Monday, March 26, 2007
...take a listen to Daniel Tashian's beautiful solo ukelele version of "Morning Girl" from last Saturday's Tupper Saussy tribute at Grimey's Basement in Nashville.
[Apologies--especially to Daniel, whose performance was exquisite--for the less-than-perfect audio quality. (I learned an important lesson about the unsuitability of the Griffin iTalk as a tool for capturing live music.)]
Archives of Oblivion returns next week (April 3).
photo: Lisa Jane Persky
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
A celebration of Tupper Saussy's music, from his first recordings--the privately-pressed "Jazz At Sewanee," recorded in the mid-1950's while he was still an undergraduate--to his most recent--the just-released album "The Chocolate Orchid Piano Bar."
Here's the entire show in mp3 form:
[please download the files before listening]
Here's the playlist:
The Neon Philharmonic, radio spot for The Moth Confesses
Tupper Saussy Quartet with Charlie McCoy, A Spoonful Of Sugar
Tupper Saussy, Said I To Shostakovitch
Tupper Saussy Quartet, Unbound
Tupper Saussy, Idol Of His Age
The Neon Philharmonic, Brilliant Colors
The Neon Philharmonic, Cowboy
The Neon Philharmonic, The New Life Out There
The Neon Philharmonic, Morning Girl
The Neon Philharmonic, Got A Feelin' In My Bones
Tupper Saussy, Melissa
Al Hirt, Melissa [w.: Tupper Saussy]
Chet Atkins, Melissa [w.: Tupper Saussy]
Tupper Saussy, I Think I See
Mickey Newbury, Weeping Annaleah [arr. Tupper Saussy]
Pat Boone, Good Morning Dear [w: Mickey Newbury;
arr.: Tupper Saussy]
Mickey Newbury, Sweet Memories [arr.: Tupper Saussy]
Tupper Saussy, Always Be In Love
The Neon Philharmonic, Annie Poor
Roy Orbison, Southbound Jericho Parkway [arr.: Tupper Saussy]
Bobby Bond, One More Mile, One More Town (One More Time)
[prod.:Gant & Saussy; arr.: Tupper Saussy]
Ray Stevens, The Earl Of Stilton Square [w. & arr.: Tupper Saussy]
Tupper Saussy, The Centaur
Tupper Saussy, Toy For R. Stevie
The Neon Philharmonic, Midsummer Night
The Neon Philharmonic, Little Sparrow
The Neon Philharmonic, The Last Time I Saw Jacqueline
The Neon Philharmonic, Morning Girl, Later
Ronnie Von, Onde Foi (Morning Girl)
Rick Ely, Morning Girl
The Lettermen, Morning Girl
Shaun Cassidy, Morning Girl
Al Hirt, The Contrary Waltz [w.: Tupper Saussy]
Tupper Saussy, The Contrary Waltz
Perry Como, Love Don't Care (Where it Grows) [w.: Tupper Saussy]
Tupper Saussy, Fill My Dark
Tupper Saussy Quartet with Charlie McCoy,
Tupper Saussy & The Wayward Bus, The Prophet
Tupper Saussy & The Wayward Bus, Love Hum
Tupper Saussy & The Wayward Bus, Edgar Whitsuntide
Tupper Saussy & The Wayward Bus, The Prophet (Instrumental)
Mama Cass Elliot, Hardee's jingles [w. & arr.: Tupper Saussy]
The Neon Philharmonic, Are You Old Enough To Remember Dresden?
The Neon Philharmonic, No One Is Going To Hurt You
The Neon Philharmonic, Long John The Pirate
The Neon Philharmonic, F. Scott Fitzgerald And William Shakespeare
The Neon Philharmonic, The Mordor National Anthem
Tupper Saussy, Serenade To The Underdog
Tupper Saussy, Things Work Out
Tupper Saussy Quartet with Charlie McCoy, Let's Go Fly A Kite
Tupper 'n' me, looking semi-serious, Santa Monica, 2003
(photo: Lisa Jane Persky)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
I've just received the terrible news that Tupper Saussy, one of the only people I've ever known who truly deserved the description "larger than life," died unexpectedly at his home in Nashville earlier this weekend. Tupper wore a lot of different hats, and I'll leave the epic story of his life and times to the obit writers and biographers, but I came to know him through the music he made in the late 60's and early 70's under the guise of the Neon Philharmonic.
When I first became aware of his records, they had more or less been completely forgotten (even his best-known song "Morning Girl," which had been a hit single, had vanished). I couldn't understand why; I thought they contained some of the most iconoclastic and literate songs ever written, and I made it my mission to tell people about them. Eventually, years of pestering various people in the music business paid off, and Rhino allowed me to assemble a definitive Neon Philharmonic anthology, which was released in 2003.
The process of putting that package together had two very wonderful consequences. First, it enabled me to meet and become friends with Tupper, who was as extraordinary and delightful in person as his music had always suggested he would be. Second, having someone around (i.e. me) to tell him that his work had great value inspired Tupper to return to music with a vengeance. He wrote a heap of new songs, dusted off old ones, and with the help of producer Warren Pash (who'd been clobbered by Tupper's music in much the same way I had been some years earlier) he made his first album in 36 years, "The Chocolate Orchid Piano Bar." He played a triumphant comeback gig at Grimey's Basement in Nashville last April to a packed crowd of listeners who couldn't quite believe their good fortune (the photo above by Lisa Jane Persky shows him in action that night). The official release party for the new CD was supposed to be this Saturday...
I loved his music and I loved the man and I will miss him ferociously.
This week's Archives of Oblivion show will be a tribute to him.
The following is the introduction I wrote four years ago for the Neon Philharmonic anthology:
The New Life In Here
Bringing the anthology you're holding in your hands into the world is one of the only things I've ever really wanted to do in the music business, which is kind of terrifying, considering that I've been here for the last decade. I was still a toddler when the Neon Philharmonic had its brief moment in the AM radio sunlight, but I've been mildly (okay, more than mildly) obsessed with this music ever since the moment 15 years ago when a friend pulled a battered 45 out of a pile of old singles in a used record store and handed it to me, saying "this looks like something you'd want."
I spent a big chunk of the 1990's doing work for Warner Bros. Records. At the time, there were still quite a few people at the label who'd been there for 20 or 30 years, and, as I got to know them, I’d eventually wind up sliding our conversations toward the topic of Those Fabulous 60's. A lot of these people were pretty good tale-spinners--I was hardly the only younger person hanging around the building who was hungry to know what it was like back in the good old days--and they were only too happy to tell me about Jimi and Joni and Van and Van Dyke and Neil and Randy and--
"What about the Neon Philharmonic?" I'd ask.
The response was always the same: A blank stare. A look of mild confusion. A long pause. "Uh...I remember the name. They had a hit or something, right? Anyway, lemme tell you about the time I had to take Tiny Tim to a radio station..."
Everyone I talked to had the same fuzzy, borderline-amnesiac response. None of them could figure out why I was so interested in a group they could barely even recall.
I believed then (and now) that the output of the Neon Philharmonic has a genuine and enduring value that has steadily become more obvious in the years since it was recorded. Here's why: the music contained on these two CD's was created in a unique historical moment--the late 60's and early 70's--when the lines that had long divided "serious" from "popular" music had begun to dissolve. In its ambition and eclecticism, the Neon Philharmonic's work compares favorably to that of such contemporaries as Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb and the Beatles--all of whom viewed pop songforms as vehicles for more than just two-and-a-half minutes of verse/chorus/verse. The cultural mainstream of 1969 even proved sufficiently porous to admit the Neon Philharmonic into the Billboard charts not once but twice ("Morning Girl" soared to a glorious No. 17; "Heighdy-Ho Princess" reached a somewhat-less-glorious No. 94).
But...while this may have been music of its era, it wasn't really music for its era. I'm not talking about the fact that, "Morning Girl" aside, the Neon Philharmonic didn't sell in large quantities; the music business is littered with those kind of could'ves and should'ves and if-onlys. Rather, I think this music failed to find its audience three decades ago largely because an audience that could really hear it didn’t exist yet. The sound of these records must have seemed more than a bit confusing, even in those anything-goes times: Classical musicians duking it out with Nashville cats and Tijuana brass with a harpsichord-wielding composer serving as ringmaster and referee? What on earth were they thinking? Turn-of-the-millennium audiences take these sort of jump-cut genre-shifts in stride; listeners in the more linear climate of the 1960's must have found themselves hopelessly lost.
In an era in which most of the finest popular music evoked the sensibilities and worldview of youth, the Neon Philharmonic's work was decidedly adult. There's not a lot of flower-power euphoria in this music, despite its brilliant colors; instead, there's a palpable sense of loss, of time running out, of possibilities diminishing. The 60's were defined in large measure by songs of innocence, but Neon Philharmonic songs are all about experience. The group's first album is a self-styled "phonograph opera" whose songs express varying degrees of dislocation, guilt, unrequited yearning and regret. That's not even including "Morning Girl" and its sequel ("Morning Girl, Later"), in which the narrator coolly advises the object of his dwindling affections to grow up and then get lost. The second album tackles the horrors of history and the perils of nostalgia, while serving up a high-seas fairytale in which no one lives happily ever after and an obsessive love song creepily entitled "No One Is Going To Hurt You."
It was the late Don Gant who sang the Neon Philharmonic's songs so beautifully (his storied career as a producer and music publishing executive deserves a far more comprehensive accounting than I can give it here), but the auteur of this music was a restless polymath named Tupper Saussy. At the time he wrote these songs, Saussy was an aesthete in his early 30's whose resume included stints as a jazz prodigy, an advertising man, an actor, a playwright, a session musician, a classical composer and a staff songwriter at the venerable Nashville firm of Acuff-Rose. As I write these words nearly 35 years later, Saussy remains as active and hard to categorize as ever. He's a painter and photographer of some renown. He's working on plays and movie scripts and videos and documentaries. He's written several books that have established him as a maverick political figure of no small controversy. And he's still writing and playing music. His new songs are phenomenal; maybe the world will get to hear them one of these days.
In the meantime, there's the present anthology, which contains everything the Neon Philharmonic recorded for Warner Bros. between 1968 and 1971. Included are both of the group's albums and the long sequence of non-LP singles which followed, as well as three songs committed to tape in late 1970 and left unreleased until now. It's been an honor and a privilege to help this music find a new(er) life out there. Now read your box of Cheerios and listen...
photos of Tupper Saussy by Lisa Jane Persky
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
High Treason, Subterranean Homesick Blues
Johnny Prophet, Lay Lady Lay
Fina Gasoline ad - "Demon of The Highways"
Lollipop Train - Wowie Zowie
Ivor Cutler, Pickle Your Knees
The Glitterhouse, Princess of The Gingerbread
Fina Gasoline ad - "The Pflash Blues"
Van Der Graaf Generator, Aquarian
The Mills Brothers, The Flower Road
The Unspoken Word, Anniversary Of My Mind
Charles Fox Orchestra, San Francisco, San Francisco
The Goons, Eeh! Ah! Oh! Ooh!
Summerhill, Soft Voice
Paul Anka, McDonald's "Nobody Can Do It" spot
Deaf School, Second Honeymoon
The United States of America, Garden Of Earthly Delights
Jennifer Warnes, Needle And Thread
Eddie Lawrence, The Old Philospher Fights Back
Bobby Goldsboro, A Butterfly For Bucky
The Free Design, Bubbles
The Inner Dialogue, Where It's At
The Osmonds, Hey, Mr. Taxi!
Ivor Cutler, Gruts
The Hullabaloo Singers, I Can't Help Myself
Michael Kasberg, Where To Begin
Michael Kasberg, The Way To Whip Inflation
Michael Kasberg, Life Is Full Of Bubbles
Michael Kasberg, Quality Implanted
Michael Kasberg, God Is Macrocosmic
Michael Kasberg, The Void Of The Unemployed
Michael Kasberg, Nightly Writing
Tom Scott, The Honeysuckle Breeze
Fina Gasoline ad - "Do You Think She's…Interesting?"
The Moffs, Look To Find
Hoyt Axton, Ten Thousand Sunsets
Sounds Of The 70's Orchestra, Hourglass
Live sound collage, including:
Takehisa Kosugi, Catch Wave
Steve Reich, Piano Phase (played backwards)
Marvin Miller et al, "Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book"
"Stop Smoking - Hypnosis"
Lawrence Schiller et al, "LSD"
Timothy Leary, excerpts from "Turn On Tune In Drop Out"
T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"
Topmost, The End
Eddie Lawrence, People To Stay Away From
The Pretty Things, Mr. Evasion
Penny Nichols, Moon Song
The Pink Floyd, Candy & A Currant Bun
Rod McKuen, Come, Jef
Fina Gasoline ad - "The Fina Beatles"
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Here's the show:
[please download the files before listening]
Ivor Cutler, Mud
The Joint Venture, Sweet Smoke
Os Mutantes, Bat Macumba
Nipsey Russell, Safe Boating PSA
John Davidson, Safe Boating PSA (Fires & Explosions)
"Grass - A Rock Musical", Make It Illegal
The Polyunsaturates, Everybody Likes It
Traffic, Hole In My Shoe
Brute Force, Nobody Knows What's Going On In My Mind But Me
Liberace, The Impossible Dream
The Savage Rose, Long Before I Was Born/I'm Walking Through The Door
Bubble Up jingle, "Bubble Up Cha-Cha-Cha"
Gong, Prostitute Poem
Harvey Matusow's Jews Harp Band, Afghan Red
Ken Nordine, Magenta
The Idle Race, Girl At The Window
Bubble Up jingle, "Bub-Bub-Bubble Up Bounce"
Twice As Much, True Story
The Love Generation, Consciousness Expansion
Game Theory, Like A Girl Jesus
Joe Brooks, Pretty Much Up To Date (suite)
Eddie Albert, On Being Average
Excerpts from 1976 Exxon Musical - "The Spirit Of Achievement"
The Downtown Collection, Washington Square
The Definitive Rock Chorale, The Five-Seventeen
Bubble Up jingle, "Bubble-Up Smooch"
The Pink Floyd, Cymbaline
Bubble Up jingle, "Lemon-Lime Merengue"
The Besnard Lakes, For Agent 13
Dr. Ken Baysey And The Hypo-Dermics, Operation Twisted
Live Sound Collage, including:
David McCallum, radio ID
Motorola Stereophonic High Fidelity: Progress In Sound
Bert Tenzer, Can We Escape The Screen Of Blackness?
Pharoah Sanders, Black Unity
Grace Slick, counting song from "Sesame Street"
Spiritualized, Effervescent/Feel So Sad (Glides And Chimes)
Holiday Inn Central Reservations System 1971 Operator's Training Guide
Wooden Shjips, Shrinking Moon For You
J.B. Elliott, A Message To RCA Victor Dealers
Earl Nightingale, What You Should Know About Whole House Air Conditioning
Dr. Herbert G. True ("America's 'Mr. Creativity'"), The Magic In Man
Aram Saroyan, "crickets"
Sounds Galactic, Round Trip Mars
Caravan, If I Could Do it All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You
Big Star, Kanga Roo
Bubble Up jingle, "Kisses In A Bottle"
Scott Walker, The War Is Over (Epilogue)
Glen Campbell, It's Over
Ivor Cutler, Good Morning! How Are You? Shut Up!