Celebrating ESP-DISK’ : 50 Years of Unimaginable Sounds – Imagined

This piece was originally published August 26th, 2013.

Sun Ra 1 IconIn 1963 a record label began on the 12th floor of 156 Fifth Avenue in New York City by releasing its first LP.

Bernard Stollman, a 34 year old jazz fan with a law background, had been working with some rhythm and blues and jazz musicians, helping them with copyright and contract issues.


Bernard Stollman and one of his early ESP logos.


Stollman had also learned the “International Auxiliary Language,” Esperanto and recorded an album of songs and poetry all spoken in Esperanto, which he had hoped would further promote the language.

Titled, Ni Kantu en Esperanto, Stollman decided to self-release his album on a record label that was named after the language itself, ESP-DISK’.

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Remembering SEAN HARTTER: Awesome Across The Universe(s)

This piece was originally published May 6th, 2013.

SH Post TemplateI still find this difficult to believe and am writing this piece while still in a state of grief and sadness.

On Friday April 27th, 2013 without warning, the world lost illustrator/comic book artist Sean Hartter at the early age of 39.


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This piece was originally published May 7th, 2012.

MCAI heard the news late last Friday afternoon: Adam Yauch, The Beastie Boys’ venerable, beloved MCA, had died at age 47.

I was floored. The more recent news on Adam’s battle with his illness seemed to be that it was of a treatable variety, so surely he would not only return to making music soon enough, he would be back on the stage touring once more with his partners.

Oddly, just a few days ago, I was telling a friend how The Beastie Boys were among my favorite groups that I had yet to see live, but I was sure there would come a time. Now I am sure it won’t be happening, and if the other B Boys decide to carry on, it will be difficult to recreate the magic of the mighty three.


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The Films Of GEORGE AND MIKE KUCHAR: The 8mm Mozarts

This piece was originally published September 12th, 2011.

Kuchar Brothers Post TemplateThe Kuchar Brothers were (along with Kenneth Anger) among the earliest originators and innovators of what we now know think of as independent film.

John Waters started making films because of them and calls them “The Warner Brothers of the Underground.”

David Lynch, Brian De Palma, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin, Buck Henry, Todd Solondz, Atom Egoyan are but a tiny few of the independent and otherwise film directors that name The Kuchars as their influence and inspirations.

Taking the small 8mm film camera and turning it from something that previously would be merely used for capturing family vacations and holiday gatherings, The Kuchars instead created their own brand of ambitious, mini Douglas Sirk and Tennessee Williams melodramas that were filtered through their own warped teenaged sensibilities with a decidedly crazed black humor that would be indicative of the fledgling cinema underground that they were helping to create.

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CY TWOMBLY 1928-2011

This piece was originally published August 1st, 2011.

Cy Twombly Post Template

There’s a book by art historian Christiane Weidemann, that was published in 2010 and turns up in a variety of places, from chain bookstores to Urban Outfitters.

It’s one of those overview, pleasant types of books that sits well alongside other informational reference books or makes for great bedtime reading.

This series, by a variety of authors, is entitled, 50 _ You Should Know, and allows a newcomer or even anyone with even more than a passing interest in the arts, a chance to learn more and focus in on the subjects without trying to reach too far or encompass too wide a chronological span of art history, which can be far too overwhelming.

The range of titles include 50 Paintings You Should Know (for ex. The Mona Lisa), 50 Photographers You Should Know, 50 Architects You Should Know, 50 Women Artists You Should Know and in this particular case the one by Weidemann the one entitled 50 Modern Artists You Should Know.


Cy Twombly is one of those 50 Modern Artists You Should Know.

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This piece was originally published December 21st, 2010.

Captain Beefheart Post IconThis, my last Mystery Box column for 2010, is also among my more difficult writing challenges yet.

How to encapsulate, within this forum, not only my sadness at the thought that on December 18, 2010, Don Van Vliet a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, has shuffled off this mortal coil, but attempt to also effectively communicate my love, admiration and really, a fanatical appreciation of this artist—an artist of truly awe inspiring, exceptionally innovative magnitude.

Already there have been better words written in one day, than I could possibly ever come up with in five years: incredible columns from around the world eulogizing The Captain, and some by those who not only performed with him, but were a part of his inner circle.

Yet, try I must.


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THE HOT RATS: (The Late) Supergrass’ Super Side Project!

This piece was originally published November 8th, 2010

The Hot Rats Post IconThis past year the longtime British—or should I say “Britpop”—since they will forever be associated with that genre—chart-topping rock band Supergrass broke up due to the old “musical and creative differences” reason after a nice seventeen year run.

One can easily surmise that the difference might be named Mick Quinn, bassist, backing vocalist and co-writer in Supergrass, since the other two members of this highly successful trio also including Gaz Combes (guitar/lead vocals) and Danny Goffey (drums/backing vocals) have now released, since announcing Supergrass’ split up, an album where they are known as The Hot Rats.


The Hot Rats, taken from the name of Frank Zappa’s brilliant first solo album sans The Mothers Of Invention, began life releasing a great cover (with a truly fun accompanying video) of The Beatles’ song, “Drive My Car” for use in an ad campaign for Hugo Boss perfume.

They have since released their first full length album entitled Turn Ons.

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Hey Arnold Stang!

This piece was originally published January 25th, 2010.

Arnold Stang IconIf ever there was a legend worthy of writing about here at The Mystery Box, then Arnold Stang is one of those legends.

On December 20th, 2009 Arnold Stang left the world for that great comedy club in the sky.

I grew up with such admiration for Stang that I felt the indebted to include Arnold Stang, the 2nd selection for this installment of a regular Mystery Box feature called Great Comedians Of The Past.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you:


Arnold Stang migrated from his 1918 birthplace of Chelsea, MA to Brooklyn and grew up as as a young kid chasing showbiz, stardom and everything else that a lifestyle in the big city could offer him. He was savvy from the get go, winning an audition for a children’s radio show at the age of nine.

Unlike say, the naive child actors who would become the Brady Bunch kids, Stang had drive, focus and adult ambition.


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This piece was originally published January 11th, 2010. Hi Records IconYou have doubtlessly heard a Willie Mitchell production. Perhaps it was one of John Lennon’s fave songs of the early ’70s—the Ann Peebles’ 1973 R&B/Pop classic, “I Can’t Stand The Rain.” It might be one of Willie’s own funky soul groove singles of the ’60s such as “Soul Serenade,” “Poppin'” or “The Crawl.” Or, eventually, if you’ve ever thrown a stone anywhere near a place where music was coming out of a speaker, then it was probably one of the many, many smash hits that Willie produced (and often co-wrote) with the inimitable Southern soul giant of the ’70s, singer Al Green.
Take your pick: “Let’s Stay Together,” “Call Me,” “Tired Of Being Alone,” “You Ought To Be With Me,” “Let’s Get Married,” “Love And Happiness,” “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)” —all mighty Al Green gems easily recognized and forever playing somewhere on the planet at this very moment.



This piece was originally published october 12th, 2009 Irving Penn Icon Irving Penn will always be a name that is listed among the greatest of art history’s most important and recognizable photographers. He is imitated by many, and many are those who more than likely have little idea of just what an archetype his photographic style is.
Penn’s influence forever impacted the mediums of fashion, portraiture, editorial design, product photography, advertising, television. Subsequently, this laid the groundwork for the contemporary idea of a subject photographed as a beautiful work to be admired without the need for extemporaneous elements. 

Among these many achievements, he is renowned for his longtime work that appeared in the illustrious Vogue—a relationship that began in the 1940’s. Penn also was husband to one of his, and Vogue’s famous models, Lisa Fonssagrives. She became one of the more popular “clothes hangers” of the ’30s, 40’s and ’50s—one of history’s first supermodels.  It was upon opening his first photography studio in 1953 that Penn stated what would become one of the most profound, influential and fundamental components for all his life’s work, “Photographing a cake can be art.” Penn’s primary method was sublimely straightforward and deceptively simplistic—usually photographing a subject against a simple gray, white or black background—in the barest of a studio setting. His light sources maximized the crispness and sharp focus he brought out of his subjects, yet never did his lighting seem harshly artificial. This method allowed a viewer to concentrate solely on a subject without distraction. Whether Penn was photographing a celebrity, a still life of cigarette butts, or an ethnographic study of the indigenous people of some remote village in New Guinea, all became a model in the world of high fashion.



Irving Penn: In a Cracked Mirror (Self Portrait), New York, 1986

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