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OR, THE PAUL ROBESEON COMPLEX WILL RISE AGAIN

uplifting!The Music Director, Son of Shemp*, explains: It was the mid-1980s & Brooklyn was like Cleveland to some. I grew up on 7th Avenue & 21st St— which not one goddamn person called “Greenwood Heights” then— so I’d already been to Cleveland, man. But like Albert Ayler & Pere Ubu before me, I split; it’s called variety & there were more bookstores on the Lower East Side than in Sunset Park then too. The Rainbow Cafe down on 5th? Yeah, I’d miss it, like I’d miss your mom’s pasteles but the trains run both ways, big deal. Snake— my old pal from Bensonhurst whom I met when we both went to Brooklyn Tech moved with me & we shared a basement apartment on East 12th St between Avenue B & C. Our band was called The Paul Robeson Complex; the rest of the membership was revolving. Sometimes we were like Tyrannosaurus Rex crossed with the Cramps, others it was more Bob Wills in big band mode trying to play Black Flag. (Even in those still-thrift-friendly days, we knew we couldn’t afford to dress like Sun Ra or James Brown.) Thurston Moore gave us a good review in his fanzine Killer, we opened for Mofungo (Robert Sietsema on bass!) few times and— true goddamn story— Snake was Jim Jarmusch’s first choice exciting!for John Lurie’s part in Down By Law but… he turned it down so we could tour Eastern Europe that summer. Lots of self-styled “critics” who couldn’t even get their rags into See Hear say he made a mistake but tell that to the kids of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia & Poland who went fucking apeshit whenever Snake whacked the first chords of our anthem, “I’d Rather Die Young (Than Grow Old With You).”** We never thought of it as, like, a career or anything.*** Some people do, bro’, some people do.****

* Samuel Horwitz (1895-1955), of Brooklyn

** b/w “My Yiddishe Mama Got A Brand New Bag” Kapital Records 7″ (1985)

*** It was art, & life, & nobody was thinking if only this tenement went condo…

**** Like Chanale, “a singer, songwriter, recording artist and performer whose melodic and moving songs open the hearts and touch the spirits of women in communities everywhere.” Caz Dolowicz tells me he was a Bonnie Owens man himself— who the hell knew? Hooba hooba! More on this previously unknown aspect of the 1960s Brooklyn Country Music History in weeks to come.

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