Sunday, March 25, 2007

Peter Grudzien's Vision....

In 1974, working alone in his New York apartment, Peter Grudzien released his album The Unicorn in a pressing of 500 copies.

Fast forward somewhere around 10-12 years later and rare record collector/dealer, Paul Major, arrives home from a day of record hunting the likes of which simply can no longer be done in 21st Century New York and begins to listen to some of the unknown records he’s brought home. In a catalog Paul used to write up and mail out called Sound Effects, in one salmon-colored issue with a photocopy of the cover of an LP by the band Companion on the front, I remember his description of doing a spit-take with a mouthful of beer right after dropping the needle on the Grudzien LP for the first time.

I have that list here, somewhere, but the act of looking for anything specific in the chaos and clutter of this room immediately causes whatever it might be to don a fake moustache and pair of glasses and hide behind one of the record crates. But what I remember is that the essence of Paul Major’s description set the tone for pretty much all the descriptions I’ve read since, those that really understand the record. The Unicorn presents a viewpoint as, if not more, unique and singular than any other I’ve ever encountered.

Once people got the whole story, the one about Grudzien’s Nashville aspirations in the 50s and his meeting with Johnny Cash and his homosexuality and his involvement in the original Stonewall Riots (the big bang of the Gay Rights movement in the US) all those details worked more to cloud the character of the album, more than to suss out anything important about it.

The people who are genuinely clueless are those who think the point of the record is in the “so bad it’s good” realm with records by The Shaggs or The High Hopes. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

With the help of Mike Ascherman, a friend of Paul Major’s and another New York collector who was among the album’s first fans, I sat down a while back and transcribed the lyrics of what I think is the album’s masterpiece, “Kentucky Candy.”

I’ve just spent the better part of the morning looking in vain for a download of the song – I suspect it’s archived in a WFMU show somewhere but you’re going to have to go on without me and find it on your own. Or you could just buy the CD reissue, it’s been done twice, once with Peter’s involvement on the Parallel World label (with bonus material) and again as a bootleg on the UK Radioactive label (without bonus, but with the original cover art, a plus).

Here’s a glimpse of Peter’s world:

When they point their twisted fingers
And say that I must bow
And thank them all for nothing
For that’s all they will allow
When the pieces of my nerve ends
Come crawling up your stairs

But you take me in and you place your smile
Upon my venom eyes
You read me, and you know I’m crushed
and I’ll confess
I’ve been out a-crusin’ for the young and pretty Gods

Then your fingertips touch mine
And I see Him in the sky
Who’ll tell me of His garments
Are they new and clean and white
And tell me how He suffered
And take me to your bed
Beat upon the pillow till it’s fluffed to greet my head

You’re the one who calms the angry sounds
You’re the one who bathes my lips in brandy
Let me ride upon your back tonight
Fly me to the surf that’s warm and sandy
You’re the one who guides me through the light
And you’re the one who feeds me

Kentucky candy

When they crawl upon each other
And squeeze out each others eyes
Because they have no time left
To remember what they were
And in unison they turn to me
That I participate

And I taste the serpent’s tongue
And I freeze in all my frights
Can you tell them for me now
That theirs is not my fight
I’m busy building heaven
Upon the shifting sands

Then He who walked on water
Said ye not be turned
And why is this so hard
For them to understand
That a piece of molten iron never learned
The soul of man will someday have to burn and

You’re the one who calms the angry sounds
You’re the one who bathes my lips in brandy
Let me ride upon your back tonight and
Fly me to the surf that’s warm and sandy
You’re the one who guides me through the light
You’re the one who feeds me

Kentucky candy

Now they’ve given you a warning
And all the world is dead
It’s on the upper level
Where they’ll unscrew your head
The monkey people have begun to carry things

They’ll roll out an oriental
Through a corridor that’s dark
And you will see nothing
But the purple bowl that shines
And there you meet all your childhood toys

And someone who looks just like you
Will strap you to your throne
And with a rusty mallet
He’ll beat your every thought
Until your mind is drained from all it knows
And then perhaps he’ll give you back your clothes

And you’ll hear them all beneath you
Oh witches scream and laugh
As they throw disgusting objects into a boiling pot
And you’ll beg your name is not upon their lips

And then you’ll remember Jesus
For there’s nothing he can do
You’ll search your mind for prayers
That you can’t recall
You should have given all of them your shoes

Just when you think it’s over
Friendly lightning then reminds
You of the crawling serpent
Whose body’s still on flames and
Go crawl through the streets now
They’ll all look the other way

There’s no one there to climb inside your dreams and

You’re the one who calms the angry sounds
You’re the one who bathes my lips in brandy
Let me ride upon your back tonight and
Fly me to the surf that’s warm and sandy
You’re the one who guides me through the light
And you’re the one who feeds me

Kentucky candy

(guitar break)

Ah but now it is the Summer
And the sun surrounds the trees
I’ll take you to the town
Where white houses kiss the sun
And you’ll smell the grass that’s damp beneath your feet

And there’s the friendly farmer
With his hair so white and clean
He says that he remembers
But he just wants to talk
He’s tending to the things his hands have grown

They’ve taken the old warehouse
That stood beneath the town
And now it is a theatre
They didn’t tear it down
But most of it has little changed at all

So it’s out to picking mushrooms
And then dry them in the sun
And it’s off to Devil’s Hopyard
To spark and laugh for fun
And I wish that we might live here
But our money won’t afford
So we pack our things for going home again and

You’re the one who calms the angry sounds
You’re the one who bathes my lips in brandy
Let me ride upon your back tonight and
Fly me to the surf that’s warm and sandy
You’re the one who guides me through the light
And you’re the one who feeds me
Kentucky candy
Kentucky candy

3 comments:

Danny said...

Thanks for posting these. I just bought this album and am really enjoying. I almost don't want to read your transcription so the record can reveal itself to me at it's own pace! Cheers again.

MoHaMeD ElsA3dY said...

thanks nice topic

Diana said...

Thank you for this post about Peter Grudzien. Kentucky Candy is an incredible song filled with pain and redemption.
Peter Grudzien's albums go directly to the heart and his music is a true gift to the world. I feel lucky to have found his music, and am glad other people can appreciate it, and spread the word.