• charles douglas The Lives of Charles Douglas (CD, £4.55)

    label: Broken Horse

    Classic lost New York album. Features Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground) on drums, Ultra Vivid Scene's Kurt Ralske plays guitars and keyboards and engineered the album. Produced by Maureen “Moe” Tucker, after Douglas struck up a fan/hero relationship with her, the album is a gutbucket kick of Lou Reed-inflected rock music about the glories (and dangers) of girls, drugs, and fast food. Charles Douglas’ The Lives of Charles Douglas was released briefly in the US at the end of the 1990’s and is possibly the last great New York rock record of the twentieth century, following a musical trail kick-started by the Velvet Underground and continued by the likes of Television, The Ramones, Galaxie 500, Luna and The Strokes. You probably haven’t heard it—or indeed of it. Nor had Broken Horse until our interest was aroused by an interview with notorious Elektra A&R man and No. 6 records label boss Terry Tolkin, who named it as his favourite album of all those he had worked on. Given that Tolkin signed Luna, The Afghan Whigs, and Stereolab—and worked with The Flaming Lips, Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth and Spiritualized—we thought this was a claim worth checking out. Charles Douglas takes up the story from here: “The studio where we recorded the album was owned by Kurt Ralske from Ultra Vivid Scene, and it was in a crumbling high rise overlooking Penn Station in NYC. Kurt was obsessed with Francoise Hardy and he’d hung giant pictures of her everywhere along with lots of tinfoil, like a speed addict. There was a giant hole in the brick wall of the bathroom, leading to an old airshaft—and the building had a rat problem. We put a sheet of metal over the hole, and at night I’d hear rats banging against the metal, trying to get inside. It was the summer of 1997, and we all had drug problems—pretty much every single person involved with making the record, except Moe Tucker. One day in the studio, someone pulled a gun over an argument about an unpaid coke dealer. I was terrified, but this was just business as usual. Every night after recording we’d hit the bars on Elektra’s tab and get drunk and go and see bands play. We tried to keep most of this hidden from Moe, because she was about thirty years older than us, and I was afraid she’d quit if she knew how screwed-up we were. The recording process had been pretty fast—twelve songs in ten days—but the mixing process turned into a hellish odyssey. Terry and his business partner Bobby got into some kind of disagreement about the record, and began fighting. Bobby said that Terry stole a bunch of money earmarked for the record. Then Elektra fired Terry, and he left town. So Bobby took the master tapes and hid them. Finally, we got everything back and Kurt started mixing with Moe. The budget just got more and more out of control. But Kurt was a perfectionist. It kind of worked out in the end, because he made the tracks sound crunchy instead of sloppy. Dean Wareham came in at one point to help, too. After the record was mixed, I quit using drugs, left NYC and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I was told that the record would never be released. I’d just turned 22 and had spent years of my life writing it, recording it and mixing it. I was extremely depressed, and listening to lots of Nick Drake, naturally. About two years later, the record somehow got released through Caroline Records, which I was very happy about. However, they hadn’t bothered to pay for cover art, so the cover was an old press photo. The credits were all mixedup inside too, and didn’t even mention Terry Tolkin’s name. There was minimal promotion and distribution, and after the initial pressing sold out, Caroline never bothered to manufacture any more copies. Looking back on it now, it seems like a wonderful, terrifying fever dream: all the bars, clubs, drugs, girls, and Kurt’s rat-infested studio. The last show I played before leaving New York was a Valentine’s Day party for the label. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were there, supposedly. So was Evan Dando. The show was a mess because I was too loaded to play. I wandered out into the street and got a slice of pizza. I ended up sleeping on the floor of Penn Station for a few days before catching a train out of the city.” Charles Douglas now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. Under the name “Alex McAulay,” he is the author of four novels, published by MTV Books/Simon & Schuster, and several screenplays. TRACKLIST: 1. Summertime 2.Earlybird School 3.Under The Command 4.Slowly Wasted 5.Good Luck 6. Ganapathee 7.Part Time Lover 8.I Could Get Used To You 9.A Boy Like Me 10.Baby Come On 11. Bad Man 12. The Day You Went Away


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