Numero Group: By The Numbers


Remembering Joanna Brouk
May 9, 2017, 12:51 pm
Filed under: Joanna Brouk, Obituaries

Our beloved friend Joanna Brouk passed away last week after a brief battle with cancer, just as the world was finally starting to catch up with her incomparable, pioneering new age and experimental music.

Despite support from the influential Hearts Of Space radio show, Joanne never made much commercial or critical impact in the golden age of new age. In 2010, remaining copies of her five tapes released between 1981 and 1985 briefly went into distribution with the now defunct Mimaroglu website. But it was only in the last year, in the wake of Numero’s Hearing Music career retrospective, that Joanne finally began to receive greater recognition in the form of invitations to play in Europe and NYC, interviews, and even a comic.

In spite of her passionate artistry, Joanne didn’t appear to take too much too seriously. Whether it was financial independence won in the early internet while the getting was good, her three decades of transcendental meditation practice, the pride she took as a mother, or some sense that she had been blessed from birth with an exceptional sensitivity to appreciation for the beauty all around her, Joanne was chill. The dour, intense student at Mills heard on KPFA in 1972 had long given way to a joyful, ebullient presence — all creativity, all gratitude, and it was infectious. It certainly seems like she had solved life’s riddles through her music.

Interested listeners are directed to the website she created over the last year, and here are the previously unpublished original liner notes for Hearing Music, constructed entirely from her own words from our conversations.

joannapost

St. Louis, Missouri

My father played the guitar and knew every song there was
There was always music around
I always thought I would just be a writer
Music was a gift.

And even when people would call and tell me they didn’t like it
I said, “I don’t care. I’m just the channel here, it’s just coming through me.”

I was very young when I started to read. Always reading.
James Agee’s book Death In The Family changed my life.
Beautiful, beautiful,
Death talks to him in the opening pages
Darkness speaks, and it beckons him, this young boy
And it inspired me. It wasn’t your typical novel
It was two worlds speaking to each other
There was this gap.
A place of exploration.

I went to New York for my first year of college
and met a young man from California
who asked me to visit.
California seemed like another country.
We saw the Modern Jazz Quartet.
I transferred to Berkeley
And my poor parents, my conservative parents
They said if you’re gonna go there
you’re going to pay your own way,
And I said “ok”
The glory of youth
It wasn’t that expensive
If you were a resident it was $300 a quarter or something like that.

I always wanted to be a writer. There was no doubt about that.
I got to go to Berkeley and studied under the poet Josephine Miles.
There I became aware of how the great writers used sound.
Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene strategically placed the sound D
when the hero was going through the
Dark Dim passage of Despair
setting up a Drum sound that created
the Depression he was trying to convey.
And I thought that was quite brilliant.
And I started to realize
that shamans did that when they were healing people
They would set up a sound
They would say it in a way that would vibrate with a person
Josephine sponsored me in my major in electronic music.

Berkeley had a synthesizer but nothing like what they had at Mills College.
A Moog, an early Buchla and all sorts of fun tools.
Next to Mills was a pond with crickets
that would annoy people because it would get in recordings.

I recorded the crickets
when you slow it down sounds like a drone.
It’s one of the universal sounds — bees, crickets, frogs
That drone is everywhere in the world.
Underwater you’ll hear a drone.

I never had formal training in music.
I guess it’s the innocence of youth
I felt that music shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone
Of course it’s wonderful to learn to play
But if you hear it you should be able to record it.
I was a composer in the sense that I was using the technology that was available to me.

Healing Music

I had to take out the first three minutes of Healing Music
because all I did was touch Fmajor (two below C) on the piano
and I would just listen,
and I’d listen,
and I’d listen
and if I didn’t hear the next note
I’d wait until there was absolute silence,
and then I’d hit it again,
and this went on for quite a while until I heard the next note.
Now I know of course the overtone series,
but what I was hearing back then
at the time it was quite innocent.
And that’s how I taught myself to play.
And I refused to play until the next note told me what it was going to play.
And with the synthesizer if you do the same thing
with octaves and fifths, and if you do it right and lay it over itself
It will start to do an arpeggio, it will start to wave up
It’s really magical

So I started hearing these rising arpeggios and that became Maggi’s Flute
That’s what I was hearing,
this rising arpeggio of two layers I could fine tune
The space between the notes
became just as important as the notes themselves
So that’s how the music came, quite innocently
I was just enjoying myself
I found it magical
I found it pretty intoxicating, really.
It was almost sexual
for lack of another word.
It became so intriguing to me that I started to
tune out almost everything else
Sound just started to take over my life

Friends who heard my work said Make a tape;
Charles Amirkhanian at KPFA has a show on new music.
Why don’t you take it to him.
I remember going to see him
He said, Come back tomorrow; I’m really busy.
I came back the next day
He said, Come into my office,
a huge room with all of these LPs
I thought oh he’s taking me back
so that when he tells me how bad it is
and I start crying
no one will be here to see me
And I went in and he was playing my gong piece
He says This is really beautiful and I’d like to do a show on you.
And I said, oh sure, great.

And from that show they said, you’ve hit a nerve somewhere with people
And we’d like to let you do a regular show on KPFA
And that was my first job
It was my first job where I wanted to be.
Eventually I became their program director. For their fundraising marathon
I thought, I’ll play a tape of my music,
And if people like it I’ll give them a cassette if they join the station.
Well, the phones went off the hook
I started my own company to start mass producing my tapes
In the meantime I was working in radio
And getting my masters at Mills and had my own studio there

Life Took A Turn

Moving quite ahead
as to why I quit

I started hearing so much music that
I was going to a place where it was taking over my life
And it sounds somewhat conceited to say it but
I was pulling a Beethoven
I was starting to feel I was losing my hearing
In the sense that I didn’t want to hear anything but the celestial music
I remember one time I was standing in line
And hearing what people were thinking
I could tap into that
It was so mundane, so boring
And really, none of my business.
And I thought, who am I to intrude on people’s private thoughts?
So I started to block out stuff
So I could selectively hear only what I wanted to hear
I was getting into some pretty dangerous territory

I started to meditate — Transcendental Meditation
And I almost knew when I started
that might be the end of it.

Because it’s such a balancing, wonderful technique
And if you are anywhere in your life out of balance it pulls you back in.
So for a while I stopped hearing music
And that was ok
I thought I really needed to get healthy
Then I took a long course, a teacher training course
And I started to hear music again
And I was so happy
I’m in the mountains though, meditating
And I’m hearing it and I’m wondering, what do I do with this?
I don’t have a piano, I don’t have a studio
So I grabbed some butcher paper in the room
And I started drawing the music I was hearing
It was geometric shapes
So an arpeggio might be a series of circles rising towards the sky
And I was very familiar from my days in the studio with the oscilloscope
which provides the dimensional shape of a sound
For example, a flute would give you a perfect circle
So I understood what different wave shapes would be,
the frequency and modulation.
And I was able to play with that…
I’m still in TM. It’s kind of the anchor.

I got married
And I moved from the Bay Area to San Diego.
So I was away from my studio and I didn’t have that access
I had a family
March 7, 1989 my son was born
Life took over.

I think when you move to a new town it’s like starting over
I got a job writing for a new company
Technical. I was just miserable for a while
Then in the mid 90s, they needed someone to do the internet content
And I got to be part of the internet becoming an information channel
and not just a marketing channel.
That took me on a nice path financially
I enjoyed it a lot.
Money drives you in a different direction sometimes.

I still see shapes when I hear music
It was never my desire to be “out there”
It was just my joy to do it
I hear music still
I write every day.
The writing and the music come from the same place.
There’s a lot of stuff coming through still
Last night I was awoken by Goddess dreams
And that happens a lot.

Joanna Brouk as told to Douglas Mcgowan, August, 2015



Clarence “Blowfly” Reid (1939-2016)
January 18, 2016, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Deep City, Obituaries
blowfly

It was Dante Carfagna who first suggested that we compile all the records from Miami’s first black-owned record company: Deep City. At the time, the 40-year chain of title was a bit unclear, but we kept seeing the same three names on every record: Johnny Pearsall, Willie Clarke, and Clarence Reid. With Pearsall dead and Clarke in the wind, Clarence would be our first point of contact.

My first encounter with Clarence Reid came during the 2005 edition of SXSW, in the green room of Emo’s. I’d brought print outs of 45 labels baring the Deep City, Lloyd, and Reid imprints, and he thumbed through them slowly while I asked a series of extremely specific questions. Who owns the rights? When was the last time you talked to Willie? Who were the Delmiras? I prattled on for a few minutes before Clarence stopped me and told a story about his experience in the music business:

If you get fucked up the ass by a dinosaur once, you blame the dinosaur. But if you get fucked up the ass by a dinosaur again? Boy, that’s your own goddamn fault. 

Reid had been burned many times in his career; Sold off his publishing at a low point in the ‘80s, his masters in the early ‘90s. About the only thing he had left was the mask and cape he donned to perform under his alter-ego Blowfly. That night he had little interest in my schpiel about how we could resuscitate his career. He had songs to sing about rappin’ dirty and shittin’ on the dock of the bay.

Numero did finally track down Willie Clarke, and the first Deep City came out in 2006 sans any Clarence Reid songs. Most of the masters, as it would turn out, were sold to Dial and Jamie-Guyden. But there were publishing royalties due. Not much, but some. Our first check to him was around $350. He called up a few days after receiving it to tell me something I’ve since heard dozens of times, but which still gnaws at me:

This is the first royalty check I’ve gotten in my entire life. I got advances, I got cars. But no one ever bothered to tell me where I was at. Thanks for that. Now I’m going to watch jai alai. Fuck you later. 

Check out our latest playlist Good Men, Clean Up Women: The Numero Guide To The Miami Sound on Spotify

 



A Stand-Up Single by Ernie Banks
January 27, 2015, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Obituaries, Uncategorized

ErnieBanks033

As Chicagoans, adopted or otherwise, everyone at Numero shares in the mourning after the recent passing of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. We’ll leave the eulogizing to the sports writers, but we wanted to take an opportunity to share a little known aspect of Banks’ storied career. Like many other ball players, Banks’ issued a novelty disco 45. In fitting with Banks’ fabled sportsmanship, it was an ode to his principles rather than a swaggering, self-aggrandizing paean to victory. Banks will be missed. As a tribute, make sure you play it twice.



In Memoriam: “Mighty” Mike Lenaburg (1946-2015)
January 23, 2015, 11:33 am
Filed under: Mighty Mike Lenaburg, Obituaries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of another member of the Numero Group family. Central to Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg, this pioneering figure in the Arizona music departed January 15th. Beginning in 1962, Lenaburg began issuing singles by a Who’s That? of Phoenix artists, including Sheila Jack, Michael Liggins, Small Paul, Ronnie Whitehead, Lon Rogers, We The People, the Newlyweds, and the soul trifecta of Super Souls, Soulsations, and Soul Blenders. Over the next 50 years, Lenaburg engaged Phoenix scenesters via multiple record stores, record labels, and radio shows, and was even inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall Of Fame in 2013. It is the Numero way to remember people through their music. Likewise, we encourage you to check out (or revisit) the soul music oasis afforded to us by the Mighty Mike Lenaburg.

Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg is available on CD/2LP at our webstore. 



Up All Night With The Vampire From Outer Space: Kim Fowley
January 16, 2015, 11:05 am
Filed under: Buttons, Obituaries | Tags:
vampires3
In the early days of Numero, Rob and I were holding down day jobs at Groove Distribution, a small dance-oriented purveyor of import 12”s. It was expected that we arrive a little after 9am, which curtailed some of our more rowdy behaviors. That first year we were like drones, working 9-5:30, then heading up Milwaukee Avenue on our bikes to my old apartment on Hoyne where we plotted the future. I’d generally hit the phones as soon as I walked in the door, as it was crucial to catch Eastern Time Zone folks in that sweet spot between dinner and bed. For the West Coasters, I just stayed up later. The goal was to fall asleep no later than 2am.

 

I had been trying to get Kim Fowley on the phone for a few weeks but couldn’t trap him. We were in the process of building our fourth record: Yellow Pills: Prefill, and were hoping to license a few tracks from Fowley. The tracks in question appeared on the 1979 Bomp LP Vampires From Outer Space, the artists were Tommy Rock and Randy Winburn. Here’s what we had to say about the record a few years ago when we updated it for an LP issue:

 

Kim Fowley fever hit late-’70s Los Angeles like a tongue in the ear. The Runaways had done as their name suggested, leaving the original Mayor of the Sunset Strip battling a case of empty nest syndrome. Topping a mountain of tapes in his closet was the song “Phone Call For Frank Sinatra,” credited blandly to one Tom Johnson. A Long Islander with a comically thick accent to match, Johnson had come west for a shot behind the lens at UCLA’s prestigious School of Theater, Film, and Television. Enamored with the Fowley-penned “Cherry Bomb” and “Do You Love Me”—the second-to-last song on Kiss’s 1976 Destroyer LP—Johnson dropped a tape off at Fowley’s Hollywood Boulevard office. No name, no lyrics, no photo, just a 213 phone number scribbled on the J-card.  

 

Fowley signed the bespectacled Johnson to a songwriting contract in October of 1977 and immediately set to messing with Johnson’s boy-next-door image. “I thought Tommy Rock sounded kinda square,” Johnson has reflected, but the Fowley machine had already kicked into overdrive, producing quotes like, “Tommy Rock is an extension of Stephan Bishop with Paul Simon’s brain, John Lennon’s wit and John Sebastian’s voice… By the end of the year Jack Nicholson will be waiting to get high with him.” Rock’s wardrobe of faded dungarees and a coffee-stained raincoat did little to prove Fowley’s case. Over the next year, Tommy Rock would join a band (the Dreamers), record a demo for Warner Bros., and issue a 45 on England’s Spark label, all while holding down security guard duty at a West Hollywood Jack In The Box.   “Kim had all these lyrics on yellow pieces of paper, including some for a song called ‘Dream Rocker’ and I thought wow what a great title,” Rock recalled. “It’s like a song about somebody who’s been there and maybe it’s not coming together… kinda lost, and I liked that.”

 

In late 1978, he hit Glendale and cut the song with the Kessel Brothers—David, Dan, and Barney—backed by a legion of Fowleyites including Laurie Bell of the Orchids, Chris Dow of Kaleidoscope, David Carr of the Fortunes, and John Locke from Spirit. Gary Pickus, another Long Islander, got a co-writer credit on “High School,” and the pair of Rock tracks played fraternal twins on Bomp!’s 1979 compilation Vampires From Outer Space. Purportedly an elaborate asset offshoring ploy in anticipation of Fowley’s divorce, the album got flaccid Bomp! promotion that did nothing to refute such a theory. The album slid out of print about as quickly as Fowley’s divorce decree moved through the Los Angeles County Recorder’s tangled paper landscape.   Undeterred, Tommy Rock stayed on, doing double duty as Fowley’s chauffeur and fan mail coordinator while waiting for the next something, anything, to happen. That next thing was a name change and a Manilow-esque album recorded for Columbia. Issued in 1981 by the newly dubbed Tommy Knight, the self-titled LP made minor ripples in the AOR world, none of them big enough to avert a cut-out bin fate.

 

When Randy Winburn’s phone rang one evening a little past midnight, the 33-year-old A.D. for the hit-com Diff’rent Strokes couldn’t have known that his stalled recording career had placed the call. Recently spurned by his Runaways, Kim Fowley was on the rebound, sifting around in his ever-growing haystack of unsolicited demo tapes for the next needle. What he heard on Randy Winburn’s home 4-tracked reel was an unkempt Pet Sounds, mangy and missing a little corner of its ear.   By December 1978, Winburn had been out of the recording business for a decade and more, having taken his last stab with Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s “next Kingsmen.” 

 

During their sophomore year at UNC, the sextet of Winburn, Joe Mendyk, Phil Lambeth, Jim Opton, Cam Schinhan, and Bill Levasseur had morphed from a generically named cover band called the Shadows into psychedelic NC fuzz kings Nova Local. A choice opening slot for Chad & Jeremy landed the group at the William Morris Agency, who in turn hooked the group up with a young Elliot Mazer. Their 1966 demos resulted in a contract with Decca, who issued their lone album Nova 1 in 1968, to minimal acclaim, notice, or sales.   When Nova Local’s membership retreated back to more familiar locales, Winburn took a job at CBS Television, where he earned rent holding cue cards for Captain Kangaroo. Through five more years, Randy Winburn snaked around the CBS system, peaking when he helmed dozens of episodes of the long running soap The Guiding Light. In 1975, he was on the payroll at Norman Lear’s Tandem Productions, A.D.’ing The Jeffersons, Good Times, and the aforementioned Gary Coleman starmaker. As for music, Winburn paid closest attention to theme songs that opened his sit-coms. If not for an in-studio contest over the writing and producing of a theme for the short-lived Joe & Valerie series, Winburn might never have recorded again.  

 

Joe & Valerie, slotted to premiere in April 1978 after Rollergirls, got NBC’s greenlight as a disco cash-in hopeful. To give its credit roll a touch of Saturday night fever, Tandem set their team of songwriters and studio rats to churning out plays-in-Peoria disco cuts. Winburn wrote his own entry and recorded it with the help of his off-camera crew. Lear’s chosen winner was Winburn’s track. This process and the win lit a small fire under Randy Winburn, who began taping songs nightly to his portable 4-track. Using a store-bought guide to getting a record deal, he mailed out few dozen cassette and waited for any response at all.  

 

Luckily, Kim Fowley listened voraciously to whatever hit his P.O. box, even going so far as to roll blank tape sides on the off chance of uncovering “genius stink.” “Most of it was garbage, but Randy was at the top of the can,” he said. Fowley and Winburn convened at a nondescript studio on Melrose, where Winburn met Tom “Tommy Rock” Johnson and his song “Somebody Else’s Girl.” Winburn’s version ended up as the lead song on Fowley’s sprawling Vampires From Outer Space pet project sampler LP for Bomp! With help from his own shaky demo, Winburn arranged the harmonies—all 11 parts—along with the skeleton version of “Sunshine USA.” Tracked in eccentric LA producer and former Sparks guitarist Earle Mankey’s backyard studio, “Somebody Else’s Girl” wears Holland-era Beach Boys on its sleeve. For “Sunshine U.S.A.”—Winburn’s entry for the Vampires flipside—Fowley convinced Spirit’s John Locke to drop by and tinkle the electric 88s, though Fowley opted to literally phone in for the session—auditing the tracking and mixing from the comfort of his living room courtesy of Ma Bell. He lavished a matching effort in promoting the LP, which failed predictably to justify more than its first pressing.

 

I adjusted my strategy and began calling him later and later. 7pm Pacific, 8 Pacific, 9 Pacific, 10 Pacific… 11 Pacific?  I made my last call of the night at ten to 2am Central Time, and he picked right up. For the next five hours, Kim Fowley went on one of the longest rants I’ve ever heard. He covered everything from “Alley Oop” to some song he had purportedly produced for Friends. I kept looking at the clock, watching as my sleep window got ever tighter. Just before 7am Central, he said to me, “You should feel lucky to have spent these last five hours on the phone with me. We’ll never speak again.” And then he hung up. The license was handled through his attorney and royalty payments were sent to his Redlands, California, PO box. We had discussed the idea of a Fowley box set, but as I could never seem to catch him again we moved on.

 

For the moment, he was right. But when the vinyl version of Yellow Pills was being planned in 2011, I sent an email to Kim asking if he could make time for an interview. I wanted to get deep into Vampires, and he was the only one who knew what the fuck was REALLY going on in 1979.  He set it up for, of course, midnight Pacific. The conversation was another epic, grinding on until nearly 5am Central. He told the Vampires story and a hundred others. Just before we wrapped, as the sun was beginning to poke over the horizon, Kim Fowley paid the only compliment he would ever pay Numero: “I like you guys,” Kim said. “You’re the only ones who ever send me royalty checks.”


What’s the opposite of Nanu Nanu? Letting go of Robin Williams in five songs:
August 12, 2014, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Obituaries | Tags:

Unknown

We don’t deal in the world of celebrity over Numero HQ very often. Our business is the obscure. And yet, there was a dark cloud over 2348 S. Marshall Boulevard yesterday afternoon. Robin Williams was dead.

We’re in the death business, no doubt. Every week or so we get news of another artist we work with falling out, or we discover the guy we’ve been searching for has actually been dead for six months. When we started working on Cavern, we had no idea we’d need to talk to John Mosley—keyboardist for the second incarnation of the Royal Guardsmen—and when we did know, it was too late. Mosley had been dead a matter of days.

The news of D-list celebrity deaths comes like the tide these days. No one will mourn the death of Dustin Diamond. And if you were big in the ‘50s and not named Betty White, chances are you’e a CNN sub-headline for a few hours before being replaced by some Kardashian mishap. For us to really turn our heads, we need someone major to die, preferably in their prime, but we’ll take just past in a pinch. And let’s be honest, Robin Williams was a decade past. When you’re making CBS sitcoms with Sarah Michelle Gellar, your best days are behind you. But it’s impossible to deny how major he was.

We do obits now and then, but no one visiting this space is here to read our musings about Mork, Garp, or Smoochy. And unless Robin was in a Chicago garage band in the late ‘60s, this will likely be the last time we ever discuss him in this space. While TMZ is going through his trash looking for what type of rope he used to hang himself, we’ll focus on something we have some expertise on. In tribute to the man who gave us Jumanji, here are five great musical moments in the filmography of Robin Williams:

#1 Shelley Duvall “He Needs Me.” From the 1980 film Popeye.

#2 Professor Longhair “Hey Little Girl.” From the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. 

#3 Ry Cooder “Tattler.” From the 1990 film Cadillac Man.

#4 Fletcher Henderson “Shanghai Shuffle.” From the 1990 film Awakenings. 

#5 Elliot Smith “Miss Misery.” From the 1997 film Good Will Hunting. 

 



In Memoriam: Donald Coulter, A Quarter.
June 4, 2014, 1:21 pm
Filed under: Obituaries, Prix | Tags:

scan 1 4c

This morning we lost a great friend, Don Coulter from Penny & the Quarters. His background vocals, along with his two brothers Bill and John, provided the foundation of one of Numero’s biggest “hits”, “You And Me.” He was struck tragically by a stroke almost a year ago and showed amazing resilience while attempting to recover against a number of opportunistic ailments and the inability to speak. We send our heartfelt condolences to his widow Merlene, his sister Nannie (aka Penny), his brothers, and the rest of their vast extended family and friends in Columbus.