Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NGC-4594 (the sounds we missed in the sixties)

In college, several friends and acquaintances formed NGC-4594, an early psychedelic rock band whose 45 RPM single “Going Home” made Billboard's Top 100 and who played opposite the Doors, the Mothers of Invention and other celebrated rock bands during their short-lived career. Personal and artistic problems broke up the band in the late sixties, before they could release the fourteen songs they had composed for an album. Fortunately, Steve Starger, the band's organist and, later, the keyboardist in my poetry band, had a copy and made a cassette for me twenty years ago. The tunes, joyful, lively and unabashedly psychedelic, sounded a few steps ahead of other bands that became better known in their time. I'd always thought NGC-4594 a deserved better fate.

Over the past fifteen years I've occasionally surfed the net to see how much attention, if any, other people were paying to NGC-4594. In used vinyl circles the band had gained a reputation as a precursor to many well-known psychedelic bands. One correspondent said NGC-4594 was playing Ultimate Spinach before Ultimate Spinach arrived on the scene.

Several days ago, on a “whatever happened to” surf, I discovered that a British label has released NGC-4594's 1960s recordings under the title Skipping Through the Night. If the release didn't promise the former band members the heady stardom and nonstop kicks of sixties rock stars, it gave recognition four-decades delayed to a half-dozen talented musicians who had moved on, some in the music business and some in other fields, while at least one had died.

It also gave the diehard fans of psychedelic rock a document that would broaden their knowledge of the music's development. NGC-4594 differed from other rock bands of the period because of the jazz influence several members brought to it. Since many of the members composed music, poetry or fiction, their lyrics were stronger than what I heard in many other bands of the sixties. Although the band lacked a celebrity lead singer, the vocals shared by Dan Shanok, Dave Bliss and Chaz Mirsky blended well, with each of the vocalists singing to their strengths. The combination of captivating vocals and sophisticated instrumental backing enticed more than one listener.

With the release of Skipping Through the Night, online commentary on NGC-4594 has increased. I've yet to read a negative comment. Most listeners appreciate it as a “precursor” or an “underground” band ahead of its time.

I've listened to Skipping Through the Night several times since I downloaded it to my iPod a few days ago. Forty-four years after its creation, the music still holds up. Although I have my personal favorites, this is one of the few occasions when I can say that I like all fourteen tunes almost equally. I recommend this recording to anyone who likes good music and especially to anyone who wants a greater sense what the sixties could have been.

I've lived long enough now to “witness history,” and give a little more respect to the reality of my experience. Although I've been out of touch with most of the members of NGC-4594 for almost as long as the band has been apart, I've watched several of its members make the best of their lives, personally and artistically, with no expectation of seeing their best work released. If the band's remaining members can't receive the glory they might have experienced in the sixties, they have the satisfaction, maybe even a tear of joy, of knowing that what we call history finally has corrected itself in their favor, and that every now and then over the course of a life, justice finally does come your way.

I recommend this record very highly.

For further information, check out:

Monday, April 25, 2011


Picking up from where I left off at the last entry, STYLING SANPAKU has just received its first review, from Michael Parker in the Unlikely 2.0 blog:

Parker approaches my work a little differently from other reviewers, digging deep into the poems with more referential qualities and experiencing “fun” while trying to interpret them. For most of my writing life, I've believed that literature could be fun, that play can be an enjoyable way of moving in a direction with serious implications. Perhaps I read Catch-22 before I was too old to become somber. I'd like to thank Parker for his review. I'd also like to thank him for introducing me to Michael Harold's Red Moon, a cross-genre work that fuses binary theory, poetry and fiction with undeniable brilliance and originality. My discussion with Parker about Harold's work led me, in turn, to contact painter Harvey Bialy, a highly-regarded painter who drummed in a memorable free form jam session I played bass in forty years ago in Connecticut, at a time when free jazz players were hard to find in the area. While introducing me to a writer whose work seems geared to future generations, Parker also put me in touch with my distant past.

Sometimes the world is even smaller than we think.

In my attempt to enlarge my audience, I've just published a print edition of * on, for those who would like a hard copy:

Those who want to browse or just have a free read can find the online edition of * at:

Several months ago, Chalk Editions published THREE LONGPOEMS, which I wrote during my "transitional period" in 1999-2000. FREE FALL originally appeared as a Potes & Poets Press chapbook. Note that I wrote GROUND ZERO at least a year before the World Trade Center site acquired the name after the 9/11 attack. In this poem, Ground Zero refers to the nuclear testing grounds in the southwestern United Stales and to trumpeter Bill Dixon's approach to free improvisation. You can read them at:

Ganick has also published several batches of my strictly textual poetry in his experiential-experimental-literature blogzine:

Odds Against Today, my most recent collection of textual poetry, is now available through Argotist Ebooks:

Its cover ranks as one of my personal favorites among the covers of my books. The blurb seems a fair description of the content:

In Odds Against Today Vernon Frazer's linguistic techniques force language beyond semantic limitations to produce poems that become events rather than meanings, although his lexical admixtures do not necessarily preclude perceiving or experiencing meaning.”

My textual poems have appeared in a number of other magazines as well:

RED CEILINGS has published “Switch and Bait:

and “Over Time and Over:”

Although my experience with RED CEILINGS has been limited, I find that I'm keeping good company with Felino A. Soriano's work published as a Red Ceiling Chapbook.

BLUE AND YELLOW DOG has published my texto-visual poems, “Stasis Quo” and “Anchor What” at:

OTOLITHS has also published my poem, "Parchment Grudge:"

My visual poetry represented me, after a fashion, during National Poetry Month, when P 667 Series C of PANELS FROM IMPROVISATIONS became part of the Angel House at:

The poem appeared April 14. But a look at the calendar will reveal a new page of visual poetry every day from such artists as Camille Martin, Matthew Stolte, Reed Altemus, Satu Kaikkonen, mIEKAL aND, andrew topel, Bob Grumman, Joel Lipman, Gary Barwin, John M. Bennett, Geof Huth, and Sheila E. Murphy, among others. Amanda Earl deserves high praise for assembling this impressive and innovative commemoration of National Poetry Month.

In addition, Jim Leftwich's TEXTIMAGE POEM has published a batch of my visual poetry:

Aficionado Transfers:

Double Move:

Pentatonic Scaling:

Since I consider Leftwich one of our most diverse and innovative writers, I'm always honored when my work appears in one of his publications.

When I started this update, I wanted to explain that I'd been slow to post because I've been taking a vacation from writing and publishing in recent months, trying to rest after getting a significant portion of my backlog of work published and to recharge my verbal batteries. If this is my idea of a vacation, the thought of seeing myself at work might exhaust me.

Back to the mirror.