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For an unbelievable trove of indie/punk bootlegs from the 1980s, the McKenzie Tapes has you covered
06.19.2018
08:55 am
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Any music fan from the New York City area knows what an important part of the city’s music scene Maxwell’s was, until recently located in Hoboken, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from the West Village. Yo La Tengo, the Feelies, and Sonic Youth are three frequently cited bands in connection with Maxwell’s but it was so much more than a regular venue for great local bands. I became familiar with the venue well after its true heyday of the 1980s but I still saw a ton of incredible bands there—the Wrens, Archers of Loaf, the Frames, Bobby Conn, Future of the Left, Os Mutantes, the Unicorns, etc. etc. For decades now, Hoboken has been on an implacable course of gentrification, of course, to the point that scruffy and legendary music venues can’t hack it there anymore. Sadly, Maxwell’s closed its doors for good in 2013.

One of the Maxwell’s employees back in the day was a fellow named David McKenzie, who cleverly recorded a huge number of gigs at the venue (and elsewhere). Recently he entrusted his buddy Tom to get them online in a responsible fashion, and the result is The McKenzie Tapes, a charming blog that features high-quality uploads of McKenzie’s, er, tapes. Every post includes a modest amount of context (just right, a couple of key facts but it’s generally just a paragraph) as well as pictures of the cassette, the ticket, and the show’s listing in the Village Voice, where available. It’s this last bit that has me so fascinated:
 




 
I learned via those listings something I didn’t know, which is that Maxwell’s used to show movies like Fritz the Cat and Los Olvidados and Rumble Fish.

The McKenzie Files covers approximately 1985 through to the early 2000s, and while most of the shows took place at Maxwell’s, you also get a nice cross-section of Manhattan venues of the period such as Brownie’s, Bowery Ballroom, CBGB’s, Irving Plaza, Coney Island High, and so forth. (City Gardens in Trenton also gets represented.) Once in a while you get a true outlier like a show from The Hague in the Netherlands but Dag Nasty at Maxwell’s (1988) is what the blog was constructed to provide.

The mid-1980s was an interesting period during which the grassroots fandom of indie rock had reached a groundswell of sorts (cf. Huskers jumping to Warner Bros.), with some of the no-fi champs from earlier in the decade showing impressive maturation (Sonic Youth). The blog features some incredible documents, such as SY playing a big chunk of Daydream Nation before the album’s release, the Feelies filming a set for a Japanese documentary crew, Frenz Experiment-era Fall, and Pixies right after releasing Surfer Rosa.

I mentioned much of this stuff happened before I was going to shows, so I was dubious I would find any gigs I’d been to, but damn if the blog didn’t deliver. I was present at this Rollins Band show at CBGB’s in early 1990, I positioned myself right at the main monitor and Hard Hank sweated on me for the whole show. To this day I don’t think the Rollins Band ever came close to topping Life Time, which is mostly what they played that night.
 
After the jump, listen to the Butthole Surfers play the Marquee in 1991…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.19.2018
08:55 am
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Discussion
Meet Ensign Broderick: The secret glam rock star who was obscured and unheard—until now
05.31.2018
08:11 am
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Beauty nor Ashes
 
It’s taken a long time, but Jason Sniderman has finally let the world hear glam rocker Ensign Broderick. The Toronto musician created the Broderick persona in the early ‘70s, around the time he started writing songs. He recorded these compositions in his bedroom, rarely playing them for anyone. Sniderman has been in bands—including punky new wave outfit, Blue Peter—and worked as a session musician, all the while leaving his Ensign Broderick recordings to gather dust.

But that’s all changed. Six Shooter Records released Ensign Broderick’s debut, Feast of Panthers, a few months ago, and two new albums, Beauty nor Ashes and Ranger, just came out. His next one, Only Love Remains, is due out on June 15th. There’s an abundance of strong material on the records, which feature glam tracks, new romantic-style synth-pop, string-enriched ballads, and straight-up rockers. His baritone is reminiscent of David Bowie, Scott Walker, Nick Cave, and, notably, Bryan Ferry, but has its own distinct flavor.
 
Ensign Broderick 1
 
The Ensign Broderick albums largely consist of recent recordings, though elements from the original tapes were used. Take the funky glam-soul number, “True Shame,” in which his ‘70s vocal, sax, and guitar parts were all incorporated into the mix.
 

 
Dangerous Minds recently interviewed Ensign Broderick via email.

When did you start writing songs?

Ensign Broderick: I started writing songs when I was ten or eleven. I had been taking classical piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music when I was three (tagging along with my brother), but I did not enjoy many aspects of what I was being taught. I really wanted to be a drummer, so to encourage me to practice piano my parents appeased me by buying me a drum kit, piece by piece. E.g. snare drum at Christmas, a cymbal for my next birthday, a bass drum for my next birthday etc. By the time I was seven I had acquired a full kit (which I still have). I practiced drums a lot. Three to four hours per day. Playing along to full sides of the first Jimi Hendrix record, Led Zeppelin, the Who’s Live at Leeds and Who’s Next, and stuff like that. Along the line (at nine or ten), I discovered Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. And then Nicky Hopkins and Leon Russell and Elton John, and realized that piano playing and players were ok too. I also started to play Chopin at piano lessons, and I recognized harmonic structures in serious music, which I could relate to rock and roll. Listening to those players, and having a better understanding of classical music, gave me the inspiration to write songs.

What sort of recording equipment did you use, back in the day?

Ensign Broderick: A cassette deck and sometimes a reel-to-reel. I would bounce tracks so that some of the bedroom recordings would have close to twelve tracks, but really reduced fidelity. All vocals were done through either a Fender Quad or a Tapco mixer.
 
Ensign Broderick 2
 
How did you come to share your archival material with Six Shooter?

Ensign Broderick: I was far too shy to share my stuff with anyone. Very few people had heard it. Even the people who played on it rarely heard finished versions.

I had my stuff on a Soundcloud that I was keeping to myself and Shauna de Cartier (Six Shooter Records) discovered it on her own.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.31.2018
08:11 am
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Discussion
Tiger Lily Records: The wild story of the tax scam label run by the notorious Morris Levy (Part II)
04.16.2018
11:43 am
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Morris Levy and Tiger Lily
 
Recently, Dangerous Minds shined a light on the shady Tiger Lily Records, the tax shelter label owned and operated by the infamous Morris Levy. We explained that the albums released by the company were meant to lose money, resulting in higher tax breaks for investors. We also told readers about some of the musicians who willingly signed deals with the label. Part two of our Tiger Lily exposé will focus on the artists who were wholly unaware—for decades—that an album of their material was released by the company. In each instance, just a few known copies of each LP are known to exist. Why so few? Well, that’s one of the mysteries surrounding the label, but it’s believed Levy shipped the majority of the Tiger Lily stock to the local landfill.

In record collecting circles, one of the biggest stories in recent years was the eBay listing for one of the rarest and coveted of all the Tiger Lily LPs. The 2014 auction of the album, credited to a little-known group by the name of Stonewall, ended with the winning bid of $14,100 (no, that’s not a typo). Incidentally, the seller found the record at a Goodwill store in New Hampshire; the purchase price there was $1.
 
Stonewall cover
 
Stonewall were a heavy rock quartet from New York City. The band members were Bruce Rapp (lead vocals/harmonica), Bob Dimonte (guitar), Ray Dieneman (bass), and Anthony Assalti (drums). Assalti recently did an in-depth interview with the magazine, It’s Psychedelic Baby, in which many of the unknowns surrounding the band were revealed. As Assalti tells it, in 1972, Stonewall were put in touch with Jimmy Goldstein, the proprietor of a Manhattan recording studio. Goldstein offered the group free studio time, if they’d be willing to record after normal business hours. Before the evening sessions, the Stonewall guys would smoke a ton of hashish, then show up to the studio, where they’d smoke even more with Goldstein. Then, with Goldstein on keyboards, they’d start recording.

Stonewall and Goldstein would jam for hours, then use the best sections as the basis for songs. After half a year of experimenting and recording, Goldstein and the band’s manager took hold of the tapes, telling the group they would shop them around to prospective record companies. Eventually, Goldstein told them there were no takers. The band would soldier on for a period before breaking up.

Years later, after Assalti had relocated to Florida and started a family, he received a phone call from a European collector who had questions about the Stonewall album—which Assalti hadn’t known existed. He was stunned. “It’s kind of sad,” Assalti confessed during the magazine interview last year. “We were four young guys that were ripped off and never got the recognition I believe we deserved.”

Jimmy Goldstein is credited as the copyright holder of the tapes—a strong indicator he was Tiger Lily’s source. The Stonewall LP came out in 1976, the only year the label issued records.
 
Stonewall Side One
 
So, what does a $14,000 record sound like?
 
Find out, after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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04.16.2018
11:43 am
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Discussion
What’s Up Tiger Lily?: The wild story of the tax scam record label run by the notorious Morris Levy
04.06.2018
08:55 am
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Morris Levy
 
Last April, we told you the story of Richard Goldman, the singer/songwriter who found out that albums of his songs were released without his knowledge or permission. The LPs were issued as part of tax shelter deals, a common practice from 1976-1984. Albums of this sort were ostensibly designed to fail; vinyl collectors later dubbed them “tax scam records.” This article is the first in a two-part examination of the label that set the standard for issuing tax shelter albums. It’s a company that was started by one of the most infamous figures to ever make a buck in the music business.

Morris Levy was born in New York City on August 27th, 1927. As a teenager, Levy started working in nightclubs which were controlled by the mob. In 1949, he opened Birdland, a venue that would go on to become one of the most beloved jazz clubs in the world. In 1957, he founded Roulette Records, a label that subsequently issued a number of hit records, including “Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee and the Starliters, and “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Levy learned early on the value of music publishing, and would often add his name to songwriting credits, even though he didn’t have a hand in their creation and had no musical talent.
 
Levy credit
 
In his book, Me, the Mob, and the Music, Tommy James says Levy never paid him royalties, despite the fact he had recorded quite a few hits for Roulette. James does concede that he was given artistic freedom, which he wouldn’t have had if he’d signed with another label.
 
Hanky Panky
Tommy James and the Shondells, Morris Levy, and a Gold record for “Hanky Panky.”

A number of mafia figures were regular visitors to the Roulette building, including Gaetano “Corky” Vastola, a New Jersey gangster and one of the owners of the label. Tommy James also frequented the company’s office, observing enough to learn why Levy had a reputation for using strong-arm tactics.

It is always reported that there are five major crime families in New York—Gambino, Genovese, Colombo, Lucchese, Bonanno—and that’s mostly true. But back in the sixties, there were six families. All of the above and the Roulette family. It was not for nothing that Morris Levy was called the Godfather of the music business. People from all over the industry called him or came to him to sort out problems. If somebody from Atlantic Records or Kama Sutra found out that their records were being bootlegged, they called Morris.

It seemed like once a month Morris would grab [his associate and bodyguard] Nate McCalla and a few baseball bats, which were in his office, and take off for somewhere in New Jersey or upstate New York. It was a ritual. “KAREN,” he would yell out to his secretary, baseball bat in hand. “Call my lawyer.” And off they would go. (from Me, the Mob, and the Music)

 
Logo
 
There were a number of subsidiary labels connected to Roulette, including Tiger Lily Records. The company was incorporated in 1976, and released over 60 albums that year. Levy gathered content from seemingly anywhere he could find it, using such cast-offs as demos, outtakes and live recordings for the Tiger Lily LPs. He even reissued a handful of albums that originally came out on the Family Productions record label, which wasn’t affiliated with Roulette. The majority of the artists on Tiger Lily would be unknown to the general public. In my view, this was done, in part, to ensure a plausible deniability if the I.R.S. was to come calling. “Tax scam records” were meant to bomb, giving investors the maximum amount they could deduct on their taxes, while spending as little cash as possible. By putting your money into an artist that showed promise, a case could be made that, ‘Hey, we took a chance, but nobody bought it.’ This also meant that the label looked for artists that exhibited a certain level of talent, resulting in a number of Tiger Lily albums by obscure acts who had exceptional material.

One of the easiest (and cheapest) Tiger Lily albums to acquire is L.A. Jail, a collection of Richard Pryor stand-up recordings. There has been much speculation about whether Pryor authorized this release, and there are a couple of clues that he was, at the very least, aware of the LP’s existence.
 
L.A. Jail cover
 
In the December 24th, 1977 issue of the influential trade magazine, Billboard, there are three chart listings for Pryor noting that Tiger Lily contributed to sales of his records. This leaves little doubt that Pryor knew about the album. It also implies that L.A. Jail sold well, which is odd, considering how Tiger Lily seems to have had little interest in promoting or circulating copies of their other records.
 
Pryor label
 
Another indication of Pryor’s involvement comes via another major publication, Variety, and a Morris Levy interview that appeared in a spring 1978 issue of the magazine. It’s also the most fascinating. Levy’s admission of releasing a Pryor LP for tax shelter purposes provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the label.

He [Levy] said he did one tax shelter deal, with Richard Pryor tracks, and made money, adding “I wouldn’t go into a tax shelter deal unless I was in the record business.”

Much more follows after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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04.06.2018
08:55 am
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Discussion
A Stonehenge stage set and backstage violence mark Led Zeppelin’s final U.S. concerts, 1977
12.29.2017
07:22 am
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Day on the Green
 
Led Zeppelin’s eleventh—and final—American jaunt was in support of their seventh studio album, Presence. The 1977 tour was plagued by unfortunate incidents, with the most notorious occurrences taking place backstage at one of the last shows and a most tragic event bringing an end to the outing.

The vibes were bad before they even played a single gig. Large, menacing manager Peter Grant had recently gone through a nasty divorce, while guitarist Jimmy Page was incredibly thin, reportedly in the throes of heroin addiction. Throughout the tour, police had to be brought in to quell audience violence, culminating in a riot in Tampa; nineteen were arrested, 50 were injured. At multiple stops, a new crop of younger, wilder fans threw lit firecrackers on the stage, which would explode inches from the band members. During a Cincinnati show, a fan died after falling from the third level of the coliseum—the first tragic event of the tour.

The trek was to run for three legs of dates from April through August. For the final leg, eleven stadium shows were scheduled. The band only played four.
 
Led Zeppelin
 
On July 23rd and 24th, Zeppelin performed in front of sell-out crowds at Oakland Coliseum. Rick Derringer and Judas Priest opened. The shows were part of the recurring “Day on the Green” concerts organized by Bill Graham. The stage set was constructed to resemble the Stonehenge monument, and was likely the main inspiration for one of the funniest moments in the brilliant mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap (and before you say, “But what about…,” we debunked the theory that Black Sabbath’s Stonehenge stage influenced the film).
 
Stonehenge set
 
Two nasty backstage episodes took place on the 23rd. The first happened when Peter Grant was asked by a member of Graham’s crew if he needed help getting down some stairs, which Grant perceived as a slight on his weight. John Bindon, a London gangster brought on by Zep as their chief enforcer for the tour, stepped in and knocked out the stagehand, who banged his head on the concrete floor. Later, Grant’s teenage son was about to remove a temporary sign to keep as a souvenir, but was sternly rebuffed by a member of Graham’s security team. This prompted drummer John Bonham to kick the guy in the balls, and then Grant and Bindon beat the man so badly that a shocked Graham had him rushed to the hospital. Graham also claimed that his production manager was hit on the head with a lead pipe.

On the 24th, Graham’s security were looking for revenge, yet the show concluded without further incident. The following day at the band’s hotel, the SWAT team showed up and arrested Bonham, Grant, Bindon and tour manager, Richard Cole, who were charged with assault. After they were bailed out, the Zep entourage flew to New Orleans for the next show. Once they were settled in, Plant received a call from his wife and learned that his young son, Karac, had died suddenly on the 24th.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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12.29.2017
07:22 am
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Discussion
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