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Earl McGrath (1931-2016), Head of Rolling Stones Records
Posted by: The Joker ()
Date: October 8, 2023 16:22




Clockwise from left: Robert Stigwood, Ahmet Ertegun, McGrath and Eric Clapton returning from Barbados in 1974.Credit...Camilla McGrath




[www.theguardian.com]

Music
‘Whatever the zeitgeist was at the time, he was at the center’: the incredible life of Earl McGrath
The record producer and man of many other cultural hats left behind a treasure trove of rare recordings that are finally seeing the light of day

Jim Farber
Thu 14 Jul 2022 07.07 CEST
At the apex of his career in the freewheeling 70s, Earl McGrath headed a record company for the Rolling Stones, ran his own label distributed by Atlantic Records that featured early recordings by stars like Hall & Oates, David Johansen and Jim Carroll, and earned steady mentions for himself in gossip columns for partying with stars from Jack Nicholson to Eric Clapton. Yet, by the time he died at age 84 in 2016, few people outside McGrath’s inner circle had any idea who he was or the legacy he left.

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In fact, the richness of that legacy – and the wild colors of McGrath’s life – might never have come to light had journalist Joe Hagan not stumbled upon a trove of forgotten recordings stuffed into McGrath’s closet. This week, Light in the Attic Records will issue a collection called Earl’s Closet that features 22 never-before-released recordings that capture a lost time, both in terms of the sounds it features and the culture of the music industry it reflects. Back then, the business was guided by mercurial decisions, unlikely relationships and unchecked behavior, all made possible by the particular power structures of the day. “There is no modern analog for the world Earl was part of,” Hagan said to the Guardian. “That was a time when there was a concentration of fame, glamour and power that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Back then, there were still cultural gate-keepers and Earl was one of them – a whimsical one.”


In fact, whimsy served as his most useful tool. Those who worked with McGrath are quick to point out that “Earl didn’t know the first thing about the record business,” Hagan said. “When I asked David Geffen about him, he said ‘Earl was to the record business what surfing was to Kansas.’”

But he had two compensating features – charisma and taste. Every one of the artists he signed to his label of the early 70s, called Clean Records, had fascinating quirks and promising talent, amply evidenced by the music on Earl’s Closet. It’s dominated by the prevailing sound of the day – country-rock-inflected singer-songwriters, operating under names like Shadow, Little Whisper and the Rumors and Delbert and Glen. If you’ve never heard of any of them it’s because Clean never came close to scoring a hit; some of its artists didn’t even see a single song released. “Earl’s attention span was too short to see anything through,” Hagan said.

In fact, Hagan says, Clean existed “mainly as a lark, to give Earl something to do”.

Earl McGrath
Earl McGrath. Photograph: Camilla McGrath
That Ahmet Ertegun, along with another music mogul of the day, Robert Stigwood, would fund such a shot-in-the-dark venture shows the depth of their ardor for McGrath. “They just wanted to have him around because he was such a good time,” Hagan said. “With all of these guys, their social world was as important as what they were doing in the business. And Earl was a key person in that social world.”


That world extended way beyond music. McGrath was close to people in literature (Joan Didion dedicated her classic 1979 collection of essays, The White Album, to him), art (he was an early collector of work by Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg) and film (having worked for Darryl Zanuck at 20th Century Fox). But the question remains: what drew so many smart and powerful people to McGrath? “He was a playful person,” Hagan said. “When you were with Earl, you felt like you were in on a secret.”

The actor and director Griffin Dunne (who is Joan Didion’s nephew) discovered that when he was just 12. “The first time I met Earl, he told me, ‘I’m going to be your fake uncle,’” Dunne said. “Then he dropped a roach in my hand.”

In the late 60s, McGrath’s hijinks almost got Dunne thrown out of Catholic boarding school. “He sent me a copy of the LA Free Press, which was a radical paper at the time that had things like drawings of Vietnam soldiers with dead babies on their bayonets. The school freaked out but Earl enjoyed upsetting people. That’s what I loved about him.”

McGrath’s impish entry into the inner circles of influence and cool couldn’t have been less probable given his background. He came from a poor family in the inaptly named Superior, Wisconsin. His father, a short-order cook, abused his son, breaking his arm after finding out that he wasn’t his true offspring. At 14, McGrath went to live on his own in a local YMCA. Later, he joined the merchant marine and, afterwards, ended up in LA where, as an avid reader and budding esthete, he wrote letters to Christopher Isherwood and the poet WH Auden. “His ‘in’ to culture was through the gay bohemia of the 50s,” Hagan said. “There’s a whole correspondence in the New York Public Library between him and Auden with original Auden poems on the backs of letters he wrote to Earl.”

(In terms of McGrath’s sexuality, Hagan said it was “fluid at the least”.)

Auden introduced McGrath to the poet Frank O’Hara, the composer Leonard Bernstein and an Italian executive at RCA Records who wound up connecting him to the rich countess Camilla Peccu-Blunt. McGrath set about wooing and wedding her, much to her family’s horror. “She was this very aristocratic woman who had manners and came from a very straight world and he was the opposite,” Hagan said. “Earl was this very provocative and ribald person. But that mix made them a good combination as a social couple.”

For a while McGrath lived in Los Angeles, where he wrote scripts that went nowhere. Later, he claimed his idea for a TV show about a rock band was stolen by the creators of the series The Monkees. He also claimed to have inspired the movie Midnight Cowboy which, together, suggests McGrath might have been a bit of a fabulist.



Back in New York, he met Ertegun, who was drawn by his playfulness, his pranks and his general joie de vivre. It helped that McGrath connected Ertegun to the Stones. (He knew their banker, Prince Rupert Lowenstein, who told him that the band were looking to get out of their lousy record deal.) Ertegun swooped in to sign them for a much better contract at Atlantic, which included their own label imprint. To entice other musicians, and spread his social cache, McGrath and his wife created their own salon based both in New York and in the lavish estate she owned in Lucca, Italy, where they would entertain with decadent abandon. Their parties became emblematic of the time. “It was a time when the social classes were breaking down,” Hagan said. “Suddenly you had parties by these Upper East Side socialites and matrons being invaded by drug dealers, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol. That wonderful mix was the essence of Earl’s world. He was the glue – bringing everyone together at a dinner party to do drugs, sleep together and have fun.”

At one such event, McGrath introduced Jagger to Jerry Hall, who was then involved with Bryan Ferry. Right after, she moved on to the Stones’ front man. In between the drugs and the dalliances, McGrath did manage to get a bit of work done at the label Ertegun had given him. His first signing to Clean Records – whose logo was designed by his friend, the artist Larry Rivers – was a duo then known as Whole Oates. After Ertegun heard their work, however, he felt it had too much commercial potential to be consigned to what was, in a sense, McGrath’s vanity label. So, he moved the newly named Hall & Oates to Atlantic. Thankfully, two sterling songs from that Whole Oates period appear on Earl’s Closet. Both were highly influenced by the rustic sound of The Band, in contrast to the slicker pop-R&B sound the group later became famous for.

Hagan found such tapes, essentially, by accident. In the last decade, he met McGrath while reporting his book Sticky Fingers, an authorized, but sometimes unflattering, biography of Jann Wenner, the creator of Rolling Stone magazine. After McGrath’s death, his executors wanted to liquidate his estate. In the process, they asked people in his broad circle if they were interested in checking out its contents. (His art collection went to Christie’s for a lucrative auction.) Hagan was interested in McGrath’s far less valuable record collection when he stumbled upon a closet in his Manhattan apartment whose shelves sagged with more than 200 reel-to-reel tapes. Intrigued, he acquired them for what turned out to be less than $1,500. Many of the demos he found were awful. “There were endless James Taylor and Joni Mitchell wanna-bes, and a lot of Little Feat sound-a-likes,” Hagan said.

Still, he managed to sift gold amid the dross, including an early song credited to Delbert and Glen titled Two More Bottles of Wine. Years later, Delbert achieved fame under his full name, Delbert McClinton, and his wine song became a hit for Emmylou Harris. Amid the tapes, there were also great, early tracks by Terry Allen, who later became a respected country star as well as a fine artist whose work is now in the collections of MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


There was also a song by the Warhol super-star Ultra-Violet (How Do You Do Children of the Most High) and a rough, early run by David Johansen at Funky But Chic, whose final version ended up on his first solo album on another label. Another choice song comes from a duo named Country, which featured Tom Snow, who later became highly successful co-writing songs for stars from Linda Ronstadt to Dionne Warwick. Snow remembers McGrath as “a little nutty and little eccentric, almost like a court jester”, he said. He also remembers him bringing Bianca Jagger to one of the band’s showcases. “He knew all the glitterati,” he said.


While Americana recordings dominate the album, it also includes 70s-style soul pieces, including one by Norma Jean Bell, who played with Stevie Wonder and who later cut the Detroit house staple I’m the Baddest Bitch (in the Room). From McGrath’s days running Rolling Stones Records, there comes a punky track titled Tension from Jim Carroll that wasn’t included on his classic 1980 debut, Catholic Boy.

Most of the artists on the set disappeared into the mist, including Michael McCarty (whose father-in-law, weirdly enough, was the junk-horror auteur Ed Wood Jr). Three artists on the set are so obscure, Hagan couldn’t track them down. The label that is releasing the album has set up an escrow account for those artists should they ever turn up.

By the 90s, McGrath’s heady time in the music business came to an end after Ertegun reduced his duties at Atlantic. For some years, he retained his connections to the art world but his sphere of influence shrank significantly, especially after his wife, Camilla, died in 2007. In his prime, however, McGrath was a person “who made things happen”, Hagen said. “He was a true Zelig. Coming from nothing, he found his way into this unbelievable world of art and culture. Whatever the zeitgeist was at that time, he was at the center.”



[www.nytimes.com]

Earl McGrath Was a Character. His Closet Was Filled With Rare Recordings.
When the art and music world figure died in 2016, he left behind a trove of reels from his years scouting for his own label and the one he ran for the Rolling Stones.

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Earl McGrath transformed himself from a Midwestern dishwasher to a beloved member of Hollywood and New York artistic circles.
Earl McGrath transformed himself from a Midwestern dishwasher to a beloved member of Hollywood and New York artistic circles.Credit...Camilla McGrath

By Bob Mehr
July 12, 2022
An outsize character, Earl McGrath had variously worked as a record company head, film executive, screenwriter and art dealer before he died in early 2016 at age 84. Afterward, the contents of his Midtown Manhattan apartment were carefully cataloged and valued. His art collection, including prized works given to him by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly and Ed Moses, was sent to auction at Christie’s. His papers, containing correspondence with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Stephen Spender, were donated to the New York Public Library’s archives.

But the boxes stored at the top of McGrath’s large walk-in closet — filled with old reels of recordings — were largely overlooked. They were about to be sold blind to a record wholesaler when the journalist Joe Hagan stepped in.

Hagan had been researching “Sticky Fingers,” his biography of the Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner, when he stumbled upon McGrath. “Little known outside a rarefied ’70s jet set of rock ’n’ rollers, movie stars, socialites and European dilettantes,” Hagan would write, “his name was once a secret handshake.”

Rummaging through McGrath’s closet in the spring of 2017, the first tape Hagan discovered was an unedited master copy of the Rolling Stones’ 1978 album, “Some Girls.”


“I instantly broke into a cold sweat,” Hagan said in a phone interview. He also found rare and unreleased recordings from Hall & Oates, the New York Dolls’ David Johansen, Terry Allen and the Jim Carroll Band. “It was like peeking through a keyhole in time. I thought, This is a real treasure trove — wouldn’t it be great if people could hear this stuff?”

After purchasing the roughly 200 tapes from the McGrath estate, Hagan spent several years researching and compiling the material, along with a co-producer, Pat Thomas. This week, “Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath, 1970-1980” will be released by the reissue label Light in the Attic. Its 22 tracks feature material collected by McGrath during his years as an Atlantic Records executive, where he operated his own imprint, Clean, before he later ran the Rolling Stones’ label.

Moving musically and geographically through the 1970s, from California country-rock to New York post-punk, “Earl’s Closet” is a fittingly eclectic sampler that places the hillbilly soul of Delbert & Glen alongside the surrealist warbling of the Warhol “superstar” Ultra Violet.

“I wanted the record to capture Earl’s spirit,” Hagan said. “He’s really the muse of the whole thing. It’s almost like being at a party at Earl’s house: You don’t know who you’re going to meet.”

To that end, the collection’s through line is McGrath’s role as an exuberant social connector.

“If you were to add up Earl’s achievements in terms of record making or art sales, that wasn’t who he was,” Jann Wenner said in an interview. “He thrived on his friendships. He loved talented people, interesting people — and his range of acquaintances were remarkable, literally from Zen masters to Z Listers.”


In an email, the Rolling Stones’s Mick Jagger remembered McGrath as a “joker,” who “knew everybody in New York and beyond and was a lot of fun to be with.”

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McGrath introduced the actress Anjelica Huston to her husband, the sculptor Robert Graham, who died in 2008. “He was funny,” Huston said of McGrath. “He was daring. In his own way, Earl, he was the glue that held a lot of people together.”

Image
From left: The poet-turned-rocker Jim Carroll, McGrath and Mick Jagger.
From left: The poet-turned-rocker Jim Carroll, McGrath and Mick Jagger. Credit...Camilla McGrath

McGRATH’S HUMBLE CHILDHOOD in the Midwest was far from the A-list world he would navigate so easily as an adult, but he could spin it into a more stately tale.

“If you asked Earl, ‘Where are you from?’” the artist Ed Ruscha said, “He’d say, ‘I’m from Superior — of course — Wisconsin. And I lived on Grand — naturally — Avenue.’ That’s the way he talked.”

McGrath’s blithe manner belied the troubled home life he endured as a youth, which included physical abuse at the hands of his father. “He would get drunk and beat him,” said Valerie Grace Ricordi, a family friend who now serves as executive director of the McGrath family foundation. “Earl never understood what he’d done wrong in his father’s eyes.” According to interviews with several of McGrath’s friends and biographical details included in Hagan’s liner notes and an essay in a 2020 photo book, at age 14, after his father broke his arm, McGrath left home for good — moving into a local YMCA and supporting himself as a dishwasher until he could get out of town.



Largely self-educated, McGrath found solace devouring literature, poetry and philosophy, and came to see himself as a Proustian character. Transforming from dishwasher to aesthete, as a young man McGrath evinced the qualities that would carry him through life: a disarming sense of humor and an uncanny ability to befriend the cultured, the famous and the wealthy.

In between stints as a merchant seaman, McGrath drifted out to California, corresponding and visiting with Aldous Huxley in Los Angeles and Henry Miller in Big Sur. He also developed an unlikely friendship with the English poet W.H. Auden, who would provide introductions for McGrath when he moved in the early ’50s to New York City, where he fell in with a lively crowd that included the writer Frank O’Hara and the pop art godfather Larry Rivers.

In 1958, the 27-year-old McGrath began working as an assistant to the composer Gian Carlo Menotti, helping organize the inaugural Spoleto Festival in Umbria, Italy. There, he struck up an unlikely romance with an heiress, Camilla Pecci Blunt, the daughter of a Florentine marchesa and an American financier. The couple married in 1963 against the wishes of her family, and while they endured long stretches of physical separation in subsequent decades, he remained committed to their union.

One of his next moves was to Los Angeles, where McGrath found his way into the movie business and developed a tight social circle of Hollywood literati, including Joan Didion, who dedicated her 1979 essay collection, “The White Album,” to McGrath. The writer Eve Babitz’s biographer, Lili Anolik, said McGrath “was one of the most influential and damaging people in her life,” explaining how Babitz was working as a fine artist and album designer in the early ’70s when McGrath offhandedly questioned one of her color choices. Her confidence shot, “she switched her focus to writing,” Anolik said. “So, we, the culture, owe Earl big in a way.”



When he met the label’s co-founder Ahmet Ertegun in the early ’60s, the two sparked an immediate friendship. “Earl made him laugh,” Hagan said. “Ahmet really just loved having him around.” McGrath’s European society connections also helped Ertegun impress Mick Jagger, who brought the Rolling Stones into the Atlantic fold in 1971.



That same year, Ertegun — along with Robert Stigwood, manager of the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton — decided to back McGrath and give him his own Atlantic-distributed label, Clean Records (the company motto: “Every man should have a Clean record”). McGrath’s West Hollywood home became Clean’s headquarters, where he’d regularly throw parties — attended by a mix of Cool School artists, Old Hollywood grandees and New Journalism figures — in lieu of A&R meetings.

“He’d have these afternoon soirees where there’d be some 18-year-old musician on the edge of OD’ing in one room, and outside Joseph Cotten and Patricia Medina would be strolling through the lawn,” said the Texas singer-songwriter Terry Allen, among the first artists McGrath signed. “You never knew what was going to happen when you went to Earl’s.”

One of the groups that McGrath discovered was a fledgling folk-soul duo from Philadelphia, Daryl Hall and John Oates, who had been struggling to find a record deal when their music publisher flew them out to meet McGrath in 1972.

“There was all these interesting people hanging out,” Hall remembered in an interview. “One of the Everly Brothers was there and I think a young Harrison Ford, too.” They played McGrath a few songs. “Next thing we knew, we were signed.”


The history of Clean Records might have turned out quite differently had Hall & Oates actually recorded for the company. Ertegun, sensing the duo’s hit potential, snatched them from McGrath and put them on Atlantic proper, where they sold millions of records. Clean, meanwhile, would release just a handful of poorly selling titles before ceasing operations in 1973.

Moving to New York in the early ’70s, McGrath became an omnipresent figure on the city’s pre-punk scene. “I used to see him everywhere,” said Johansen, the New York Dolls singer whose earliest solo work appears on “Earl’s Closet.” “Funny thing is, I didn’t know Earl as a music business guy — it was just one of the things he did.”

McGrath’s real passion was bringing together his many fabulous friends. The McGraths’ West 57th Street apartment, opposite Carnegie Hall, would become the site of endless dinners and parties attended by a cross-section of cultural giants: where the cast of “Star Wars” might run into Jasper Johns or Robert Rauschenberg; where the poet-turned-songwriter Jim Carroll mingled with the silent-film-era pioneer Anita Loos; and where Jagger first laid eyes on his future partner Jerry Hall. (The gatherings were often photographed by Camilla McGrath, with a collection of the photos published in a 2020 book from Knopf, “Face to Face.”)

In 1977, the Rolling Stones were looking for someone to run their record label, replacing the longtime company head Marshall Chess. With Ertegun’s backing, McGrath lobbied for the gig in a letter to Jagger, admitting that he hadn’t been very successful in the music business, but “I was successful enough to marry a princess in Italy.” He got the job.

“He was a very unusual choice to run a record company,” Jagger said. “But he had a great flair.”

A number of the artists represented on “Earl’s Closet” are acts McGrath considered for the Stones label — including the Detroit saxophonist Norma Jean Bell and the Texas soul combo Little Whisper and the Rumors — but whose signings never came to fruition. “Earl was good at recognizing talent, but he wasn’t much for following through,” Hagan said.

McGrath’s tenure did ultimately produce some successes: He negotiated a deal to bring the acclaimed reggae star Peter Tosh to the label in 1978, and a year later, he signed Carroll. Carroll, who died in 2009, noted in a 1981 interview with Musician magazine that McGrath was an anomaly in the music business. “He understood very well what I was doing,” Carroll said then. “He had some literary references that no other record executive would’ve had.”

Image
McGrath and Jagger after one of the legendary dinners at the McGrath home, where artists of different types mingled.
McGrath and Jagger after one of the legendary dinners at the McGrath home, where artists of different types mingled.Credit...Camilla McGrath

After a few years in the Stones’ employ, McGrath found himself caught in the middle of the increasingly fractious relationship between Jagger and Keith Richards. As the guitarist recounted in his 2010 memoir “Life,” at one point he threatened to throw McGrath off the roof of Electric Lady Studios if he didn’t rein Jagger in. Angling to launch a solo career, Jagger was more than happy to let band relations, and the label’s business, sour. McGrath resigned his post with Rolling Stones Records in 1981, effectively ending his career in the music business.

OVER THE NEXT three decades, McGrath would bounce between coasts, opening and closing art galleries in Los Angeles and New York. Although he and Camilla never had a family of their own, over time McGrath became godfather to nearly 30 children. Late in his life, McGrath’s older sister finally revealed the secret that had been kept from him: His birth had been the result of an affair between his mother and his father’s brother.

As McGrath reckoned with his complicated past, an even bigger blow came with Camilla’s death in 2007, following a series of strokes. Within a few years, McGrath developed serious health problems. On Jan. 7, 2016, he died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

McGrath had been happy over the years to remain out of the spotlight. “He didn’t want to be a public figure, he only wanted to be well known amongst the well-known,” Hagan said. With the release of “Earl’s Closet,” McGrath’s legacy — his unique gifts as a kind of artistic alchemist — is finally being given its due.

“It feels like we tapped into some kind of core sampler of the ’70s,” Hagan said. “It’s the story of the culture and where the artistic emphasis was going, about the end of a certain period and the beginning of another. And, of course, the element that threads everything together on this record — just like he did in life — is Earl McGrath.”

[pitchfork.com]


Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath, 1970-1980
Various Artists
2022
Earls Closet
7.5
By Stephen Thomas Erlewine

LABEL: Light in the Attic
REVIEWED: July 16, 2022
Capturing the sound and spirit of its time, this compilation of demos and home recordings showcases the mellow, genre-blurring taste of ’70s record man Earl McGrath.
Earl McGrath can’t be called a household name. Even among music aficionados, he’s a bit of an obscure figure. A close friend of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, McGrath ran two subsidiaries of the label: Ertegun gave his pal Clean Records in 1970, then McGrath parlayed a friendship with Mick Jagger into a position at the head of Rolling Stones Records in 1977. McGrath departed Rolling Stones Records in 1980 and left behind the music industry, returning to what he did best—cultivating friendships and facilitating ideas among the elite. Maybe the public at large wouldn’t have recognized McGrath. Still, he along with his wife Camilla Pecci-Blunt—an Italian countess who was a descendent of Pope Leo XIII, the head of the Catholic church at the dawn of the 1900s—were linchpins of high society in New York and Los Angeles, calling everyone from Harrison Ford to Joan Didion lifelong friends.

McGrath died in 2016, nearly a decade after Camilla. After his passing, journalist Joe Hagan received an invitation from his estate to peruse pictures Camilla photographed for possible inclusion in his biography of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. While he was there, he stumbled upon a cache of reel-to-reel tapes squirreled away in a closet. Within the roughly 200 tapes were unheard documents of McGrath’s time as a record man, a period that spanned the entire 1970s. Among those tapes were some Rolling Stones rarities—outtakes from Emotional Rescue and live recordings of the New Barbarians, the short-lived busman’s holiday from Keith Richards and Ron Wood—along with the master tape to Peter Tosh’s “(You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back,” but this wasn’t just a stash of Rolling Stones Records artifacts. There was a wealth of recordings from earlier in the ’70s, notably some of the first work from Daryl Hall and John Oates, as well as tapes from the tail end of the decade, including material from punk poet Jim Carroll.

Hagan spent a year cataloging the closet, whittling down the tapes into Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath, 1970-1980, a Light in the Attic compilation produced with the assistance of Pat Thomas. Don’t expect any Rolling Stones-related relics here. Earl’s Closet showcases 22 demos and home recordings McGrath collected over the course of the ’70s. Sometimes these recordings were demos sent directly to McGrath and sometimes he had a hand in their creation, but there’s no one thing tying together the music outside of his own tastes—tastes that reflected the era as much as they shaped it.



Earl’s Closet suggests McGrath gravitated toward country-rock made either by Hollywood cowboys or Texan weirdos while also finding sustenance in mellow folk-rock and distillations of ’60s pop. Other sounds crossed his radar, notably soul and a bit of harder rock’n’roll, but sun-bleached troubadours provide the spine of Earl’s Closet, while Daryl Hall and John Oates serve as its fulcrum. McGrath’s first and greatest discovery, Hall and Oates were swiftly poached by Ertegun for Atlantic, a label that would prove to be a creatively fruitful but commercially frustrating period for the duo. Veterans of Philadelphia’s soul scene—they rejected an offer to become house songwriters for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff at Philadelphia International—they refashioned themselves as folkies and couldn’t resist threading artier elements of rock and pop, as evidenced by “Baby Come Closer” and “Dry in the Sun,” two Hall originals that are surprisingly funky even when they’re rooted in folk.

Such casual blurring of genres suggests the journey charted on Earl’s Closet. The first part of the voyage centers on California, with Delbert McClinton and Terry Allen both writing tales of how they moved from Texas to California (“Two More Bottles of Wine” and “Gonna California,” respectively). McGrath signed McClinton and his partner Glen Clark to Clean, where they’d issue two albums as Delbert & Glen, while Allen never quite managed to break into the big leagues. Allen eventually carved out a niche as a Southern-fried outsider artist—his 1979 double album Lubbock (on everything) is an Americana classic and he’d collaborate with David Byrne on 1986’s Sounds From True Stories—but not everybody went onto such success. Hagan couldn’t identify three of the artists here—the bittersweet winds of “Only Yourself to Lose” is credited to the absurd moniker Kazoo Singers—while many other acts operated on the margins of the mainstream: ’60s veterans struggling to find their way forward in a new decade. Andy Warhol associate Ultra Violet fades into the dawn on the languid “How Do You Do (Children of the Most High),” old folkie Paul Potash takes stock of the hippie hangover on “Holy Commotion,” and there is space for not one but two members of Detroit rebels the Amboy Dukes, a band that also counted Ted Nugent as a member: Dave Gilbert is in Shadow, who deliver the sugary pop rush of “Oh La La,” while Johnny Angel sounds like an endearingly cut-rate Rod Stewart on “Invisible Lady.”

Naturally, there are some sons of Hollywood in Earl’s Closet as well. Michael McCarty, the stepson of the notorious B-movie director Ed Wood, is represented by “Christopher,” a piece of dense, crystallized power-pop reminiscent of early Emitt Rhodes. (Fittingly, McCarty spent some time in the L.A. pop band the Palace Guard after Rhodes departed the group.) Mark Rodney, son of Red Rodney—a jazz trumpeter in Charlie Parker’s quintet between 1949 and 1951—is here with “California,” whose smooth groove is much funkier than the records the singer/songwriter cut with John Batdorf in the early ’70s. Batdorf & Rodney were kindred spirits with artists like Country, the first band McGrath signed to Clean, in that they were heavily influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; “Killer,” the contribution from Country here, distills the essence of CSNY in a way that recalls America’s “A Horse With No Name.”



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2023-10-08 16:23 by The Joker.

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