Day Comes Apart is a stunning song cycle, consisting 9 songs written by Mikael Karlsson and Rob Stephenson, and performed by the superb Abby Fischer (mezzo soprano) and Yegor Shevtsov (piano) at the Klavierhaus, New York, in May 2012. The video was shot by T. M. Rives and J. P. Bernbach, with audio by Patrick Lo.
Karlsson and Stephenson previously worked together on the wonderful diverse experimental album Dog, and Karlsson is currently on an opera and an orchestral score for the Norwegian National Ballet with Alexander Ekman.
“If the Ghetto Brothers’ dream comes true, the world will learn that the ‘little people’ wish to be acknowledged, wish to be properly educated in order for them to pass on their knowledge to their children, and proudly inform them about their heritage and culture, and be a functioning part of the dream of America. If the Ghetto Brothers’ dream comes true, the ‘little people’ will be ‘little people’ no more, and make their own mark in this world. Listen to the Ghetto Brothers… and take heed.”—from the back cover of the original 1972 release of Power-Fuerza
I’m not one to go in much for year end lists (I like reading other people’s, but not compiling my own, besides it’s the new year already, isn’t it?) but if I was, then the Ghetto Brothers jaw-droppingly amazing Power-Fuerza deluxe re-release from Truth & Soul would have been hovering very near the top of mine. You know how every once in a while something or someone long-forgotten (or that never was) gets rediscovered and it’s just so fucking good that music fans take it to their bosoms and become all-out evangelists for said album or performer? (Death, The Langley Schools Music Project, Zambian psychrockers WITCH, Jobriath, Father’s Children and Shuggie Otis come immediately to mind.) Well, this is one of those albums, and one of those bands and the back-story of brothers Benjy, Robert and Victor Melendez, doesn’t disappoint either.
Power-Fuerza was recorded on a single sunny day in New York City in 1972 by a Beatles-influenced garage rock group comprised of a bunch of well-intended, socially conscious teenage Nuyorican gang members led by three brothers who wanted to broker peace between South Bronx street gangs and have a good time.
Do I have your attention? This isn’t just a truly great “lost” record, it’s uncovering an entirely hidden history—and a very important history at that—of New York City in the early 1970s.
The music on Power-Fuerza reminds me of a lot of things, including, but not limited to, a less-technically proficient early Santana (I mean that in a good way), doo-wop, Motown and even the first Strokes album for its confident, youthful, boyish bravado. I can’t really say that it doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve ever heard before, because it definitely sounds like a whole bunch of stuff I’ve heard before put into a blender, but don’t get me wrong, the exuberantly sweet-sounding inner city blues of the Ghetto Brothers is still unique as fuck when judged on its own merits.
There is an emotional purity to this album that cannot be described in words. It is unabashedly joyous and stunningly beautiful. Its low-fi imperfections are what make it so perfectly perfect. Power-Fuerza hit my pleasure centers damned good and hard on the first spin. I came close to crying tears of joy, it’s that good. The second and third times I played it, I loved it even more. And then I played it again, and again, and again (it’s a super short album and that’s the only downside of Power Fuerza, you’ll be left wanting to hear more and there is no more).
Hip-hop historian Jeff Mao writes in the CD’s extensive liner notes:
“By mid-1971, Benjy’s social conscience and interest in Puerto Rican nationalism dovetailed with the rise of young urban activist groups like the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Catching the revolutionary spirit in the air, the Ghetto Brothers eradicated junkies and pushers from their neighborhood, cleaned parks and garbage-strewn empty lots, and participated in clothing drives and breakfast programs.”
As the Ghetto Brothers gathered daily in their clubhouse on East 162nd Street in the early ‘70s, they brought another aspect to their legacy: musicianship. Influenced as much by the Beatles – Benjy, Robert and Victor were in a neighborhood tribute group in the mid-‘60s called Los Junior Beatles – and doo-wop harmonies as by Santana and Tito Puente, they quickly cooked up a potent, NYC-flavored musical stew. It was a melting pot of styles gobbled up by a growing fanbase, who heard them on the street or, on occasion, traveled across gang lines to check the scene.
After jamming and building up enough tunes, the GBs garnered the attention of local record store and record label owner Ismael Maisonave (Mary Lou Records / Salsa Records). After agreeing to his invitation to put their music on tape, the group rehearsed furiously and gathered material. In the summer of 1972, they were ready.
The album’s eight tracks were recorded in one day at Manhattan’s Fine Tone Studios on 42nd Street, produced and engineered by Latin studio maven Bobby Marin. Seven of the eight are originals written by Benjy and/or Victor Melendez. Arrangements were written on the spot. The result: a beautiful, absolutely innocent audio snapshot by three brothers, their friends and a powerful gang of musical energy.
Power-Fuerza was a minor hit around New York, but that was about it. Until this new reissue from Truth & Soul (cased like a hardback book with 80 pages of fascinating liner notes and photographs), the 1972 LP was changing hands in collector’s circles for a thousand bucks. Not even all of the band members owned a copy. Forty years after its initial release, people (like me) are just going nuts for this album. It must be incredibly gratifying for everyone involved in creating and then bringing this hidden gem to the public some forty years after the fact and seeing it embraced the way it has been. Seriously, kudos to Truth & Soul for putting together a fantastic product that, frankly, is practically piracy proof. People are gonna want to buy it because the liner notes are SO ESSENTIAL. When you hear the music, you will want to know the story behind it.
The original group split up, but the Ghetto Brothers are still very much together as a musical family affair: Benjy and Robert Melendez and their sons Joshua and Hiram, playing bass and drums respectively, meet at their studio every Friday to play music (Their brother Victor Melendez died in 1995).
“There’s Something in My Heart”
“Got This Happy Feeling”
WNYC’s Soundcheck awesome show on the Ghetto Brothers with Benjy Melendez and author Jeff “Chairman” Mao:
“8 Million Stories: Yellow Benjy” by Andreas Vingaard
I spent a fair amount of the holidays rediscovering the timeless genius of Wire’s late 70’s punk/post punk/art rock triptych of Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 and I’d have to say, those three albums will never get old for me.
This 1979 set for the German TV series RockPalast, taped between Chairs Missing and 154, is the only professionally shot record of Wire during their (first) glory days and it kicks ass so hard. If you’re a fan of the band and you’ve never seen this before, prepare to be blown the fuck away.
1 Intro + Another The letter
2 The 15th
3 Practice Makes Perfect
4 Two People In A Room
5 I Feel Mysterious Today
6 Being Sucked In Again
7 Once Is Enough
8 Blessed State
9 A Question of Degree
10 Single KO
12 Forty Versions
13 Former Airline
14 French Film Blurred
15 Men 2nd
16 Map Ref. 41°N 93°W
18 Pink Flag (encore)
From the looks of things, the audience of long-haired German stoners had no idea what had just hit them!
Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers while in prison in 1942. It was published anonymously the following year, and sold around 30 copies. It wasn’t until after the Allied Forces liberated France in 1944 that the bulk of the copies were bound and sold.
Due to its sexual content Our Lady of the Flowers was sold as high class erotica, but Genet never intended it as such. It would take until the book had been revised and reprinted by Gallimard in 1951 that Our Lady of the Flowers received the critical accolades it richly deserved - even if Jean-Paul Sartre described it as “the epic of masturbation.”
‘I’d just rented a little cottage, a country retreat, in Hungerford in Berkshire, and my next door neighbor - it was one Sunday morning and we were listening to Round the Horne, we all did on those Sunday mornings - and my neighbor across the fence leaned over and said.
“Oh hi, I think this book might interest you.”
And it was Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers. And I began to read it, and as soon as I began to read it I could already see it on the stage, and I could see myself as Divine, the central character. And two weeks later, we opened it.
Only someone of Kemp’s incredible talents and vision could have produced Flowers, and the production put Kemp and his dance company literally “on the map.” Since then, Kemp and Co. have performed Flowers all across the world to incredible acclaim.
In 1982, a video was made of the Lindsay Kemp Dance Company performing Flowers at the Teatro Parioli, Roma. It is rarely been seen since, and the video is a incredible treat for anyone interested in dance, performance and theater.
Chuck Berry interviewed by punk zine Jet Lag in 1980. Berry shares his thoughts about “what the kids are listening to these days.”
The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”:
What’s this guy so angry about anyway? Guitar work and progression is like mine. Good backbeat. Can’t understand most of the vocals. If you’re going to be mad at least let the people know what you’re mad about.
The Clash’s “Complete Control”:
Sounds like the first one. The rhythm and chording work well together. Did this guy have a sore throat when he sang the vocals?
The Ramones’ “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”:
A good little jump number. These guys remind me of myself when I first started, I only knew three chords too.
The Romantics’ “What I Like About You”:
Finally something you can dance to. Sounds a lot like the sixties with some of my riffs thrown in for good measure. You say this is new? I’ve heard this stuff plenty of times. I can’t understand the big fuss.
Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”:
A funky little number, that’s for sure. I like the bass a lot. Good mixture and a real good flow. The singer sounds like he has a bad case of stage fright.
Wire’s “I Am the Fly” and Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures:
So this is the so-called new stuff. It’s nothing I ain’t heard before. It sounds like an old blues jam that BB and Muddy would carry on backstage at the old amphitheatre in Chicago. The instruments may be different but the experiment’s the same.
Freddie Mercury is of course best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band “Queen” , and one of the most flamboyant performers in rock history. As a performer, he was legendary for his flamboyant stage persona and powerful vocals over a four-octave range. As a songwriter, Mercury composed many hits for Queen, including the legendary “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Killer Queen”, “Somebody to Love”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Are the Champions”.
In addition to his work with Queen, he had a massively successful solo career, and also occasionally served as a producer and guest musician (piano or vocals) for other artists.
Mercury was noted for his live performances, which were often delivered to stadium audiences around the world. He displayed a highly theatrical style that often evoked a great deal of participation from the crowd. A writer for The Spectator described him as “a performer out to tease, shock and ultimately charm his audience with various extravagant versions of himself”.....
Everyone who has been to more than, say, two, major sporting events, has, of course, heard “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” the ultra catchy 1969-70 smash hit from Steam. But have you ever seen the group who sang it?
Steam were a band formed after the fact to front a throwaway b-side written and recorded by Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer. Gary DeCarlo described “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” as “an embarrassing record.” When Mercury Records decided to release the number as a single, the songwriter/performers did not wish for their reputations to be sullied by this “insult” as DeCarlo put it, so they made up a fictitious band.
They called this group of Ron Swanson lookalikes, “Steam” and sent them out on the road to promote the record, which hit #1 in the US in December of 1969 for two weeks and went on to sell 6.5 million records.
Click here for the far cuter Bananarama cover version of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” from 1983.