Our dear publishing pals at Process just released two new books that tell the strange stories of two very different music acts of the late 1960s who had profound impact on much experimental, punk, garage, weird America, and psychedelic music that's come since. Robert Scott's biography of Moondog recounts the life of the eccentric Viking-garbed Louis Thomas Hardin whose avant-jazz, modern classical, and psych-folk has been performed and lauded by the likes of Janis Joplin, Julie Andrews, Elvis Costello, and his onetime roommate, Philip Glass. The other new Process book, Paul Drummond's Eye Mind, tells the sordid 60s story of Roky Erickson And The 13th Floor Eleevators whose pioneering psychedelic garage rock was heavily dosed with their own cosmic agenda. Both books were separately featured in yesterday's New York Times.
From the New York Times feature on Moondog:
A tall blind man with long hair and beard, wearing a handmade Viking helmet and primitive cloak, he regularly stationed himself at Sixth Avenue and 54th Street, which cops and cabbies knew as Moondog's Corner. Dispensing his poetry, politics, sheet music and recordings (some on boutique labels, some on majors), he was sought out over the years by beats, hippies and foreign tourists, but also by the media and celebrities, from Walter Winchell and "Today" to Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali and Martin Scorsese.
"Everybody who was anybody met Moondog," Robert Scotto, author of "Moondog," a biography published this month by Process Books, said recently. "And everybody had his own Moondog."
Even after he moved to Germany in 1974, where he remained until his death in 1999 at 83, he was remembered in New York as an emblematic street character, though not as a serious classical composer. As the British music critic Kenneth Ansell observed in the mid-'90s, while jazz greats like Count Basie and Charlie Parker admired Moondog's idiosyncratic forays into their world, "the classical orthodoxy has not rushed to embrace him."
From the New York Times blurb on Eye Mind:
Mr. Drummond has talked to sisters and brothers and cousins, and cops who busted the band. He shows you how psychedelic drugs advanced on Austin – first a rumor off in the distance, then flooding the city in 1965. He shows you the band's controlling philosopher king, Tommy Hall (the guy with the electric jug), and exactly what books he read. At a certain point the story becomes too depressing for words, flattening out into madness with daily LSD ministrations, trial transcripts, religious visitations. But it's valuable cultural history…