Candy-O Revisited

February 22nd, 2018

Jean and Jim Young owned The Juggler during the late 1960s in Woodstock, NY. It was an avant-garde bookstore that sold guitar strings and had a magazine rack featuring copies of Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines. In 2008 Jean participated in a panel discussion titled “Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival.” She recalled those days fondly: “And then of course the hippies came in . . . new thinking, anti-war sentiment . . . and then of course Michael Lang along with it. And I must say, when he came in to town and we were in our bookstore and he was looking for some place to rent for land . . . none of the real estate people in town took him very seriously. Like, he didn’t have any money. He wasn’t properly this or that. And so we thought, we’ll help him out, and my husband went around, looking for a place for the festival.”

Michael Young fell into the music business in a most natural way. His parents, Jean and Jim Young, rented a house on Zena Road to Tim Hardin. Every day after school, ten-year-old Michael headed over to Tim’s house to hang out. There he soaked up the vibe and met all the stars of the day, including Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. In those heady months after the Woodstock Festival it was an exciting time to be in town and Michael took full advantage of the scene. Soon Michael was playing music and gigging around town at places like the Sled Hill Café. When he was 16 it was time to head off to college. He got Rick Danko, the bassist for The Band, to write a letter of recommendation, and in 1972 Michael started his freshman year at the Berklee College of Music. The coursework must have been dull because within months he was back in Woodstock—though not for long. Soon he headed to London and Nashville, but returned later the same year with a personal mission to mix tapes of his band’s music.

Michael Young, on right, at the Mink Hollow Studio

He started as a glorified gopher at Todd Rungren’s Mink Hollow Studio. Todd must have observed a mature work ethic in his young protégé, because he left Michael in charge of his home while he went out on the road. Over a three-week period Michael had the run of the studio. There, by dint of ferocious focus, he mastered the studio equipment and mixed his songs on the 24-track recording system. Upon Todd’s return he promoted Michael to assistant engineer.

Calls came in daily about different record projects—and messages were left on the kitchen’s refrigerator. One day Michael noticed a message from Ric Ocasek, the leader of The Cars. Todd suggested that he follow up, so Michael did. Ric was looking for help recording Candy-O and he invited Michael up to Boston. Michael’s specialty is creating “a rounded and clean band sound.” In all, Michael engineered seven songs. Unfortunately none of them made the album. But recently Rhino released the Northern Studios versions on a 2017 augmented release of Candy-O. Michael got his well-deserved album credit and Pitchfork says of his tracks, “Listen closely, though, and Candy-O boasts bolder production that emphasizes the band’s heavy attack and gives plenty of space for guitarist Elliot Easton to spin out composed solos. It sounds not just like new wave—the umbrella term for any pop-oriented counterculture music that arose in the wake of punk—but album rock.” The timing couldn’t be better with The Cars being inducted into the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on April 14.

For more info on Michael’s career visit: https://www.michaelyoungrecordproducer.com

~ Weston Blelock

Music Under the Moon

January 29th, 2018

Road to the old farmstead, site of many Woodstock festivals

No one had ever seen so many cars inching their way along the normally quiet country roads. Certainly not the deputy sent out by the county sheriff to impose some order on the tangled traffic. Everyone seemed to be heading in the same direction, descending upon an old farmstead where the sounds of music and high spirits were already echoing across the meadows. It was apparent that a major event was in progress, though the real significance of this joyous gathering in the boondocks of rural New York State would not be clear until much later. . . .

If this description conjures up images of “Woodstock, 1969,” you’re on the right track. Woodstock it was, but the actual year was 1938 and the epic musicale generating all the excitement was a fundraiser to benefit the Woodstock Art Gallery. At the center of this late afternoon costume party, that lasted until the full moon set just before dawn the next morning, were two of Woodstock’s most loveable eccentrics, Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason. Actresses, artists, erstwhile farmers, and life partners, Wilna and Nan were also among the Woodstock community’s best-known and most exuberant party hostesses. While this early September costume “picnic” was the largest and most ambitious soiree they’d ever thrown, it was far from their first. And it certainly wouldn’t be their last. Wilna and Nan’s first Full Moon party would, in fact, become an annual event for more than two decades and enter into Woodstock legend.

Wilna (far right) and Nan (second right) at the Maverick Festival, 1924

Staging big fundraising bashes under a full moon, with lots of music and rivers of free-flowing liquor, was already a well-established Woodstock tradition when Wilna and Nan embraced it as their own in 1938. As far back as 1915, Woodstock’s fabled series of annual Maverick Festivals had begun when Hervey White, the “first hippie” and one of the art colony’s founders, hosted the first such event to raise money to dig a well. White’s colorful costumed Maverick Festivals continued every year until 1931, by which time they had grown in size and popularity (and notoriety) to such an extent that the local authorities deemed it prudent to shut them down. None were more crestfallen to see their beloved Maverick Festivals come to an end than Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason, who had attended their first festival as a couple in 1924, wearing their signature clown costumes, and never missed any of the subsequent events. So, when the two women decided to entertain their friends and neighbors with a large open-air costume party on the grounds of their farm in late summer 1938, they did so as much with the intention of reviving a popular Woodstock institution as raising money for the local art gallery. The large and enthusiastic turnout they got that summer not only showed they were not alone in missing the old Maverick Festivals but guaranteed that the Full Moon Party would be back for an encore, again and again. Read the rest of this entry »

Lambert & Stamp

April 21st, 2016
Poster for Lambert & Stamp. Chris Stamp at left and Kit Lambert on right.

Poster for Lambert & Stamp. Chris Stamp is at left and Kit Lambert is on the right.

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Calixte Stamp, Chris Stamp’s wife.

Last April I saw a review of Lambert & Stamp, the documentary, in Rolling Stone. More recently I screened a copy from Netflix. Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp managed The Who. Usually one doesn’t focus on managers of bands, but over the years the team of Lambert and Stamp built up an undeniable mystique in my mind’s eye. For me, their story naturally begins in the early 1960s. I remember seeing The Who on Ready, Steady Go in the UK. The group’s music, dynamic visual delivery and destructive hijinks at the end of the show were mesmerizing.

The documentary by James D. Cooper was ten years in the making. Cooper met Chris Stamp in 1995 while the latter was working on a film about Keith Moon, The Who’s drummer. Ultimately Cooper didn’t work on this project, but Stamp liked Cooper’s approach to filmmaking and a friendship ensued. In 2002 Cooper explored the idea of a film on the creative team behind The Who with Chris and Stamp liked the idea. With Chris Stamp’s endorsement Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey came aboard.

Lambert & Stamp chronicles the formation of the partnership, the signing of The Who and the band’s rise to prominence. Lambert and Stamp were aspiring filmmakers. Christopher “Kit” Lambert was the son of Constant Lambert, the musical director of the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. He attended Oxford, was an army officer and gay. Being gay in UK at the time was illegal. Chris Stamp was a cockney, son of a tugboat captain and straight. Both men were war babies. Despite Kit’s posh upbringing he was openly gay and this crimped his prospects. On the other hand, Stamp’s circumstances were dimmed by class and poverty. His section of London, the Isle of Dogs, was severely bombed during the war. The family lived in a partially collapsed building. In the postwar economy his opportunities were bleak, so he became a hoodlum. His older brother Terrence, a rising actor, intervened and got him a job as an underaged prop man at the Sadler Wells Theatre. There he saw Chita Riviera in West Side Story and became entranced with show business. This transformation is eloquently covered in the documentary. Read the rest of this entry »

Roots of Woodstock Book Event and Concert

July 31st, 2014
FishCastle in concert

FishCastle in concert

On August 9, at 7 p.m., join Weston Blelock, author of Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to “Woodstock,” for a talk and book signing at the Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe. Blelock will discuss the events—including the Sound-Out Music Festivals in Saugerties—that inspired Michael Lang’s Woodstock Festival of 1969. Also on the bill are FishCastle, a lively folk duoCyril Caster and Catherine Selin, from Landenberg, PA. Caster is a past producer of the Sound-Outs and has played and recorded with Big Joe Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Elvin Jones, Pete Seeger, David Blue and Nico. His singing partner, Catherine has performed with numerous choirs here and abroad. In 2006 she won the Virginia Harp Center Challenge for composition.  The group play multiple instruments and are known for their diverse sound. Fans liken their music to the sounds of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and Neil Young. The Inquiring Mind Bookstore is at the corner of Partition and Main Streets in Saugerties. The event is free and open to the public. For more info call 845-246-5775, visit www.woodstockarts.com or link to FishCastle Music on Facebook.

 

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