The Suave House non/Hippy
“If your feet are firmly planted on the ground you'll never be able to dance.” ― Iris Johansen
My old friend and ex-Warner Bros. compatriot Geoffrey Weiss let me know that Andy Wickham passed away. I was just thinking of Andy recently while listening to a Gram Parsons record, one of Andy’s many signings during his tenure at Warners.
I met Andy Wickham early on in my Warner Bros. Records tenure. I must have been 19 years old, working out of the A&R department lounge in the basement of the “Ski Lodge.” The lounge was where visitors could make calls…watch videos…listen to mixes of records they were working on. Little Roger from Zapp and Erik Jacobsen (then manager of Chris Isaak) were regulars in the lounge. But most of the time, it was just me. One crisp summer day, in walks a debonair English gentleman, with a meticulous fitted tan suit, white oxford shirt with the top buttons undone, sporting a short, styled haircut. With a warm grin he introduced himself with a proper upperclass accent, “Hello. Andy Wickham. Roberta Peterson tells me you are with us for the summer.”
Reading the obituary in the Times of London this morning (it has a firewall…if you want to see it, e-mail me and I will get it to you) makes me realize that the Andy Wickham I got to know…who I thought I knew…was not the Andy that is written about and remembered. There is much lore about how Andy was the hippy of the office…someone who Mo Ostin omnisciently brought in as a scout because of his unorthodox (in those days) lifestyle that found him in the spaces where the greatest artists were converging. He dug into the Laurel Canyon scene. He brought Joni Mitchel to the label as well as Van Morrison and had something to do with Neil Young’s signing as well (and Jethro Tull, and Emmylou Harris, Pentangle, anon).
The writings about Andy make it seem as if he was the wild man of the office. But to me, Andy was a gentleman, an elder statesman, an intellectual, who loved country music—who loved great songs and singers. Andy was an outspoken conservative, which took me by surprise, whose friendship with the very progressive Phil Ochs was fascinating to me, and we talked about it a lot, about how Andy admired Ochs’ genuineness (Andy had little patience for hypocrisy, which he thought was present in many liberal agendas).
Andy did not take me under his wing (if he had, maybe I would have seen the crazier aspect of his person) and we were not close, but being such a deep fan of music and a fellow member of the A&R staff, he took time to listen to the music I was working on, as well as playing me his projects, always open for a discussion about what the artists we were listening to were trying to do in the songs they were recording…what made them special…how they connected with music history. He loved Paula Frazer and Tarnation (one of the artists I had signed to the label) and took an active interest in the record they were making (which was one of my first solo productions).
It was during our conversations that I began to understand the breath of incredible artists he had worked with, as an A&R man, as a producer. He came across to me as a confidently modest person who had followed his love of music to amass a legendary career, a major brick in the Warner Brothers castle. For a young music freak like myself, talking about music with Andy was incredibly special.
The Numero Group has done it again, with this latest release shining a light on Branko Mataja, an artist who took the music of his native land of Yugoslavia and brought it to America with his own psychedelic bent. The article digs into Mataja’s life story, which is the stuff of major motion pictures. And thanks to a used record store discovery a few years ago, there is now this incredible album that shines a light on the life and art of this artist.
“When humans first populated North America and how they arrived has long been a matter of spirited debate. A recent study detailing what archeologists believe are the oldest known footprints in the United States is sparking new questions and upending long-held beliefs.”
For oft, when on my couch I lie/In vacant or in pensive mood,/They flash upon that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude;/And then my heart with pleasure fills,/And dances with the daffodils.
I had no idea this documentary about Rose Marie existed, and watched it last night (it is airing on amazon prime). A lighthearted stroll through her career, which started when she was 4 and went on for 90 years, with interviews from her legendary friends, many gone now. Totally worth it.
The winners’ art looks incredible: “The Asia Society and the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, both based in New York, have announced the three emerging artists that have won the Frankenthaler Climate Art Awards, which are given to MFA students or recent graduates in U.S. ‘to encourage action on climate change amongst the next generation of visual artists.’”
The Stranger (La Extranjera)
By: Gabriela Mistral
She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands;
She prays to a formless, weightless God,
Aged, as if dying.
In our garden now so strange,
She has planted cactus and alien grass.
The desert zephyr fills her with its breath
And she has loved with a fierce, white passion
She never speaks of, for if she were to tell
It would be like the face of unknown stars.
Among us she may live for eighty years,
Yet always as if newly come,
Speaking a tongue that plants and whines
Only by tiny creatures understood.
And she will die here in our midst
One night of utmost suffering,
With only her fate as a pillow,
And death, silent and strange.