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3 May 2017

Mayo Thompson "Corky’s Debt To His Father" 1970 US Experimental Blues Psych Rock






Mayo Thompson  "Corky’s Debt To His Father" 1970 US  Experimental Blues Psych Rock
full
Although this, to put it mildly, is not a record for mainstream tastes, it nevertheless may be more palatable to pop ears than any of Thompson's numerous Red Krayola records. With a folkier bent than his group projects, Thompson projects himself as a lovable oddball of sorts, stringing together free-associative, non-sequitur lyrics against chord progressions and time signatures that, as is his wont, refuse to adhere to accepted norms. Much of it's rather catchy (if not hummable), though, with a whimsical sense of fun that makes it impossible to dismiss as pretentious artsiness.................by Richie Unterberger..............

“People understood very well [during its time], they just didn’t like it!”
Mayo Thompson 

Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you fall in love with an album. It might not be immediate. Sometimes it can take months, even years, but you realize you’ve become obsessed. Lyrics not memorized, but internalized.
Mayo Thompson’s Corky’s Debt to His Father is one of these albums for me.
So when I call up Thompson and he eventually asks me, “Are you disappointed to hear what I say about it, given what you’d thought about it?” I can’t help but take a moment to think about the question carefully.
Corky’s Debt to His Father is Mayo Thompson’s only solo album. Recorded after his groundbreaking group Red Krayola was put on a brief hold, it received a release via a small independent label in 1970, then went out-of-print for many years. It got into the right hands, though: Philip Glass was a fan, as was Pere Ubu, who re-recorded a track from the album during Thompson’s stint with the band in the early ’80s. Later in that decade, it was finally re-released on the London-based indie Glass Records, then saw its biggest audience with another reissue by Drag City in 1994. (It proved to be popular enough to warrant yet another pressing in 2008.)
Musically, Corky’s Debt creates its own universe, where weird folk music and proto-punk anthems sit side-by-side. While you have typical verse/chorus/verse structures, they’re upended by sexual lyrics. It was a far cry from what Thompson had done in the previous few years alongside Steve Cunningham and Frederick Barthelme as part of Red Krayola. Influenced equally by modern classical and free jazz as they were by rock, the trio sounded like no one else in the late ’60s.

But despite getting together at a moment when music audiences were more open-minded than ever, Red Krayola was a tough sell. After a performance at the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1967 a woman claimed their feedback-laden freak-outs had killed her dog. Nowadays, the group’s work is consistently referred to as “ahead of his time.” Thompson disagrees. “People understood very well [during its time], they just didn’t like it!”
By 1969, Red Krayola seemed to be more no more. “It was kind of a moot point,” Thompson says. “There wasn’t anything going on, so I just drifted off and did other things.” After he recorded Corky’s Debt, those “other things” included working with artist Robert Rauschenberg in New York in the early ’70s; working and producing for Rough Trade in late ’70s London; living in Germany with artist Albert Oehlen during the late ’80s; and teaching politics and music at a California art school during the ’90s and ’00s. Along the way, he also resurrected Red Krayola, who began making music that was better and more visceral than the bands attempting to emulate what Thompson had already done over a decade before.
Thompson has a deep Texas accent and is incredibly genial over the phone when I first talk to him. For some reason, I refer to him as Mr. Thompson automatically. I’ve never done this to any other person I’ve interviewed, though I’ve never idolized anyone I’ve gotten to talk to as much as him. Also, he was a teacher, so maybe it’s that.
I’m finally talking to Mr. Thompson because he’s getting set to perform Corky’s Debt in its entirety for the first time ever at the 2013 Cropped Out Festival. He’s not entirely sure what will happen. “My voice is gone, dude. That boy’s gone. But the feelings are still there. And there might be a tiny tinge of irony, a tiny tinge of regret, a tiny tinge of guilt or shame. Might choke up, might cry. Who knows?”
When I ask about the recording of Corky’s, he explains it was a response to the time period. “Altamont had taken the wind out of the sails of the Flower Power movement and all of the hubris about it. We were on the verge of the ’70s, everybody had to make up their mind. ‘Are you interested in fire? What about the wheel? What do you think about can openers?’ Everything had to be rethought in some sort of way. And I think that that record for me was, like all records I’ve made, they were records of what I think is possible.”
Looking at the album’s lyrics, there’s an immense amount of heartbreak and fighting of loneliness. I try to get him to talk about his personal life during the recording. However, Thompson speaks about the philosophical and social aspects of the record for most of our conversation, before he pauses and asks me that question. “Are you disappointed to hear what I say about it, given what you’d thought about it?” After a moment, I respond, “Not disappointed. It’s interesting that you would say it’s personal, but not in the way I thought it was. I thought it would be more of ‘Your girlfriend broke up with you.’” I laugh at how trivial this sounds.
“All of that stuff happened,” he tells me. “Betty is somebody. Venus, we all know who she is, she’s the goddess of love. ... I can tell you stories about my life, but I don’t think they would explain anything, just a litany of tragic events.”
And I realize he’s right. Just because you love something doesn’t mean you need it explained. Does a lyric like “I’m so worried / Yes, I am worried / I’m so worried, I told you I was worried” really need a name or narrative attached to it? If it already means the world to you, what else could you possibly ask from it?
Cropped Out is held at the American Turners Club in Louisville, right on the bank of the Ohio River. About 45 minutes before he’s to go on, I see Thompson by himself, staring out to the water, right behind the stage where his band is setting up. He looks like a character in a Raymond Chandler novel – long black coat, pressed shirt, nice shoes and sunglasses.
The band takes the stage after the sun’s gone down: Guitarist Tom Watson, drummer John McEntire and bassist Bill Bowman join Mayo and original pianist Joe Dugan, the man who wrote the ethereal horn parts on my favorite track from the album, “Dear Betty Baby.” In front of Thompson is a music stand with his iPad, containing the lyrics. (Later on, the iPad runs out of juice, and somebody in the crowd helps hold Thompson’s notebook of lyrics open during the set.) Before they start, I hear someone in the crowd say, “I sort of can’t believe I’m getting to see this.”
“I’m a student of human nature,” Thompson starts, and the album begins. There’s an energy to the songs. The group comes off a bit like the world’s best bar band. (When I talk to Mayo a few weeks later, this was one of his criticisms of the show.) The crowd loves it, Mayo is having a ball, and I made sure not to publicly cry during “Dear Betty Baby.” In the middle of the set, I notice Mayo say to himself while tuning up, “My goodness, this is strange.”
Riverboats are passing behind the band as they tear through “Black Legs,” turning the solo acoustic tune into a full electric blues groove. During the closer, “Worried, Worried,” he seems to have turned into a crazed preacher right before our eyes. This man can’t be 69 years old. He seems like he’s about to duckwalk across the stage.
As the set ends, he hugs his band members in congratulations. A stream of people come up to Thompson with their copies of the album to sign. I find the guy who couldn’t believe he was getting to see this. His name is Chris Berry, and he drove down from Minneapolis just for the show. “I guess [Corky’s] came on my radar during college. I still have my old copy from Glass Records from the ’80s. There’s always been something special about this record. It’s got that cosmic American twinkle that a lot of stuff can never touch.” I ask him what he thought about the show and he speaks for both of us, “I’m sort of in disbelief, but it was perfect.”
Thompson is practically bounding after the show and gladly brings me up to the dressing room area, though not before getting stopped by more and more fans. When we finally get in the elevator, he turns to me – “That’s the one thing I know about show business,” as the door closes, “at some point, it’s over.” 
In the dressing room, Thompson and Joe Dugan are reminiscing about recording the album like a pair of old war buddies. Duggan is thoroughly hilarious, cracking jokes and telling stories about his early days in the music business, recording bubblegum hits. It turns out, before the rehearsals, the two hadn’t seen each other in about 40 years.
Thompson sums up his feelings about the show in one word: “relieved.” Dugan agrees, explaining that they “had a significant amount of worry about it. After 40 years, it was really hard to bring this stuff all back to consciousness.” I tell them about the amount of people that traveled from all over the country to get here. Thompson’s a little shocked. “There’s some loonies out there who love Red Krayola and like me for some damn strange reason. I don’t know.”
As it turns out, Dugan and Mayo tell me a story about their waiter at breakfast that morning. After overhearing them discuss music and asking them who they were, the waiter yelled in shock, “That record?! That’s been my favorite record for, like, the last year!”
We part ways to go watch the rest of the bands. During Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeney’s Superwolf set, I look over to see Mayo filming them on his iPhone. He glances at me, gives me a final wink, and is gone as quickly as he appeared...........By Bryan Bierman on November 4, 2013..............

"I first heard the sudden unbelievable wave-rolling sound of this strange, acoustic, old time cartoon band singin 'I'm a student of human nature' in '94 in good ol' Memphis, TN. Played to me by a giant man with an exploding pillow of blond curls wearing overalls. Wot the fuck was this? I was 22 and getting a fast-paced indie rock education after dropping out of college mid-semester a few months earlier. Was I wasting my parents money when I called from the Blues City Cafe and told them I had moved across the country? Ah, yes it's true, I surely was. But here on the turntable was a suitable replacement for the out-of-state tuition throw to the breeze - a corduroy-professorial-erotic-swinger vibe pouring off a re-issued LP!? Who is this massively turned on man singing about Shakespeare? The picture of the man on the back said it all. I could not have imagined this existed at all. But wot does it sound like? To me, his record has sonic values of the 60's but sounds distinctively weirder than anything I've heard from that decade. And wot an incredible bit of luck there, on the decade's cusp." - Mike Donovan.............

Mayo Thompson's lone solo LP sounds nothing like his work with The Red Krayola. Nearly every fractured folk melody contains beatiful hidden counter-melodies. Mayo sings as if in a semi-somnolent state, with lyrics less art-damaged but more surreal than those of The Red Krayola.

I can find little information on the band, other than names. Checking Discogs, it looks like the musicians did very little else. That is a shame. From the plucky bass work in Horses and quiet horns of To You (I swore it was French Horn, but it is trumpet with barritone and alto sax), the instrumental work in this album is stellar.

This is an album that takes time to really discover. I first heard it 15 years ago and liked it. The more time passes, and with each listen, I love it a little bit more....by ...Utopus .............


2013 repress. LP version with bonus 7"; one of the great Drag City releases (and one of the great American music solo albums) finally on vinyl again. "In 1970, Mayo Thompson (once-and-future leader of The Red Krayola) recorded an album entitled Corky's Debt To His Father. Walt Andrus' Texas Revolution label released the record -- but just barely, selling a few hundred LPs with no promotion to speak of. The copies that made it into shops became the treasured objects of taste-makers around the globe -- which made Corky's Debt To His Father an influential record down the years. As punk rock, new wave, post-punk and all the rest came along, it was inevitable that this lost classic of independent music would be discovered by a wider audience. In 1988, the album was reissued on the UK Glass Records imprint but went out-of-print again in short order. Then in 1994, Drag City brought Corky's Debt To His Father back to the USA, as well as to the CD format for the first time. Additionally, a third pressing of the vinyl was made. The CD has been a perennial favorite ever since -- but after just a few months of robust sales, the LP artwork and jackets were destroyed in a fire, thus putting the end to the life of Corky's Debt To His Father on vinyl once again. Wrapped in a jacket that recalls the halcyon days of solid LP dominance, this new pressing comes with a 7" single featuring the instrumental 'Woof,' which was recorded at the same sessions but not released until The Red Krayola's 2004 compilation CD Singles. The B-side of this single is a never-before heard take on John Cage's '4'33"' played by fellow traveller Sergei McUgly."............

Mayo Thompson's Corky's Debt to his Fatherwas first released in 1970, though it was so out of step with other albums of its time its age hardly shows today. The folks at Drag City (who are hell bent on chronicling the seemingly endless navigations of Thompson's four-decade musical career) have finally brought one of the great head-scratching avant-pop albums of the '70s back into print (again). This new vinyl edition marks the fourth issue of the album, which has drifted in and out of print for the past 37 years, this time with a heavy old-school cardboard sleeve and a bonus 7-inch. Corky's Debt is a particularly difficult record to write about as its brilliance is not the kind of thing that's glaringly obvious or even striking on initial contact, glowing with the same off-kilter pop essence as the treacherous seas navigated by other '60s crackpot pop-luminaries like Syd Barrett. The difference here is that Thompson approaches things as an artist (of the highest brow) and not a tormented acid casualty, although by no means do his pretensions outweigh his intentions.

Thompson is perhaps best known as the leader and continuous frontman for the ever-shifting musical collective known as The Red Krayola, which began at the dawn of the psychedelic era as part of the same Texas scene that birthed The 13th Floor Elevators. Corky's Debt marks Thompson's first solo effort after The Red Krayola's two records for International Artists turned what was then known as rock 'n' roll completely inside-out. Aeons ahead of their time, the Krayola approach was conceptual, abstract and even Cagian. Other rock bands in the '60s merely dabbled in the avant garde — The Beatles, The Velvets, The Mothers, etc. — they put it at the forefront, with concepts often taking precedence over songs, resulting in a particular kind of rock deconstruction that would not be fully realized until the post-punk era.

Part of the brilliance of Corky's Debt is that it takes this deconstruction, shoots it through with mature early '70s singer-songwriterisms (perhaps Thompson finally heard Dylan?) and uses it to build rather than destroy. After all, this is an album of proper, well-produced songs, and though it doesn't brim over with wide-eyed pre-punk energy like the early Krayola albums, it instead settles into kind of damaged beauty that is far more personal and revealing. Thompson's approach on Corky's Debt comes off something like the musical equivalent of Marcel Duchamp attempting to paint like Norman Rockwell, as if an otherwise oblivious Dada wordsmith walked into the wrong recording studio, guitar in hand, and accidentally cut a record with Jerry Jeff Walker's backup band, minds blowing left and right as the tape rolled.

That's not to say that the contrast between Thompson and his surroundings is stark — it's almost as if he's able to blend in and stand out at the same time, exhibiting a form of uneasiness that is strangely comfortable. Thompson's earnestness is far beyond his actual ability to sing: In this sound world, a missed note merely reminds us of a real world that is imperfect, and Thompson misses them in every song. If anything, the record stands as proof that even the most self-indulgent brand of whimsical nonsense lyricism can be shaped into genuine introspection, beautifully thrashing about in the often all-too-empty space where content is eclipsed by context. To this day, the album still stands not only as a well-aged folk-pop album, but also as an immovable piece of conceptual art...............

In the world of the vanguard, Mayo Thompson had served with his Red Krayola a fucking entry with his Parable of Arable Land, total delirium total to fun consumed! God Bless ... in a flat of resistance refined the matter, removing the Free-Form Freakout from the Moche Family to concentrate on the offbeat blunts that haunted the spirit of Thompson.

And here is the dessert, the last album of this first period: Corky's Debt To His Father. Even if it is underground notoriety that man has always been the brain of the Krayolas, the label Mayo Thompson © has its importance here: it means that it has deviated from its branches of colleagues to offer Real studio musicians. Too bad for the reputation "bad but authentic" dear to some, so much better for music! The album of maturity in a way, said Mr. Poncif.

Clearer in its purpose, cleaner in sound, more bare in accompaniment, Mayo reveals in a big half hour some of his finest compositions. Very folk, Corky's Debt exudes a contagious joie de vivre! The tone, more than usual, is nonchalant. But of this particular nonchalance which finds its source in the awakened dream: Thompson seems so perched that he does not even bother to sing correctly. Mayo tells his absurd stories, where the pretty girls rub shoulders with the most impressionistic scenes ... The pictures described are as strange as they are tight. One of the pearls on the album, "Dear Betty Baby", evokes the departure at sea of ​​a sailor who fears the leagues that will separate him from his wife and the damage that will point the tip of their nose once on the water. And the horns, from the second couplet, to chorus their gentle complaint ... The other two peaks of the disc are the strained "Horses" and "Worried Worried". The first, taken a decade later by Pere Ubu (with none other than Mayo on vocals), sees the original worry about his own heartbeats, to the point of asking his girlfriend to tie her throbbing around her knees. Electric, "Worried Worried" rock and dissowe in every corner while Mayo psycho in his: "What a shock, what a scare / When the clock, without a care / Keeps turning on without you ".

Corky's Debt To His Father is a perfect collection of what will remain as the most personal testimony of Mayo Thompson, who rather than a snobbish and boggy intellectual was ultimately only a slightly eccentric and very sensitive. .. An oddity a little space to place between Skip Spence and Jonathan Richman; On the side of the Gentiles...............

LP released in 1969 on Texas Revolution Records
LP reissued in 1988 on Glass Records
LP/CS/CD released on June 20, 1994 on Drag City
LP version with bonus 7" ("Woof" b/w "4'33"") released on February 26, 2008 on Drag City

Musicians
*Mayo Thompson - Vocals, Guitar, Bass
*Frank Davis - Fiddle Guitar, Timpani
*Roger Romano - Percussion
*Joe Duggan - Piano
*Mike Sumler - Slide Guitar, Bass, Tenor Saxophone
*Le Anne Romano - Baritone Sax
*Chuck Conway - Drums, Bongos, Percussion
*Jimi Newhouse - Drums
*Carson Graham - Drums
*The La Las - Backing Vocals
*The Whoaback Singers - Backing Vocals 

Tracklist
A1 The Lesson 2:43
A2 Oyster Thins 6:04
A3 Horses 3:13
A4 Dear Betty Baby 3:52
A5 Venus In The Morning 2:33
B1 To You 2:52
B2 Fortune 2:14
B3 Black Legs 3:54
B4 Good Brisk Blues 3:11
B5 Around The Home 2:55
B6 Worried Worried 5:14 

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