Eric Andersen plays The Strand May 29th

The liner notes of Eric Andersen’s album, The Cologne Concert, quote Allen Ginsberg who sums Andersen up succinctly, “Life is like traveling a river: it’s exploring that matters, not the destination. And writing is a way of living twice.” 

If that’s true, Anderson in his late 70s is on his 10th life of 13. 

Looking at his career from a commercial perspective, one could say Dylan stole Anderson’s spot in the ’60s. He’s been quoted as saying “Eric Andersen is a great ballad singer and writer.” That said, Dylan today plays arenas, and Andersen plays venues that hold hundreds not tens of thousands. 

In an interview with Andersen in 2012, he paraphrased Bob Dylan, and said, “Success isn’t money. Instead, it’s waking up, going to bed, and everything else you want to do in the middle.” I asked him if he was at that point then in his life? 

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“It’s a good thing to do if you can do it. A lot of times life can be 90% maintenance and 10% conflict. You get 1% chance to dream. Ya gotta pay the bills, wake up, make the bed, do the dishes, go to the grocery store, drive the car, pay the toll, turn the light switch off, flush the toilet, brush your teeth. A lot of life is consumed by that stuff, but, I mean, it beats work.” 

Andersen was discovered by Tom Paxton and spent two winters in Boston taking night courses at Harvard on subjects like James Joyce, French symbolist poetry, and eastern religions. But he really found his home in Greenwich Village where he played his first gig at Gerde’s Folk City opening for Detroit blues boogie man John Lee Hooker in 1964. 

“(Hooker) played music that scared those little girls. They wanted to run and hide under their mom’s apron strings, under their house dresses, hugging their knees. He was very nice, and we shared a dressing room. I was just nervous to be on stage. You got Bob Dylan in the audience. You got Dave Van Ronk and all these people looking at you. You know, it’s scary!” 

He distinctly remembers his first appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1967 where he heard announcer Ken Goldstein tell the crowd that Beatles Manager Brian Epstein’s death was the best possible news for traditional folk music because Epstein and The Beatles had never done anything for folk music.  

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“That turned me off to the folk scene a thousand percent,” says Andersen who had talked to Epstein about management and spent time in the studio with the Beatles. “Not John Lee Hooker and not the people from the mountains, not that stuff, but the white urban folk revival? It turned me off forever!”  

Eric went on to collaborate with artists like The Dead’s Bob Weir, Townes Van Zandt, Rick Danko of The Band, and Lou Reed, hardly performers one would connect with the folk craze. 

The lyrics of his best-known song, “Violets of Dawn,” put him in a class by himself with their beautifully tossed off ode to the then-emerging psychedelic movement:  

You can lift my wings softly to fly

Your eyes are like swift fingers reaching out

Into the pockets of my night

Whirling twirling puppy warm

Before the flashing cloaks of darkness gone 

Like so many, Andersen has his horror stories about being eaten alive and spit out on the floor by the record industry. He talks about an album he made called Stages that was “lost.” 

“I recorded an album in Nashville, and it just disappeared. We don’t have an album anymore. It isn’t there. My mentor was Clive Davis, the man who ran the company. And then he was fired from Columbia. There was a whole shakeup, payola scandals and all these hassles.  So, my album wasn’t finished. I think it was just easier to get rid of me than go through the hassle of getting this record out. People got ruthless. 

“When record companies discovered that archives are worth more than their new records cumulatively, they started releasing Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, this one and that one, and people were buying these.”  

Note: RCA dumped John Denver because they could make more money rereleasing his catalog than paying him to write new songs. 

“(The record labels) were buying the past, the history, because they don’t have the LPs anymore. Now, CDs can give them new life. They couldn’t find the acetates on this album that I did, and no one could believe it was possible that a record company could lose an album. So, they did this dragnet search all over the world. They went to cities like Tokyo, London, Paris, Hamburg, everywhere, Munich, scouring the vaults looking for these records.  

“One night in the middle of the night it showed up in New York City, and the tapes were like strewn all over the floor. Somebody threw ’em into the vaults. And there they were, my missing albums.” 

A company called Real Gone Music in 2018 released an Eric Andersen compilation album called The Essential Eric Andersen, and it’s to die for. 

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Steve Addabbo, longtime guitarist with Andersen, opens the show. He’s a record producer, songwriter and audio engineer who helped launch the careers of Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. He mixed the Bob Dylan box sets Bootleg 10: Another Self Portrait and Bootleg 12: The Cutting Edge for which he received a Grammy Award. More recently he has mixed the Dylan Bootleg 13, Trouble No More and Bootleg 14, More Blood, More Tracks

Eric Andersen plays The Strand Theatre in Hudson Falls Sunday, May 29. General admission tickets are $25. Tickets are available at the Strand Box Office; cash or check only. Tickets are also available online through Brown Paper Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5426008

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