Thursday, October 28, 2021

WESN Show #64 - October 28, 2021

HALLOWEEN 2021: NIGHTMARES, MONSTERS, MURDERS
ARTISTTRACKLABELYEARTOWN / CITY
The NightmaresThe Nightmare!Fredlo1960Quad Cities
Frank Gay & The GaybladesDown Bound TrainCuca1963Rockford
Jim Friis & The ValiantsSerpents and SpidersRidge1964Rockford
Glen Gray & Casa Loma OrchestraThe House Is HauntedBrunswick1934Roanoke
Ike Turner & His Kings of RhythmShe Made My Blood Run ColdFederal1957East St. Louis
Lloyd HaunMorbid MelodyBonny1971Bureau Co
Smiley BurnetteMinnie The Moocher At The Morgue(unissued)1935Summum
The EchosHauntedSage1960Mattoon
Carl SandburgThe Hearse SongColumbia1959Galesburg
The VoodoosThe Voodoo WalkNight Owl1968Rockford
Max LoadMonster DiscoBDR1982Belleville
Immortal Mice MenNocturnal ZombieEmir198?Galesburg
MormosParanoid NightdreamCBS1972Champaign-Urbana
S.O.S. (Souls of Sound)To The WoodsCinema1970Nokomis
Eldon RiceHillbilly SwampmanWhite Label1965Carrier Mills
Kookie Cook & The SatalitesSpace MonsterBig Beat196?Danville
Mildred Bailey & Red Norvo OrchestraThe Little Man Who Wasn't ThereVocalion1939Beardstown
Dean CarterShadow of EvilBig Beat196?Champaign-Urbana
Russ (Big Daddy) BlackwellThe Little MonsterVincent1968Rockford

Thursday, October 21, 2021

WESN Show #63 - October 21, 2021

JIM CUOMO & FRIENDS (1968-1974)

Jim Cuomo was a graduate student in music at the University of Illinois from 1966-1970.  During his time in Urbana-Champaign, Cuomo was involved in a wide array of musical projects and performances.  His experimental rock band at the time, The Spoils of War, incorporated psychedelia, jazz and rock as well as elements of early electronica and computer music.  The group included a rotating cast of fellow U of I students and downstate musicians such as Annie "the Hat" Williams, Al Ierardi, Roger Francisco and "Big City" Frank Garvey.  Later Cuomo would be joined by Elliott Delman and Ernest "Rick" Mansfield among many others.

By the early 1970s Cuomo and several of his bandmates moved to Paris, changing the group's name to Mormos.  While in France the group released two albums of acid-folk and was the backing band on several more albums.  Tonight's show is just a small sample of some the music from this period in Cuomo's and his collaborators' lives.

  • The Spoils of War - "What Happens Now" : From their self-titled mini-album released in 1969. James Cuomo - organ, saxophone, recorder, vocals / Anne Williams - vocals / Al Ierardi - guitar / Roger Francisco - bass / Frank Garvey - percussion / James Stroud - trombone & sound manipulation.  Music by Cuomo, lyrics by Michael Hanks.
  • Mormos - "Great Wall of China" : The title track from Mormos' debut album released by CBS (France) in 1971.  James Cuomo - domra, soprano recorder, vocals, balalaika / Annie "the Hat" Williams - vocals / Elliot Delman - guitar, vocals / Ernest "Rick" Mansfield - flute, alto flute, balalaika, alto recorder / Sandy Spencer - cello, vocals / Tobia Taylor - balalaika, zither, soprano recorder, vocals.  Music by Cuomo, lyrics by Tobia Taylor.
  • Jim Cuomo - "Ring Magic Telephone, Ring" : From the Cuomo's Record EP released in 1970 on Depot Records.  Vocals by Steve Larner with Anne Williams, Kathleen Bennett and Elliot Delman.  James Cuomo -  vocals, piano, dombra, saxophone / Charlie Braugham - drums / Bob Witmer - bass / Cal Drake - bass / Larry Dwyer - trombone / Al Ierardi - guitar.  Lyrics and music by Cuomo.
  • Jack Treese - "I Can't Play The Fiddle" : Jack Treese was an American guitarist / banjo player living and performing in France.  Mormos was the backing band for Treese's The John Leroy Album released in 1972 on the Saravah label.
  • Al Ierardi (The Spoils Of War) - "You're The Girl" :  Lyrics and music by Al Ierardi.  Recorded with members of The Spoils of War probably sometime in 1969.
  • Arlie Neaville - "Tawney" : Early rock 'n roller from Champaign Arlie Neaville aka Dean Carter with 'Tawney," a song written by Jim Cuomo.  Neaville's single was also arranged and produced by Cuomo and released in 1969 on Tell International.  (It was recorded at Golden Voice in South Pekin.)
  • Mormos - "Rit Yellow" : From the group's second album, The Magic Spell Of Mother's Wrath, released in 1972 by CBS (France).  Jim Cuomo - clarinet, saxophone, domra, vocals / Annie Williams - lead vocals, bass, balalaika / Ernest Mansfield - flutes, piano, harmonica, spoons, triangle / Elliot Delman - guitars, vocals / Sandy Spencer - cello.  The song has its beginnings with The Spoils of War and was performed live by the group in the late 1960s.
  • (The Spoils of War) - "In Again Out Again" : Jim Cuomo - vocals, domra, rubab / Sandy Spencer - cello, vocals / Dianne Taylor - balalaika, vocals.  Lyrics and music by Cuomo.  Released on the Spoils Of War II compilation of previously unreleased material.  Recording date unknown.
  • Mormos - "Now Is Made In America" :   From the group's debut album, Great Wall of China, released by CBS (France) in 1971.  James Cuomo - domra, soprano recorder, vocals, balalaika / Annie "the Hat" Williams - vocals / Elliot Delman - guitar, vocals / Ernest "Rick" Mansfield - flute, alto flute, balalaika, alto recorder / Sandy Spencer - cello, vocals / Tobia Taylor - balalaika, zither, soprano recorder, vocals.  An earlier version was released by The Spoils of War in 1969.  Music by Cuomo, lyrics by Debril Brandybuck.
  • Jacques Higelin - "I Love The Queen" : Members of Mormos were in the backing group on the French pop singer's debut album, Jacques "Crabouif" Higelin, released in 1971 on the Saravah label.
  • (The Spoils of War) - "Morning Be Merciful" : Jim Cuomo - vocals, domra, clarinets / Patrice Lemoine - piano / Clive Griffiths - bass / Bernie Holland - drums / Demelza - percussion / Alan Mark - background vocals.  Lyrics and music by Cuomo.  Released on the Spoils of War II compilation of previously unreleased material.  Recording date unknown.  
  • Skyfarmer - "Torch Poem" :  After Mormos several of the members (Anne Williams, Elliott Delman and Ernest Mansfield) moved to Boscobel, WI and helped form the band Skyfarmer.  "Torch Song" was written by Jim Cuomo and recorded live at Ruby Gulch in Champaign on 10/31/1974.  Released on the Amazing Grace CD compilation.
  • François Béranger - "Ma fleur" :  Mormos was the backing band for Béranger's 1971 album "Ça doit être bien..." released by CBS in France.  Cuomo is credited with co-authoring this song.
  • Mormos - "Cows In My Colorbook" :  From the group's second album, The Magic Spell Of Mother's Wrath, released in 1972 by CBS (France).  Jim Cuomo - clarinet, saxophone, domra, vocals / Annie Williams - lead vocals, bass, balalaika / Ernest Mansfield - flutes, piano, harmonica, spoons, triangle / Elliot Delman - guitars, vocals / Sandy Spencer - cello. The song was written by Daniel Hanks and Ernest Mansfield.
  • Jim Cuomo - "Susan Never Smiles / Remembering (for KB)" :  James Cuomo - vocals, piano, dombra, sax /  Charlie Braugham - drums / Bob Witmer - bass / Cal Drake - bass / Larry Dwyer - trombone / Al Ierardi - guitar.  From the Cuomo's Record EP released in 1970 on Depot Records. Lyrics and music by Cuomo.  

If you would like to hear more Mormos or purchase some of their music, check out their bandcamp page.  All sales right now directly support guitarist Elliot Delman who is suffering from health issues.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Jim Cuomo - Satie's Vexations (Halloween 1969)

James "Jim" Cuomo was an accomplished musician and composer that performed all over the globe and was involved in a wide variety of musical projects over the course of his storied life.  Two of his most important groups from early in his career, The Spoils of War and Mormos, had deep ties to downstate Illinois.  

Between 1966 and 1970, Cuomo was a graduate student at the University of Illinois.  While in Urbana-Champaign, Cuomo studied with John Cage, performed with the U of I jazz band, composed music for several original plays and musicals on campus and formed the Spoils of War, a rock band that combined psychedelia with electronic textures.  

In the fall of 1969, Cuomo also achieved some local notoriety by performing Erik Satie's "Vexations," a composition so laborious that only one other solo performer had ever played it in its entirety before.  

Written in 1893, "Vexations" consisted of a short piano piece that according to Satie's notes was to be repeated 840 times in a row.  On the manuscript Satie provided the following direction: “It would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.”

One of the first public performances of "Vexations" was organized by John Cage in New York in 1963.  It was performed by a rotating cast of eleven pianists (including a young John Cale) and took 18 hours and 40 minutes to complete.  

By 1969, performances were being attempted in music and art schools across the world but almost always by a group of players.  There is only one instance of a solo attempt before Cuomo.  In London a few years earlier, Richard Toop is credited as the first person to ever complete a solo rendition of the piece.  It took him 24 hours.

It is unclear whether Cuomo was aware of Toop's feat or not.  Regardless, Cuomo believed it could be performed in a much shorter amount of time because of Satie's tempo instructions of  "très lent" or "very slow" being open to interpretation.  Based on an article in the Daily Illini, Cuomo estimated it would take twelve hours.  

At 8 am on Halloween 1969 in the Illini Union, "armed only with two Hershey bars, a glass of water, several paper straws and a push-button counter, James Cuomo, graduate in music successfully attacked 840 vexing rounds of "Vexation" by Erik Satie."
Incredibly, a short WCIA-TV interview with Cuomo mid-performance survives on YouTube:
In total the performance lasted 11 hours and 7 minutes.  The paper reported that Cuomo "was able to rise unassisted at the end of the marathon performance and receive the applause of the surviving members of the audience."

Cuomo, apparently unfazed by his recent feat of endurance, soon left the student union and went straight to his next performance which consisted of a four-hour post-biblical, pre-Gregorian organ composition.

In fact the week of Halloween 1969 was a whirlwind of events on the campus of the University of Illinois mostly organized by Cuomo.  

The Daily Illini referred to Cuomo as the "Great Pumpkin" of the arts festival which included works by John Cage, a performance by the Spoils of War as well as local legend Arlie Neaville and the Rock n' Roll Devils.  (Around that same time Cuomo wrote a song for and produced a single by Neaville.) 

In the years since many people have gone on to perform "Vexations" however Cuomo's achievement of being the first American to do so has mostly gone unacknowledged.    

Join us next week (10/21) on our radio show where will play some of Jim Cuomo's early compositions and collaborations.  We won't hear "Vexations" but we will here music from the Spoils of War, Mormos, Arlie Neaville and others.

Friday, October 8, 2021

WESN Show #62 - October 7, 2021

Peas & Other Leftovers
ARTISTTRACKLABELYEARTOWN / CITY
Arkansas TravelersYou Ask MeTraveler1960Champaign-Urbana
Lee RustCome On BackRoFran1965Springfield
Kris & JerryHey Little GirlB-J Records1966Enfield
GaGaPeasno label1979Springfield
Don ThompsonJupiterSunday1975Macomb
SymbolsI Know That IAnaconda1967Elsah
One-Eyed JacksCalifornia's CallingRoulette1969Champaign-Urbana
Mike HigginsOut Of SightBonny1979LaSalle-Peru
Hindenburg LyonEdenDym-A-Nite1972Belleville
Arlie NeavilleRiver Of LifePing1961Champaign-Urbana
The Artistic'sI've Waited Too Long For YouCha Cha1965Mattoon / Charleston
The QuarternotesMy Baby Left MeRoFran1966Rantoul
The Country FourGuitar JumpBonny1971Ashton / Franklin Grove
Artie DillonFor Your LoveKandy Kane1964Peoria
John St. JainneLike You Sometimes DoGolden Voice197?Bloomington-Normal
Eugene & The FugitivesGirls Girls GirlsCherry1965Decatur
Byron GipsonHoney DewSpecialty1956Peoria
Jim FoleyHe'll Only Hurt YouBlue Orchid1968Danville
The Sounds of UsTrueSummit1968Ottawa