phrase "South Atlantic Blues" originated with a gentle
soul from Bermuda. I had been singing in the village one night in
1965, the next day my friend (Kenny Sommers who I knew from "The
Urchins" A group that we'd been in together in St. Thomas)
said that a friend of his had been very moved by my singing and
had described my music as
South Atlantic Blues. The words struck
like a gong, and I immediately began to write the song.
It took me many months to capture the various images that the phrase
stirred up for me.
I started work on it in 1965 at the Forrest Hotel (across the street
from the Brill Building) where I was living while being managed
by Doc Pomus, and completed it in a small closet/room on 49th st.
and 10th Ave in Hells Kitchen, in the summer of 1966.
I never met the Boy from Bermuda and consequently, was never able
to thank him for his beautiful review. So.. thank you most sincerely,
"de Bermuda boy".
Those were exciting times in New York City, in music and in politics
and in the arms of love. I was the house singer at Steve Paul's
"The Scene" in 65 and in early 66 the regular bill at
the Café au Go-Go read ""Ritchie Havens, Scott
Fagan, Jimmy James and The Blue Flames and David Clayton Thomas".
That's where I was "Discovered" and signed by Herb Gart
(just before Jimmy James was discovered by Chas Chandler). Herb
became the Executive Producer of South Atlantic Blues, while the
great Elmer Gordon was the hands on man. Elmer had produced "Pearls
Before Swine" the previous year, and he and Herb had produced
Buffy St. Marie before that. (I loved Buffy and would have signed
anything to be near her, unfortunately she had moved on by then)
Herb brought in Horace Ott (A young, gifted R&B man from Stax)
to do arrangements. We recorded primarily at the Musicor studios
on west 56th (where Gene Pitney had done most if not all of his
hits) with the Wiley, Wiley Brooks as our engineer. The unbelievable
steel drum player was Victor Brady, a Virgin Islander from St. Croix,
Victor is still the best ever, in my view.
album was released by ATCO Records in the summer of 1968. The
history of South Atlantic Blues and ATCO is interesting, I will
lay it out briefly for you..
According to Herb Gart, "South Atlantic Blues" was one
of two albums being held by the Beatles (the other was James Taylor's
great album, "Sweet Baby James") as they tried to decide
what would be the first release on their new label, Apple Records.
They chose "Sweet Baby James" and that was fine with
us because by then, Jerry Shoenbaum was interested. In 1967-68,
"Verve Forecast" was the hottest "FolkRock"
label around and Jerry Schoenbaum was the head of it. He was very
impressed with me and "South Atlantic Blues" and decided
to sign me and my album to Verve/Forecast. In the middle of our
negotiations, ATCO offered Jerry Shoenbaum a deal, which he accepted.
Jerry decided to take me and "South Atlantic Blues"
with him to ATCO, to be his first release in his new position
there. I was given (through my manager Herb Gart) an ATCO contract
to sign, which I did. Unfortunately, Jerry Schoenbaum and ATCO
fell into disagreement over the content of Jerry's contract and
were never able to come to terms.
Consequently, Jerry never signed his own deal with ATCO, and left.
By then "South Atlantic Blues" and I were signed to
ATCO and had to stay behind.
You may imagine how enthusiastically the next head of ATCO worked
on Jerry Schoenbaum's pet project, "South Atlantic Blues."
I have been trying for the longest time to get South Atlantic
Blues re- released or at least released to me so that I could
find a way to get it out..
"SOUTH ATLANTIC BLUES"
Song List:Side One
In My Head
2. Nickles and Dimes
4. The Carnival Is Ended
5. South Atlantic Blues
Song List:Side Two
1. Nothing But Love
2. Tenement Hall
3. In Your Hands
4. Crystal Ball
5. Madam Moiselle
SCOTT FAGAN releases:
The Bluenosed Reindeer"
SHOULD NEVER DIE"
(The V.I. Songs, Volume II)
(The V.I. Songs, Volume I)
..... and more to come!!!
The story of ATCO and "South Atlantic
Blues" is an example of the kind of non-musical mess that
messes with music and has messed up the "business" of
music for years.
For what it's worth, I think that frankly, once Jerry Schoenbaum
left, ATCO staff never had any intention of working the album,
and "right thinking people" ought to have returned
it right then, or for that matter at any point between that
time and the present. Needless to say "South Atlantic Blues"
languished at ATCO, and has languished at ATCO now, for 39 years.
What the heck does that stuff have to do with music?
That's not why we make music, we don't make music to have accountants
and lawyers and control freaks jump in the way and block it
from the people who inspired it, and who it is intended for.
What kind of craziness is that?
While we are not allowed to reprint and re-release South Atlantic
Blues, thank God for the emerging digital alternatives. I'm
putting my record up, and inviting you to listen.
Here it is, South Atlantic Blues, from my heart to yours. A
little late perhaps but here 'tis, nonetheless.
"South Atlantic Blues" is essentially, a record of
a young manchild from the Islands, alone in the states, seeing
what he's seeing, saying what he's saying and longing for the
life he knew. I know that and I think Jasper knew that too.
I wrote "In Your Hands" on my 21st Birthday as an angry response
to Lyndon Johnson proclaiming a "Day Of Prayer" to end the war
in Vietnam. I felt it was the height of hypocrisy to put the responsibility
for the war and the responsibility for ending the war onto God, prayer,
and confused, suffering citizens. I thought he was fogging the issue intentionally
by invoking and playing on the religious beliefs of trusting, and powerless
people, when he himself could have stopped the war in 5 minutes. I apologize
to anyone whose spiritual comfort was dinged or diminished by my song
"In Your Hands" I hope you have come back, stronger than ever.
Scott Fagan, August/06
remarkable Virgin Islands recording artist has somehow sustained a freedom
and freshness in his music, while persevering against unbelievable odds
for over 40 years. This degree of determination and commitment, extraordinary
in this, or any age, is another trait that he acknowledges as having come
from his Virgin Islands upbringing.
"Giving up is simply out of the question. There is a point on the
charts towards the west end of St. Thomas called 'Pull or be Damned.'
That says it all for me" If you love great singing and great songs,
and great characters with great hearts, and if you love them that come
back against all odds, then you will love Scott Fagan.
In this world of gray on gray, here is an artist of the rainbow day. One
who bends but will not break, like the spirit of the beautiful Virgin
Islands themselves. What a story untold
Be sure to look for "DREAMS NEVER DIE" (The V.I. Songs Vol.
II) and Scott's wonderful Christmas Operetta titled "SANDY THE BLUENOSED
"THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING
INDEPENDENT RECORDING ARTISTS"
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