  presents repeatedly, demanding an answer. Fortunately, “What am I doing here? What am I doing here? Leads nicely into “I’ll show you what I’m doing here! Oh Yeah? I’ll show you what I’m doing here! Which is a grand attitude to have when you suddenly find yourself propelled towards and then all alone at Center Stage.

In this case they gave me a fine hand just for showing up, which is again, a pretty good start. A start which in the past might have led to “well I guess I showed them” I’m outta here, (in spite of the fact that leaving at that point might have been just a little bit premature.)

 Traditionally, there has (from time to time) been a little difficulty in getting me (or me getting my self) actually onto the stage. A fine example might be the night in 1966, that Mort Shuman brought George Martin (arranger/producer of the Beatles) to see, hear and hopefully sign me, at “The Scene” in New York. Just before “Show Time” I broke a string and spent the next hour and a half chasing all over the City looking for a replacement string, rather than just doing the performance without the missing string. One can only imagine what the good man thought as he left after sitting there waiting for me for an hour and a half, and then again, what he might have said during the period in which the Beatles were considering my album “South Atlantic Blues” to be their first release on Apple Records. “Oy Say, (he might have said) this bloke’s a flukin’ flufferin” Idiot! Ay Wot!” (Just joking, I know that George Martin doesn’t really talk like that, however having only shaken his hand once just before I was to play for him, but ran away to play “find the string” instead, I don’t really know which words he would choose to use in describing yours truly, but I think we can agree that, in general, the sentiment would be about the same.

 And Ah yes, there were those occasions when in anticipation, too large a spill down the gullet, too many times in a row, may have led to yours truly making a staggering entrance from stage left and actually stumbling all the way across the stage and out the other side.

But not tonight….’cause I mean business…and here we go!

The Director has given me a nice intro, Tuts has asked me to do “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” before I start the program, and dedicate it to “Our Brothers and Sisters and all the lost souls in Haiti” it’s a beautiful song by a great writer and singer, Bobby Scott. I do a good and sincere rendition, hitting some nice notes and ending big. It warms the heart, and breaks the ice, and gets an appreciative response.

 We move into my script and first up is “Annalee”

I will (for the first time) be utilizing my own pre-recorded music tracks for four of the tunes, because I think they will be more effective that way. I have had all kinds of philosophical problems with the idea, but the overriding fact is, I want the audience to experience the songs as closely as possible to the way that I so carefully recorded them, and holding out for absolute purity has shown it’s self to be counter productive and in my case, absolutely silly.

 If you are offended by my use of my music tracks, I apologize, I am sincerely sorry. (please consider that this is a free concert, and I have no budget or bonaroos to rehearse and pay a band AND no band to play it for free AND that I have held out on this question for forty five years)  That said, what a  pleasure it is for me to sing against the music from “Annalee” and what an enthusiastic response it receives from the audience …

 Next is two little pieces of poetry “A Kindness Here And A Kindness There” and “Do You Like My Color, Like I like Yours” they are well received.

Then I throw on the battle-axe and slide into “SOON” the theme of my Rock Opera (which happens to be the first Musical ever written by a Virgin Islander to be produced on Broadway) “SOON” is a powerful and passionate song speaking a commitment to justice, brotherhood and equality, that is the direct product of my own Virgin Islands childhood. I still feel it, and sing it that way. The folks are excited and stimulated and let loose with enthusiastic applause.

 Off comes the guitar and I begin to read “The Girl With The Golden Skin”. The audience has never heard anything quite like it and they sit in anticipation waiting to see what will happen…zamo they erupt in laughter and  seem to quickly realize that this piece will be going back and forth between humor, poetic language and strong sentiment. It ends  with a truth about color ,often unspoken but true nevertheless. It gets a big hand… The people seem eager, for more, they like the songs and they like the poetry, so far so good!

I signal Marcel and he starts the track for the La Beiga Carosuel/Tutsie medley, a song that always gets ‘im regardless of who what when where and why. Tonight, its eliciting encouragement and whoops galore from the very start. When we get to the instrumental section, and I start to “wuk up” and shake my bum, they go a little wild, it’s wonderful.

We come back with a tender last verse and take it out in the joyous defiance that the song exemplifies. We get a rousing round of really enthusiastic applause. Next, is another spoken piece, “I Dreamed I Made A Record Called South Atlantic Blues” and then, on with the guitar and into the song “South Atlantic Blues”. This song has always been a unique and powerful experience for me as a writer and singer, it is now forty-five years old but (based on the content) it could have been written yesterday. It’s a pleasure to sing and play it, and hitting the high drama notes and the sweet dynamics passages is very satisfying for me, the audience seems to feel the same way and shows it.

That was the end of ACT l,

 I went straight into  the spoken introduction to ACT ll it’s called:

 “SOOKIES WESTERN JAMBOREE”

 “Some of you good people will remember that once upon a time we had one radio station in The Virgin Islands, WSTA.  A wonderful station that did it’s best to play something for everyone. This meant that we were all exposed to every kind of music.

Believing in music as I do, I believe that this wide exposure had a very positive effect On us all. Among the varieties that we enjoyed was good old Southern Gospel and what they called back then, Country and Western.

 At 3 O’clock in the afternoon the islands looked forward to a show hosted by a young Buckaroo from Frenchtown called “Sookiess Western Jamboree”. The show featured artists like the great Hank Williams, Gentleman Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Skeeter Davis and Patsy Cline and songs like “You’re Cheatin Heart” “Cold Cold Heart “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On” “He’ll Have To Go” and many many others.

 In those days as you know we here in The Virgin Islands had a number of our own “Home grown cowboys” young (and old) rough and ready hombres who worked and lived out in the  wild wild East, West, North and South sides, and rode their horses all over the place, and once a year, in the big Carnival Parades.

In addition to the working cowboys, there were a number of fellows in town who had perhaps been too strongly influenced by the Western Movies that played at The Apollo, The Alexander, and The Center Theater what seemed like every day and night of every week of every month of every year for many years running. These home-grown desperadoes, certainly considered themselves to be the real deal also, and as romantic a figure as any other cowpoke anywhere and they were.

 Anyway, as  noted elsewhere, I intended to grow up to be Gene Autry the singing Cowboy. So naturally I was very interested in learning how to “make up” songs like those that we heard, on Sookies Western Jamboree, in the movies and in the Saturday morning Children’s stories so kindly broadcast for us by WSTA.

 The next Virgin Islands song grew directly out of these parts of WSTA’s influence on our lives, an influence for which I will be eternally grateful.

So here we go. In remembrance of Sookie’s Western Jamboree and our very own Caribilly Cowboys. A little Caribilly Christmas Song for all the children in all of the warm weather places in the world, our very own “Sandy The Bluenosed Reindeer”

 (The audience remembered Sookies show and that wonderful time in our collective musical history right away and although they had never heard this spoken intro before, they actually began to echo my words as we went through it, and then gave a wonderfully warm reception to Sandy The Bluenosed Reindeer both before and after I sang it.

Can’t beat that.

This sweet momentum led us into “Captain Hookfoot”  an eight minute piece of spoken Calypso humor about a character I created called “Buckra De Paehae” and Pirate Treasure and Jumbies. (Buckra means poor white. Paehae means white man, in French Creole) It is written and delivered in Calypso (the language of my childhood, an idiom which lends its self wonderfully well to broad, exaggerated and colorful Island humor) Hookfoot was the biggest hit of the night so far. I said to my self “Wow, So far so good, now for Gods sake, don’t choke on a mosquito or something.” I knew the next tune “Where My Lover has Gone”  was pretty good, it’s been a hit for me for years. It’s a great tune to sing. On went the guitar and from the first C MAJ 7th we were in the groove.

Next up was another humorous spoken Calypso piece called “The Barracks Yad Bay And beach Club” about a (now gone) UPSTREET neighborhood  fondly remembered by all, and the building of the waterfront drive. The folks loved it and… we were on to “Surrender To The Sun” this song is a definite hit for me and this time I sang it against a most beautiful new track produced for me by Warren Schatz. It was absolutely beautiful. The audience could not have been more receptive and I did what I could to sing the heck out of it. Very beautiful, very romantic very much a success.

Next was another spoken Calypso piece called “The Inheritance Box” about the History of the Illustrious often blusterous “House of Buckra De Paehae”  it’s also quite funny. The people laughed it up and loved it too.

Which brought us to a poetic little piece called “The Reason We Sing” which doubled as an introduction to “The Virgin Islands Song”  which is the theme and the finale.

We utilized the  musical track featuring Jeff Medina’s beautiful guitar work., I sang the heck out of it and it was a smash. The applause was so effusive that I was frankly, a little embarrassed…I bid the good folks good night and told them truthfully that they had been my favorite audience of all time ever anywhere.  

We got back to signing CDs, and getting  to the Kalaloo.

All in all it was simply wonderful; I really do wish you were here.

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Book 2. Give Love A Chance…

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment
Book 2. Give Love A Chance… 

In the Summer of 1966 I was living on East 60th street (just down from a wonderful little shop called “Serendipity”) under the wing of my extraordinary friend Roberta Wolfe, Roberta, was a high fashion, artist girl living on the top floor of, a classy three story Brownstone, owned by the Shubert family when she fell in with me. 

She provided shelter, hugs and human kindness (as well as the brown paper bag that I wrote “Give Love A Chance” on.)We met at Steve Paul’s “The Scene” where I had become the house singer, and she was one of a number of hip New York artist chicks that looked amazing and created magic and excitement (like some pixie dust back draft) every where they went. The Scene was an exciting and very cool environment, full of young up and coming graduates of “Music and Art” (the New York City High School that “FAME” was based on) and hip cool creative folks from every discipline and inclination from London, LA. And everywhere in between. I was ahead of most of the up and comers, in that I had already been signed by Columbia Records, and was being managed by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, two living legends of Rock And Roll.

I was also an anomaly in that I was obviously a ruffian with no formal education who “sang like an angel” a hundred and twenty pounds of passionate pretty white boy from de Islands “who come tu change de worl mon!” 

The extraordinary Roberta and I had a “best of pals” or “sweet pally hearts” or some such, or another “it’s complicated” kind of arrangement. 

The primary complicating factor was that I was “in love” with four other girls, all of whom thought they felt the same about me. (One of them was”Pixie” the beautiful dreamer that was the inspiration for “Give Love A Chance”) Did I mention it was the summer of ’66?. …You can imagine the complications. 

 However, Roberta was also a kind of business partner, I was being managed and produced by Mort Shuman, (who along with Doc Pomus had written (among many others) “Teenager In Love” “Hushabye” “Sweets For My Sweet” “This Magic Moment” and “Save The Last Dance For Me” and yes, “Viva Las Vegas”) Roberta had taken on the “social secretary responsibility” for him of making sure that every thing relating to me and music and business, got done on time. Ah…the dear thing had her hands full.

As noted, I had written “Give Love A Chance” on a brown paper bag at Roberta’s pad and now we were about to record it along with “Tutsie” a song that I had written in honor of my good friend back in the Islands. 

I was ultra serioso about the songs and the upcoming recording session (which was being produced at Associated Studios in NYC, by Mort and the great Kookoolis.) 

So, finally we were at the point where the session was scheduled for 7:00 PM the next evening, In order to be rested and well prepared, I insisted on going to bed around 8:00 PM with my noggin and throat all wrapped up like Caruso. I had jars of honey and slices of lemon all over the place, along with pots of steaming hot water, and countless wrapping towels and wash cloths. In addition, I wanted at least an hour and a half in advance of “Taxi time”, to “tune up the pipes” 

When I opened my peepers the clock said 6:30, I looked out the window and saw it was getting dark, I freaked out. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my battle-axe, flew down the stairs and started hailing taxis, with Roberta steps behind. We jumped into the first one to stop and in a panic I asked the driver, “what time is it, what time is it” He looked back over his shoulder and said, “It’s 6:30 in the morning Bub, whadindahell time do you think it is? Ah..the poor girl. Thank you Roberta for your many kindnesses and please forgive me for my own stupidities. I am sorry. 

I had already done two other singles sessions before” Give Love A Chance” (One for Columbia with Wes Farrel producing, and the other for Big Top Records, with Morty producing) and numerous demo sessions, so I was not a complete novice, however this session was especially important to me, in that these were my own tunes, I thought “Give Love A Chance” might make some difference in the world, and I knew very acutely that my Mother and younger brothers were depending on me to rescue them from want. I was determined that one way or the other, I would come through for them…and the world. 

There were a few things that ping ponged my noggin about the recordings. First, the third (and wrap up) verse of “Give Love A Chance” was eleminated before the record was released because the record (at 3:15) was considered too long for radio play, the ideal time for a single was thought to be 2:15, (I was told that the time preference was based on how many commercials you could fit into the hour..pero yo no se) Also,while I was a relatively experienced singer, I was new at recording my own songs. This created an odd tension for me in that the singer wanted to be free to interpret the song, but the writer felt it was paramount to demonstrate the melody exactly and verbatim. 

On “Tutsie” you can hear this conflict very clearly; I just didn’t know what to do about it. The same conflict shows up again here and there on South Atlantic Blues. The solution ultimately, is to do a fairly exact song demo which then allows one the freedom to “sing it like you wanna” there after. 

The recordings got me signed to BANG Records by Bert Berns ((He wrote Twist and Shout, Hang On Sloopy and many others) Bert was a really hot up and coming writer/record company owner music business impressario, I was one of three singer songwriters that he signed to his label at once. The others were Neil Diamond, and Van Morrison. The others had their breakthrough, but during the week leading up to my first release, Bert Berns had a heart attack and died. It was a sad sad day in the music business; Bert was well liked, and highly regarded, people expected great things from him, as did I… 

 The songs went on to be big jukebox hits in the V.I. Here’s “Give Love A Chance” and below it is “Tutsie” as first recorded in the summer of 1966.

Give Love A Chance 

I know just where you’re at and what you’re going through 

I know uncertainty has won the best of you 

I know you’re lost, and all your friends are too 

And when your crying and you don’t know what to do 

You ought to.. 

Give Love a Chance to make you happy 

and it will and it will 

Give love a chance to make you happy 

and it will and it will 

When your tomorrows are the same as yesterday 

And your belief in live has slowly faded way 

When there’s no laughing or..crying anymore 

There’s only sleeping and.. news about the war 

You ought to.. 

Give Love a Chance to make you happy 

and it will and it will 

Give love a chance to make you happy 

and it will and it will 

And if you could things would be so much more than right 

Every cross you’re carrying would vanish overnight 

And the days of laughter and tears would come again 

And to your surprise you’d be a winner in the end… 

You ought to… 

Give Love a Chance to make you happy 

And it will and it will 

Give love a chance to make you happy 

and it will and it will 

Here’s “Tutsie 

And a skinny little fellow looks a little bit like me, 

Lives on an Island in the Caribbean sea 

And he drinks straight cane rum from an old calabash 

And with those Island girls, lord he really is a smash 

And he lives off the tourists with the greatest of ease, 

Why I’ve even seen him selling bags of cool Island breeze 

He lives high on a mountain in an old sugar mill 

He wants to be a Pirate, I know someday he will. 

He spends all his days cooling out in Trader Dan’s, 

There’s no time for working in my friend Tutsie’s plans 

He wears a pretty flower tucked up in an old straw hat 

But if you should try to fight him, he’d show you where it’s at. 

And he lives off the tourists with the greatest of ease, 

Why I’ve even seen him selling bags of cool Island breeze 

He lives high on a mountain in an old sugar mill 

He wants to be a Pirate, I know someday he will. 

I wish I were like Tutsie and could do as I please, 

then I’d be barefoot at the Foxes’ Tamarindo 

And I’d drink straight cane rum from an old calabash 

And with those Island girls, lord, I’d really be a smash 

And I’d live off the tourists with the greatest of ease, 

And have fun selling bags of cool Island breeze 

I’d live high on a mountain in an old sugar mill 

And someday I’d be a Pirate, you know someday I will. 

After realizing what I had done, I wanted to give the song Tutsie another opportunity to be heard, so I stuck it in the middle of La Beiga Carousel. Here’s the most recent recording of the medley as it appears in “The Virgin Islands Songs”. 

La Beiga Carousel (From Scott Fagan’s “The Virgin Islands Songs”)

Man I would walk and drink rum de whole night, 

before me go ride on La Beiga Carousel 

Man I would walk and drink rum de whole night, 

before me go ride on La Beiga Carousel 

Come go home come go home Cecebelle, 

tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel 

Come go home come go home Cecebelle, 

tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel 

And a skinny little fellow looks a little bit like me, 

Lives on an Island in the Caribbean sea 

And he drinks straight cane rum from an old calabash 

And with those Island girls, lord he really is a smash 

And he lives off the tourists with the greatest of ease, 

Why I’ve even seen him selling bags of cool Island breeze 

He lives high on a mountain in an old sugar mill 

He wants to be a Pirate, I know someday he will. 

An’ I’ll walk and drink rum whole night, 

before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel 

Man I’ll walk and drink rum whole night, 

before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel 

And he spends all his days cooling out in Trader Dan’s, 

There’s no time for working in my friend Tutsie’s plans 

He wears a pretty flower tucked up in an old straw hat 

But if you should try to fight him, he’d show you where it’s at. 

And he lives off the tourists with the greatest of ease, 

Why I’ve even seen him selling bags of cool Island breeze 

He lives high on a mountain in an old sugar mill 

He wants to be a Pirate, I know someday he will. 

An’ I’ll walk and drink rum whole night, 

before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel 

Man I’ll walk and drink rum whole night, 

before me go ride on Labeiga Carousel 

And I wish I were like Tutsie and could do as I please, 

then I’d be barefoot at the Foxes’ Tamarindo 

And I’d drink straight cane rum from an old calabash 

And with those Island girls, lord, I’d really be a smash 

And I’d live off the tourists with the greatest of ease, 

And have fun selling bags of cool Island breeze 

I’d live high on a mountain in an old sugar mill 

And someday I’d be a Pirate, you know someday I will. 

Man I would walk and drink rum de whole night, 

before me go ride on La Beiga Carousel 

Man I would walk and drink rum de whole night, 

before me go ride on La Beiga Carousel 

Come go home come go home Cecebelle, 

tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel 

Come go home come go home Cecebelle, 

tonight we’ain gon ride on La Beiga Carousel