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David Shirley

Freelance writer and researcher DAVID SHIRLEY is homesick for Brooklyn.

The Mysteries of... Rheinallt H. Rowlands: Bukowski (ankstmusic)

On the evening of May 17, 1980, a middle-aged Welsh stonecutter named Rheinallt H. Rowlands sat despondently at his wooden kitchen table, drinking ale and eating a bowl of broth. The quarry where he had worked for the previous thirteen years had recently closed, and with no prospects for the future, Rowlands was slowly sinking into despair.

Jack Smith, Les Evening Gowns Damnées and Silent Shadows on Cinemaroc Island (Table of the Elements, 1997)

It’s the summer of 1962. Jack Smith is sprawled languidly among the thread-worn pillows in his low-rent apartment at 56 Ludlow Street in Manhattan, entertaining his friends Tony Conrad and Mario Montez.

Love Camp 7
Vacation Village

Vacation Village, the newest release from Brooklyn’s own Love Camp 7, is a “Pandora’s Box” of offbeat impressions and tangled emotions from composer Dann Baker’s childhood and early adolescence in 1960s Southern California.


I first heard Mary Margaret O’Hara’s extraordinary voice in 1992.


In the ongoing struggle between theory and performance in avant-garde music, theory has increasingly assumed the upper hand.


Harry Nilsson stumbled onto the American musical landscape like a character in one of his own eccentric songs. A seasoned L.A. pop composer by his early 20s, Nilsson first gained public attention in 1968, a few months after the release of his debut album, Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967).

“Floating Above the Earth, Never Anchored to Time or Place”

The summer of 1964. David Crosby and Jim (“not yet Roger”) McGuinn are sprawled side-by-side in an air-conditioned Los Angeles cinema, checking out the new Beatles flick, A Hard Day’s Night.

Forever’s No Time at All

In 1967, 18-year-old pop troubadour Billy Nicholls of Shepherd’s Bush, London, made a bus pilgrimage to Kinfauns, George Harrison’s estate in the town of Esher, in the Surrey borough of Elmbridge in southeast England. In the anything’s-possible spirit of the time, the teenage composer was determined to hand-deliver his Beatles-inspired homemade demos to the Fab Four’s lead guitarist.

Bill Fay: Bill Fay and Time of the Last Persecution (Eclectic Discs)

Peace be in your breath and in your sighing. Peace be in your jack and in your blade. And peace be in your Sunday picnic And your old school friends who’ve passed away. But tell it like it is.

Slum Gods of the Lower East Side

If I could inhabit one moment from America’s musical past, I’d plop my time machine down at the grand opening celebration of a tiny bookstore in the East Village during the late winter of 1965.

The Ageless Poetry of Ed Askew

Over a gradual layering of harpsichord arpeggios and swelling electronic keyboards, singer/composer Ed Askew repeats the vivid chorus gently and deliberately, like a painter methodically applying brushstrokes to a canvas, until the image hovers stubbornly in the fading keyboard drone.

Simon Finn

Pass the Distance

For the truly committed record hounds among us, few experiences are more initially seductive or ultimately frustrating than the search for “lost classics,” the vast majority of which, we repeatedly discover, have already found their proper homes in the dusty record bins of history.


“Antiques!” snarls Prefab Sprout’s composer/lead vocalist Paddy MacAloon in the opening bars of “Faron,” the first track of the band’s 1985 pop masterpiece Steve McQueen.


The recent release of D. A. Pennebaker’s The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (The Criterion Collection, 2002) provides a bright, garish, furiously kinetic documentation of the emerging pop-rock scene during the summer of 1967. The documentary’s most revelatory moment is hidden away on an alternate track at the end of the outtakes disc, where Tiny Tim, the underground court jester for the late-1960s counterculture, gives an impromptu performance beneath the heavy shadows of the festival green room.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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