Monday, 28 November 2011

Tudor Lodge: 'a most desirable property'

Tudor Lodge were one of many hardworking folk bands whose name would have been well-known to gig-goers (and readers of Melody Maker's 'Folk Forum') in the early 70s. Here's a management ad from 1970:


On July 25th 1970  Melody Maker ran this rare feature about the trio:


Their sole album didn't appear for another full year. Here's its amazing fold-out sleeve:


The LP has become one of several expensive Vertigo obscurities that divide people. Some consider it a folk classic, while others find it insipid. Contemporary reviewers had the same problem. 'In order to strengthen the impact of their music, a surplus of orchestration has been added,' griped Melody Maker on August 21st 1971. 'More often than not this is superfluous. There is a lack of aggression and variation of mood within the basic framework of the music. If more of the album had relied on the guts of rock accompaniment, then it would have been improved.' Disc & Music Echo were somewhat keener on September 4th, writing that 'Tudor Lodge have put up a good show for their first album, and come over as completely unpretentious. The trio have had a lot of experience in folk clubs, and it's paid off for them... The entire album is well thought-out and presented.' Sounds, however, was less convinced. 'I'm afraid the recording just doesn't do justice to this fine trio,' it carped on October 23rd. 'The arrangements are exteremly pretty, but whilst I'm in favour of some albums being deliberately cooked slightly under, producer Terry Brown seems to have gone too far, and in doing so has detracted from the impact of the Tudors.'

The upshot was that barely anyone bought it, causing a perfect copy to sell on eBay in October 2010 for over £2000.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Great lost pop papers #3: Phonograph Record Magazine

Mention the late Marty Cerf to any well-known US musician or rock journalist active in the early 1970s, and the chances are that their face will light up. But outside those rarefied circles, barely anyone has heard of him. It's a shame, as he was clearly a most immaculately hip individual, as well as a true lover of pop and galvaniser of talent. He edited the mysterious music paper World Countdown in the late 60s, collaborated with Kim Fowley on material for the Seeds, Hunger and others, launched the ace Phonograph Record Magazine in 1970, and - as 'Director Of Creative Services' at UA in the early 70s - championed much interesting music, as well as revolutionising the way that labels interacted with colleges, breaking massive hits such as Don McLean's American Pie, pioneering the art of reissuing back catalogue and amassing a record collection that was the envy of the entire industry. Not bad for a guy still in his early 20s. 

From what I can tell, Marty Cerf was born in 1949. He grew up in suburban Canoga Park, California, and was clearly a record nut from an early age, with a particular love of 45s. As a teen he worked in the local music store, Pal Records, and before long had begun working for the enigmatic Royal's World Countdown. A free-form collage of psychedelic art, music reviews, record company press releases and reprinted articles from other sources, Countdown ran from August 1966 to July 1969. Anne Moore, who also worked on it, knew Marty well. "He was an amazing workaholic," she remembers. "He was  interested in all of it, from the writing to the layout and final printing. He would even play delivery man at times, going down to the printers and picking up big stacks of copies to deliver around town - to the writers, shops, radio stations and clubs. I remember it was a long, hot drive out to Tujunga to pick up the papers with Marty!" Countdown didn't pay its contributors, but it gave them something better - access to launch parties and gigs galore, allowing them to make important contacts. By the spring of 1969 Marty had become 'General Manager', but when its founder Charles Royal got God and disappeared to Tahiti, the magazine folded.

Marty Cerf, April 1969
I don't know precisely what Marty did in the next 12 months, though he spent some of his time working with Kim Fowley. A couple of tracks on Fowley's April 1969 Outrageous LP are credited to the pair (Bubble Gum and Animal Man), as are The Seeds' Wild Blood / Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind 45 (GNP 422) and the title track to Warren Zevon's rare May 1970 debut LP Wanted Dead Or Alive. In addition, he is credited as 'music co-ordinator' on Elfstone's obscure, Fowley-produced LA Teardrops / Beat The Clock 45 (World Pacific 77912), and for 'mastering' on the A-side of Hunger's awesome Colors / Mind Machine 45 (Public! 1001). Music-making wasn't Marty's ambition, though, and - having evidently learnt much from his experiences with Countdown - in September 1970 he launched his very own newspaper, to which he gave the comically literal title of Phonograph Record Magazine. Rather than attempting a Rolling Stone-type amalgam of music, politics, film and more, it limited itself to music, covering acts both hip and unhip with considerable love, depth and care. Ken Barnes, who has gone on to become one of America's best and best-known rock critics, got to know Marty shortly afterwards, and had soon become what he calls PRM's 'typesetter, reviews editor and hanger-on'. "Marty was around 5' 10" in height, skinny, always bubbling over with more ideas than he could spit out (he tended to spit a bit when excited, which was most of the time)," he remembers. "I've always been grateful to Marty, who was pretty much running the entire PRM show at that time, for getting me started." And there were many more like him. "I owe a lot to him," says Lenny Kaye, "since he was the one who assigned me the Legendary Masters Eddie Cochran liner notes, one of my most important early pieces of writing." Another was Greg Shaw, who was soon helping to put together PRM. "Marty and I had an immediate bond because we were both 45s fanatics (as was Greg)," continues Ken, "and I was an obvious admirer of his collection, which was filed by label and took up most of the wall space in his office. Filing by label is a fairly impractical method if you want to find a particular record fast, but Marty could do it because he had a 'phonographic' memory of label numbers." 

Here are the first three issues of PRM:




Its publishing schedule was somewhat erratic, however; there seem to have been no issues for November 1970 or January 1971, but  two more appeared in February and March 1971:



There seem to have been no issues for April or May, but this came in June:



There was no July issue either, but Marty was certainly busy at the time, as he'd been appointed 'Director Of Creative Services' at United Artists. This was a nebulous role that involved publicising records, but separately from the label's official promo department. He was swift to capitalise on the emerging progressive rock radio stations, and worked hard to develop contacts with college reps around the country. He was also able to champion the power pop records he personally loved ('I'm in an interesting position, a lucky one for which I'm grateful', he wrote in his 45rpm column in the January 1973 issue. 'If I come across a great single or group, I get to call it to the attention of this here record company called United Artists, who presumably will check it out.') Ken Barnes again: "Marty was responsible for launching UA's Legendary Masters reissue series, which was the first large-scale program to treat rock reissues with the same scholarship and care lavished upon jazz and classical reissues. He could be considered the one figure who inspired the many boxed sets and rock reissues that have flourished since." A famed workaholic, he also continued to work on PRM, and scored the coup of persuading UA to fund it in exchange for plenteous advertising space. It remained independent, however, and never read like a propaganda rag for the label. Greg Shaw was appointed Marty's assistant at UA, and the two of them - together with Ken Barnes and one or two others - put together as many issues of PRM as time and funding permitted. 

Here are the next four covers:





Back at UA, Marty appointed Ric Fazekas to help him with college promotion. Ric remembers him fondly. "He was a true workaholic, he loved his work and he loved music. His office was absolutely amazing, just wall-to-wall 45s. Brian Wilson used to come over to listen to them with him, maybe during one of Marty's sleep-deprived speed trips. He was very animated and absolutely loved talking to rock critics. He was like the President of the Critics' Union!" Clearly Marty was keen to harmonise his work at UA with PRM. Back to Ken Barnes: "Marty was a visionary, not only with the Legendary Masters concept, but with PRM's unique distribution systems - first, being sponsored by a record label without serving as a tame house organ, then by working out deals with FM rock stations all over the country to cover distribution costs to local record stores in exchange for putting their call letters on the cover and sometimes allowing them a page or two of their own."

Billboard, 1st January 1972

As of 1972, PRM was flourishing, though there seem to have been gaps for February and June:











Alongside PRM, in mid-1972 Marty started putting out a mimeographed college newsletter courtesy of UA, entitled Dog Grease (its title being a convoluted pun concerning the Flamin' Groovies):

Billboard, 27th January 1973
Here are 1973's PRM covers; January seems to have been the same as December 1972, with the date changed, and there was no issue in August. As of June it shortened its name to plain Phonograph Record, and in November it moved to a larger format.










As 1974 came around, however, things began to change. A new cost-cutting regime at UA was intent on reining in budgets wherever possible, and Marty decided it was time to move on. He took PRM with him, and relaunched it as an independent, but it was a struggle to keep it going. "Creativity and financial discipline are not always paired in people," Ken suggests, "and Marty was pretty disorganized when it came to money. PRM always seemed to be teetering on the brink of insolvency." Greg Shaw took over as editor (with Marty remaining its publisher), but his energies were soon being expended on his own magazine, Who Put The Bomp. PRM continued to appear until the combined issue for May / June 1978, after which it fizzled out. In April 1979 Marty became General Manager of Riva Records and its associated management wing, Gaff Management. Their major artists were Rod Stewart and John Cougar Mellencamp, but Marty departed after only six months. Thereafter his career becomes something of a mystery. "Sadly, a lot of Marty's identity was wrapped up in the mag, and he never managed to segue into anything else of substance," Ken concludes.

Though Marty had an English live-in girlfriend in the early 70s, by general consensus he was gay (if deeply closeted). Suzy Shaw heard from him not long before his death, sometime in the 1990s. "He called out of the blue," she recalls. "I hadn't been able to reach him for ages. I was so happy to hear from him, but he was absolutely deranged, babbling the usual stuff that crazy people babble about - the CIA, the police, the Pope, things like that. I didn't get a word in edgewise. He hung up and vanished again, and I heard later that he died of AIDS. He may have had dementia related to the disease. Heartbreaking. He had been a brilliant man and a good friend."

Though he seems to have achieved all that he had to achieve by his mid-20s, Marty Cerf left a considerable legacy in the form of Phonograph Record Magazine. Copies are rare, but anyone who knows it respects it for its enthusiasm, thoroughness and wit. As Ken summarises: "Marty wasn't the most polished writer or the most grammatically sound editor, but his love of pop music always came across in the many stories and reviews he did for PRM. As an editor, his greatest gift was to let his writers experiment. Just about every music writer of prominence in the 70s appeared in PRM's pages, and the freedom afforded them was a big reason why. (It certainly wasn't the money.) He was an amazing and likably eccentric character in his prime."

Monday, 14 November 2011

The late Michael Garrick

I was sorry to hear that Michael Garrick died on Friday, not least because I kept meaning to go and hear him play at the Bull's Head in Barnes (frustratingly close to my house), and never did. He was one of the most inventive jazz pianists / composers Britain has ever produced, and released a string of fine albums under his own name as well as being a key member of the Rendell-Carr Quintet, pioneering the fusion of choral music and jazz, and being a tireless jazz educator. As he said in 2009: "The reality of it is that most musicians teach because they can't earn enough money otherwise. They also do it for another reason - a psychological reason. You love the music, and therefore any activity in which you can indulge that love is very welcome. And that's the real reason people teach jazz. Because they love it, and it's a way of living with what you love."

The piece below appeared in Melody Maker on November 9th 1968, and gives a good overview of his attitude towards keyboards:


This piece comes from Melody Maker of June 6th 1970, and concerns his collaboration with the poet John Smith on Mr. Smith's Apocalypse:

Melody Maker, June 6th 1970
And here are a few ads:




Jazz Journal, December 1970
According to Garrick, incidentally, The Heart Is A Lotus was his best-selling record - the grand total shifted was 1200 copies.


Finally, here's a lovely tribute by Jonny Trunk, containing a link to Garrick's winsome Sketches Of Israel (from October Woman) to listen to as you read: http://thewire.co.uk/index.php?page=articles&article=7982.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Julian's Treatment: 'a mental stimulative'

Here's the only article I recall having seen about this obscure London-based band, whose sole (double) album, A Time Before This, appeared on the Youngblood label in June 1970. It's a pretty good (if repetitive) set of doomy, Hammond-heavy jams that the sleeve describes as 'a fantasy story set in part of our galaxy'. The quintet's Dominican-born leader, Julian Jay Savarin, was also a science fiction novelist, while Australian vocalist Cathy Pruden had one of the most powerful voices of the era. Beware the US issue, incidentally - it has a better cover design, but truncates the songs to squeeze them onto a single disc. In March 1973 Savarin put out a second album, Waiters On The Dance, under his own name on the Birth label.

Melody Maker, April 17th 1970
For good measure, here's an ad touting their services, from much the same time: