Friday, June 23, 2006

Harvey Matusow's Jew's Harp Band - War Between Fats and Thins (1969)

In the world of music Harvey Matusow may best be known as the man who testified that 3 of the 4 Weavers (the 1940s-50s folk group) were members of the Communist Party, resulting in their being blacklisted and slowing an otherwise soaring career. He later apologized to Pete Seeger for it. The apology was accepted.

Matusow also recorded this twisted piece of vinyl in 1969 while in exile in England. Supposedly the group was on LSD at the time and I can believe it. This record certainly fits my definition of psychedelic music but does not have a lot in common with your typical psych band. For one thing there are no electric guitars or drums or keyboards--instead you have a variety of Jew's Harps (referred to sometimes today as Jaw Harps to be more PC), a few odd percussion instruments (but NO DRUMS!), and vocals (typically spoken). Matusow plays the alto tenor Jew's harp. The group also features Leslie Kenton, the daughter of jazz legend Stan Kenton, on vocals and metronome; Claude Lintot, who was 79 at the time of the recording, on auto Jew's harp [?]; Anna Lockwood (aka Annea Lockwood--more on her below) on acoustic guitar and bells; Rod Parsons on a variety of Jew's harps and bass; and Chris Yak on a variety of Jew's harps but not bass. The vocals consist of stream-of-consciousness storytelling, some nice chanting (check out Afghan Red), and a couple personal ancedotes (such as one about the day Matusow was released from prison).

The album was recorded in England. The band's single (Afghan Red b/w Wet Socks) was the fourth and final one released on John Curd's Head label. The album was also initially released on that label and then released in the US on Chess Records (yes that Chess Records).

Selections from Harvey Matusow's autobiography are available online ( detailing his involvement in the Communist Party & the early folk-song revival movement, his work as FBI spy (informing on folk singers & labor organizers among others), his work for Senator Joseph McCarthy, his joining the Mormon church, his recantation of his testimony against the Reds, his leaving the Mormon church, his babysitting for Jason Robards, his going to prison for perjury (where he got to know Willhelm Reich and Frank Costello), his involvement with the beat scene, his working for the East Village Other, his meeting Timothy Leary & taking LSD, his turning Bobby Kennedy onto acid, his hanging out with Dick Gregory at the Improv in NY, his making movies with Yoko Ono (and involvement with the Fluxus group), and his writing a book on the dangers of computers (which also details some early hacking techniques)--all of this before he made this, his first album. His subsequent musical works were either meditative music or children's records. After recording the album, he returned to the US, rejoined the Mormon church, became Cockyboo the Clown and hosted a public access tv show in Utah (the Magic Mouse Show, which was the first American program to feature an appearance by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama) among other things.

Matusow's biography, odd as it is, may also be a bit self-serving so if you want a more critical perspective there is also an online commentary on his obituary here.

If you want to hear more of Harvey Job Matusow's voice, there is an online interview with Harvey & cellist Charlotte Moorman here.

One curious side note--I believe these are the first recordings to feature avant-garde composer Annea Lockwood. Her Glass World record is a fantastic exploration of the sound possibilities of glass instruments and her album Thousand Year Dreaming, a musical response to the cave paintings at Lascaux, is one of my favorite "ambient soundscape" recordings. If you want to hear some more of her work, there is a live recording of her with Thomas Buckner here and another recording under the name Anna Lockwood [I think it's the smae person based on the music] here.

Again, a record from the WMUC vaults. As before the music is loaded as a ZIP rather than an RAR file since I heard that Mac user's have trouble with the latter. The files are coded at 224k. Available here



Anonymous said...

Totally awesome. Paris Hilton

Anonymous said...

what a great find!

posted a jew's harp duo record recently - makigami koichi and anton bruhin (at my orangaural.blogspot, which is nicely listed in your HUGE list of music blogs - wow!)


Max said...

I've dled some other fine records from your blog--I'll make sure to get that one. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

read the book THE MATUSOW AFFAIR or harvey's book FALSE WITNESS to get an inside look at the mccarthy era and the unamerican activities committee. i think in this day and age in george bush's america it is must reading, because we are headed back to those times.

mvcosta said...

Hi. I'm really curious about this recording, and I want to download it, but link is dead. Do you intend to re-upload this one?

Max said...

Hi Mvcosta,
I could & am generally willing to reup dead links but my rip is still available (as single tracks) on the WFMU site, so you might as well grab it there:

Anonymous said... - here is the new Rapidshare download link.
Wonderfull album, especialy for its virtuosity in playing Jew Harp...

Moonshadow said...

I met Job a year or two before he died. He was briefly married to my son's mother-in-law and engaged myself and a friend of mine in attempting to set up a cable station as he had done in Utah. He had a falling out with said mother-in-law and I helped him load his equipment, which included his bells out of munition shells, into his moving truck. I corresponded with him a few times via email and then he just sort of disappeared. He was suppose to have returned and was to bring my husband a reed jews harp, but the next I heard he was dead. It was an odd experience, being in his presence, rather surreal even yet.

Martian Gardens said...

Annea Lockwood is one of my favorite composers. I wonder how she got mixed up with a guy like Matusow? How long were they married?

Max said...

Hi Martian,
I like her music a lot too and it's certainly different than this album. As I understand it, though, Harvey was a pretty charismatic guy and knew everyone. The outline from his bio for the years when he was with Annea/Anna reads:

CHAPTER 23: 1966-1967
Found a whole new life with much less pressure in London. The "Counter Culture" there was real and to me had more meaning.

Within a month I organized and become Chairman of The London Film Makers Co-Op, and organized the first underground film festivals in London. Became a moving force in founding England's first underground newspaper, IT.

Connected with the BBC. Met and fell in love with and married Anna Lockwood, an avant garde composer from New Zealand. We become a team and did concerts and theatre pieces in London, Liverpool, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Wrote to Yoko and Tony and suggested that they come to London which they did, and Yoko met John etc..

England and Europe freed me of much of the stress and pain of being Harvey Matusow. I was able to work in the arts, something I had had difficulty doing in the states. London became a fine filter for me, for the British didn't seem too concerned with my past.

CHAPTER 24: 1966-1967
London and Europe, 1966 and 1967. Did films, happenings, wrote much, did radio and TV, managed Jazz Club in Soho (Ronnie Scott's Old Place) and just seemed to fill all the vacuum that the prison years created for me.

CHAPTER 25: 1967
Anna and I went off to New Zealand and Australia for better part of a year. Did many concerts and one theatre piece. I worked for New Zealand broadcasting and did some acting and wrote one radio play.

CHAPTER 26: 1968-1970
Worked as an independent for the BBC. Did 16 radio documentaries, and much TV, comedy and news and current affairs. Become one of editors of THE AMERICAN, a weekly in London for the American community. Wrote my third book, THE BEAST OF BUSINESS. Put out my first album, Harvey Matusow Jew's Harp Band.

CHAPTER 27: 1968-1972
Organized International Society for Abolition of Data Processing Machines and wrote and published my third book, THE BEAST OF BUSINESS, A RECORD OF COMPUTER ATROCITIES. TIME MAGAZINE did a piece on the Society and that got me an invitation to come to the States and do a gig on the Mike Douglas Show.

CHAPTER 28: 1971-1972
Organized ICES -72, the largest avant garde new musical festival ever done. Spent the better part of 1971 and 1972 pulling it all together. When completed, returned to the USA with Anna, believing that the time in Europe could heal the pain which sent me there.

CHAPTER 29: 1973
Home from "exile", feeling strong and renewed. Coming home as a working artist, being in the moment - being part of an artistic team. Anna and I began to plan for concerts in the USA. I got Libby Owens Ford to prepare special glass with handmade carrying cases for the Glass Concert Tour. The kick- off was two live broadcasts on WBAI Music Store in New York, and after the second concert Anna and I parted. I was too attached -- a bit shattered. Back in New York without Anna was not where I wanted to be, part of me wanted to be away from New York, to be out from under Anna's world of music. I had many other worlds -- romantic enough to give her "room."

Anna moved out of our loft on East 32nd Street. The street had two twenty-four-hour coffee shops, and enough hookers to fill all the booths most evenings. The ladies worked the Madison Square Garden traffic; the Garden was just two short blocks away. They were just kids, not much different from the runaways I used to "track" on MacDougall Street. A lot of them just didn't know how to get home gracefully. On nights when the police would come down extra heavy, I would give them sanctuary' the would watch late-night movies and talk about God. I was touched when on Christmas Eve about eighteen of them came by early saying they wanted a night off, and could they come upstairs and watch "The Ten Commandments" on TV with me.

I left New York.

Rod Parsons said...

When do we get paid? :-)
Rod Parsons.