Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SUPERFLY MEETS SHAFT AT Hobart and William Smith, 1974

Okay, here's something that has nothing to do with Big Star (although I can imagine Alex Chilton gleefully taking part in this tale back when it occurred). Recently I was doing some research on music blogs and the bounty of music offered for free download (some of it obscure and out of print, some of it in obvious violation of copyright) and came across a site that posts obscure 45s. One of them was "Shaft Meets Superfly" by John and Ernest, one of those "drop in" novelty records that were popular in the 60s and still around in the early 70s. Far from obscure in my mind, it was probably one of the last 45s that meant anything to me. Here's the story...

In April of 1974 I was a senior at Hobart College in Geneva NY. I had become friends with Bob Meserve and spent a lot of time hanging out in the dorm lounge we shared listening to his collection of black and orange spined Impulse albums and Captain Beefheart. One night he came back from the campus pub (a dingy concrete bunker in basement of the administration building that served Pabst on tap for cheap) raving about a new 45 he and some friends (Paul Keating...and likely Dan Knickerbocker and / or John Johnson) had discovered on the jukebox: Superfly Meets Shaft Part Two. I went with him the next night to hear this masterpiece - indescribable at the time but in retrospect it sounds like Lee Perry gone berserk scratching a Curtis Mayfield record in the Holland Tunnel. Pure noise or a masterpiece. You could call it either way but we kept putting the quarters in the jukebox and playing it on endless repeat. After a while it took on a hypnotic effect, the sound just bouncing off the concrete in the dimly lit room. If we'd been in NYC, you could have put a velvet rope outside and charged $20 to get in.

This went on for a few nights until the student bartender (a frat jock lacking in humor and / or musical taste as I recall) pulled the plug on the jukebox and told us to get lost. The next night we returned to find that Freddie Hart had replaced John and Ernest on the jukebox. A letter was drafted in protest to The Herald (campus newspaper) that was signed by Paul (although I'm pretty certain that Bob Merserve was a co-author - he kept so far off the radar that when he would show up for a class final exam, it was common for a professor to have no idea who he was) comparing the removal of Superfly Meets Shaft to the antagonistic reception given the Rites of Spring. Here's the track and the letter (you can scroll down for the A side):

Thanks to Zack Chaikin (for the scan of the letter) and Juke Box Mafia (for posting Part 2 on request).

Postscript. Paul Keating was tragically killed on the streets of NY in the early 80s trying to stop a hold-up. Bob Meserve and I kept in touch for many years. He somehow had procured a copy of the record and gave it to me to make a copy. When he became a father I sent it back to him – an heirloom that could be passed along to his son. I last saw him at a Pharoah Sanders concert I produced in the mid-90s.

Postscript Two. I was just reminded that a band I played in circa 76-77 (The Blue Reimondos - first CBGBs type band in Buffalo area although we were up and running before those bands recorded and we got to hear them) actually COVERED this, right down to the drop out near the end of the recording that tricks you into thinking that it's over and then...BAM! We didn't / couldn't do it note for note but had a lot of fun trying to recreate it in spirit right down to the excessive reverb.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Truly an avant-garde masterpiece.