I thank you Mr Lee, I thank you. RIP Brad Morrison.

Brad at Rockefeller Center during New Music Seminar. Probably 1990.

 

Shocked and saddened to hear last week (April 26 2018) of the passing of Brad Morrison. Brad was my first “boss” in the music industry. In 1990 I started working with Brad at Absolute A Go Go Records & Miracle Management. He was about to release new albums from Tiny Lights (Hoboken NJ) and The Vestrymen (Amherst MA). He was also managing Miracle Legion (New Haven CT) and Shelleyan Orphan (UK). Over the next 5 or so years I worked with him, part-time, at a little office in Oakland NJ that he shared with his dad and his business. When people ask me what I did, I always say “I did everything but say yes and sign checks.” And I did. In my time there we also released records by or managed Phish (Burlington VT), The Figgs (Saratoga Springs NY), Black Sun Ensemble (Tucson AZ), and Spiral Jetty (New Brunswick NJ).

I didn’t notice it at the time but I was learning “the business” the whole time. And to this day, almost 30 years later, I still put the lessons learned to use.

We had a lot of fun in that office, went on road trips to check out bands, spent *a lot* of time packing up LPs (and later CDs) to be mailed out to hundreds of music writers and DJs, counted up bags of loose change to pay for postage. I even remember one day when I spent hours assembling hundreds of 7″ singles by The Figgs because the outer sleeve had die cut “windows.” The plant refused to insert the singles because the windows would get caught in their machinery. The day of a thousand tiny paper cuts. I can remember days when we had to (without the internet or cell phones) find Miracle Legion a new tour van in the middle of Colorado after they hit some animal. Figuring out how to get Spiral Jetty gear for a UK tour during the hottest summer on record. Trying to get Black Sun Ensemble’s Jesus Acedo on the phone (which was far more difficult than anyone would believe). I remember the day I answered the phone to find the legendary Geoff Travis of Rough Trade UK on the other end. The day that someone from Elektra Records called to let us know that people may contact us about “defective” Lawn Boy (Phish) CDs. Seems when Elektra remastered it for their CD release the title track was somehow mastered at a slightly slower speed. The day that Andy Gill of Gang Of Four called because he was being hired to produce 2 Miracle Legion songs for the soundtrack to the movie “A Matter Of Degrees.”

I was also in the office when he came back from the Rough Trade Records bankruptcy hearing in NYC. We, and many other tiny labels, had a P&D deal (pressing & distribution) with them. When they declared bankruptcy all of their assets went up for sale. LP/CD/Cassette back stock, original cover art, promotional materials, photos, all of it. If it wasn’t being held as collateral by another creditor it was up for grabs. If you had cash, you could take anything home. When he got back to the office I remember him saying that it “was the saddest day he’d ever spent in the music industry.” Tiny, broke labels were losing anything of value that belonged to them as “cut out vultures” were buying pallets of back stock – pennies on the dollar. Brad was always kind of an ornery guy (as anyone who had to deal with or record with him would attest), but I think that day really broke his heart. He was nothing if not passionate about music and getting the best out of people making that music. And hoping that other people, lots of other people, would hear what he heard. We did everything a 2 man operation could do for those records and those bands. Some would be considered a success, most would not, but we didn’t half-ass any of it. We tried.

After he “retired” (which didn’t last long!) and moved to a farm house in upstate NY we hardly ever saw each other, and I’m kinda bummed about that. I only made it up to the farm twice, I think. I hope he knows how much I appreciated that he took in a recent college graduate who cold called him about a job that didn’t exist. Because I really do appreciate all of it. Looking back I realize how much he actually taught me. I appreciate that he took the time to introduce me to so many people, many of whom are still in my life.

I’m celebrating my 30th anniversary in the radio and music business this year and damn near all of what I’ve learned goes back to those days in the small, smokey, rope and floatation device filled office above a deli just off the highway in Oakland. Many of my oldest and dearest musician and industry friends I met because of Brad.

In case I never said it, I thank you Mr Lee, I thank you.

Spiral Jetty at Maxwells, Hoboken NJ. 09 March 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Maxwells, Hoboken NJ. 09 March 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Maxwells, Hoboken NJ. 09 March 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Court Tavern, New Brunswick NJ. 21 April 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Court Tavern, New Brunswick NJ. 21 April 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Court Tavern, New Brunswick NJ. 21 April 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Court Tavern, New Brunswick NJ. 21 April 1990. Photo by me.

 

Spiral Jetty at Court Tavern, New Brunswick NJ. 21 April 1990. Photo by me.

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That one night Andy Partridge got back on stage…

Ok, so, over the years I’ve been present for some pretty amazing things that have happened on a stage. (See earlier post about Green Day playing CBGB.) Many times I’ve had friends tell me that I should write all of these things down. Part of me wishes I had done so at the time because as the years go by and I tell the story another time I’m afraid that I’m getting some detail wrong. Wrong location, wrong date, wrong person…some detail, however insignificant, may have been changed or lost over time. But, I’ll give it a shot anyway…

The date was 15 November 1993 at the Bottom Line in NYC. Aimee Mann was on tour supporting her “Whatever” album. It was released by Imago Records and someone there had invited me (and a guest, I believe I was there with my friend Glenn) to the show. As an aside, my dear friend Michael McDermott and his band were the support for this show. Though, at the time, I didn’t know him.

It’s important to know that Aimee’s touring band for this tour included XTC guitarist Dave Gregory doubling on keys. So, we’re all sitting at those remarkably uncomfortable tables the Bottom Line had. So narrow that your legs would be intertwined with those of the person sitting across from you. As I recall, it was either before the show started or between sets, I turn my head towards the door to see Andy Partridge of XTC enter and grab a seat at one of the back tables. “That’s interesting. I wonder why he’s in NYC, but it’s cool he’s come out to support his old bandmate” I thought. You see, XTC were and still are one of my all time favorite bands. But I’d never had a chance to see them live as they’d stopped touring in 1982 after Andy had a breakdown on stage in Paris. It was long believed he had extreme stage fright. Now we know it was only partially that and primarily trying to stop a long addiction to Valium cold turkey that put him off touring and performing.

Aimee and her band do, as expected, a great set. When they retreat after the last song I notice Andy get up from his seat and head to the backstage area. I think to myself, “Nice. He’s going back to say hi and whatnot, congratulate the band on a great show.” We’re all applauding waiting for the band to return for the encore. It’s seemingly taking a little longer than it should. “Could they be trying to convince Andy to come out for the encore?” When they finally reappear through the back of the stage (the way on and off stage was, oddly, upstage center) they actually have convinced Andy on stage! “What the hell?!?!?!” Now, I have to presume that Aimee and her band had been doing the song “Collideascope” by The Dukes Of Stratosphear (a band that was actually XTC using pseudonyms) because there is no way on god’s green earth that they would have known that song off the tops of their heads. But, sure enough, after an introduction that I think went something like “We’ve convinced a friend to join us…” they break into “Collideascope,” Andy sharing the vocals with Aimee. No guitar, but shaking a tambourine and smiling broadly. Even if he did seem to forget his own lyrics almost immediately. “That does not look like someone who is deathly afraid to be on stage.”

After the show there was one of those industry meet & greets, so I’m hanging around for the band to come out and say hi to us radio and label dweebs. So after getting to say a brief hello to Aimee and her band I head to the door to leave. My friend Glenn was behind me by some distance and was still saying hellos when I turned around at the door. As I did, one Andy Partridge was heading out. So I held the door open for him and said “Hi” or “Good to see you” or some other pleasantry.

Some years later, I’m outside Arlene Grocery in NYC waiting to go in and see my friend, Irish singer and songwriter, Mundy. We’re out front chatting, I’m saying hello to the all-Irish members of the band that he’s playing with. I don’t remember how it came up, but I started to say “So I’m at the Bottom Line to see Aimee Mann…” and one of the guys stops me, grabs me by the shoulders and exclaims “You were at that show?!?!?!?!” It seems, even in the pre-internet days, that night at the Bottom Line had made it’s way into rock and roll lore. At least among XTC fans. “Yes, yes I was there.”

photo by Larry Busacca/Retna

“One encore was a pop rarity. Ms. Mann’s band included Dave Gregory, a member of XTC. Up from the audience came XTC’s Andy Partridge, whose stage fright has made XTC a reclusive, studio-only band. But Mr. Partridge shared a microphone with Ms. Mann and belted “Collideascope” by the Dukes of Stratosphear (alias XTC), with tambourine in hand and a big grin on his face.” Jon Parales/New York Times (18 November 1993)

“It only looked impromptu when XTC’s Andy Partridge leaped onstage during Aimee Mann’s show at New York City’s Bottom Line to sing “Collideascope.” Says Mann: ‘I figured once he heard me sing it and not do a very good job, he’d push me out of the way and start singing, which is pretty much what happened.’” Jancie Dunn