It’s enough that Tony Fletcher’s new history of a city’s effects on pop culture over a 50 year period, All Hopped Up And Ready To Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77, has an encyclopedic heft to it, pulling together a wealth of material not usually found together in such detail. But it also has enough descriptive lyricism to send one racing to listen to all the music it describes, and revisit the city streets, from the Bronx out to Rockaway Beach, from which those tunes have emanated. As well as surprises geared towards Upstate readers, from the role a Mt. Tremper getaway played in the rise of disco and the loft parties it burst forth from to just how influential John Sebastian and Ed Sanders were in those days.
All good reason to come out and celebrate when Fletcher, a Mt. Tremper resident himself (as well as a new member of the Onteora School District’s Board of Education), reads from his work in a special event scheduled 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, November 7 at the Kleinert/James Arts Center.
Now what do you say if we throw in, for good measure to ensure your presence Saturday, four scheduled key players from the musical history described, plus the promise of even more coming out of the woodwork to hold a panel discussion about the music scenes of New York City? Folks like Eric Weissberg of Dueling Banjos fame, as well as the early days of the folk boom that once centered around Washington Square that drew Bob Dylan to fame. Or Fred Smith and Elda Gentile of Television and The Stilletos, respectively, two of the seminal 1970s bands that helped launch Punk, New Wave and what many call the renaissance of rock and roll? Or Tommy Ramone, author of the line, from the classic “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” that helped put CBGBs on the map way back when.
Sure, like Fletcher’s book, the emphasis will be on the key scene he moved into when he came to the States from Britain, writing about the music of the time (and eventually authoring a key biography of Who drummer Keith Moon, among other works). With a nod to the 1960s folk, folk-rock and psychedelic alt-rock scenes he’s grown to know up here via the likes of ex-Fug Sanders, ex-Lovin’ Spoonful and jug band veteran Sebastian, and all those still left over from The Band’s days on Gramercy Park with Albert Grossman.
But that doesn’t mean all the great insights into the role of New York’s early Latin music and BeBop jazz scenes, and their roles in fermenting the musical brew to the point where it would eventually produce Hip Hop, won’t come up. So what if Fletcher misses a few soulful touches here and there, from Laura Nyro to free jazz. He’s a big picture guy, showing how the Bronx ends up producing the biggest surprise development in pop music since R&B’s metamorphsis into Doo Wop and rock and roll via Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building’s kid-centered professionalism.
And along the way, he’s able to bring enough of the city alive, from the breeding ground of its Brooklyn-bred Jewish composer teams to the SoHo and West Village party scenes that modern dance music and endless mixing evolved out of.
It’s a fun book, a must for any music (or city) fan’s gift list.
But the party inaugurating the book, at least locally, should be the read’s equal, by the looks of the panel Fletcher’s lined up, the hors d’ouevres being supplied by Gabriel’s of Kingston, the red wine being supplied by Cereghino-Smith (Fred Smith’s winery) in local Bloomington, and the special line of “All Hopped Up” sparkling white wine being bottled with a limited edition label by Silver Stream Winery of Monroe for the occasion.
Who knows who else might be popping by from “the scenes” described in these 50 years (ended some 32 years back, now). Blondie’s Chris Stein? Loft party pioneer David Mancuso? Some doo wop or Brill Building pioneers we didn’t even realize were spending time locally? Maybe a rapper or once-battling, mix-making deepjay from the South Bronx or Sugar Hill?
Admission is free so it makes sense to just show up and find out. Or at least buy the book from W.W. Norton, available at Golden Notebook, which is producing this weekend’s event, as well as practically everywhere reading material is available.++
The reception, reading and panel discussion for Tony Fletcher’s new book, All Hopped Up and Ready To Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77, takes place from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, November 7 at the Kleinert/James Arts Center, 34 Tinker Street just off the Village Green in Woodstock. For further information call Golden Notebook at 679-8000 or visit Fletcher’s website, www.ijamming.net.