JAIMIE VERNON – EVERYTHING OLD IS STU AGAIN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s a Renaissance of sorts happening in the music business right now by which music we’ve lost track of, or have ignored outright, due to the current ubiquity of pop music is crawling out from the primordial ooze and is being reborn as something new. New masters, new packaging and/or new formats are moving in to replace the gaping hole left by marginilized MP3 files and the impending death of CDs.

Queen

Major labels continue to play it safe – re-issuing all 13 Queen albums on 17 pieces of 180g vinyl in a box set that offers up nothing new except liner notes and artwork re-dressing is the equivalent to removing the plastic from Nana’s hermetically sealed Tuscani couch and slapping a coat of paint on the nicotine stained living room ceiling. We’ve already seen this movie before – but now it’s louder and shinier. Is a new essay explaining the disjointed production work of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ really considered added value with its recent anniversary re-issue?

dark_side_of_the_moon

The marketing departments are now doing battle with label accountants trying keep costs low, and consumer excitement high. But it’s really just lazy narrowcasting to a low hanging fruit. And the fruit is dying off. There’s about 10 remaining Woodstock acid casualties left and there maybe little time on the clock to sell them remasters of  the 50th anniversary of ‘Are You Experienced?‘ in 2017 or the 45th annual iteration of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ in 2018. Jimmy Page brilliantly timed the last Zeppelin remasters to coincide with his new book because soon the last of the fans will be convelescing in retirement homes right beside him. But all of these re-issues are as predictable as the radio that continues to suck on their decaying corpses.

Where’s the true rarities? Where’s the discarded, forgotten and bootlegged oddities? The anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon just passed and with it Pink Floyd’s chance to officially release the live BBC jam they wrote and performed during the moon landing in 1969 entitled “Moonhead”.

 

Odd SoxPaul McCartney‘s continuing yet another leg of his tour that never ends. He’s digging out some tasty obscure tracks to keep his band entertained and fresh. I expect those will end up on his 47th consecutive live album. Instead, what fans truly desire is the decades-long rumoured ‘Odd Sox’ boxed set featuring some of the most bootlegged post-Beatles material by any of the Fabs.

 

It’s been 60 years of this patronage to only the most popular of music releases. And as much as we’ve had enough of the Elvis barrel scrapings, we have been Nucleusdenied so much more music from lesser knowns. Where’s the official re-issue of Nucleus‘ debut album on Mainstream? Where is Ian Thomas’ GRT albums? Or Thomas’ band Tranquility Base’s unreleased RCA LP?  And the two unreleased albums by Yorkville folk artist Elyse Weinberg remain unheard, let alone re-issued.

Small indie labels like my own Bullseye Records, Pacemaker, Collectors Choice, SuperOldies, and Rock Candy are attempting to refill the gaping holes in music lovers’ record collections.

bullseye_canada_bumper_bumper_sticker

But what happens when the record is controlled by the artist unable to get it out to the masses again from lack of resources? Well, the world now has a solution for that. Crowd funding. It’s a way to raise money by effectively taking advance orders and offering other perqs so as to get old and new material out there. I’m currently doing this to revive my label (which you’ll hear more about in coming weeks), but I want to discuss an artist that just completed a successful crowdfunding campaign and how its given his career a second life.

Stu Nunnery albumWith a record deal in hand from Evolution Records in 1973 Stu Nunnery went into Sound Ideas Studio in New York with producer Al Gorgoni and a cadre of work-a-day session men whose names only now ring of legacy – Elliott Randall, Buzz Feiten, John Tropea, David Spinozza, Hugh McCracken, Rick Marotta, Allan Schwartzberg, Stu Woods, Andy Muson, Kirk Hamilton, Eric Weissberg and Kenny Kosek – to lay down 9 songs for what would become his self-titled debut.

Nunnery_LightfootThe album’s singles “Sally From Syracuse” and “Madelaine” would place in the Billboard US Top100 with “Lady It’s Time To Go” peaking at #1 in Brazil. Then Evolution went bankrupt in 1974. Nunnery’s tracks continued getting airplay for years as he eeked out a living performing for the next 8 years including a coveted slot opening for Gordon Lightfoot.

Sally From SyracuseIt would all come to a grinding halt in 1982 when a serious of health issues resulted in his loss of hearing. He was forced to leave music behind forever. But as we know with the way things go in the music business and the internet, that wasn’t the end of the story. In 2008 ClassicRockMusicBlog writer Todd Whitesel found the album in a cut-out bin in St. Paul, Minnesota, tracked down Stu and did an interview that was posted online. A fanbase was discovered which was previously unknown to Stu.

In 2010 fans Suz Williamson Price and Lee Gobbi encouraged Stu to return to music. His hearing loss was still an issue. But Stu was determined to get back to what his heart yearned for and in 2013 through cutting edge hearing technology and colleagues going to bat for him on the music, audiology and hearing rehab side, Stu Nunnery became a whole musician again.
Nunnery Kickstarter

In 2014 a group of 124 fans and supporters raised money through Kickstarter to save his only album and get him back into writing and recording again. The new re-issue is a well packaged remaster now titled ‘Deja S2’ and after listening to this for the first time it seems Stu was having a blast.

Nunnery live

I was 9 years old when the album came out in 1973. I have zero reference point to the album not only because it came out on the cusp of my musical awakening, but because it was predominantly an American release. The key to listening to an album re-issue for the first time is putting yourself in the shoes, and the headspace, of everyone in that era – Stu Nunnery being the most important part of that equation. The songs are a reflection of his life and external influences at that time.
Nunnery window It was the best of times (the world was starting to learn to live in a music world without The Beatles) – and the worst of times (Nixon, Viet Nam and the gas crisis). Nunnery wasn’t about to get all meloncholy or pedantic about any of it. He was a more brooding than James Taylor with the timber vocal timber of John Denver or Jim Croce (and even Canada’s James Leroy) and the gravitas of Elton John circa ‘Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player’ – on track like “Times Like These”, “Diminished Love” and “Madelaine”.

Nunnery jukebox But this isn’t straight up and laid back folk music. The lyrics and the slanted viewpoint have more in common with Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, Chris DeBurgh and Harry Nilsson especially on tracks like “Sally From Syracuse”, “Isle of Debris”, “Lady In Waiting”, “Roads” and “Your Rise”.

Nunnery now Anyone looking for an undiscovered gem from the era of innocent pop music need to grab this album. It will be an interesting primer for Stu’s comeback release being written for, hopefully, a 2016 release. https://www.facebook.com/MusicAndfFanPage
Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – EVERYTHING OLD IS STU AGAIN”

  1. Very astute observations through the eyes and ears of one who is quite obviously well informed on the issues that we the listeners and lovers of great music are now faced with. What’s been referred to as folk/rock is a bit of a misnomer as this was the direction American rock was initially headed before the “British Invasion”. The greatness of the likes of Stu Nunnery Gordon Lightfoot Jesse Colin Young among many others were an example of where Pete Seger Joni Mitchell and so many others were leading the American music scene. This is now lost to quick buck low talent copycat noise packaged as music. Art now replaced with profit margins have no place in my musical library! I fear these days are lost forever though I’ve done my best to impart these true artistic musical entities into as many lives as possible. My children appreciate and still enjoy the music of my youth. I’m on board with helping anyone who is willing to revitalize that which should never have been lost. If given the opportunity to help in any way I’d gladly jump at the chance! Thank you for stating what many of us feel in such a well thought out manner! Repackaging is just a lazy way to scrape a few more bucks out of what I already have and love. Typically leaving the artist without any share of the revenues.
    Please break the out of the 4 minute barrier, as I refuse to listen to the noise that is now what is referred to as music!

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