Anecdotes, stories, information, and photographs about the 53 tracks on this 2-CD set. There are links within the text to websites for most of the artists. (For personnel and recording credits see the CD package itself.) Click on the photos to see them larger.
Norabelle expressed to me their pleasure in the date and time of the wedding all being prime numbers: 5-7-17, 5 pm. This was not planned, as they had to go with available dates for the Prospect Park Boathouse. I started assembling this CD last September. By early January I discovered that there was already over 90 minutes of music, which is too long to fit on one disc (they top out at 78 minutes), so it became a two disc set. As it was just about ready to be mastered, with both discs sequenced, I realized with 52 tracks I was one away from a prime number. So a very short song was added at the last minute.
With Norabelle and Russell being four years apart there will be a few times when they both are at a prime number age. First, these are the prime age years they shared before they knew each other: 3/7, 7/11, 13/17, and 19/23. And these are what they can look forward to: 37/41, 43/47, 67/71, 79/83, 97/101, and 103/107.
About the Cover:
The image is a detail from a piece created by Barbara, titled the same as the CD itself. It is a recent creation in the explorations of a similar nature that she’s been doing for the past several years. More can be seen here.
Barbara’s artist statement from her exhibit at the Courthouse Gallery in Lake George last summer:
“From my earliest art works I have been engaging with women’s words and work quite deliberately. This further manifests through my responsive approach to process and materials. The work is meditative and quiet, even minimal; it may trace a thought or a moment but does not document or record. The work is equally about seeing and not seeing. Looking at something very closely is both a necessity and the result of my process that includes piercing, punching, threading, knotting and weaving through paper. Looking so closely that the thing itself disappears, metaphorically, and on a certain level, quite literally.”
I started collecting dated bread tags about 35 years ago. My goal was, and remains, to gather all 366 dates. My source for most of them was friends who’d set them aside and when I’d see them they’d hand me a small rubber-banded stack. I would then toss these in a box at home for a date in the far distant future when I’d organize them all on a board with 366 nails from which to hang them in sequential order. Rarely did I look to see what I’d received, but on one occasion I did and was excited to see that amongst the dozen or so given to me (I recall that these were from Kate & Jay Rooney, one of my regular suppliers) was one that read “Feb 29”! Wow! When I saw that I knew I’d reach my goal.
My plan was to wait until I was an old man to go public with this collection, so that it would not come off as some sort of artist/hipster shenanigans, but would instead be more of a human interest story. I didn’t want to be in the arts section of the newspaper, but rather in the living section, inspired in part by an elderly man I met shortly after moving to Saratoga Springs in the mid-‘80s. He had a large collection of license plates nailed to the inside of his garage and The Saratogian ran a story about him.
When Norabelle was about seven or eight she took it upon herself to organize what was in the box, separating them into the twelve months. I put those piles each into their own container then put the dozen of those into a box I keep in the basement and into which I’d toss more handfuls of bread tags as I’d collect them in smaller numbers in the kitchen. In January of this year, I brought the boxes up so I could find all the the May 7 tags. Over the years the number of unsorted tags had grown greater than those already sorted, and I went through those first, finding one May 7 within the first hour of searching. Once the unsorted ones were searched and sorted, I started on the ones already broken into months, by now also looking for dates that reflected family birthdays as well. This entire process took all of a Sunday afternoon, about five hours. The work was done in the TV room and I played a series of movies that I’d not normally watch but that gave momentum to my endeavors. I’ve found that, in particular, Nicholas Cage movies that are daunting to watch with full attention, work well to keep things moving along, akin to a DJ keeping dance beats going at a discotheque. Movies that accompanied my sorting were: U-571, The Family Man, and Demolition. For more on bread tags see Addendum #7 at the end of this page. (Bread tag drawing postcard by Norabelle)
1-1. 3 Leg Torso: “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie”
3 Leg Torso are a long-running ensemble based in Portland, Oregon. They were formed by violinist Béla Balogh and accordionist Courtney von Drehle, who are the only ones on this particular recording. I met them while working on an artist residency project for the Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts around the turn of the century. We then ended up collaborating on what became Legibly Speaking, a series of monologues with music, the text all being based on my conversations with some of the city’s elderly residents. We debuted the CD with a performance out there in 2003. In the autumn of the following year they flew out here and we did a 16 day northeast tour, the last date of which was at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Barbara and Norabelle drove out for it and the following morning we all drove together to the Albany airport from where the band flew back to Portland and we drove home.
(Additional note: At one of the earlier dates on the tour we played at the Iron Horse in Northampton. Norabelle and Barbara drove out there and met us, with Barbara attending the show and Norabelle getting a better look at Smith College and spending the night there. She emerged quite certain that it was the place for her.)
1-2. Robyn Hitchcock: “Full Moon In My Soul”
Norabelle first met Robyn Hitchcock in the late nineties when we drove to Boston for a solo performance he did prior to a screening of the film Storefront Hitchcock at the Coolidge Corner Cinema in Brookline. We picked him up at the airport and then all had dinner before the concert. When she was attending Smith College in Northampton, Robyn on occasion would play at the Iron Horse and she saw him there on at least one occasion. She also visited him in London during her year abroad in Paris, staying with them for a couple days, and going to see Jonathan Richman with him and Michéle (as I recall, Jonathan and Robyn had the same booking agent in the UK). Norabelle and Russell saw Robyn perform last year at a club in Brooklyn and Russell has a funny story about it. I’ll let him tell you.
1-3. The Incredible Casuals: “Running Up the Clock”
Norabelle has seen and heard The Incredible Casuals since she was quite young. The earliest times would have been on trips to Cape Cod where the band played every Sunday at The Beachcomber in Wellfleet. (This was where she first ate oysters, which she referred to as “the food you eat and drink,” though she wasn’t as fond of the drink part and would take each one from the shell and then squeeze it in her hand to sort of wring it out. This procedure attracted a small but fascinated audience.)
We also drove to Amherst when they played outdoors at U. Mass. in the summer of 1989 (photos with Chandler that day appear in the section about his song on the second disc). They were on the bill between Phish and Canned Heat.
Another trip had us at meeting up with Tom Duffy (Norabelle’s godfather) and his daughter Aiden to see the Casuals play outside overlooking one of the Finger Lakes. This was on the campus of Wells College in 1990. The photo of her with the group beside their van with her hands covering her eyes immediately found favor with Chandler who wanted to use it as the band photo in their next album, Your Sounds. (Ultimately, it appeared amongst a collage of many tiny pictures.)
1-4. Michael Eck: “Lillie’s Tune”
(NOTE: This is not a photo of Mike Eck!) Michael Eck has been a part of the Albany music scene as long as I’ve lived here (since 1984). I first knew of him as a member of the wonderfully-named band, Chefs of the Future. Over the decades he has recorded solo albums and been a member of assorted ensembles, in recent years primarily The Ramblin’ Jug Stompers. He’s also been a big supporter and promoter the regional arts scene. He’s organized a wide range of concerts as well as being a writer for The Times Union and the host of a weekly NPR live music program produced by their Albany affiliate. While I don’t have a photo of Norabelle with Mike, I do have this one of her with Kevin Maul taken in 1997. (They’re standing in front of a silkscreen print by Jad Fair who appears on the second disc of this collection, #2-20. For reasons long forgotten, Kevin is holding a photo of Norabelle with Joey Spampinato.) He played dobro on “Lillie’s Tune.” Kevin is also a member of the trio A Strong Dog who I performed and recorded an album with in 2013, So Tough.
1-5. The Young Fresh Fellows: “The Good Ship Norabelle”
Sitting at Tad’s drums
Sticks hooked in her thumbs
Setting sail for fun
The good ship Norabelle
Across the great divide
Life’s narrow, then it’s wide
Pitch from side to side
The good ship Norabelle
Over the ocean swells
In pencil or pastels
The good ship Norabelle
And precious cargo
A song that skims the waves
Parfois en français
It’s swingin’ when we sway
The good ship Norabelle
Sailors call her name
Epic poems her fame
But stalwart she remains
The good ship Norabelle
Scott McCaughey wrote this song for The Young Fresh Fellows with the photo of Norabelle at their drums as his starting point. The picture was taken when they were playing at Bogie’s in Albany in 1991. Since I wouldn’t be going to the show later that night, we drove down for their soundcheck. They ran a couple songs by then played “The Sesame Street Theme” especially for her. They had recorded and released it as a 45 around that time. Somewhere there’s a photo of Norabelle sitting in middle of the empty club floor listening to The Young Fresh Fellows play her that song. Then we went out for pizza. (See also addendum #1.) It is also worth noting that this was the band’s so-called “mustache tour” during which they all grew mustaches. They had an earlier tour that had them all shaving off their eyebrows, an experience that taught them why they have eyebrows as they all suffered from sweat rolling down their foreheads into their eyes. Nowadays the band’s hijinks are more along the lines of choosing matching hats.
Norabelle saw Scott 19 years later when he played with The Baseball Project at the Solid Sound Festival. That was the first year that Wilco assembled a weekend of music at Mass MoCA. Norabelle and I drove over to North Adams for the Sunday concerts. I had gone on Saturday as well, but she wasn’t available then because she was bartending at Reed Anderson’s wedding party. And that’s when and where she met Russell.
1-6. Keiichi Hashimoto & John Clark: “The Nearness of You”
Keiichi Hashimoto is one of the most amazing soloists I’ve ever had the privilege to stand beside and collaborate with (see info with the Keith Spring track, #1-8). I first heard him when he was playing in The Chandler Travis Philharmonic. String bassist John Clark is a cornerstone of The Chandler Travis Three-O, playing with them at Norabelle & Russell’s wedding.
1-7. Georgia Greenberg: “Yessy Yes”
For several years the Greenberg family (no relation, though I was in fact born in Chicago, which is where they live) would send out a disc for the holidays. Mark, who I met in the early ‘90s when he was in The Coctails, runs his own studio called Mayfair Recordings. I have collaborated with him on a number of albums over the years, and he has created music for commercials, cartoons, and more. Georgia came up with this song (and her brother August has a song that is on the second disc.) While attending Smith College, Norabelle told me that when friends in her dorm were under too much stress she would simply have them put their heads down and listen to this. Georgia is just completing her freshman year of college and has a very cool band call The Strawbabies who released an EP called Side Streets that’s available here.
1-8. Keith Spring: “Walking in Prospect Park”
This song is the first by one of three musicians who were all in NRBQ. The songs appearing in the order in which the musicians joined the band in the early ‘70s (I was able to go with that bit of logic because it also made sense in the flow of the whole sequence, too).
I met Keith in a record store in Northampton, Massachusetts in the late 1970s, and through him met the rest of the band, who I’d been following since their first album was released in 1969. That led to me designing dozens of their album covers and collaborating in other contexts over the years as well, including the recent album with Keith, Dinty Child, and Keiichi Hashimoto (who also appear in this collection), Take Me Where I Don’t Know I Am, on the cover of which is seen Norabelle’s tiny hand holding a finger of her great-grandmother, Goldene Greenberger, in South Bend, Indiana in 1987.
1-9. Al Anderson: “In My Dreams”
After meeting Chet Atkins, Al Anderson wrote this song for him. Chet never did get to record it before he died, but Al himself did, as well as Asleep At The Wheel.
Norabelle attended a handful of outdoor afternoon NRBQ concerts, including one in Western Massachusetts in 1989 where she was photographed leaning on a road case in the backstage area, and another at the 1990 Albany Tulip Festival, at which she also had her face painted. Al left the band in 1993 after 22 years.
1-10. Tom Ardolino (1955-2012): “Big City Shoes”
Before she’d ever met Tom Ardolino, Norabelle was photographed seated beside the Tom Jr. doll. One of the world’s finest drummers, he was admired by everyone from Paul McCartney to Earl Palmer. He pretty much lived for music and went from playing along with records in his parents basement to drumming for his favorite band, NRBQ. A year out of high school in 1974, he drummed from then until the band shut down in 2004. He listened to music more deeply than anyone I know. I’d often see him backstage after a show and someone would have something for him to hear, handing him headphones and whatever portable playback system it was. He’d sit down on the spot, close his eyes, and listen to whatever it was, in its entirety. During his high school years Tom got a reel-to-reel tape recorder that allowed him to overdub parts. These recordings ended up being released in Japan as an album titled Unknown Brain. Among the various experiments and audio verité were some compelling songs, among them this very short one, “Big City Shoes,” with all parts and vocals performed by 16-year-old Tom Ardolino in the basement.
Following this song by Tom with one by The Fitzbergs is no accident. Besides sounding right beside one another, there’s more to tell. It was the summer of 1999 and we were driving home from Cape Cod with Norabelle and Emma (see #2-7). Knowing that Tom’s father had died the week before we decided to stop by and see him at his home (the same house in which he grew up). He knew that we’d been on the Cape and that the girls had been singing out there. He said to them something like, “I heard that you would come and sing for me!” Setting aside the shyness that had been creeping into their performing impulses, they did indeed sing him their several songs.
1-11. The Fitzbergs: “As I Walk”
Emma Fitzgerald and Norabelle are The Fitzbergs. The earliest recordings I have of them are from 1995 and they were only doing covers at that time. Their repertoire included “Make New Friends,” “Singing in the Rain,” “Waddily Doodle,” and “The Button Factory.” By the following year they had two originals, “As I Walk” and “Fishy Go Swim Swim” (heard in a 1999 live performance on the second disc in this set, #2-7). Sufficiently pleased with the results, the girls designed a cover for the cassette on which the songs were recorded.
It’s worth noting that an earlier singing group (for which there is no recorded evidence) that Norabelle had with a couple girls who lived across the street was called Purple Girls Talk Pirate. That name came about as a solution to having two possible names that they couldn’t agree on: Girls Talk and The Purple Pirates.
One event from their pre-Fitzbergs years found Norabelle and Emma playing with a metal globe of the Earth that had come free of its stand. They were tossing it off of our porch onto the sidewalk. The repetition and its attendant volume caused me to suggest that, “maybe that’s enough” and they requested one more toss. That toss caused the two halves of the globe to break free from their equatorial joint, now becoming unattached northern and southern hemispheres. Their response as they ran to retrieve them was delighted and immediate: “Helmets!” they shouted as they donned them on their heads. (see also addendum #3)
Around the time of this recording Emma and Norabelle were conspiratorially involved in my favorite lie. I was driving the two of them somewhere and it was at a time by which they had formed preferences for radio stations to be listening to in the car. I instituted a game to determine how long a given station would be on. We’d switch to their station, but once they couldn’t name the performers of three successive songs, we’d change to mine with the same rules applying to me. The two of them correctly accounted for the names of each successive act. A week or so later Norabelle revealed to me, “You remember the band called Mailbox that Emma said was playing a song on the radio? Well, they’re not a band.” My first response was “You mean they were put together by producers, in the studio?” That was followed by a certain pride of fatherhood that she knew what I meant by the question, that she knew the difference between naturally occurring band formations and those created by calculated design and casting. “No,” she said, re-emphasizing, “Mailbox is not a band.” Seeing a still puzzled look on me, she came clean with the simple, “Emma made it up so you wouldn’t change the station.”
Photo of Norabelle and Emma swimming in the pool at the home of Jane & Paul Athanas in Key West, 1999. The Fitzbergs story continues with #2-7.
1-12. The Condiments: “It’s You, Baby!”
I tracked down this song by contacting Greg Prime, who put me in touch with Oliver Edsforth who did indeed have some recordings of their high school band that Russell was in. He left them off at his parents house here in Greenwich for me to pick up, go through, and copy.
1-13. Pete Donnelly and The X-Ray Bs: “When You Come Home”
A fantastic live recording of the title song from Pete Donnelly’s first solo album. Pete is a member of The Figgs, a band that started when he was in high school in Saratoga Springs, and is still recording and touring today, more than 25 years later. I designed the packaging for a Christmas single they did as well as their second album, Banda Macho. I mention this because the cover image of the dangling machinery is a photo I took in Ogdensburg, New York when visiting Tom Duffy (see #1-3 above) in the 1970s and a bridge was being built across the Oswekatchie River right near where it flowed into the St. Lawrence, and where Tom’s house was situated.
1-14. Angel Dean & Sue Garner: “That Was the Day”
I met Sue Garner in the late 1970s when she was attending (I think) The Atlanta College of Art and had an apartment next door to my friends Walton Harris and Darryl Vance. A decade later she was living in NYC’s Alphabet City around the corner from my friend Eddie Gorodetsky and had a series of cool bands: Fish & Roses, Run On, The Shams and many others (use the link that is her name, above, to get the full story at her website). She also recorded a couple solo albums and had a duo with Angel Dean, who had been in The Last Roundup. I hadn’t been in touch with Sue in years until the fall of 2015 when Norabelle & Russell took Barbara and me to a concert for our anniversary. It was Yo La Tengo and Nick Lowe at the incredibly renovated Kings Theater in Brooklyn. Hanging out with everybody after the show I ran into Sue who, in an amazed voice said, “Is that Norabelle?!” So, when assembling this collection a year later I asked Sue if she might have a suitable song and she had this one that they’d recorded but never released.
There is a related story worth including here because it pertains to a wedding. The date of that Yo La Tengo concert was also the date of a wedding of Norabelle & Russell’s friends Pat & Courtney. Timing-wise they had to miss the actual wedding by knew they could get to the party that would be continuing into the late hours. Knowing that Pat was a fan of the two acts, as well as a fancier of vinyl records, Norabelle brought Yo La Tengo’s Stuff Like That There and Nick Lowe’s The Convincer to the concert. She had Ira, Georgia, and James sign theirs, and Nick sign his (he also drew wedding bells), then she and Russell hopped in a car that got them to the party. While en route she put the colorful 12” x 12” covers into frames she had with her for that very purpose, and put them in gift wrap as well. Reports got back to them in the idle of the night that the newlywed couple we ecstatically happy about the gift.
Since I don’t have a photo of Norabelle and Sue, or Sue alone, or Angel and Sue, and, since Eddie was mentioned in the first paragraph above, here’s a photo of Norabelle with one of Eddie’s Emmy awards.
1-15. Men & Volts: “Dad’s Happy”
The amp’s plugged in
Green light comes on
The amp is working
Strings are new
Everybody’s in tune
That chord sounded perfect
People clap their hands
See some listen, you can see some dance
Admiring his guitar
Some say he’ll go far
And ask about his plans
Hey ain’t life grand
Daddy’s walking, Dad’s happy
He’s cakewalking, Dad’s happy, feelin’ fine
Can’t find a feather to ruffle
Not a word unkind
He never asks for anything special
Just an ordinary guy
Now the amp is in the trunk
Guitar on the seat
More happy than he’s drunk
Start the car, light the lights
The roads are dark
The night is cold, car’s running fine
Daddy’s driving, Dad’s happy
Just an ordinary guy
Take the dog out for a walk
Trashcans to the curb
Single digits on the clock
Teeth are brushed, he’s winding down
House all quiet, bed’s nice and warm
Daddy’s dreaming, Dad’s happy
This song was written with Phil Kaplan when Norabelle was a baby. It was recorded in 1990 but not released until 2015, appearing on one of the LPs in the Men & Volts’ box set Honeymoon Luggage. To celebrate that extravagance the band reconvened for a performance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was attended by a full house, including Norabelle & Russell who came up from Brooklyn for it (and are seen watching and listening in this accompanying photo).
1-16. Curt Hammar: “Yet”
Curt Hammar lives in Sweden and we have never met in person, but he’s one of just a very few people who’ve become real friends via the means of communication at hand (postcards, letter, emails). When his recent album arrived in the midst of assembling this collection, I was immediately fond of this alluringly short-titled song.
1-17. John Sieger: “Sycamore Tree”
While I don’t have photo of Norabelle with John Sieger, they did meet when she flew out to Milwaukee for the performance of Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time at the Pabst Theater (see also #1-22) for which John was a member of the Paul Cebar Stage Ensemble. (He’s seen here to the left of me, wearing a hat.)
1-18. Erin McKeown: “Float”
After a concert by Dave Alvin in Brattleboro, Vermont in the fall of 2000 a man introduced himself to me. He said he’d wanted to get in touch because an artist on his label, Signature Sounds, had written a song using material from The Duplex Planet. I gave him my address and he mailed me the recording. The artist was Erin McKeown and we ended up titling the song “The Door” and it was on her Queen of Quiet EP (and later on the the collection Small Deviant Things Vol. 2 & 3). We met shortly thereafter when she played at Skidmore College and have seen her many times since over the years. Erin lives near Northampton, Massachusetts and Norabelle would see her while attending Smith College, and in the years that followed when Erin would play in NYC. This recording of “Float” is a demo, and the finished version was on her 2005 album We Will Become Like Birds. These two photos of Erin and Norabelle are from 2003 and 2013.
1-19. Dave Alvin & Christy McWilson: “Two Lucky Bums”
We went to Los Angeles for Norabelle’s 18th birthday. She went to a table read and then the taping of an episode of Two and a Half Men (written by our friends Eddie Gorodetsky and Don Foster). Among other doings we also all went to Ed Ruscha’s studio, a party in Venice where the trio, Jackshit, performed, and a dinner at the infamous Lucy’s El Adobe, which is where she met Dave Alvin when we all had dinner together. Norabelle finally got to see him onstage when she and Russell saw him play in NYC six years later. (As with other photos at similar events, Russell took the photo, so he’s not in it.) Christy McWilson was the singer around which the Seattle-based band, The Picketts, were built (and tying things together, Steve Berlin from Los Lobos produced their 1996 album, Euphonium). She has been singing with Dave for years, and he produced her two albums, The Lucky One and Bed of Roses.
Though they didn’t know each other, both Dave’s father and my father are from South Bend, Indiana.
1-20. Ralph Carney: “Boathouse Bossa Nova”
Saxophonist Ralph Carney first appeared on he national scene beyond his native Akron, Ohio when his band Tin Huey was signed to Warner Brothers Records in the mid-70s. He spent the ‘80s playing most visibly with Tom Waits. Besides vast discography as a session player and touring musician, he’s a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Ralph and I recorded an album together titled OH, PA and the two words are capitalized because they’re the postal abbreviations for the two states we grew up in, on either side of the border that separates them. This photo of him with Norabelle was taken backstage at The Egg in Albany when he played with They Might Be Giants as their saxophonist on one of their tours in 2009.
1-21. Jim Stephanson Quintet: “Sweet Peach”
I met Jim Stephanson through our shared connections with NRBQ. His album, Say Go, had members of that band on it and was released on their label. I designed the packaging for it, utilizing a drawing by Ed Rogers (see #1-26). This song was written for his daughter, Audrey, who was born in 2010 and has the same middle name as Norabelle, Rose.
1-22. Paul Cebar: “Lovely as the Day is Long”
Norabelle met Paul Cebar in 2009 when she flew out to Milwaukee to see us perform Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time at the Pabst Theater. (She’s seen in the documentary, A King in Milwaukee, about the creation of that work.) The song was originally recorded with his band, The Milwaukeeans, on their 1997 album The Get Go. This solo acoustic version was recorded especially for this collection.
1-23. Jane Greenberger: “Song & Dance”
My parents and siblings (all being younger than me) moved to Atlanta in 1973. I was living in Philadelphia at the time, staying there for the better part of a year before moving up to Boston. On one of my visits to Atlanta I recorded my mother playing her piano in the living room. She played some of my favorites and some of hers, into a simple little cassette recorder. Several years ago I transferred the tape digitally and made a little CDR album. The cover for it seen here, between photos of Norabelle and Russell’s visits in 2012 and 2015.
1-24. Aaron Spade: “Bring Me to My Knees”
Aaron Spade grew up on Cape Cod and I first knew of him when Chandler produced his band, The Hitchhikers, in the 1980s. I never saw them but heard the recording, and as I recall they were either in high school or barely out of it and I was immediately struck by his song “Burn Me Up.” Shortly thereafter he joined Chandler’s band, The Incredible Casuals, bringing his guitar, his voice, and his songs. The first album they recorded together was even named for his song, Your Sounds. He was in the band when they backed The Fitzbergs for a couple songs (see #2-7) in 1999. This photo was was taken when he and his wife Allison paid us a visit in the summer of 2000.
Aaron’s song I mentioned above was later recorded by The Incredible Casuals. It was to be a 45 in 1993 on the El Diablo label in Boston, with the song “Fluffy” as the B-side. I designed the cover for it and 1000 of them were printed up, but it was never released. The photo was taken by Tom Duffy of snowmen than he and his daughter Aiden made in Ogdensburg, New York. (see #1-3 for Tom and Aiden, and #1-13 for another cover photo taken in Ogdensburg)
1-25. Chuck Bell (1952-1994): “This is It (The Truth at Last)”
I met Chuck Bell in the summer of 1969. I was fifteen and entering my sophomore year in high school, and he was seventeen, entering his senior year. We didn’t live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school. I can’t remember who put us in touch, but I became the bass guitarist in his band, Happy Scab. While that name has a sort of loopy rudeness to it, the band was rooted with a depth of character that was a revelation for me. There were seven members in the band, but the most compelling presence was Chuck. And while I was still delighting in riff-based songs, he was writing songs that sounded like they’d been dug up from the base of a 200 year old tree.
Chuck was the first artist I knew. It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I understood this. He was the first person I knew up who was absorbing the world around him and fashioning it into something of his own. Whether he was performing, writing a song, or drawing a cartoon, he imbued it all with such commitment that I never doubted anything he created.
Alas, he was not in sync with the movements and expectation of the various marketplaces in which he wanted to participate. He moved from Erie to West Virginia to Boston (and that is when we reconnected, forming a band which appears on the second disc in this set), and then a return to Erie, followed by alternating between Boston and Nashville (strangely making the northern city his home in the winter and the southern one in the summer). He drove cabs, played in cover bands at Holiday Inns, gave guitar lessons to children, played organ at a church, all the while writing songs. He often became discouraged by the lack of response from all quarters and, stopping short of his impulse to destroy his demo tapes, would send them to me or our mutual friend Paul in Erie, and eventually he’d start over on a new batch. The cycle took a toll on him and he died in Nashville in 1997. (photo by Patrice Macaluso)
1-26. Tom Recchion: “Enormous Horses”
The first I first knew of Tom was through his musical endeavors in the early eighties, with B-People and L.A.F.M.S. (Los Angeles Free Music Society). He was also the art director at Warner Brothers Records and did amazing, award-winning work on everything from Carl Stalling to Lou Reed & John Cale. We were in touch quite a bit when I was asked to have former Duplex Nursing Home resident Ed Rogers do his distinctive lettering for R.E.M.’s Out of Time album in 1990. (You can see some of Ed’s drawings as well as the font set that was developed from his lettering by following the link from his name in the previous sentence.) Somewhere I have more photos of Ed slowly lettering all of that album’s song titles while Norabelle, not quite three years old, is partially watching him, but mostly looking at me with a daddy-can-we-go-now? expression on her face. This photo was made into a postcard that was included with the deluxe edition of the album.
I had most of the sequence for this first disc worked out, knowing how it would conclude, but I needed some sort of a bridge to get from the low fidelity archival recording of Chuck Bell to the pristine clarity of Michael Gregory Jackson. I thought of Tom’s music and went through his albums and immediately knew that this piece was the one. Evocative, organic, and gently majestic.
1-27. Michael Gregory Jackson: “If I Only Had A Minute”
I met Michael in the mid-seventies when I was working at a bookstore in Harvard Square with Chiquita Chevalier, who was his girlfriend at the time. It was the era of loft jazz performances and Michael led his own ensembles or played with others interchangeably. Those others included Oliver Lake, Pheeroan akLaff, Anthony Davis, Leo Smith, Stan Strickland, and Marty Ehrlich. I took the photo of him for the cover of his first album Clarity (Circle, Triangle, Square), in 1976. The following year I moved to a new apartment that Chiquita found in Brookline for the three of us. After about a year, the two of them, by then married, moved to Northampton and I found new roommates. I would visit them out there in the center of Massachusetts and it was on one of those trips that I met Keith Spring in a record store (see #1-8). It was also around this time that Michael began pursuing his interest in the soulful pop that had been a part of his musical character before he entered the realm of the avant grade jazz that had been gaining ground over the previous decade (via the Art ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, and many others). He recorded a number of albums under the name Michael Gregory (to avoid confusion with the then-ascending Michael Jackson). His discography moved between genres (which are not really a part of music, but marketing tools), and has always been nothing short of believable.
Michael also wrote and recorded a song for Place of General Happiness: Lyrics by Ernest Noyes Brookings Volume 2; the title of the album comes from a line in his contribution, “Boomtown.” It is the perfect melding of the words of the octogenarian poet (who lived from 1898 to 1987) with deliriously hook-filled funk.
2-1. Steve Shook: “This Must Be Love”
I met Steve Shook and Chandler Travis in 1980. They were transitioning from being the duo they’d been through the seventies, Travis Shook & The Club Wow, into the rollicking, hopped up rock band, The Incredible Casuals. We became fast friends immediately. Their band and the band I was in, Men & volts, would play dates together on one bill. We even recorded each other’s songs (Volts did “Picnic Ape” and Casuals did “Records Go ‘Round”). Living in Boston at the time, I’d drive to Cape Cod, where they both lived, and hang out for a weekend. Besides having a shared love of music, they played me two classic comedy pieces I’d never heard before: “Two Face West” by Bob & Ray, and “Maniacs in a Living Hell” by Coyle & Sharpe. (Years later I became friends with Mal Sharpe, and one of the greatest moments of something being yelled in my house was when Mal called for the first time. Norabelle, then about ten, answered the phone downstairs then yelled upstairs to me, “Daddy! It’s Mal Sharpe!” Mal also makes an appearance on the album I recorded with Ralph Carney (see #1-20), playing the part of me.)
I include the photo above because it’s Norabelle & Russell sitting on a blanket, applauding a performance of the Chandler Travis Philharmonette that took place in the backyard of our friends Rich & Denise Borden on the occasion of my sixtieth birthday. (Seated to the right of them are Sarah Reynolds and Holly North and wearing the cap is Jeff Economy.) Steve Shook made a guest appearance with the band that day, playing a couple songs, including this one, a song he wrote about forty years ago and it’s been recorded by Chandler (and is a regular part of his current repertoire), but Steve never recorded the song himself. Until now, and for this CD.
2-2. Chandler Travis: “My Father Met My Mother in New York”
Chandler Travis has known Norabelle from at least when these photos above are from, around the time she was two-and-a-half. She and I made regular trips down to Cape Cod a couple years later when Chandler and I were doing a show together, Visit to a Duplex Planet, at the Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theater.
Chandler has written and recorded hundreds of memorable songs and this is by far a favorite. He’s performs it with his various-sized current ensembles. From largest to smallest they are: The Chandler Travis Philharmonic, The Chandler Travis Philharmonette, and The Chandler Travis Three-O. (He never stuck with an earlier name that I thought was particularly catchy: Chandler Travis & Some Guys Who Play With Chandler Travis). The middle of those three sized groups played at Norabelle & Russell’s wedding. Chandler was also a founder of The Incredible Casuals. (see #1-3)
2-3. Los Lobos: “Dream in Blue”
Norabelle saw Los Lobos in 1996 when they invited us to their show at SPAC in Saratoga Springs. They were touring as part of the Further Festival that was built around a couple Grateful Dead members’ bands. Steve Berlin and Louie Perez wanted to talk about finding something we could collaborate on in the future. (That future turned out to be nearly ten years later and project was Growing Old in East L.A., an hour-long radio piece for which David Hidalgo and Louie, in their Latin Playboys guise, created the music.)
2-4. Amy Denio: “Romadame”
I can’t remember how or when Amy Denio and I first met or were in contact, but it was well before this photo was taken in 1994 at Jacobs Pillow in Massachusetts. Amy had composed the music for a dance that was done there, and the music was performed her group The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet (later shortened to simply The Tiptons).
2-5. Dinty Child: “The Reason”
Dinty Child has been part of the Boston-Cambridge music scene since the seventies. In recent years decades he’s been a part of Chandler’s band (Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Catbirds), and, most visibly, the constantly touring Session Americana. (He also recorded with me on the album mentioned in the Keith Spring description, #1-8.) Norabelle & Russell, as well as friends of theirs, have made it a point to see Session Americana whenever they play Brooklyn. This photo of Dinty with Norabelle was taken at one of those shows. (As with numerous other photos from the past seven years, they tend to be images of Norabelle and the performer: Dave Alvin, Erin McKeown, Penn & Teller, Georgia & Ira of Yo La Tengo. Where’s Russell? Taking the photo!)
2-6. August Greenberg: “Itchy Itchy Hay Hay”
See #1-7 for background on this recording. This song by August was also played by Norabelle for her friends at Smith College as a stress reliever. (Photo of Georgia and August Greenberg, Chicago, 2007)
2-7. The Fitzbergs with The Incredible Casuals: “Fishy Go Swim Swim” / “Please Don’t Talk to the Lifeguard “
This sort of picks up from #1-11. We went to Cape Cod for a visit in the summer of 1999, bringing Emma Fitzgerald with us. P.J. O’Connell put a plan in place to record The Fitzbergs in his basement in Eastham while we were in there. Since the duo’s initial home recordings a few years prior they’d made an appearance in the talent show at Greenwich Central School, singing “Please Don’t Talk to the Lifeguard.” (The song was originally released as a single in 1961 by Sylvia & George, then was a hit for Diane Ray in 1964.) To get them relaxed and ready for their session Chandler drove them around in his convertible, under the starlit sky. He may have taken them to get ice creams, too, I don’t remember, but I can’t ask Norabelle because writing all of this, as well as the entire CD itself, is all a secret to be revealed on May 7th. The session yielded multiple takes of Norabelle and Emma doing their a cappella renditions of “Fishy Go Swim Swim,” “As I Walk,” and “Please Don’t Talk to the Lifeguard.”
The next afternoon afternoon The Incredible Casuals were playing at an outdoor party in Wellfleet. It was arranged that The Fitzbergs would guest on two of their numbers. However, as the time for this performance grew closer the girls began cutting deals with me. I can’t remember all the particulars, but I do know that I was required to buy them each a shirt. They can be seen wearing these on the cover of the CDR that P.J. later assembled, covering the entirety of The Fitzberg’s recorded output. We departed the Cape after the weekend and that story continues with #1-10.
The earlier 1995 home recording of “Fishy Go Swim Swim” was included in the 2001 3-CD collection of very short pieces that was assembled by guitarist and composer Elliott Sharp. Titled State of the Union 2.001, it offered 171 artists in 171 minutes. A year or so after its release I did a search for “The Fitzbergs” and was pleased to see a radio station playlist that had their song following Ornette Coleman in a broadcast.
2-8. Marshall Crenshaw: “Monday Morning Rock”
Marshall Crenshaw and I have known each other for the past couple decades. Besides a mutual interest in each other’s creative work, we share updates and stories of fatherhood. This live recording dates from around when I’d have first seen him perform in Boston.
2-9. The Sangster Family Band: “Bring Me Sunshine”
The Sangster Family Band are indeed multi-generations of the Sangster family, performing together! I’ve known Jim Sangster since the eighties when a painting of mine was used for the cover of The Young Fresh Fellow’s fourth album, Totally Lost, and I’d been a fan since their first album a few years earlier. Besides being a founding member of that still roaring band (see #1-5), Jim has been a member of The Picketts (with Christy McWilson, see #1-19) and is also currently in The Tripwires.
2-10. Lootoolio: “Paradise Hotel”
Chuck Bell (see #1-25) and Patrice moved from West Virginia to Marblehead at the end of the seventies. Pleased to have him nearby (I was living in Brookline), we began getting together and playing some of his plentiful songs. He’d been writing at a good clip since we’d both been playing in bands together in Erie ten years earlier. Another friend from our hometown, Kip Starrett, was a musician in Boston as well (at the time going by the name Kip Korea) and he suggested we form a band working with a drummer with whom he’s been working. In June of 1980 we went into a studio and recorded a half dozen of Chuck’s songs. I dubbed the band Lootoolio, a play on the name of Erie’s long-running mayor, Louis J. Tullio. I had the tape with me when I went to Erie to visit friends over the Fourth of July weekend. One of them, Tom Weber, had a radio program on the local NPR affiliate. He invited me to the show for an interview and to play a couple of the songs. The next thing I knew a writer from the Erie Times-News got ahold of me for a phone interview. A prominent article appeared in the holiday edition of the paper and in it was a quote from the mayor. When asked how he felt about a band being named after him he said he was pleased and invited us to play at the We Love Erie Festival the following month. Though I had planned to head home, I stayed an extra day until city hall reopened. I called the mayor’s office and he asked me to come down so I could go to a press conference with him. This was all rather surreal to me, Tullio having been the mayor since 1966. (He served six terms, and was in office until 1989, six months before he died from a rare disease that also struck the mayor of Pittsburgh and the governor of Pennsylvania.)
We were invited to play two afternoon concerts for the festival which was held on the large public dock on the lake. The only thing was, Kip and the drummer were no longer a part of the band, so Chuck and I quickly recruited guitarist Phil Kaplan who was in Men & Volts with me, and drummer Ron Labbe who was one of my roommates. We worked up nearly three full sets of material, all but three songs were written by Chuck. A childhood friend, Dennis Cohen, was a booking agent in the tri-state area and he got us dates at a different Erie club every night for four nights in a row, giving us a total of six performances. We all had Erie-based stage names: Chuck was Perry Squire, Phil was Kelso Beech, Ron was Lucky Laine, and I was Wayne Blochäus. For our first show at the festival the mayor joined us onstage and we presented him with a ridiculous framed photo of us.
We got back to Boston, worked on some new songs in a rehearsal room we rented and played one date. It was a Halloween dance for residents of several nursing homes. Not because of that, but somehow it just stopped, our moment had passed. Lootoolio was only meant to be a weekend dream in Erie. Chuck formed another band (The Bits), and moved on. (See also addendum’s #4 and #5) Photo above of Norabelle with Ron Labbe is from May of 1989.
2-11. Sean Cole: “Poem (I went to Denmark)”
Radio producer, poet, and so much more, Sean Cole and I became friends instantly when we met about a decade ago. (When Norabelle met him years later she said, “I see why you like him, he’s just like you!”) He wrote the poem and created this recording specifically for this album. When I told Sean that Copenhagen is one of Russell’s favorite places (he and Norabelle went there in May of 2016), he got his idea. This photo was taken in October of 2011 at Lyon in Manhattan. Norabelle worked there for a short time, and having landed a paid internship to coincide with her study for her masters at Columbia, announced that it was her last restaurant job.
When I saw this photo of him playing guitar and singing I made a fake album cover out of it, because everybody loves to hear Sean laugh.
2-12. SUSS: “Rain”
I mentioned this project to Gary Leib when we saw him in NYC this past winter and he told me about this new group he’d put together. Gary has a long history with Bob Holmes, they both were at RISD together in the seventies and formed the band Rubber Rodeo who, for a time, were on the same Boston label as The Incredible Casuals (see #1-3) and Men & Volts (see #1-15). (Besides Gary’s visual art and cartooning, he’s also busy as an animator). The new ensemble also includes Pat Irwin, who was a founding member of both Raybeats and 8-Eyed Spy (I saw the latter in NYC at Club 57 on 4 January 1980 (besides the bread tag collection, I also have a list of every musical performance I’ve been to since 1968)). He later joined The B-52s, and composes music for film and television. I’ve never met their steel guitarist, Jonathan Gregg.
2-13. Yo La Tengo: “Barnaby, Hardly Working”
Photo of Norabelle with Yo La Tengo when they played in Paris and she was living there for a year (her junior year of college abroad, in 2007). The other one is with Georgia & Ira (taken by Russell) when they played a private event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. (see also #2-22 and addendum #6)
2-14. Pete Hayes: “Please, Please, Please, Please, Please”
I’d forgotten all about this song, until I asked Pete Hayes if he might have a song for this set. Pete’s the drummer for The Figgs, and at the time this was recorded twenty years ago, they were all still living in Saratoga Springs (the other two, Pete Donnelly and Mike Gent, grew up there). Writing only occasionally, Pete would sometimes have one song on an album. I’m not sure if this one was intended as a possible number for the band or if he was just enjoying recording at home, as this was. He called and asked me to come over and play bass on it. This photo of him with Norabelle is from 1996.
2-15. Frank Pahl: “Grand Fandango”
Michigan-based Frank Pahl and I were first in touch in the eighties when he sent me an album by his band, Only A Mother. We subsequently became friends and collaborators, starting with an album we recorded together when he brought me out to perform in an arts festival he organized in Detroit in 1994.
2-16. George Cartwright: “Poem”
I first knew of George Cartwright through his band, Curlew. We met some time later and I designed his album The Memphis Years that coincidentally featured the vocals of Amy Denio (see #2-4). He also wrote a song for Ernie: Songs of Ernest Noyes Brookings. His used Ernest’s poem “Baby.” As with nearly all of Ernie’s poetry, he’d ask me what to write about and I’d give him a theme or title. In this case, I specifically gave him this subject because at that time, in 1986, Norabelle, was on the way (due at the end of that year, she waited until two days into the next year to arrive). By way of a further connection, Cartwright’s “Baby” was sung by Sue Garner (see #1-14). For more about Brookings, step right this way.
2-17. The Craters: “I Was Around”
The Craters are the one-man band of Wes Kaplan, son of my old friend, writing partner, and Men & Volts bandmate, Phil Kaplan. Wes is seen here with Norabelle in the summer of 1993.
2-18. Glenn Jones: “Mothers Day”
I’ve known Glenn Jones since around 1980 when we both were living in the Boston area. We’ve been in and around each other’s projects and lives ever since. I moved away from Boston in 1984 but was back there regularly, seeing friends and playing with Men & Volts. In the fall of 1986, on a trip back that included a visit with Glenn, I was in traffic behind a Chrysler Lebaron where my habit (skill?) of reading backwards, especially while driving, proved to have a perfect application a few months later.
Glenn is on two of the Lyrics by Ernest Noyes Brookings albums. I designed the cover for the first album by his band Cul de Sac in 1991, and for their second release, I Don’t Want To Go to Bed, the cover title is handwritten by Norabelle. Glenn and I, along with drummer Chris Corsano, recorded an album together that was recently released in Belgium as a double 10” LP, An Idea In Everything. In this photo of Russell and Norabelle, taken in Atlanta in 2012, he’s wearing a very cool Cul de Sac t-shirt that no longer fit me, but fit him perfectly.
When Norabelle was living in Paris, Glenn was on one of his European tours and played a concert there that she attended. He told a story about playing at Bennington College in Vermont a few years prior; Barbara and I went to it. The performance was in the student union building and there were big comfy chairs. As he gave an introduction to one song that had him talking about me, it built up to a point where he gestured over to where I sat, only to discover (along with the student audience in attendance) that I was sound asleep. Hearing this recounted in Paris, Norabelle spent the rest of the concert in fear that she would fall asleep. (She did not then, and as a rule does not. And I just now saw the connection with that album title mentioned above.)
“Mother’s Day” was recorded live and the original is on Glenn’s 2016 album, Fleeting.
2-19. Amy & Norabelle: “Jack and Jill”
Norabelle and her cousin Amy Findley, 1991 and 2012:
2-20. Half Japanese: “In Its Pull”
I’ve known the brothers David and Jad Fair over half my life, since the late seventies when, as Half Japanese, they released an EP titled Calling All Girls. It included various inserts in the package, one of which was this hilarious FBI pass that I still carry in my wallet. In the decades that followed they have released upwards of a hundred albums both in expanded line-ups of Half Japanese and as solo records (Jad wrote and recorded about twenty songs using the poetry of Ernest Noyes Brookings). They’re both also visual artists and have created covers for The Duplex Planet. Sit: Boy Girl Boy Girl was an acoustic trio version of the band that played a concert at the Duplex Nursing Home where I worked in the early eighties (and was released as a CD a few years ago). Reaching a point where he didn’t want to tour anymore, David left the band, recording on his own and pursuing his painting. Jad continued on, dividing his time between artwork (see his amazing cut paper works here) and music. When the band’s tour brought them to Albany in October of 1988 they stayed with us in Saratoga. Photo of Norabelle with the full band in the yard, and with Jad by the refrigerator. (See also addendum #2)
2-21. Grace Bauer: “Marcel & Man Ray Play Tennis”
I met Grace Bauer in 1973 when I moved to Philadelphia for a half-hearted second attempt at being a regular college student. I moved into a house with four others who were also attending Temple University. My enrollment only lasted a couple months and I finished out what would been the school year by taking a ill-fitting job at a small downtown men’s clothing store called Mr. V.I.P. (It was located near the studio where the Mike Douglas Show was taped, and so there’d often be guests from that show stopping in. In Chubby Checker’s case it was to just ask where the studio was located, but I did end up selling socks to Cheech Marin, and a turtleneck sweater to Ross Martin from the TV show How The West Was Won.)
2-22. Tyler McKusick: “70V3”
I met Tyler last September when he drove up from NYC with Norabelle & Russell and about a dozen of their friends for the grape harvest at Victory View Vineyard. That’s the vineyard owned by Mary & Gerry Barnhart, Russell’s parents. I learned that, besides being a co-owner of the Brooklyn hot sauce shop, Heatonist, Tyler is also a musician. I invited him to be a part of the collection and he created this. The photo above is that weekend crew, with Tyler on the far right. Note that Russell is wearing a Yo La Tengo t-shirt (see #2-13 and addendum #6).
2-23. Peter Blegvad: “Too Much”
Norabelle has known Peter Blegvad since the summer of 1993 when she and I made a trip to spend a day with the Blegvad family (Peter, his wife Chloe Fremantle, and their children Kaye and Viggo) in nearby Vermont when whey were visiting from England. That cottage was owned by Peter’s parents, Lenore & Erik Blegvad, who spent the summers there (and the rest of the year in England and France, with visits to Erik’s homeland, Denmark). Shortly thereafter we visited them when I needed to be in London to promote a book. We were with them in their home for the better part of a week. Norabelle even went with Kaye to her school one day, wearing an extra one of Kaye’s uniforms (though none of us caught it at the time, she was wearing it inside-out).
A year after graduating college, Norabelle and a couple of her friends from Smith went to live and work in Paris for a year. She was due to fly home in December (2010), her first trip back since arriving there in September, and just a month after her and Russell’s romance began (see #1-5). However, snow storms grounded her in London, for what turned out to be too long a time to be able to get back home. Thankfully, she was in the warm home of Peter & Chloe, looked after by them until she traveled back to Paris (where she slipped on ice and fractured her arm, but that’s another story, referenced in this song).
The photo above of fathers and daughters (and a crouching, back-turned son) was taken on that first visit with the Blegvad family. At some point during the day we went to nearby creek and played around in the water. This ended up resonating when Peter wrote and recorded a song called “Daughter” that is on his 1996 album Just Woke Up. It opens with the line “That’s my daughter in the water.” (It was widely heard when covered by Loudon Wainwright and used over the end credits of Judd Apatow’s film Knocked Up.)
2-24. Erik Lawrence & Merge: “Contentment”
Norabelle met saxophonist Erik Lawrence in the summer on 2007 when she worked in Nyack, New York for Jamie Kitman’s Hornblow Group management company (who handled They Might Be Giants, OK GO, and others). I’d heard from Erik that he was playing an outdoor concert in Nyack and suggested to Norabelle she might like it and indeed, she went. She saw him again when, starting an annual tradition, Barbara and I took Norabelle and Russell to a musical performance for her birthday in 2014. We saw Henry Butler with Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9 at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan, a truly transcendent performance. The band includes Erik, and they’ve gone back to see the same ensemble again on return engagements at the same venue.
“Contentment” was composed by Erik’s father, the noted saxophonist and composer Arnie Lawrence.
2-25. Penn Jillette: “A Definition of Love”
Since Penn already tells about our friendship in his recording, I’ll add here how Norabelle & Russell came to be at the Penn & Teller show. Russell had never seen them perform, so for his birthday in 2015 she flew them out to Las Vegas for a weekend to see Penn & Teller, visit the Hoover Dam, and see the city (neither of them are gamblers). I emailed Penn to set them up with the show, telling him of Norabelle’s plan, which caused him to call her “the coolest girlfriend in the world.”
Photos of Norabelle with Teller and Penn in 1999. They did a show in Burlington, Vermont that we went to. It was Teller’s birthday so afterwards he, Norabelle, Barbara, and I went out for pizza.
The photo with Penn is from 2008 and is taken at the Friendly’s restaurant on Route 2 outside of Greenfield, Massachusetts (Penn’s hometown). We all met there to go to the Greenfield County Fair. That’s another story.
The photo with Penn & Teller is as described by Penn in this piece. And once again, Russell isn’t in it because he took the picture.
2-26. Raag Billy Bop: “‘Cause It’s Good”
Composed by Phil Kaplan, this song first appeared on Men & Volts’ 1990 album, Cheer Up. It was later recorded again, by Phil’s India-based band, Raag Billy Bop. The song closed their 2013 album, Stranger Here Myself, and it it brings this one to a close as well.
Norabelle and Russell’s rings, seen on each of the two discs, were designed by Kaye Blegvad. Friends with Norabelle since 1993 (see #2-23). She’s a third-generation artist. Her parents are songwriter, illustrator, and conceptualist Peter Blegvad and painter Chloe Fremantle. Her grandparents are author Lenore and children’s book illustrator Erik Blegvad. She’s seen here over the years with Norabelle. L-R: in England 1993, in Greenpoint Brooklyn on Norabelle’s birthday in 2015, and at an exhibit of Folly by artist Beth Katleman in Manhattan in 2011.
In 2003 I needed a label identity to release the Mayor of the Tennessee River CD in time for the performances with The Shaking Ray Levis in Chattanooga. Norabelle, in her early days of phonetic spelling wrote a little note for no particular reason (at least one that I’m not aware of), it was a bit of philosophical truth. I’ve had it in a small frame near my desk ever since then. Thanks to Anne Richmond Boston for the logo.
“I love you evry body in sapt sam pelpel” that translates to “I love you everybody, except some people.”
Besides the photo playing Tad Hutchison’s drums (see #1-5), Norabelle also posed seated at another set when we were visiting in Erie, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1994. A high school friend had bought a building that was an old social club. Upstairs was a banquet room and it was filled with an assortment of things that had been left there when the place went on the market. These included, drums, religious statues, and a wheeled stretcher.
Norabelle makes an appearance in the 1993 documentary about Half Japanese (see #2-20), The Band That Would Be King, directed by Jeff Feuerzeig. During an interview with me the camera starts in close then slowly pans back, revealing a three year old Norabelle sitting on my lap, looking by turns bored and suspicious about what is transpiring. I had the pleasure of seeing the movie screened to a full house in New York City upon its release. There was an audible sigh of sweet pleasure when Norabelle was seen (as I recall, the only moment of a young child in the entire film). And this is not the only film in which Norabelle is seen sitting on my lap. Still an infant, she’s with me in Jim McKay’s 1989 film about The Duplex Planet titled Lighthearted Nation.
The “helmets” described and pictured in #1-11 have remained on our upstairs porch, interacting with the elements for another couple decades. They were brought inside (temporarily) for these photos five days before Norabelle & Russell’s wedding.
Here’s the only other known photo from that Lootoolio performance at a nursing home Halloween dance party in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts in 1980. (The other photo is the one included with #2-10 above).
After posting Addendum #4 I received this photo from Ron Labbe, and now I do remember this one too. So there’s apparently at least three photos from that event. This photo has the entire band with the costumed nursing home fellow and my old friend Richard Baldwin. Furthermore, I researched (by going to the performance list on this website) the actual date and location of that performance. It was 29 October 1980 at the Agassiz Community School in Boston (not sure if that’s actually Jamaica Plain or not, but I’ve done enough research for today). It was the L.I.F.E. Halloween Party. They were an organization that provided services and social events and lobbying for the elderly.
I had a number of Yo La Tengo t-shirts and gave a couple to Russell, including this one he’s wearing. We’re photographed at the Rooney’s house in Milton, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving in the year 2012. To see another one of the band’s shirts he now owns, see #2-22 above. (photo by Jay Rooney)
More on bread tags here. (Thank you Erin McKeown)
Thanks to all the musicians and performers for their recordings, and to Scott Anthony at Storybook Sound in Maplewood, New Jersey for his careful mastering of a wildly diverse range of audio tracks. Thanks also to my sister Carol. Besides the musicians, she was one of the only people who was in on this secret project. I played her some of it on a trip down south shortly after it was mastered, telling her stories of the various connections over the years. She asked if what I was telling her would be with the CD because she loved hearing about it all and wanted to know more. I said that there’d be no room for all that text. I got home. I thought about it. She was right. So I found the photos, wrote it, and put it all right here. However that second element, “wrote it,” owes all of its luster and coherence to Barbara and her editing.
No more words, just a photo. Norabelle & Russell on a ferry crossing between Manhattan and Brooklyn, 2012.