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MUSIC

Summer 1977: black out, son-of-sam and ALLEGORY

By 1977 (the summer of New York's power blackout, the Son of Sam murders, and the hottest temperatures on record) Gary had left the South and was living in New York City with Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen in their apartment/office of Broadside Magazine. Sis Cunningham had been the accordion player in Woody Guthrie's group The Almanac Singers and she and Friesen had founded the topical music magazine with Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph Gleason. This album was recorded in Sis & Gordon's New York magazine office and apartment ( at 215 West 98th Street) and it strongly reflects the influence of Friesen's painful McCarthy-era blacklisted bitterness. Gordon and Gary became close friends and the elder writer’s pain and bitterness became a major influence on the radical young folk singer. The first cut on the album "Fort Apache―The Bronx" became the impetus for a 1981 Paul Newman film by the same title and theme. Released Fall 1977 in New York, instruments and vocals are by Gary with no overdubs (in true Moe Asch style). Steel string guitar is once again the Kay Jumbo Western model circa 1970 with Black Diamond medium gauge strings. The nylon string guitar is the handmade Brazilian Giannini concert size with Albert Augustine SP strings. By this album, Gary was often using a low D-string tuning; you can here it here on side one track two. (This tuning lowers the 6th string pitch from E to D.) Gary also plays a Horner "G" harmonica on side one track four.

Allegory: Gary Green Volume 2

Folkways Number 05353

The Tracks: Click here for the original 1977 album insert lyric sheet and liner notes. Below are descriptions of each track: Side one track one Fort Apache Is Under Siege Gordon Friesen showed Gary the south Bronx area of New York City...an area at that time buildings were largely abandoned by landlords and residents by any social services net. In fact, many landlords had begun burning their own buildings to collect insurance money. Officers of the 41st police precinct had totally alienated themselves from the abandoned poor in the area and almost nightly barricaded themselves inside the station to hide from angry near-rioting residents. The cops called their station Fort Apache and Gary picked up on it for this song, harshly condemning landlords, cops, insurance companies, bankers, and religion for allowing the situation to fester. In 1981 Paul Newman starred in a major movie called "Fort Apache The Bronx", based in part on Gary's observations and song. Producers of the film debated use of Gary's song for the theme, though they discussed it with him repeatedly. "It sounds to southern ethnic for a New York song," he was told. Nonetheless, he received writer’s credit for the soundtrack. Unlike most of the songs on this otherwise allegorical album, this song reverts back to the writing style of Gary's first album and is a straight-on protest song. (steel string & vocal) Side one track two Ashes Of The Fire Though he lived for almost another 20 years, Gordon Friesen was in his 70s and complaining that everyday would be his last, when Gary was living with him in New York. Brutally blacklisted in the 1950’s from his job as a writer for CBS news, he never worked again. Gary created this beautiful poetic allegory of Gordon's plight as a reflection of the capitalist system itself in the mid 20th century. Is the old man in the song Gordon, a passing generation in general, or an economic/political structure thought by many in the 60s and 70s to be dying away? (Low D-string tuning, steel string, and vocal) Side one track three No Great Loss An anthem to getting old...written by a 23-year-old. Living with the Friesen's, it was impossible not to be affected by the way the 1950’s blacklist had assaulted Friesen and then the way the 1960s’ folk music movement (Dylan et all) had abandoned him. Gary would feel some of this abandon because of the radical tone of his songs combined with the primitive-southern-folk accompaniment. This song grew from watching the pain and abandonment of older people in New York, but questions social abandonment in general of (at first) the elderly and then of anyone. (steel string & vocal) Side one track four Annie With Her Violin Did Annie really exist? There has been much debate about that issue and Gary isn't telling. If she did, she was not part of the StreetSounds album that Gary produced of street musicians for Folkways Records later that year (1977). On the other hand, Gary himself performed on the streets of New York all during the hot summer of 1977 and came to know dozens of other street performers, especially along Fifth Avenue, Central Park West, and West 50th Street where the images in this song clearly were born ("I wonder if Mister Rockefeller's atlas is really made of solid gold"). What IS clear is that Gary was frustrated by his dozens of attempts to get Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels to talk with him about writing for the show, and he was equally frustrated by Michaels' staff who haunted the bars and restaurants in that part of midtown, occasionally throwing quarters into Gary's open guitar case. This song is a poem to those frustrations, framed through some plight of the real or imagined Annie. (steel string, harmonica, and vocal) Side one track five I Guess He'd Rather Be In Oklahoma Again influenced by Gordon Friesen and Sis Cunningham (both of whom were from Oklahoma), this song is an allegory of struggling to survive in real world but wanting some other world that can never exist. In the early 21st century, Gary was quick to point out that the title to this song has nothing to do with his involvement with Indian casinos in Oklahoma...written almost 30 years before Gary every set foot in the state for Native Americans. (steel string & vocal) Side two track one Notice Number One An absurd but sadly true entanglement with the bureaucracy of when the Duke Power Company  (later called Duke Energy) in Charlotte North Carolina had Gary's electricity turned off in 1976 with no sane way to have it turned back on. A pretty straight-forward protest song. (nylon string & vocal) Side two track two Reverend Ben Chavis At the time Rev. Chavis was a young Methodist preacher who had been falsely imprisoned by the state of North Carolina in a celebrated case called The Wilmington Ten. When he visited Ben in prison, Gary was pained to learn that the celebrated leftist hero had received very few visitors from the outside world. Though this song does not carry the intensity of Gary's powerful attack on the North Carolina political establishment as his later Ain't No Two Ways About It (from Gary's third album) , this is a pure and simple explanation of Chavis' plight and more generally of Black people in the state of North Carolina in the 1970’s. The song was praised by Chavis and his family, but blasted by many Whites for using the "N" word used by the prosecutors in the Wilmington Ten case. Reverend Chavis fully understood and endorsed this usage of the word in this context. This song also shows a major variation in Gary's guitar style, away from the Carter Family Lick to a much more intense and sophisticated style of a true instrumentalist; demonstrating the musical virtuosity in which he was trained. (nylon string & vocal) Side two track three Ghost Rider Bill Another one of Gary's straight-forward western ballads with little or no political underpinnings. This is one of the oldest Gary Green songs recorded, written in 1969 in Nashville, Tennessee while Gary was in high school. (steel string & vocal) Side two track four The Semi-Local Branch Of The International Fellowship Of The Loyal Order Of The Touring Cockroach Club, Unaffiliated The poet's frustration with the cockroach population of New York's upper west side, his amusement at social clubs (Moose, Elks, Eagles, etc.), and a healthy taste of Guthrie-esque satire & wit is all punctuated with a quick guitar style that shows up more and more in Gary's later compositions. A listener can hear Gary's primitive folk melding with his rockabilly roots guitar, in acoustic nylon. When world-renowned rockabilly producer Cowboy Jack Clement heard this song 30 years later, he told Gary “you can’t fool me, you are a rockabilly guitar player.” This song remained one of the most popular in Gary's concert appearances well into the 1980s...especially in urban areas. (nylon string & vocal) Side two track five Dear Woody Guthrie The singer/songwriters of the 1960’s and 1970’s were often called Woody's children because of Guthrie's influence. When Gary became close friends with Woody's widow, Marjorie Guthrie, he began to see how a dozen little cottage industries had exploited Woody and ignored what he was really about (at least according to Marjorie and the Friesens’ with whom Woody (like Gary) lived with for a while before marrying Marjorie). After reading some of Woody's unpublished political writings and examining some of his more political songs, Gary wrote this "letter" to the late icon more of a thumbing his nose at the exploiters and a "thank you" to Marjorie Guthrie. (steel string & vocal) Side two track six A Song About What Is Happening Now Three weeks after the release and critical praise of Gary's first album (These Six Strings Neutralize The Tools of Oppression) Folkways owner Moe Asch asked Gary, "Do you have any songs about what is happening now?" Gary told him "all my songs are about what is happening now." Moe responded, "buy a newspaper and write me some new songs."  The songs most criticized by the folk and country music mavens, were the songs most encouraged by the visionary Asch. This album, Allegory, came from that conversation, but specifically this cut was written in response to Asch's question. (steel string & vocal) Side two track seven Hymn (Burn Burn Burn) Alternatively named Hymn To The Capitalists and Burn Burn Burn and I Will Watch You Die, this is a frighteningly bitter allegory that openly declares class war and calls for death and destruction of a system and its proponents. Truly one of the most bitter and inflammatory songs ever commercially recorded, this song took on even scarier tones when Gary and his brother Ron electrified it and added effects in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Not for the politically sensitive, this song reflects the most bitter of Friesen’s discussions with Gary. (steel string and vocals) Not Recorded But In Liner Booklet Inside Album: The Poet, The Prophet, The Writer and the Musician This is an epic lyrical poem, written in the true gothic style of Shelly and Byron and revealing Gary as a serious lyrical poet ... not just a topical songwriter. This was the second published edition of this poem, the first appearing in Gary's 1976 book Sausage And Biscuits. This epic poem looks at the 1960s "age of Aquarius"  hippie-outlook on life. It can bee read in the Literature section of GaryGreen.com